Willie Jones III & Straight Swingin' |CONTACT: e.lovell.music@gmail.com
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Willie Jones III & Straight Swingin' |CONTACT: e.lovell.music@gmail.com

Brooklyn, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1996 | INDIE | AFM

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1996
Band Jazz Traditional




"Willie Jones III - My Point Is..."

Following up his acclaimed 2016 release, Groundwork, drummer Willie Jones III offers a hard-swinging set shot through with celebratory, life-affirming brilliance.

His intro on the opener, “Manhattan Melodies,” sets the tone: playful, expansive, forward-thrusting. Eric Reed’s piano solo likewise sprints gleefully, goaded and harried by bassist Buster Williams’ relentless drive. Saxophonist Ralph Moore’s lines sometimes betray a paucity of rhythmic imagination, but within these confines they swoop, dip and soar.

The title tune has a modal feel and surging impetus—a reference point might be Charles Tolliver’s “On the Nile.” Here, the linearity of Eddie Henderson’s phrasing and the rich, rounded tone he summons when using his mute hark back to prebop trumpeters.

“The Wind of an Immortal Soul” starts with a meditative solo from Reed, then powers up into a jubilant swing. (Perhaps echoing Art Blakey, Jones likes to swing ballads as well as burners.) Reed’s attack is forceful yet nuanced; each note defines itself in space, punctuating the rhythmic themes stated by Jones and Williams. “Blues for Dat Taz,” with its shades of Coltrane’s “Blues Minor,” finds Reed firing off densely wound flurries, precisely conceived yet almost tumultuous in feel.

Henderson, unmuted and with that effulgent tone to the fore, manifests a Clifford Brown-like mix of precision and dexterity. Moore, a bit darker in timbre and mood, negotiates lower regions, prodding and burrowing to unearth his gems. In his solo, as always, Jones both invokes and celebrates the creative tension between fury and logic. - JazzTimes - July, 2018

"Willie Jones III - Producer"

Jazz drummer Willie Jones III and bassist Gerald Cannon share a long and swinging rhythmic bond that dates back to their 1997 pairing in jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s band. Since then, both have individually—and often together—accompanied a long list of jazz royalty. So it’s no surprise that Cannon invited Jones to play on his second album as a bandleader, Combinations. This time, however, Cannon asked Jones to coproduce. Says Jones, “I just thought, Man, perfect!”

Jones has demonstrated his impressive production talents on the six recordings he’s released as a leader on his own WJ3 record label, and he contends that drummers are a natural fit in the role. “Gerald trusted my ear,” he says. “As a good drummer, you’re always listening to everything that’s going on—rhythms, pitches, tones, and concepts. I’m always conscious that I want to be as musical as possible, since I don’t play piano, bass, or a horn. It’s like you close your eyes and think, Let me just hear everybody else play—like putting on a record. You can judge it as a whole.”

The aptly titled Combinations features a different grouping of musicians on each track. Guests include saxophonist/clarinetists Gary Bartz and Sherman Irby, saxophonist Steve Slagle, trumpeters Jeremy Pelt and Duane Eubanks, pianists Kenny Barron and Rick Germanson, and guitarist Russell Malone. Jones’ infectious drumming is a consistent presence throughout the album, with the exception of one funky track featuring Living Colour’s Will Calhoun. “That was right up his alley,” Jones says. “I was honored just to sit by the mixing board while he was playing. He was great, and it brought diversity to the record.”

Covering a broad range of jazz styles, Combinations kicks off with “Every Man Is a King,” a hard-swinging track that revs up the Jones-Cannon engine. “We’ve always had a tight groove as far as locking up the rhythm section,” Jones says. “In jazz, the groove and the pocket are in the ride cymbal. Gerald is always listening to how I’m attacking the ride. I’m always considering: Does this bassist play ahead of the beat, behind the beat, or right down the middle? Gerald is always right down the middle, which is perfect for me.”

“Columbus Circle Stop” is a tricky and decidedly different number that challenged Jones. “When I first heard the song, I didn’t know how to approach it,” he recalls. After bringing home a demo, Jones listened repeatedly to the melody. “Then I suddenly realized I could approach it with a Jack DeJohnette vibe. There’s not a distinct groove on that song; it’s a constant creative rhythm going on.”

