Philly Joe: Apex of Hard Bop with 3 Drums, 1 Cymbal

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
Philly Joe: Apex of Hard Bop with 3 Drums, 1 Cymbal

SKF NOTE: Somewhere there's a Tony Williams quote about Miles Davis's Milestones being at the apex of hard bop albums. It is a great album: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Red Garland, and Philly Joe Jones.

The one Milestones cut that is must listening for drummers is Billy Boy. The track is a trio date: Garland, Chambers, Jones. No horns. For as long as I can remember, this version of Billy Boy has been a model for trio drumming, for brush playing, and for creative drum soloing.

And not that Tony Williams's opinion on what is at the apex of hard bop albums needs my agreement, but Milestones is a killer.

Now, I was reminded by two photos recently posted on The Great Drummer's Group Facebook page of something that amazed me when I first studied the same photos, years ago, in the Milestones CD booklet.

These photos were taken during the Milestones recording session. They show Philly Joe on a three-piece drumset with just one ride cymbal and a hi-hat. A music stand is positioned where his small tom and crash cymbal would be.



Did Philly Joe really record the apex of hard bop albums with that three-piece drumset and one ride cymbal? I think so. I've re-listened to the album and come to that conclusion. Maybe an audio expert can prove otherwise.

But, I think what listeners hear on Milestones is the drumset shown in these photos. Take a listen to Billy Boy and see what I mean.

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals
 

dmacc

Platinum Member
One of my all time favorite drummers - one of my all time favorite songs. PJ is absolutely killing on this, no doubt.
 

Bruce M. Thomson

Gold Member
Thanks. Just had a listen;incredible all the way around.
I think you are right, 3 piece. What an incredible display of creativity.

On another note I was wondering if you knew T. Bruce Wittet back in the day?
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
One of my favorite recordings in any style, for sure.

I think it was Matt Smith who argued that Milestones was the best possible introduction to jazz for most newcomers, better even than Kind Of Blue. I see his point. I think the performances are as strong as any band Miles ever had. Philly Joe is in top form. Just crazy good.

The three-piece set theory is fascinating. I'll have to listen again, keeping that in mind. It wouldn't be the first time I was shocked to find out how few drums were actually used on a record.

I read Ed Soph talking about Billy Cobham recording the debut Mahavishnu record with a four-piece Gretsch set. At first, I dismissed it out-of-hand as ridiculous. Until I went back and listened again, trying to discern the number of unique voices. I still think I hear a third tom in a couple places, but for the most part, it seems clear he only used a very small number of drums (relative to the huge sets he played later).

And then just recently, I was noticing that there is only cymbal, snare, bass drum and hi-hats on huge portions of Filles de Kilimanjaro, too.

It just underscores how much we overestimate the need for lots of sonic choices.
 

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
It's also easy to overlook the sonic choices we have in each piece of equipment. The sounds available from a snare drum are almost limitless.

Best,
skf
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
I am no jazz player, but it's clear to me Philly Joe is a phenomenal player on a tiny kit. Having said that I expect he was great on a big kit. In some music the more drum cymbal voices you have the more lost the true rhytmic message becomes, the modern equivalent being edits with dozens of kits but not one that really hits the mark.

Also from an enginners perspective milking just hats and ride means you can really optimise mic positions. Having said that I think you have to really have your skills down to work a three piece with ride n hats.

Easy gig to gig transport though !
 

chris J

Senior Member
It's also easy to overlook the sonic choices we have in each piece of equipment. The sounds available from a snare drum are almost limitless.

Best,
skf
Your comment on the sounds available from a snare drum are SO TRUE!
I thank you for reminding us!
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I literally just bought this CD after seeing it in a bargain bin late last week. Having really only developed a deeper jazz appreciation over the last few years, Philly Joe has fast become one of my favourite four jazz drummers of that era.

I wasn't specifically listening for the drum sounds in isolation, so the minimalism of the three piece kit didn't immediately jump out at me. I'll have to have another listen and take note.
 

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
Bruce M. Thomson -

T. Bruce? Sure I know him. He was one of my favorite people when I was at Modern Drummer.

Bruce and I reconnected after I started my Life Beyond the Cymbals blog. I'm very glad we did. He's still one of my favorite people. We're kicking around ideas for collaborating on a mission or two or more.

Best,
skf
 

Bruce M. Thomson

Gold Member
Bruce M. Thomson -

T. Bruce? Sure I know him. He was one of my favorite people when I was at Modern Drummer.

Bruce and I reconnected after I started my Life Beyond the Cymbals blog. I'm very glad we did. He's still one of my favorite people. We're kicking around ideas for collaborating on a mission or two or more.

Best,
skf
I was highly influenced by an article he wrote about various grips and found that I liked his suggestion and have been using my middle finger as the fulcrum since. His web site is interesting as well. Looking forward to what you 2 might be getting up to.
I watched this video and I am thinking as soon as it was over that I wanted the cymbal selection he recommended. If I knew then what I know now. Here is the vid. https://youtu.be/4tCq-HxP-4c
 
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