Isola was born and raised in Detroit and was heavily influenced by Gene Krupa. He played in the U.S. military during World War II (1943–45), and then studied and performed in California with Bobby Sherwood and Earle Spencer. He then moved to New York City, where he played with Johnny Bothwell and Elliot Lawrence in 1947. Following this he played with Stan Getz (1951–53) and Gerry Mulligan (1953–54), as well as with Mose Allison, Eddie Bert, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Raney, Johnny Williams and Tony Fruscella.
In a 2010 JazzWax interview by Marc Myers with Mose Allison quoted in the 2016 liner notes for the CD reissue of the Stan Getz The Soft Swing album by Phono, Allison credits Isola with introducing him to Getz in 1956:
- JazzWax: In 1956, how did you meet Stan Getz?
- Mose Allison: I used to go to these jam sessions at night at a loft on 34th St. that belonged to trombonist Clyde Cox. Many of the guys who were there were from the South. At these sessions, I met drummer Frank Isola, who put me in touch with Stan.
By the late 1950s Isola returned to Detroit and kept working periodically with local bands or in jam sessions but well out of the spotlight.
He worked as a drummer briefly at Captain Hornblower's in Key West, Florida, in the late 1980s with pianist Johnny Williams.
In 1993 he was playing weekly at Tom's Steamer's Bar in Grosse Pointe MI. In 1994 and 1995 Isola played at The Windsor (Ontario) Jazz Festival, backing Franz Jackson and Marcus Belgrave. The 1994 concert was released on Parkwood Records as Live at Windsor Jazz Festival III with Jackson and Belgrave as co-leaders.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2013)
With Mose Allison
- Back Country Suite (Prestige, 1957)
With Stan Getz
- The Complete Roost Recordings (Blue Note, 1950–54 )
- Stan Getz Plays (Norgran, 1952 )
- Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet (Norgran, 1953)
- Stan Getz and the Cool Sounds (Verve, 1953–55, )
With Gerry Mulligan
- Paris Concert (Pacific Jazz, 1955)
With co-leaders Franz Jackson and Marcus Belgrave
- ("Live at Windsor Jazz Festival III") (Parkwood Records, 1994)
- Liner notes, 2016 CD re-release of The Soft Swing album by Phono