This summer will see the release of Jones’ latest disc, My Point Is…, and his appearance on a new release from Russell Malone, and the drummer will join the young piano phenom Joey Alexander on tour. And while Cannon continues his tenure with McCoy Tyner, Combinations will likely spawn more gigs for his working trio, which includes Jones and Rick Germanson. - Modern Drummer

"Willie Jones III Merges Swing And Swaggar!"

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to complete the elliptical title of Willie Jones III’s new album, My Point is… (WJ3), on which the 49-year-old drummer helms a quintet with tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist Eric Reed and bassist Buster Williams.

“The common ground for these musicians is that they all love to play in a style that some would call hard-bop or straightahead—what I’d call real jazz,” Jones said of his bandmates over breakfast near his home in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in late September. Bolstered by a four-night run at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola before entering the studio, the players navigate the eight-piece program with abundant energy and a fresh approach. A similar descriptor fits Jones’ five previous albums on his imprint label, WJ3, and another 11 releases on the label, including works by Reed, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and alto saxophonist Justin Robinson, as well as guitarist Jacques Lesure and veteran bassist Henry Franklin. (The latter two, like Jones, are natives of Los Angeles.)

“Real jazz to me has the rhythmic feel of swinging,” Jones said. “You can improvise, but change the rhythm base, and the style is different. It’s great if blues is in it, but there doesn’t necessarily have to be. The groove basis for jazz is the ride cymbal. If I want to play r&b or funk, then the emphasis will be on the backbeat with the snare drum and hi-hat. I can do that. I grew up loving Donny Hathaway, Earth, Wind & Fire, Roberta Flack. I’m the generation of hip-hop. I love black music. But I’m all about that spang-a-lang on the ride cymbal. I’m all about the finger-poppin’. That’s what I was raised in. I breathe it.”

Jones is best known for applying these aesthetics during a 1998–2006 stint with trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s quintet, and subsequent tenures as drummer-of-choice for the late piano masters Cedar Walton and Hank Jones.

These days he most frequently plays with guitarist Russell Malone’s quartet, with whom he performed on Sept. 22 at the uptown Manhattan club Smoke to promote the group’s third HighNote album, Time For The Dancers.

Jones seemed to barely move a muscle above his shoulders, propelling the flow with deep focus, impeccable time and a keen instinct for conjuring combinations of rhythm timbre most apropos to each environment. Throughout the set, he displayed a mastery of diverse feels: backbeat-to-swing on Mulgrew Miller’s “Soul-Leo”; medium swing on Walton’s “Rubber Man”; brush-stroked rubato on Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”; spare, crisp tippin’ on Malone’s blues-drenched “The Ballad Of Hank Crawford”; groove-rich tone-painting on Bobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem”; and, yes, high-octane spang-a-lang on Freddie Hubbard’s “Sweet Sue,” which climaxed with well-designed drum solo.

“Willie makes everything feel good,” Malone said during a subsequent phone conversation. “Some drummers can’t get through two bars of music without trying to do something cute and slick, but with Willie, the time and the groove is not an afterthought. He’s aware of each component of the song—the melody, the changes and the form. I like to incorporate different grooves into my things, and Willie does not turn up his nose at them. He knows exactly what to do. That’s why so many people want to utilize his skills.”

The qualities to which Malone referred pose certain complexities for Jones in balancing the various components that comprise his career matrix. As we spoke, he was anticipating his semimonthly two-day trip to Northwestern University, where he’s taught since 2010, to be followed by a European tour with an Eric Reed-led quartet featuring Italian tenor saxophonist Piero Odorici and bassist Dezron Douglas. He noted a recent New York engagement with Javon Jackson’s superb but intermittently convened Sax Appeal, with Gary Bartz, Donald Harrison, and Jimmy Heath, and cited gigs with Diane Schuur and Vincent Herring.

The release of My Point Is… was imminent, and he was preparing to drop new WJ3 releases by Reed and Moore.

“It’s a full schedule,” Jones said. “I’d like to transform into getting more gigs with my own band and play as a sideman with maybe one or two groups. I’d like it to be 50-50.”

Toward that end, Jones was trying to book his My Point Is… quintet, which he calls the WJ3 All-Stars, on the 2018 U.S. and European festival circuits. “It’s a difficult mountain to climb when you don’t have big-time management,” he said. “It’s stressful. But once I get the gig, getting [the band] together in one room or at the airport or to a recording session is no problem.”

