By Mike Blome
It is with profound sadness that we announce that longtime Seattle drummer and educator Larry Jones passed on October 3rd, 2023 after a long bout with cancer. He was 71.
Larry Jones’ musical education began at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor. After taking up drums in high school, he turned down a music scholarship to go on tour with The Platters. During this time, he met bassist Larry Ridley, who invited him to apply to the new jazz program at Rutgers. Jones took to jazz (in his words) “like a duck to water,” augmenting his formal studies with frequent forays to jazz clubs in New York City. By the time he received his BA, he was friends with many New York musicians.
After moving to Seattle in 1991, Jones was soon in demand for his buoyant playing style. He was a first-call drummer at Jazz Alley when East Coast musicians such as Joe Henderson came to town. He led the Jazz Alley house band Living Spirit with Hadley Caliman, Michael White, Phil Sparks, Rickey Kelly, and others. Over the years, Jones played with many Seattle jazz luminaries including Floyd Standifer, Buddy Catlett, Jim Knapp, Jay Clayton, John Hansen, Brian Nova, Larry Fuller, Edmonia Jarrett, and Beth Winter. For the past 15 or so years, he could be heard with Sparks and Leif Totusek as the 1-2-3 trio at the Latona Pub every first Friday. On Sundays, he was a much-beloved musician at Westside Unitarian Universalist and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
Practically since his arrival to Seattle, Jones was an active jazz educator, working as an accompanist for vocal jazz classes at Cornish College of the Arts, running summer programs for Seattle Parks and Rec, serving as a teacher and administrator at Arts in Motion in Columbia City, and most recently as an instructor and board member at Jazz Night School. Among his private students, he was especially proud of a young man named Kassa Overall.
To his friends and fellow musicians, Jones was wise and soulful, always ready to share a laugh. As a teacher, Jones was infinitely encouraging, kind, and patient, while at the same time insisting that students treat the music with the utmost respect. His devotion to the jazz tradition was absolute; he lived and breathed the spirit of the music. He will be deeply missed.
Larry Jones is survived by his partner Beth Winter, sister Michelle Wood, brother Hunter Ross, sons Maltise and Brian, daughter Kaycie, and many extended family members in Atlanta.
Please consider donating to the GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-larry-jones) to help cover his end-of-life expenses and Winter’s lost income during the time she was caring for him.
Larry Jones photo courtesy of Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation