I'm kind of narrow in my listening habits— I never listened to a whole lot of big band, so I never knew about the drummer Rufus Jones until I saw this video on the internet. He was a big band drummer mainly active in the 60s, in the spectacular, chops-intensive mode of Sonny Payne, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, et al, though Jones is clearly a sideman, a road guy, rather than a marquis name.
I saw this and I needed to figure out what the hell is going on— clearly I'm missing something here:
Now, to me it's extremely weird to play a full-on drum corps style drum feature in the middle of very intimate piano trio music. My entire playing life, what you do on the drums is play to fit the situation, and make some kind of musical statement. Treating the drums like it's a musical instrument in an ensemble.
In a similar vein, here's the drum feature tune from Jones's one record as leader:
There are probably a few snare drum guys somewhere for whom this is really exciting stuff; I can barely process it as a piece of music— the soloing at least. It's like one player gets a feature and busts into a parallel universe and runs a triathalon— sonically. It doesn't compute. I have known some jock-type corps guys who were definitely not in it for the music; their creative playing had a similar effect.
On Jones's actual supportive playing with a band, he generally plays with a lot of taste. He sounds great playing with Maynard Ferguson's band, on the Roulette recordings, so long as opportunities to get both hands on the snare drum were limited. Here he is playing an arrangement called The Fox Hunt— the owner has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click this link to listen on YouTube. He sounds great.
But it depends. This track, and this record generally, really wears out my ears. I want to throw this cymbal in the street:
I'm not unsympathetic; there are times when you're really playing for the band and the situation, where you end up playing in a way that might not record well. There are other considerations besides making a pretty-sounding drumming performance. But I also can't remember feeling that way about any recording I've heard by players I really like.
Interestingly, he doesn't seem to have a lot of chops for playing actual fast tempos in the usual bebop way: the way he handles Cherokee on that same record— playing quarter notes on the cymbal, accenting the 1 and 3, lots of bass drum on 1, lots of left hand and bass drum activity, and not much happening with the hihat— it's really a different kind of groove.
I think possibly we're in more of a show musician rather than a purist jazz musician mentality here. He plays the arrangements impeccably, and lays on the spectacle when he's featured— maybe all that was required of a road guy— and he simply didn't have a lot of musical vision or ambitions beyond that. His 1983 interview in Modern Drummer*, much of which is about soloing, and getting a response from an audience, seems to support that I'm curious to hear people's comments about him.
* - Thanks for the tip, Ed!