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Rusty Jones 1942-2015



Chicago drummer “Rusty” Jones was born Isham Russell Jones II on April 13, 1942 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Music is a family affair in Jones’ life. His parents were in the music business long before he was born. Jones’ father was a saxophonist and his mother a vocalist (appearing under the name of Gretchen Lee), with most of their gigs being in and around the Chicago area, with an occasional national appearance. His mother was working at the Bismarck Hotel in 1936 when the two were wed. Other musicians in Jones’ family were his grandfather, a trombonist/bandleader named Frank Jones, who worked in the Saginaw and Detroit, Michigan areas, and Jones’ mother’s brother, Dean Herrick, an early artist on the Hammond organ. Jones’ great uncle, Isham Jones, was a renowned American bandleader/songwriter, and wrote popular songs of the era such as “It Had To Be You” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Jones began playing drums at the age of eleven, eventually choosing traditional and modern jazz as his preferred mode of music. He went “on the road” after graduating college in 1965 from the University of Iowa with a degree in history and political science, to “get it out of his system,” but he never stopped his pursuit of a musical vocation. He moved to the Chicago area in 1967. Jones was a member of the George Shearing trio from 1972 to 1978 and in the late seventies and early eighties, he worked frequently with pianist Marian McPartland and freelanced throughout Chicago with several bands, while occasionally touring the United States and Europe. One of his longest musical relationships was with pianist/vocalist Judy Roberts who he started performing with in 1968 and continued to be one of her steady drummers up until his death. Additionally he worked as a freelance artist performing regularly with Adam Makowicz, Larry Novak, Danny Long, Patricia Barber, Johnny Gabor, Patrick Noland, John Bany, Scott Holman, Jim Beebe, Charlie Hooks, Frank D’Rone, Art Hodes, Mark Pompe, Frank Portolese, Ron Surace, Ira Sullivan, J.R. Monterose, Stéphane Grappelli , Rich Corporlongo, Frank Lamphere and Curt Warren. He also had brief stints with Buddy DeFranco, Art Van Damme, Kai Winding, Curtis Fuller, Lee Konitz, Chuck Hedges, Bill (“Wild Bill”) Davison, Anita O’Day, Mark Murphy, Flip Phillips, Sylvia Symms, Morgana King, Red Holloway, Eddie Higgins, Isaac (“Ike”) Cole, Clifford Jordan, Bill Porter, Polly Podewell, Jim Clark, Franz Jackson, Bobby Enriquez, Monty Alexander, and Joe Daley, among many others. Jones passed away December 9, 2015 at the age of 73 leaving a huge void in the Chicago Jazz scene. The lives he touched with his personality, massive enthusiasm for life and music runs into the thousands. The young and old musicians he encouraged throughout the years will help his legacy live on for many many years. There will never be another person like Rusty Jones and he will be missed by everyone!

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