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Urban Influence

His move to N.Y. has energized L.A. native Willie Jones III's drumming.


Whenever drummer Willie Jones III returns to his native Los Angeles, the current Brooklyn resident revels in the open space and the sense of quiet.

"It's so peaceful here," he said. "There are lawns, trees, room. I can drive down the street and there's not a lot of noise."

Funny, although Jones may not relish the hustle and bustle of New York City and its environs, where he moved in 1997, all that energy has had a positive effect on his playing, he said.

"I've become more aggressive," said the drummer, who was acclaimed in Los Angeles for his work with the band Black / Note and who is now a member of renowned young trumpeter Roy Hargrove's quintet.

"But at the same time, I think I'm more musical. Having both is difficult."

The extremely talented and swinging Jones, 32, makes his first appearance as a leader since moving to New York tonight when he performs at Rocco in Bel-Air.

His quartet, which includes tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Billy Childs and bassist Tony Dumas, will play jazz standards, blues and originals, such as the boisterous "Blues for Dat Taz" and the tender "Jessica's Theme," drawn from Jones' debut CD, "Straight Swingin.' "

"It will be interesting," said Jones, anticipating the performance. "Rickey's incredible, with that deep blues feeling, while Billy and Tony have that modern vibe. I like all of that."

Jones said listeners at Rocco should expect a few drum solos, albeit, of course, musical ones.

"I love the physicality of playing the drums," he said, "but I try to play so that people can hear the melody and the musicians know exactly where I am."



Willie Jones III plays tonight at 10 at Rocco Ristorante, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. $10 cover. Call (310) 475-9807.


In Brief: Another powerhouse Angeleno who migrated east is saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.

The intrepid, freethinking musician joins pianist James Carney's equally open-minded quartet to play the leader's bracing originals Saturday at 10 p.m. at Rocco.

David Sills offers his ear-friendly brand of saxophone, mixing such key influences as Stan Getz and Joe Henderson in his delicious explorations of pop standards and jazz tunes.

He plays Monday at 9 p.m. at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. (818) 500-1604.


Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at

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