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The music of Joey DeFrancesco -- an important force in the revival of the Hammond B-3 organ as a jazz instrument -- runs the gamut from soul-jazz and bluesy grooves à la Jimmy Smith to hard bop to the more advanced modal style of Coltrane disciple Larry Young. Born in Springfield, PA (near Philadelphia), on April 10, 1971, DeFrancesco was the son of another Philly-area jazz organist, Papa John DeFrancesco, and the grandson of multi-instrumentalist Joe DeFrancesco, who worked with the Dorsey Brothers. He began playing piano at age four and quickly switched to his father's instrument, preferring the sound of the Hammond B-3 over the modern synthesizers that had become the dominant alternative to piano. He began sitting in at his father's club gigs around age six; by age ten, he was performing paying gigs on the weekends and sitting in with artists like Jack McDuff and Groove Holmes.
DeFrancesco continued to study through high school, drawing from Philadelphia's rich jazz organ heritage and the numerous veteran players who still found work on the city's club scene. At 16, he was the first recipient of the Philadelphia Jazz Society's McCoy Tyner Scholarship, and was also a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. He met Miles Davis on a local television show and impressed the trumpeter enough that DeFrancesco was invited on tour following his high-school graduation in 1988.
After appearing on the well-received Live Around the World and Amandla albums, DeFrancesco scored a solo deal with Columbia and released his debut as a leader, All of Me, in 1989. Four more Columbia albums followed (Where Were You?, Part III, Reboppin', Live at the Five Spot), one per year, and DeFrancesco's reputation grew steadily, helped by the fact that as a virtuosic yet vintage-style organist, he was something of an anomaly on the early-'90s jazz scene. His arrival presaged -- and, in fact, helped kick-start -- a renewal of interest in organ jazz of all stripes, and he remained one of the most versatile and advanced of the new breed of players; inspired by Davis, he even picked up the trumpet as a second instrument.
After parting ways with Columbia, DeFrancesco recorded sets for Muse and Big Mo, and began working extensively with guitarist John McLaughlin. His appearance on 1994's After the Rain and his subsequent international tour with McLaughlin brought him to a whole new audience. He spent the next few years working mostly as a sideman, however, and returned to the studio under his own name in 1998, recording All or Nothing at All for Big Mo; he also appeared with his father on All in the Family for High Note. The following year brought The Champ, a tribute to Jimmy Smith (also on High Note), and a new record deal with Concord Jazz, which kicked off with the Mafia movie soundtrack tribute Goodfellas.
DeFrancesco finally teamed up with longtime hero Jimmy Smith for 2000's Incredible!, and issued the Concord follow-up Singin' and Swingin' in 2001, which spotlighted his easygoing vocals. In the meantime, he also continued to record sessions for High Note, including the sequel The Champ: Round 2 (2000) and another tribute to one of his influences, The Philadelphia Connection: A Tribute to Don Patterson (2002). Always a busy and prolific artist, DeFrancesco released five albums in the next five years: 2003's Falling in Love Again, which featured jazz singer Joe Doggs; 2004's Plays Sinatra His Way; 2005's Legacy, again with Jimmy Smith; and 2006's Organic Vibes. Live: The Authorized Bootleg followed in 2007 from Concord Records, while Joey D! appeared in 2008. In 2009, DeFrancesco paid tribute to one his idols with Finger Poppin: Celebrating the Music of Horace Silver. In 2010, DeFrancesco returned with the similarly minded tribute album Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson.
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, Benny Golson, James Moody, Steve Gadd, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, George Benson, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, and recorded with musicians that included Ray Charles and Bette Midler.Moon, Tom (19 June 1989). "Riff of Success At 18, Joey DeFrancesco Has TouredWith Miles Davis and Recorded a Major-label Album". Jazz Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014. Chinen, Nate (16 October 2010). "Frank and Personal Don’t Rule Out Commercial". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014. Cordle, Owen (October 2002). "Joey DeFancesco Ballads and Blues". Jazz Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014. Bogdanov, Vladimir (2002). All Music Guide to Jazz: The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9780879307172. Jordan, Mark (31 January 2012). "DeFrancesco matured from young phenom to jazz music master". Go Memphis. Retrieved 10 March 2014. "DeFrancesco’s Jazz Stylings". Brant News. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2014. "Jazz greats to groove". Manawatu Standard (New Zealand). 16 August 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Ragogna, Mike (18 April 2012). "Look Out Now!: Conversations With the Gaddabouts’ Edie Brickell & Steve Gadd, Plus Eric Hutchinson". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
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.Cordova, Randy (1 March 2009). "First family of jazz for Valley’s Joey DeFrancesco, musical heritage goes way back". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Cite error: The named reference jazzgreats was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Papa John DeFrancesco". Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Lloyd, Jack (16 December 1994). "Family Harmony In A Jazz Quartet". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Cite error: The named reference PhilyLegendTour was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference Jzzabookrevitalize was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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. 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. It contained songs dedicated to his wife Gloria and their children Donny and Ashley.
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.
DiscographyMain article: Joey DeFrancesco discography
The discography of Joey DeFrancesco consists of albums released on the record labels Columbia Records, Muse Records, Big Mo Records, Concord Records, HighNote Records, Concord Jazz, and Doodlin' Records.Cite error: The named reference Jzzabookrevitalize was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Nelson, Nels (30 August 1991). "Our Pal Joey Has Grown Up DeFrancesco Comes To Penn’s Landing". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Cite error: The named reference GoMembMatrued was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Early, Gerald Lyn (2001). Miles Davis and American Culture. Missouri History Museum. ISBN 9781883982386. Wyckoff, Geraldine (September 2003). "Joey DeFrancesco: Philadelphia Flyer". Jazz Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014. Heckman, Don (19 June 1994). "Jazz Spotlight – The Free Spirits Featuring John McLaughlin". The L.A. Times. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Kolosky, Walter (20 November 2002). "John McLaughlin and The Free Spirits: Tokyo Live (1993)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Miller, Gordon S. (11 May 2006). "Masters of the Jazz Organ Joey DeFrancesco and Jimmy Smith Join Together for Legacy". Yahoo! Voices. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Reid, Graham (16 August 2013). "Joey DeFrancesco: Always going to be this way". Elsewhere (New Zealand). Retrieved 14 March 2014. Milkowski, Bill (28 October 2012). "Joey DeFrancesco – Wonderful! Wonderful!". Jazz Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014. Cite error: The named reference NYorkTimesAcc was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Kolosky, Walter (2004). Girls Don’t Like Real Jazz: A Jazz Patriot Speaks Out. Abstract Logix. ISBN 9780976101604. Cite error: The named reference PrestigeMuse was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
Awards and recognition
In addition to Grammy nominations in 2004 and 2010, DeFrancesco is a 9-time winner of the Down Beat Critics Poll 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.Prater, Sadie (30 October 2003). "Jazz Great Joey DeFrancesco To Perform at U.T. Dallas on Nov. 15". UT Dallas. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Tamarkin, Jeff (23 December 2013). "Hammond Organ Launches Hall of Fame, Inducts 1st Members". Jazz Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
In addition to his father and grandfather, DeFrancesco's brother Johnny is also a musician.Cite error: The named reference PDNPalJoey was invoked but never defined (see the help page).