Jones is anything but a bombastic player; a blindfolded fan could listen to My Point Is…several times without realizing the drummer is the leader.

“Willie doesn’t necessarily put himself out front on the bandstand, but he’s very much a leader in the sense that he hustles the gigs, pulls the guys together, handles the logistics, and does it with a sense of ease,” Moore said. “When he asked me to do a record [for WJ3], I agreed immediately. He gave me complete leeway with the music, but he was totally hands-on.” - Downbeat - January, 2018

"Willie Jones III's Straight Swingin' - Editor's Choice"

Bands led by stellar drummers—Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and Roy Haynes, for example—play to international jazz audiences keen to hear hard-edged jazz. Not a subcategory, bop or hard bop is jazz. For his debut recording, Straight Swingin’ (WJ3 Records), drummer Willie Jones Ill steers clear of soft pop influences. As a member of Roy Hargrove’s Quintet since 1997, he has developed a repertoire of distinct rhythms admired by worldwide fans loyal to this high art.

For his “Volume I” date, Jones enlists major-leaguer Eric Reed, a mainstay pianist who plays with Wynton Marsalis. Reed unreels engaging runs a la early McCoy Tyner, and offers articulate vectors of melody on ballads and fluency in displays of speed. “Ornate,” Reed’s tip of the hat to Ornette Coleman, goes for studied cogency if not a Monkish moment. Anyone into the piano will find him worthy of the spotlight.

Jones includes two accomplished colleagues from the Hargrove band, bassist Gerald Cannon and Sherman Irby on alto. Making more of a duet than a duel, the altoists’ sizzling repartee closes “Blues for Dat Taz” and signals their different takes on “Little G’s Walk,” a complex, musical portrait. “Wide Open,” a tune penned by Sherman Irby, illustrates just how important free thought is to musical structures no matter how ephemeral. The composition brings out the best in the rhythm section. If that feeling akin to soaring becomes apparent, it is because Gerald Cannon understands that the fullest exigencies of pulse, hum, tone, and accents propel music to its apogee.

Jones must place importance on striving as a “unit,” since his few solos are not of a heavyweight crash-and-boom sort, but balance strength with lyricism. In the role of composer, he provides the trio ballads “Jessica’s Theme” and “Ballad,” sumptuous melodies that defy time and space like a couple’s midnight interlude. Straight Swingin’ passes the test: it’s to be listened to over and over.

—Zoë Anglesey - Zoë Anglesey - BOMB MAGAZINE

"Review: Piano wunderkind Joey Alexander lives up to billing (W/Willie Jones III)"

"Throughout the 90-minute concert, he ranged over the keys with consummate confidence, from the trio’s opening foray on a complex Thelonious Monk tune to the familiar ground of “My Favorite Things,” the title track of Alexander’s debut 2015 recording. He launched into an extended Keith Jarrett-like solo excursion on John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” the title track from his most-current release.

Equally intriguing were the trio’s performances on Alexander’s own compositions, including “Soul Dreamer,” constructed around a motif of three descending chords, and “City Lights,” an up-tempo Latin tune. Both are included on the latest release and serve as points of departure for the young pianist’s flights of improvisation. The latter was also one of several drum features for the unparalleled Willie Jones III, a world-class drummer who has toured and recorded with pianists Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Hank Jones and Herbie Hancock.

The appreciative audience of 600 brought the trio back for an encore, Alexander’s beautiful tune “Sunday Waltz,” also from the latest release, “Countdown.” - Lincoln Journal/Star - May, 2017

"Willie Jones III - Moving Jazz Forward"

Drummer Willie Jones III was born and raised in Los Angeles in a very musical household; his father Willie Jones II was an accomplished jazz pianist. In addition to studying with Tootie Heath at CalArts, Jones is also a product of Billy Higgins’ WorldStage program in South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jones has performed with the late Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Arturo Sandoval, Roy Hargrove, Eric Reed and Cedar Walton.

Jones was scheduled to perform on the 2014 Jazz Cruise with Walton who died about six months before it sailed. Benny Green was asked to fill his piano seat with Walton’s group, including Jones, bassist David Williams and saxophonist Dmitri Baevsky.

In this video interview recorded during the Cruise, Jones spoke with JazzTimes about Walton, as well as about his other teachers and mentors. He also discusses his record label WJ3 Records and his most recent recording, a tribute to Max Roach.

For more information about Jones and his label, you can visit his website.

