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Notations From … Willie Jones III

Drummer Willie Jones III

Drummer Willie Jones III

Courtesy of Willie Jones III

Coming from a musical family — his dad is jazz pianist Willie Jones II — Willie Jones III has been playing the drums since he was five or, as he says, “as long as I can remember.”

Besides releasing his own albums (the 2014 “Groundwork” is his latest), he’s kept the rhythm for numerous jazz greats, including Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones and Wynton Marsalis.   

If You Could Go Back In Time And Play In Another Era, When Would That Be?

The ‘50s and the early ‘60s. Musically, that’s one of my favorite periods. Most of my favorite jazz records came out during that period. I love the music of that period and a lot of the musicians that were around in their prime were playing during that time.

What’s Something About You That People Don’t Know?

When I was a kid, I was really into John Wayne movies [laughs]. I do remember this: when he died, they started showing his movies every week, really old movies from the ‘30s. I was totally into them. The whole thing: the music score, chasing the bad guy, the horses, the gun fights. Then he had that way of talking that was really funny.

What’s One Word That Describes The Way You Feel When You Perform?

Overjoyed! The reason why I use that word is whenever I sit down to the drums, it’s a privilege, an honor, and I’m always thankful to be able to play the drums and to get paid to play drums. I’ve enjoyed doing it all my life. As a kid, you dream about being a professional musician. To this day I’ve been able to do that. I always try not to take it for granted. So no matter who I’m playing with, I’m always thrilled. 

Define A Musical Conversation.

Anyone of us [in the band] can start it; when that happens, we have a dialogue going on. The bass player says something, I respond, or maybe the piano player. Maybe the horn player says something and I respond to that. Or I’m the one who initiates the conversation, but I’m part of the dialogue. Whoever starts it, I participate in it. 

Quick Call And Response Time

 If you could talk to one of these past drummers — Philly Jo Jones, Tony Williams, Art Blakey or Elvin Jones — who would it be? 

Elvin Jones, because Billy Higgins introduced me to him. The thing I’d say to Jones is, “Where’s Billy?”

A tune to play for a non-jazz lover? 

Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and Miles Davis‘ “So What.”

Where you’ll be in a decade?

Leading my own band in the tradition of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

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