Harold Jones

Distinguished Alumnus Harold Jones, Class of 1958

Harold Jones was born in Richmond in 1940.  He and his brother Melvin “Deacon” Jones, class of 1962,  grew up on South Tenth Street.  Their father, Jay, died when Harold was seventeen.  Before graduation he started performing in Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana, with jazz bands, playing drums.  He won a full scholarship to the Music Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois.  He continued to perform in Chicago venues, playing with  the Eddie Harris Jazz Band.  They recorded an album The Exodus to Jazz, the first jazz album to sell one million copies.  Vee-Jay Records sent the group on tour in 1961 to promote the album where they gained notice by the United States State Department.

In 1962 as Harold finished his studies, he joined a jazz group with saxophonist Paul Winter. The group was asked to perform at the White House for President Kennedy and a group of foreign dignitaries whose teenaged children asked to hear jazz, which was popular and smuggled into communist countries.

The U.S. State Department sent the band on a twenty-three-country tour of Latin America.  From 1968 till present Harold Jones has recorded with Count Basie, Sammy Davis, Jr., Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Nancy Wilson, Harry Jones, and Sarah Vaughn.  He has been featured on drums on more than one hundred albums.  In 1991, he began touring with Natalie Cole and played on eleven of her albums, including Unforgettable.

Harold Jones has performed on several albums that won Grammys;  Unforgettable with Love, and Still Unforgettable with Natalie Cole, Warm Breeze by Count Basie, Gershwin Live by Sarah Vaughan, Live at the Appollo by B. B. King, and Duets: An All American Classic and Duets II by Tony Bennett.

In 2006, he began performing with Tony Bennett and still performs with him worldwide.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga performed with Jones onstage at the 2015 Grammy Awards.  The group received a standing ovation for the song “Cheek to Cheek”, also the name of the collaboration album that won a Grammy Award for best traditional pop vocal category.

In 2015Jones is touring with Tony Bennett and performing at the Hollywood Bowl, Radio City Music Hall, the Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

When contacted about his latest Grammy Award, Jones’s comment by text was:  It’s because of all those hours in McGuire Hall.

Jones and his wife, Diane, live in Hollywood, California.  He was named as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2001.

















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