Jazz drummer, Willie Jones, III, had just returned to the United States from a two week gig in the Middle East, where he performed at the recently opened Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha, located in Doha, Qatar, when we spoke. The Doha, Qatar, club is the first Jazz at Lincoln Center branded venue to open outside America.
Mr. Jones will be performing two sets (7:30 pm and 9:30 pm), with his Septet, the Willie Jones III Septet, featuring Willie on drums, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Stacy Dillard on saxophone, Warren Wolf on vibes, Eric Reed on piano and Dezron Douglas on bass, at Dizzy’s Club Coco-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, located at 60th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, from Thursday, June 10 thru Sunday, June 16th.
“I have played Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola several times but this will be the second time I have played there with my own band,” claimed Jones. “I love playing the club because the acoustics at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is one of the best. I think that when the club was built, whoever designed the acoustics did so especially for the club. I’ve noted that from both the stage and the audience perspective, the sound quality is well balanced and just sounds great,” claimed the jazz drummer who plans to play some of his original pieces and music from his latest CD entitled “Willie Jones III Plays the Max Roach Songbook,” during the show.
“I think Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, is one of the most beautiful jazz clubs I have ever played in,” said Jones, speaking of the tourist hotspot, panoramic view, delicious menu and the clubs lovely aesthetics, which makes for a romantic, as well as pleasant atmosphere for couples and jazz enthusiasts alike.
“The son of the noted pianist and namesake, Willie Jones, II, music came natural to Jones, III. He began to play with some powerful musicians in his teens while growing up in L.A. Once he attended college, he began to play jazz in earnest. “Once I got serious about being a jazz drummer, I was able to sit in with a lot of older jazz musicians on the LA jazz scene,” recalled Willie. “That led me to playing with musicians like Teddy Edwards, Billy Childs, John Clayton and James Newton, et al. I also performed with some of the International musicians who came into town like Milt Jackson or George Coleman. I eventually started playing with the Roy Hargrove Quintet. I played with them until 2005.”
“I was always attracted to the drums. From the time I can remember, that was what I wanted to do. I never wanted to do anything else but be a professional jazz musician. There are all types of jazz like Latin jazz and Smooth jazz; but for me, I like to play what I call real jazz. My personal style and taste is swinging. Some may say it’s more of a traditional style. I like to grove, to swing, so whenever I am on stage that is what I am trying to do,” remarked Jones who won a full scholarship to the California Institute of Arts where he studied with Tootie Heath and James Newton.
Willie had the opportunity to compete for the Thelonious Monk Jazz Drum competition. “I was up against a lot of competition. So much so, I never made the finals but did make the semi-finals. This competition was held in NY and it exposed me to a high level of musicianship. Being in that competition actually put the stamp on my moving to New York. L.A. had a few jazz clubs but New York was the jazz mecca,” remarked Jones, whose style of drumming was impacted by such greats as Billy Higgins, Philly Joe Jones, and Max Roach.
“Billy Childs was a large influence on me as well, but from the standpoint of his being an overall musician. Childs is not only a jazz musician. He is a composer, arranger, and symphony composer. Others who left their influence on me, was of course my father, Willie Jones II; James Newton, Roy Hargrove, Cedar Walton and Miles Davis too. However, I have to say Miles Davis is one of my favorite all time jazz musicians.”
“Generally a sideman, Jones started producing. He co-founded his group Black Note in LA and eventually recorded: 43rd & Degnan and L.A. Underground (World Stage Records), Jungle Music (Columbia) and Nothin’ But the Swing. From 1995 through 1998, he was a member of Arturo Sandoval’s band and is featured on Sandoval’s GRAMMY award winning release, Hot House (N2K). Subsequently, Jones recorded with Horace Silver on Jazz Has a Sense of Humor (Impulse!).
Willie Jones, III, released his debut CD, Vol 1…Straight Swingin’ on his own label, WJ3 Records, and continued to reveal his chops as composer and producer with Vol II…Don’t Knock The Swing (2002); Volume III (2007) and The Next Phase (2010). Other recordings featured Wycliff Gordon and Eric Reed via Something Beautiful and The Spur of the Moment in 2012.