Joey DeFrancesco, who introduced the richly enveloping sound of the Hammond B-three organ roaring returned into the jazz mainstream within the early Nineteen Nineties, reigning as its preeminent ace for extra than 30 years, died on Thursday. He become 51.
Gloria DeFrancesco, his spouse and manager, introduced his dying on social media, however did not offer a cause.
Few jazz artists in any era have ever ruled the musical language and famous photograph of an device the manner DeFrancesco did with the organ — as early as 17, while his head-turning debut changed into launched on Columbia statistics. He exhibited ultimate technical command on the keyboard, reeling off ribbons of notes along with his right hand. And he took complete advantage of the sonic possibilities provided by means of an organ console, with its drawbars, switches and pedal board; his organ may want to lurch all at once from an ambient hum to a sanctified holler, or change timbres and textures inside the middle of a word. Like his idol and closest parallel, Jimmy Smith, he found out new vistas at the instrument.
Additionally like Smith, DeFrancesco turned into emotionally evocative along with his sound, unfailingly achieving audiences with a soulful message rooted inside the blues. His language encompassed now not simplest bebop and the blues however additionally the modal dialects of organist Larry young, and pianists like McCoy Tyner. His radiant brand of virtuosity attracted collaborators starting from Miles Davis, whose band DeFrancesco joined whilst nevertheless a senior in excessive school, to Van Morrison, with whom he made two latest albums. He’s prominently featured on Christian McBride’s 2020 release For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver, which received the Grammy Award for quality massive Jazz Ensemble Album in April.
DeFrancesco made some 30 albums of his own, some of which contain an implicit passing of the torch from sterling predecessors like Smith and Jack McDuff. Different albums featured an array of kindred spirits, old and young, such as the tenor saxophone masters Illinois Jacquet, George Coleman, Houston man or woman and maximum these days Pharoah Sanders. On his latest, extra track, DeFrancesco demonstrates his very own talent on tenor saxophone, in addition to trumpet, keyboards and vocals. “He had nothing left to show on organ,” McBride, who’s the host of the NPR application Jazz night in america, tells WRTI. “I assume it is why he took up trumpet and saxophone. I informed him if he ever picked up bass, we might have some phrases!”
Like McBride, who interviewed DeFrancesco for a 2019 episode of Jazz night time in the usa, he remained carefully associated with his native Philadelphia even lengthy after he’d made his domestic elsewhere. In part this turned into because of the deep way of life of the organ combination in Philly — as Pat Martino, a guitar luminary who reduce his teeth with a marquee era of jazz organists there, implied in his 2011 autobiography, right here and Now! (with bill Milkowski). Martino, who died closing year, hailed DeFrancesco in the ebook as “an terrific artist,” adding: “As a participant, he is simply ferocious, in that subculture of Jimmy Smith and all of the exquisite Philly organists.”
Born in Springfield, Pa. On April 10, 1971, Joseph DeFrancesco came to music as a birthright. His father, called “Papa” John DeFrancesco, played organ at the Philadelphia jazz scene; his grandfather and namesake, Joseph DeFrancesco, had performed saxophone and clarinet all through the swing technology of the 1930s, in upstate big apple. His older brother, Johnny, is a blues guitarist.
Joey started out out banging on a toy piano, but by means of age four he had graduated to his father’s organ, which hulked in the residence every time it wasn’t installation for a residency at a membership. He found out now not handiest from his father however additionally from prominent organists like Trudy Pitts and Shirley Scott.
At age 9, Joey’s father brought him to the agreement tune faculty, a community enterprise with a protracted records of mentoring young skills. The band, mostly composed of excessive school youngsters, become directed by means of Lovett Hines, who recollects that Joey become so little that when he sat at the piano bench, his toes wouldn’t contact the floor.
“He changed into a fear at the organ,” recollects Hines, who stayed in touch with DeFrancesco over the years. “you can perhaps great him on trumpet or tenor, however once he sat down at the organ, it became all over.”
DeFrancesco was only 10 when he performed his first expert gig, at Gert’s Cocktail living room on South avenue, which held a jam session every Monday night time. Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and drummer “Philly” Joe Jones have been regulars. By the point McBride met DeFrancesco at settlement track college some years later, “Joey become already a local celeb as a middle schooler,” McBride remembers. “i was 12, he became 13. We have been the youngest ones in the band.”
DeFrancesco attended the Philadelphia excessive school for the innovative and performing Arts, wherein his classmates blanketed McBride, drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. He changed into the primary in their peer institution to get a document deal, after his overall performance at the first annual Thelonious Monk international Jazz Piano opposition impressed George Butler, a manufacturer and A&R executive at Columbia.
He eventually labored in quite a number situations beyond the everyday organ combination, together with a collection called The free Spirits, a fusion institution with guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Dennis Chambers. However he additionally pulled others into his region; inspite of McLaughlin, DeFrancesco observed a foot-tapping groove, notably on a 1995 album titled After the Rain, with grasp drummer Elvin Jones.
In recent years, DeFrancesco took a centered hobby on what he known as “spiritual jazz,” ranging from Sanders to solar Ra, with a looking first-rate and a greater open harmonic territory. As for his exploration on the organ, it become no exceptional than it ever were. “i have continually been stretching the boundaries of the device considering that day one,” he told Philadelphia Weekly in 2019. “i’ve my affects, however nobody’s performed the organ the way I play it.”