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LA Jones says the blues bit when he was 12 or 13,

growing up in Woodbury, Connecticut, and they clearly

haven’t loosed their grip in the decades since. For Jones, recognized as pioneer of a left-handed blues guitar style that blends Texas jump swing with West Coast and 1950s Chicago Blues, his life in music traces back to the opening of a certain coffeehouse in his 2,000-person hometown.

“Some jazz musicians from New York moved up and opened it and right away it became a music hub for the region, drawing bands from New York, New Haven, Boston, and Rhode Island,” he recalled. “And that’s where I was first exposed to blues and jazz. It was part of a big blues revival going on. BB King was the first, followed quickly by Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and tons of others in the fertile Northeast blues scene. I knew the first time I heard it that playing the blues was what I wanted to do with my life.”


“It was right in the center of the Rhode Island, Boston, New York triangle and there were hundreds of road houses that had bands in there.You could see Howling Wolf, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Albert King, Johnny Winter,
and Muddy Waters. There were times Willie Dixon would be playing three nights in a row in New Haven for $2.” Building a lifetime in music Jones’ jazz education was home schooled, with his parents listening to music of the swing
era and Seth Haydu, his best friend then and now, showing how to play a nylon-string guitar flawlessly to Wes Montgomery solos, and then how“Seth and his dad were a huge influence on me,” said Jones. “From a young age I got an infusion of Chicago Blues and jazz. There was also a jazz influence at that time with Lionel Hampton coming through, and the Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington bands.” After learning to play, Jones started hitchhiking around the country, becoming “kind of a wanderer following blues bands around.”

“My favorite jazz guys have always been the ones that are deeply rooted in the Blues,” he says, “Guys like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson.” Blues marches on As Jones sees it, people think blues is simple. It is, but it’s deceptively simple. It’s not just a
musical form. “If you listen to original Chicago blues, it’s songs with parts. not just a 12-bar,” he said. “When trying to play blues, most people just noodle over the top without learning its actual content. Instead they should be listening to the subtleties and what makes the song identifiable as a song.” Asked to name the artists and albums that most
influenced him, Jones provided his top five lps: Buddy Guy, A Man and The BLues, BB King, Blues is King, Luther Johnson, Come on Home, James Cotton, Live on The Move, Sonny Boy Williamson, Double Chess Album. The list artists could not be limited to five and in addition to those listed above there are BB King, T-bone Walker, Luther Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Otis Spann. “And don’t forget all the heroes that I got to play with,” he added. “Pinetop Perkins, Casey Jones, Eddie Kirkland, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, Otis Rush, Jesse Austin and Zora Young.” Bringing the blues to a jazz festival is essential in Jones’ view. “Blues is needed in jazz now more than ever,” he insisted. “These days there’s a harder division between jazz and blues compared to the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, when the line was very soft and there were many people that played both with equal integrity. If you listen to T-bone Walker in the ‘40s you will hear jazz musicians backing them up. Same thing with BB King. “The heartbeat of jazz is blues.”


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