Jo Jones pioneered a new innovation in drumming with his signature use of the hi-hat for timekeeping rather than the traditional bass drum. This technique eventually influenced all swing and bop drummers, including legends like Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson.
Born Jonathan David Samuel Jones in Chicago, Illinois on October 7, 1911, Jones moved to Alabama where he learned to play a number of different instruments as a child. But drums became his instrument of choice.
Jones’ career started out with him playing drums and tap dancing at carnivals. From that extraordinary beginning he moved on to join Walter Page's Blue Devils in Oklahoma City in the late 1920s.
But it was his work with the Count Basie Band from 1934–’48 where he virtually invented the modern jazz drumming style largely by engaging a smooth, swinging ride cymbal into his playing that gave the music tremendous forward momentum.
Jones eschewed the use of multiple “traps” such as woodblocks and cowbells, concentrating on supporting the music with solid time keeping. In later years he became a mentor to countless younger jazz drummers, and despite a salty personality was affectionately known as “Papa” Jo.