Joey DeFrancesco

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Joey DeFrancesco
Joey Defrancesco 2002 (cropped2).JPG
Background information
Born(1971-04-10)April 10, 1971
Springfield, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedAugust 25, 2022(2022-08-25) (aged 51)
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.[citation needed]
GenresJazz, bebop
Instrument(s)Hammond organ, piano, keyboards, trumpet, tenor saxophone
Years active1988–2022
LabelsBlue Note, Columbia, Concord, Mack Avenue, Highnote,[1] Muse,[2] Prestige[2]

Joey DeFrancesco (April 10, 1971 – August 25, 2022) was an American jazz organist, trumpeter, saxophonist, and occasional singer.[3] He released more than 30 albums under his own name, and recorded extensively as a sideman with such leading jazz performers as trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonist Houston Person, and guitarist John McLaughlin.[4]

DeFrancesco signed his first record deal at the age of 16 and over the years recorded and toured internationally with David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Larry Coryell, Frank Wess, Benny Golson, James Moody, Steve Gadd, Danny Gatton, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, George Benson, Pat Martino, Tony Monaco, John Scofield, Lee Ritenour, Joe Lovano, and had prominent session work with a variety of musicians, including Ray Charles, Bette Midler, Janis Siegel, Diana Krall, Jimmy Smith, and Van Morrison.[5][6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

DeFrancesco was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania,[8] on April 10, 1971.[9][10] He was born into a musical family that included three generations of jazz musicians. He was named after his grandfather, Joseph DeFrancesco, a jazz musician who played the saxophone and clarinet.[6] His father, "Papa" John DeFrancesco, is an organist who played nationally and received the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Living Legend Award in 2013.[11] DeFrancesco began playing the organ at the age of 4 and was playing songs by Jimmy Smith verbatim by the time he was 5. His father John began taking him to gigs from the age of 5, letting him sit in on sets.[12] At the age of 10, DeFrancesco joined a band in Philadelphia that included jazz musicians Hank Mobley and Philly Joe Jones. He was considered a fixture at local jazz clubs, opening shows for Wynton Marsalis and B.B. King.[13]

DeFrancesco attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. There he studied music specializing in piano and organ.[12] During his high school years, he won numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Jazz Society McCoy Tyner Scholarship. He was a finalist in the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.[3]


DeFrancesco playing at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam in 2010.


DeFrancesco was 16 years old when he signed an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records. The following year he released his first record, titled All of Me. His performance on All of Me has been attributed as helping bring back the organ to jazz music during the 1980s.[3] That same year, DeFrancesco joined Miles Davis and his band on a five-week concert tour in Europe.[14] He followed up with playing keyboards on Davis' album Amandla, which reached No. 1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in 1989.[4] DeFrancesco started playing the trumpet around the same time, inspired by the sound of Davis.[15] DeFrancesco was originally spotted by Davis during a performance on the television show called Time Out.[16] He was performing on the set along with high school classmate Christian McBride when Davis asked the show's host, "what's your organ player's name", referring to DeFrancesco.[16] DeFrancesco's recording deal with Columbia included 5 albums. In addition to All of Me, he released Where Were You? (1990), Part III (1991), Reboppin’ (1992), and Live at the 5 Spot (1993).[17]


DeFrancesco began touring with his own quartet at the age of 18. In the early 1990s, he began collaborating with John McLaughlin, former guitarist for Miles Davis and the leader of Mahavishnu Orchestra. At the age of 22, he became a founding member of the group The Free Spirits, along with McLaughlin and drummer Dennis Chambers. He toured with the group for 4 years and was part of several recordings, including the albums Tokyo Live and After the Rain.[18] DeFrancesco also played trumpet on the former album.[19]

In 1999, DeFrancesco recorded his album Incredible! Live at the San Francisco Jazz Festival.[20] The album featured a performance by his idol Jimmy Smith, who joined DeFrancesco for two songs.[20] In 2004, DeFrancesco recorded Legacy, another album that featured Jimmy Smith.[20] The album was Smith's last recording; he died the same year.[4]

DeFrancesco was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004 for his record Falling in Love Again. DeFrancesco's career shifted slightly in 2009 with the film Moonlight Serenade, starring Amy Adams and Alec Newman. He played the role of "Frank D" in the film and was also credited as a composer and producer of the film. DeFrancesco was nominated for another Grammy Award in 2011 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson.[4] The recording was released in 2010 as a tribute to Michael Jackson. Some other DeFrancesco tribute albums include a tribute to Frank Sinatra titled "Joey DeFrancesco plays Sinatra his way" and a tribute to Jimmy Smith. DeFrancesco also turned 40 in 2011, celebrating by releasing 40, his 29th recording, which had success both on jazz charts domestically and in Europe.[4]

Joey DeFrancesco playing saxophone at NAMM 2022

Music style[edit]

DeFrancesco's music style was referred to as a swinging Philly sound which he "embellished with his own ferocity and improvisation."[16] He played 200-plus nights a year throughout the course of his career, a feat that he cut back on as of 2013.[21] He received numerous accolades for his performances, including being called the best B3 player on the planet by JazzTimes.[22] The New York Times described DeFrancesco as a "deeply authoritative musician, a master of rhythmic pocket, and of the custom of stomping bass lines beneath chords and riffs."[1] Chicago Tribune praised the musicianship of DeFrancesco, stating that "He dominated the instrument and the field as no one of his generation has.[23]" DeFrancesco was also involved in musical instrument development, especially product designs and endorsements related to technological advancements in digital keyboards and electronic organ both in the United States and internationally.[24]


