Jonah Jones (1909 - 2000) Jonah Jones was one of the most popular American jazz
trumpet players of all time, and he blew his first note in the Louisville, Ky.,
orphanage that he called home. He was born in Louisville in 1908, and it was
Bessie T. Allen, the orphanage director, who encouraged Jonah to nurture his
outstanding talent. Allen founded the old Booker T. Washington Community Center
at Ninth and Magazine Streets. Jones got his start playing cornet in the
community center band. When he was a young man, Jones left Louisville to begin a
series of adventures in big bands and jazz groups that would take him to the top
of stardom throughout the classical jazz era of the thirties until the sixties.
He played on Mississippi riverboats with smaller triad jazz ensembles and ended
up a big-band star early in his career. He briefly played with Lil' Armstrong
(Louis’ wife). From 1941 to 1952, he performed with the Cab Calloway Orchestra.
Jones and Bop-legend Dizzy Gillespie were both members of the Calloway trumpet
section. Covers of swing favorites and show tunes brought Jones a string of
successful hits. He recorded many songs and albums. He sold a million copies of
his versions of On the Street Where You Live and Baubles, Bangles and Beads. He
won a Grammy in 1959 for the album, I Dig Chicks. Jones was an entertainer who
connected with the audience through lovely melodies that he both sang and played
on trumpet. Continuing to perform after retirement age, he was still leading his
quartet in the 1980s. His final performance was in November 1999 during a Jazz
Foundation of America benefit concert at the Blue Note Club in Greenwich
Village, New York. Jones retired from public performing in 1993. He visited
Louisville, again, in 1999, when at the invitation of Kentucky Center for the
Arts Director Ken Clay, Jones appeared at the center for a concert held in his
honor, “Back Home with Jonah.” Jones died on April 30, 2000. He was 91.
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