Willie Jones III

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Willie Jones III
Willie Jones III
Aarhus, Denmark 2007
Background information
Born(1968-06-08)June 8, 1968
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, educator
Years active1990s–present
Associated actsBlack Note, Roy Hargrove

Willie Jones III (born June 8, 1968, Los Angeles, California) is a jazz drummer. He has played, toured, and recorded with Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, and Herbie Hancock. He played on Arturo Sandoval's Grammy-winning album Hot House (1998).[1]

Early life[edit]

Jones' father, also named Willie Jones, was a pianist, composer and arranger, who moved to Los Angeles from Jacksonville in 1961.[2] By the time Jones was born, his father "was gigging locally and working as a vocal coach for entertainers, including Ann-Margret."[2]

Willie Jones III was born on June 8, 1968, in Los Angeles.[3] Jones reported that he wanted to be a jazz musician from the age of seven.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

Jones was one of the founding members of the band Black Note in 1990.[3] Members of this ensemble included, at various times, Ark Sano, Eric Reed, Gilbert Castellanos, James Mahone, Kenneth Crouch, Mark Shelby, and Richard E. Grant.[4] They released several albums.[4]

In 1991, Jones began studying at the California Institute of the Arts, where he took drum lessons from Albert "Tootie" Heath.[3] Jones played with Milt Jackson in 1994, and toured with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval from 1994 to 1998.[3]

Jones was based in Los Angeles until he moved to New York in 1997.[2] He played in trumpeter Roy Hargrove's quintet from 1998 to 2006.[2]

In 2000, Jones founded an independent jazz label, WJ3 Records. He said in 2017 that "It's a self-investment, [...] I'm not making a profit, but I'm not losing any money. I've become more proficient at putting out each project."[2] He has regularly played with pianist Eric Reed, as the drummer for Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center, and has several CDs released as a leader on his own label, playing hard bop and swing.

Jones has taught at Northwestern University since 2010.[2]

In 2014, Jones filed a lawsuit against California rapper Kendrick Lamar for allegedly sampling "The Thorn" illegally in Lamar's song "Rigamortus".[5]

Playing style[edit]

He is appreciated by jazz musicians for his exceptional speed and control, together with his use of a wide range of textures which characterize most of his playing. He is a master of many styles and moves quickly and easily between be-bop, big band, avant garde, and Latin jazz grooves.[citation needed]

Guitarist Russell Malone commented in 2017 that, "Some drummers can't get through two bars of music without trying to do something cute and slick, but with Willie, the time and the groove is not an afterthought. He's aware of each component of the song – the melody, the changes and the form. I like to incorporate different grooves into my things, and Willie does not turn up his nose at them. He knows exactly what to do."[6]


An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes With Black Note
1991 43rd & Degnan World Stage With Black Note
1993 L.A. Underground Red With Black Note
1994 Jungle Music Columbia With Black Note
1996 Nothin' but the Swing Impulse! With Black Note[4]
1996–99 Vol. 1...Straight Swingin' WJ3
2001 Vol. 2...Don't Knock The Swing WJ3
2006 Vol. III WJ3
2009 The Next Phase WJ3
2012 Willie Jones III Sextet Plays The Max Roach Songbook WJ3 In concert
2016* Groundwork WJ3 [7]
2017* My Point Is... WJ3

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1994 Kei Akagi Mirror Puzzle AudioQuest
2001 Peter Beets New York Trio Criss Cross Jazz
2002 Peter Beets New York Trio – Page Two Criss Cross Jazz
1998 Ryan Kisor The Usual Suspects Lightyear
2007 Houston Person Thinking of You HighNote
2010 Houston Person Moment to Moment HighNote
1998 Arturo Sandoval Hot House N2K
1998 Horace Silver Jazz Has a Sense of Humor Verve
1999 Roy Hargrove Moment to Moment Verve
2005 Harold Mabern Somewhere Over the Rainbow Venus
2005 Peter Zak For Tomorrow SteepleChase
2009 Cedar Walton Voices Deep Within HighNote
2011 Cedar Walton The Bouncer HighNote
2013 Peter Zak The Disciple SteepleChase


  1. ^ Chadbourne, Eugene. "Willie Jones III | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Panken, Ted (January 2018). "Merging Swing and Swagger". DownBeat. pp. 42–45.
  3. ^ a b c d Owens, Thomas (2003). "Jones, Willie, III". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved December 30, 2017 – via Oxford Music Online.
  4. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Black/Note | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Jazz Drummer Willie Jones III Sues Rapper Kendrick Lamar Over Stolen Sample". The Jazz Line. The Jazz Line. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  6. ^ Panken, Ted (January 2018). "Merging Swing and Swagger". DownBeat. p. 44.
  7. ^ "Willie Jones III | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2016.