Arguably Papa Jo Jones is the most influential of all jazz drummers; he set the stylistic and virtuosic template for all drummers after him. The drum set was developed in 1909 with the invention of the bass drum pedal but effectively Jo Jones was the first to fully understand how to play that mechanism as well as the hi-hat. He was the first real artist on the modern drum set. His personality was larger than life and a performer to the upmost level. Is there more to the man than the many remaining recordings of Jo Jones?
Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones (U. of Minnesota Press) centers around the actual conversations and tapes the great writer and novelist Albert Murray recorded with Papa Jo Jones from 1977 to just before Jones’ passing in 1985. Writer Paul Devlin transcribed the tapes and edited them and provides a well written introduction on Jo Jones. Devlin has apprenticed with Murray and did painstaking work to capture Jones "voice" as it is meant to be read. Devlin also includes embedded end notes that help explain many things Jones said throughout the interviews. The jazz critic and writer Phil Schaap gives a lengthy and valuable afterword. Schaap had served as friend and close associate to Jones for 30 years. These writers are bookends on either side of the Jo Jones narrative to help place the reader in the right context.