You can see more of video interviews from The Jazz Cruise and other events at the JazzTimes YouTube channel.

Willie Jones III on his musical development – from his first musical instrument to his first paid gigs: - JazzTimes


Willie Jones III - Discography

Latest Releases - Click Here For The Entire Listing

"My Point Is..."

1. Manhattan Melodies

2. The Wind of an Immortal Soul

3. Christina

4. My Point Is...

5. The Maze

6. Early Morning

7. Peace

8. Blues for Dat Taz 

Personnel: Willie Jones III (drums); Buster Williams (bass); Eddie Henderson (trumpet); Eric Reed (piano); Ralph Moore (saxophones)

TITLE                LABEL     
Rick Germanson Turquoise TwiceWj3 Records 2019
Ralph Moore Three Score Wj3 Records2019
Justin Robinson At First Light Wj3 Records2019
Steve Turre The Very Thought Of You Smoke Sessions 2018 
See The Entire Listing Here (Over 75 more)



Born in Los Angeles, CA on June 8, 1968, Jones' earliest exposure to music was his father, Willie Jones II, an accomplished and notable jazz pianist, who offered guidance and inspiration to his gifted son. Dedicated to the further development of his skills, drummer, educator and record producer Willie Jones III completed his academic training after receiving a full scholarship to the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied under the tutelage of the legendary Albert "Tootie" Heath.

Before he was a semifinalist in the 1992 Thelonious Monk Jazz Drum Competition, Jones co-founded Black Note, one of the most promising jazz bands around. Following the rich soulful energy of the West Coast bop movement, Black Note's hard-swing sound propelled them to First Place in the 1991 prestigious John Coltrane Young Artist Competition. Jones contributed his skillfulness as both musician and producer on all four Black Note recordings entitled 43rd &; Degnan and L.A. Underground (World Stage Records), Jungle Music (Columbia), and Nothin' But the Swing (Impulse!). By 1994, the band toured Europe and across the U.S., and was the opening act for Wynton Marsalis.  Mr. Jones is still called upon from time to time to share the stage with the 

legendary Mr. Marsalis.

Near the end of 1994, while Jones was reaching for a higher level of drumming dexterity, he gained the privilege of playing sideman to the renowned vibraphonist, Milt Jackson. Here was where Jones learned the importance of pacing and sensitivity.  From 1995 through 1998, Jones was a member of Arturo Sandoval's band and is featured on <b>Sandoval's Grammy Award winning release Hot House (N2K)<b/>. Subsequently, Jones recorded with Horace Silver on the album Jazz Has a Sense of Humor (Impulse!), and on Roy Hargrove's CD releases Moment To Moment and Hard Groove (Verve). He can also be heard on Eric Reed's release, Here (Max Jazz).

From amongst the many jazz dignitaries who recognized Jones's talent, he attained further critical notice by working with distinctive musicians such as Ernestine Anderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Wynton Marsalis, Cedar Walton, Billy Childs, Eric Reed, Jacques Lesure, Eric Alexander, Bill Charlap, Joey Alexander, Michael Brecker and Herbie Hancock.

From 1998-2005, Jones was a member of and toured with the prominent <b>Roy Hargrove's Quintet<b/>, and can be heard on Hargrove's “Nothing Serious” and RH Factor's “Distractions” album releases. Continuing the pursuit of musical artistry, Jones not only made his debut as a bandleader in 2000 with his premier record Vol 1...Straight Swingin' (WJ3), but he also revealed his proficiency as a composer as well as a producer. He released his second acclaimed CD in 2002, Vol II...Don't Knock The Swing. His 2016 release titled “Groundwork” finished number 9 on the Jazzweek Album Of The Year charts.  Currently, Jones is touring Europe with pianist Joey Alexander and Russell Malone.  His latest album titled “My Point Is…”  features fresh new compositions by Jones, Buster Williams and Eric Reed.

In over 25 years, Willie Jones III has recorded on more than 100 releases and performed with countless jazz luminaries the world over.  In addition to his own stellar recordings, he is the head of WJ3 Records - creating refreshing new releases for other fine artists.  His ensemble usually consists of a quintet, however, he is also known to present some of the most talented jazz vocalist in the world today.

Steeped in the rich traditions of Bop, Post-Bop and Swing,  Willie Jones III and his Straight Swingin' ensembles will leave you breathless with their sleek, stylish performances.