Dracula a’ Go-Go!

…’Tis the season for all things spooky. Here at the ARChive, we have dug up a very appropriate album cover out of our deep dark vaults to display in our front window during Halloween week: Blues for Dracula by the legendary drummer Philly Joe Jones (AKA, The Be-Bop Vampire) (Riverside 12-282; 1958).

Apparently, Jones was a major fan of actor Bela Lugosi and was able to break up the house whenever he went into his impersonation of Lugosi’s vampire persona. Thus, for Jones’ first album as a leader, he performed his schtick during the beginning of the title track, a spooky blues composed by tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin.

Jones made his first records as the drummer for a group under the leadership of Joe Morris—a trumpet player who started his own orchestra after working for about a year in that of Lionel Hampton, taking a tenor saxophonist named Johnny Griffin with him. Griff and Morris wanted to play the new be-bop, but they got caught up making R&B records because that’s what they were paid to do, especially once Morris signed to Atlantic Records in 1947, the year of the label’s birth. Morris’ greasy R&B instrumental “Lowe Groovin’” was the fifth single issued by Atlantic.

On September 19, 1948, Joe Morris, with Johnny Griffin still in the band, cut “Wow,” a novelty be-bop vocal number very much in the style of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Oo Bop Sh-Bam” records. After the trombone solo by Matthew Gee (who would join Dizzy’s orchestra the next year) there’s a cool solo by Griffin. The pianist was Elmo Hope, who would go on to become a highly respected player. The bass player was Percy Heath (who would also soon join Dizzy’s orchestra, meet Milt Jackson at a Howard McGhee session, and subsequently form The Modern Jazz Quartet). The drummer was Philly Joe Jones, our Be-Bop Vampire! read more >>