Rodney Jones

Rodney Jones

I am currently on tour throughout Russia, and Southeast Asia with my quartet. On a flight today from Shenyang China to Guangzhou China I nearly cried as I listened to Rodney Jones’s CD entitled “Dreams And Stories”. This CD was recorded in the eighties featuring the late genius of Kenny Kirkland, Marc Johnson (from the Bill Evans trio), and Jeff Watts (from Wynton Marsalis Group). Of course at the time this was recorded none of these musicians had joined any of those groups yet. Their careers were just beginning to take off. Rodney had played with Dizzy Gillespie’s band at age 20 which of course gave great credibility to his career. Kenny Kirkland had his first big gig with Michael Urbaniak, and Jeff Watts of course was Wynton Marsalis’s drummer of choice from the first LP Wynton did for George Butler at CBS records. That relationship eventually led to me doing a solo LP for George Butler as well. At that time I remember Wynton coming up to me at the Juilliard school one day asking me who he could get to play piano on his record. He had just come to New York, and did not know all the young players. I recommended Kenny Kirkland to him, and that began relationship that I am sure changed Wynton’s life. I recommended Kenny because he was the best young pianist in New York, and my close friend as well. Rodney, Kenny, Cecil McBee Jr. and I had a band together that jammed regularly at the seminary next to Manhattan School Of Music, and also played local gigs in New York. I was playing drums in those days. Anyway Kenny, Rodney, and myself used to spend countless hours transcribing McCoy Tyner solos, Herbie Hancock solos, George Benson solos, as this was the passion, and these were the heroes in the music that led us to where we are today. Unfortunately Kenny is no longer with us, so when listening today to “Dreams And Stories”, which was released on High Note records after many years sitting on the shelf, I was brought to tears. I miss Kenny, and Rodney Jones continues to be one of my best friends in the world, and has helped my career take off over the years. Because of Rodney I was in the rhythm section for CD’s with Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Ruth Brown, Gloria Lynn, as well as on the Rosie O’Donnell show as a keyboard player, and of course on 3 or 4 of Rodney’s solo CD’s. It has truly been a privilege to be close to Rodney, and be involved in his music. His deeply rooted love, and knowledge of our art form has had a tremendous influence on me through the years, and his deep spirituality has led me down the right path to enlightenment. I owe Rodney Jones a lot, and deeply value his friendship. He is truly one of the finest guitarist, composer, arranger producer, and educators on this planet. In addition his spiritual beliefs, and influence have had a profound effect on my life.  I think next to King George (George Benson), Rodney is the best. His vast array of harmonic language, and understanding of all styles has made him #1 in my mind as a producer. He can literally produce any type of music.  He knows just about every standard ever written, and can play, and or arrange them with a unique style that speaks of his life, and the music of today.  As a sideman Rodney has played with everyone from Queen Latifah to Dizzy Gillespie, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. He is certainly one of the most sought out guitarists in the world. These days Rodney is professor of guitar at the Juilliard Jazz program, where he is passing on his vast knowledge to the young up and coming guitarist in that program, which has quickly become one of the finest jazz programs in the US under the direction of the great drummer, and educator Carl Allen.  If you are a musician and you do not know who Rodney Jones is, then you are clearly living in a bubble separated from what is really happening in music. And to Rodney as a friend, and colleague for 40 years I say, “I love you, and thanks for the music. Knowing you has made me a better person, changed my life, and of course thanks for the music”!

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