April 10, 1971 |
Springfield, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Instruments||Hammond organ, trumpet|
|Labels||Blue Note, Columbia, Concord, Highnote, Muse, Prestige|
|Associated acts||Miles Davis, Papa John DeFrancesco, Jimmy Smith|
Joey DeFrancesco (born April 10, 1971) is an American jazz organist, trumpeter, and vocalist. He is a Grammy-nominated artist who has released more than 30 albums, including recordings with jazz legends Miles Davis and Jimmy Smith. DeFrancesco signed his first record deal at the age of 16 and has played internationally with musicians that include David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Frank Wess, John McLaughlin, Benny Golson, James Moody, Steve Gadd, Danny Gatton, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, George Benson, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, and recorded with musicians that included Ray Charles and Bette Midler.
DeFrancesco was born in 1971 in Springfield, Pennsylvania. 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. His father, "Papa" John DeFrancesco, was an organist who played nationally and received the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Living Legend Award in 2013. 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 bringing him to gigs from the age of 5, letting him sit in on sets. At the age of 10, DeFrancesco joined a band in Philadelphia that included jazz legends Hank Mobley and Philly Joe Jones. He was considered a fixture at local jazz clubs, opening shows for Wynton Marsalis and B.B. King.
DeFrancesco attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. During his high school years, DeFrancesco won numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Jazz Society McCoy Tyner Scholarship. He was also a finalist in the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.
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. That same year, DeFrancesco joined Miles Davis and his band on a five-week concert tour in Europe. He followed up with playing keyboard on Davis' album Amandla which reached #1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in 1989. DeFrancesco started playing the trumpet around the same time, inspired by the sound of Davis. DeFrancesco was originally spotted by Davis during a performance on the television show called Time Out. 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. DeFrancesco's recording deal with Columbia include the release of 5 albums. In addition to All of Me, he released Where Were You in 1990, Part III in 1991, Reboppin in 1992, and Live at the 5 Spot in 1993.
DeFrancesco began touring with his own quartet at the age of 18. In the early 1990s, DeFrancesco began collaborating with John McLaughlin, former guitarist for Miles Davis and Mahavishnu. 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. DeFrancesco is also credited with playing trumpet on the Tokyo Live album.
In 1999, DeFrancesco recorded his album Incredible! live at the San Francisco Jazz Festival. The album was released in 2000 and featured a performance by his idol and jazz legend Jimmy Smith, who joined DeFrancesco for the last few songs of the set.[unreliable source?] In 2005, DeFrancesco released Legacy, an album that also featured Jimmy Smith. The album was Smith's last recording as he died in 2004 after it was recorded and before the 2005 release, just prior to going on tour with DeFrancesco.
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. The recording was released in 2010 as a tribute to Michael Jackson, adding to DeFrancesco's list of tribute albums. DeFranccesco also turned 40 in 2011, celebrating by releasing his 29th recording titled 40, entitling it to critical success both on jazz charts domestically and in Europe.
DeFrancesco's music style has been referred to as a swinging Philly sound which he "embellishes with his own ferocity and improvisation." He played 200-plus nights a year throughout the course of his career, a feat that he cut back on as of 2013. He has received numerous accolades for his performances, including being called the best B3 player on the planet by JazzTimes. The New York Times has called DeFrancesco a "deeply authoritative musician, a master of rhythmic pocket, and of the custom of stomping bass lines beneath chords and riffs." DeFrancesco has also been involved in product designs and endorsements related to digital organ technology both in the United States and internationally.
DeFrancesco's current working trio includes guitarist Dan Wilson and drummer Jason Brown. 
Awards and recognition
In addition to Grammy nominations in 2004 and 2010, DeFrancesco is a 9-time winner of the Down Beat Critics Poll (organ) and has won the Down Beat Readers Poll every year since 2005. He has won a number of JazzTimes Awards. DeFrancesco is an inaugural member of the Hammond Hall of Fame, inducted in 2013 along with other music legends that included Brian Auger, Billy Preston, Steve Winwood, and his mentor Jimmy Smith.
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