As a multi-instrumentalist, DeFrancesco recorded on various keyboards (including acoustic & electric piano), and trumpet. Although best known as a jazz organist, he also performed as a singer and (since November 2018), played the tenor saxophone.[9][10]

Awards and honors[edit]

DeFrancesco was a four time Grammy Award-nominee, with more than 30 recordings as a leader. In addition to Grammy nominations in 2004, 2010, and 2020, DeFrancesco was a 9-time winner of the Down Beat Critics Poll (organ) and won the Down Beat Readers Poll every year since 2005. He won a number of JazzTimes Awards as well.[25] DeFrancesco was an inaugural member of the Hammond Hall of Fame, inducted in 2013 along with Brian Auger, Billy Preston, Steve Winwood, and his mentor Jimmy Smith.[26]


DeFrancesco's discography consists of albums released on Columbia, Muse, Highnote, Big Mo Records, Concord Jazz, Doodlin' Records, and Mack Avenue.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In addition to his father and grandfather, DeFrancesco's brother Johnny is also a musician, focusing on blues guitar.[14]

DeFrancesco was married to his wife Gloria until his death. She served as his manager.[9][27] DeFrancesco had one daughter, Ashley Blue DeFrancesco.


DeFrancesco died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona, of a heart attack on August 25, 2022, at the age of 51.[9][10][27] The following week, at a concert in Boston, Van Morrison paid tribute to his one-time collaborator, dedicating a song to him.[28]


  1. ^ a b Chinen, Nate (October 15, 2010). "Frank and Personal Don't Rule Out Commercial". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Cordle, Owen (October 1, 2002). "Joey DeFrancesco: The Philadelphia Connection". Jazztimes. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Bogdanov, Vladimir (2002). All Music Guide to Jazz. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9780879307172.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jordan, Mark (January 31, 2012). "DeFrancesco matured from young phenom to jazz music master". Go Memphis. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  5. ^ "DeFrancesco's Jazz Stylings". Brant News. October 14, 2011. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Jazz greats to groove". Manawatu Standard. New Zealand. August 16, 2013. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  7. ^ Ragogna, Mike (April 18, 2012). "Look Out Now!: Conversations With the Gaddabouts' Edie Brickell & Steve Gadd, Plus Eric Hutchinson". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Cordova, Randy (March 1, 2009). "First family of jazz for Valley's Joey DeFrancesco, musical heritage goes way back". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 28, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Genzlinger, Neil (August 26, 2022). "Joey DeFrancesco, Reigning King of the Jazz Organ, Dies at 51". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2022. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c Chinen, Nate (August 26, 2022). "Joey DeFrancesco, driving force on the Hammond organ, dies at 51". NPR. Archived from the original on August 26, 2022. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  11. ^ "Papa John DeFrancesco". Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on January 30, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Lloyd, Jack (December 16, 1994). "Family Harmony in a Jazz Quartet". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  13. ^ Moon, Tom (June 19, 1989). "Riff of Success at 18, Joey DeFrancesco Has TouredWith Miles Davis and Recorded a Major-label Album". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Nelson, Nels (August 30, 1991). "Our Pal Joey Has Grown Up DeFrancesco Comes To Penn's Landing". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  15. ^ Early, Gerald Lyn (2001). Miles Davis and American Culture. Missouri History Museum. ISBN 9781883982386.
  16. ^ a b c Wyckoff, Geraldine (September 2003). "Joey DeFrancesco: Philadelphia Flyer". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  17. ^ "Joey DeFrancesco – Album Discography". AllMusic. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  18. ^ Heckman, Don (June 19, 1994). "Jazz Spotlight – The Free Spirits Featuring John McLaughlin". The L.A. Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  19. ^ Kolosky, Walter (November 20, 2002). "John McLaughlin and The Free Spirits: Tokyo Live (1993)". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  20. ^ a b c Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 363. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  21. ^ Reid, Graham (August 16, 2013). "Joey DeFrancesco: Always going to be this way". Elsewhere. New Zealand. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  22. ^ Milkowski, Bill (October 28, 2012). "Joey DeFrancesco – Wonderful! Wonderful!". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  23. ^ "Joey DeFrancesco - About". Archived from the original on August 26, 2022. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  24. ^ Kolosky, Walter (2004). Girls Don't Like Real Jazz: A Jazz Patriot Speaks Out. Abstract Logix. ISBN 9780976101604.
  25. ^ Prater, Sadie (October 30, 2003). "Jazz Great Joey DeFrancesco To Perform at U.T. Dallas on Nov. 15". UT Dallas. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  26. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (December 23, 2013). "Hammond Organ Launches Hall of Fame, Inducts 1st Members". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  27. ^ a b Masley, Ed (August 26, 2022). "'The best jazz organ player on the planet': Joey DeFrancesco dies at 51". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. Archived from the original on August 28, 2022. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  28. ^ Robicheau, Paul (September 7, 2022). "Concert Review: Van Morrison". artsfuse. Retrieved September 19, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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