In the short decade (1966-78) he recorded and performed, guitarist Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones was never really given his due as an exciting, rapid-fire R&B guitarist. His sound and style clearly derived from the blues, but it was a solid understanding of rock and funk that Jones brought to his style of jazz. The result, outlined on a handful of albums for Prestige, was a healthy mix of finger-licking funk, sweet-natured soul and infectious blues.
Born Ivan Joseph Jones on November 1, 1940, Boogaloo Joe Jones learned the guitar himself on a three-string instrument that he received as a gift from his father in 1956. He was influenced most by Tal Farlow and Billy Butler, but gravitated toward the R&B juke-joint jazz Butler was popularizing with organist Bill Doggett’s popular group. Jones has lived in South New Jersey most of his life and mostly worked in and around the Atlantic City area with chitlin-circuit heroes like Wild Bill Davis, Willis Jackson and Charlie Ventura.
He made his solo debut as “Joe Jones” on Prestige Records in 1967, but earned the name “Boogaloo Joe” following a 1969 record of that title. The demeaning name was meant to distinguish him from the other Jo(e) Jones in music: Papa Jo, Philly Joe, and the Joe of the Fluxus movement. But as much as the moniker suited his style it probably straightjacketed his jazz career too. Later, he’d turn to billing himself as Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones.
While jazz went through some drastic changes during the dozen years of his recording career, Jones’ sound and style stayed remarkably consistent. His twangy tone coupled catchy chordal vamps with astonishing rapid-fire single-note playing. He could handle familiar pop covers (“Light My Fire,” “Have You Never Been Mellow”) and ballads. But he really excelled in the jazz-funk groove and proved himself a first-rate blues player.
Ivan Jones also recorded with Groove Holmes, Houston Person, Rusty Bryant, Harold Mabern and, most notably, Willis Jackson. Jones, who never won the notice of critics or great support from fans during his career, is finding new life on CD and on vinyl reissues — thanks to the apt and rapt attention of the crate diggers and the acid-jazz crowd. (Bio courtesy Doug Payne.)