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Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones


Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Finalist for Best Jazz Book of the Year Award from the Jazz Journalists Association

The things that I have, I’ll give to you. This is my legacy with you, Albert. This is my last hoo-rah. So begins the autobiography of Jonathan David Samuel Jones—or as the world better knows him, Papa Jo Jones. Playing with Count Basie and his orchestra when they exploded out of Kansas City in 1936 and took the world by storm, Jones went on to inspire generations of jazz drummers, but until now few have had access to his own remarkable story.

Rifftide presents Jones’s inimitable life and opinions, as originally told by Jones to the prominent jazz historian and novelist Albert Murray and now transcribed, arranged, and introduced by Paul Devlin. Drawn from fourteen tapes recorded over eight years beginning in 1977, Rifftide is an impressionistic series of riffs and tales by Jones: his life as a musician on the road in segregated America, his outstanding solo career following his years with the Basie band, and his interactions with iconic artists and cultural figures of the time, including Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Satchell Paige.

A true American original and jazz luminary, Papa Jo Jones bedazzled and intrigued many with his outrageous, volatile personality and his innovative drumming—and nowhere does his fierce intellect and humor shine more marvelously than in his life’s telling. With a fascinating introduction and annotations by Paul Devlin and an afterword by Phil Schaap, jazz historian and longtime friend of Jones, Rifftide reveals a man at the forefront of both a whole new form of music and a country in the midst of incredible turmoil and opportunity. As Jones himself puts it: Listen man, I’ve had a hell of a time . . .

Book News Annotation:

This autobiography of the legendary jazz drummer "Papa" Jo Jones explores the life of one of the most influential rhythm musicians of the swing era, discussing Jones' long tenure with Count Basie's band and his enduring influence on the genre. The work is derived from a collection interview recordings made by jazz writer Albert Murray during the nineteen seventies and eighties and provides a deeply personal narrative of the life and times of a jazz musician in the twentieth century. The text has been edited into book form by Devlin, a doctoral student at Stony Brook University. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


The life and times of Papa Jo Jones, gifted raconteur and one of the greatest drummers in the history of jazz

About the Author

Papa Jo Jones (1911–1985) was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. He played with Count Basie and his orchestra from 1936 until he entered the army in 1944, and again from 1946 to 1948. He also played on Billie Holiday’s early records. From the late forties on, Jones had a spectacular solo career, playing with Jazz at the Philharmonic and the Newport Jazz Festival, recording under his own name, and playing on albums by Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, and many others.

Albert Murray was a cofounder of Jazz at Lincoln Center. His many books include Train Whistle Guitar and Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie.

Paul Devlin is a doctoral student in the English Department at Stony Brook University. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Slate, the Root, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

Phil Schaap has broadcast jazz on New York City’s WKCR for more than forty years. He taught at Princeton University and currently teaches at Julliard. He is the curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Table of Contents


Editor’s Preface

Introduction: The Musical Life of Papa Jo Jones Paul Devlin


I Have Had a Varied Life

Can’t Nobody Tell Me One Inch about Show Business

The Count Basie Institution

They Said the Negro Would Never Be Free

My Thirst after Knowledge Will Never Cease

People I’ve Rubbed Elbows With

I Often Wondered Why I Was Such a Strange Fella

Afterword: The Persistence of Papa Jo Jones Phil Schaap

Editor’s Notes


Product Details

Jones, Jo
University of Minnesota Press
Devlin, Paul
Murray, Albert
Jones, Papa Jo
Schaap, Phil
Composers & Musicians
Biography - General
Biography-Composers and Musicians
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
8.5 x 5.38 x 1 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Jazz » Biographies
Biography » Composers and Musicians
Biography » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Reference » General

Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones Used Trade Paper
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Product details 200 pages University of Minnesota Press - English 9780816673018 Reviews:
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The life and times of Papa Jo Jones, gifted raconteur and one of the greatest drummers in the history of jazz

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