Joey DeFrancesco’s emergence in the 1980s marked the onset of a musical renaissance. Organ jazz had been a form of music that went into hibernation from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, largely because of the introduction of high-tech, lightweight keyboards. It was Joey, however, who ignited the flame once again with the sound of his vintage Hammond organ and Leslie tone cabinet. He not only illuminated this once-dormant music form but also brought back the many proponents of jazz organ who had been shuffled by record producers and club owners to lesser roles within the music industry. Befriending and supporting those who preceded him, Joey became the new-age proponent of an instrument that had been pushed aside in favor of the growing technology.
Considered a child prodigy, Joey remembers as far back as age four, playing jazz tunes modeled by his father, Papa John DeFrancesco and memorizing music from the many jazz albums in their home. Papa John, a jazz organist himself, took young Joey under his wing and nurtured his rapidly developing skills, bringing Joey along with him to gigs; Joey would sit in with as many seasoned Philadelphia musicians who were around. Legendary players like tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley or drummer Philly Joe Jones would soon become aware of young Joey DeFrancesco and acknowledge his enthusiasm. Joey’s grandfather and namesake, Joseph DeFrancesco, was the patriarch and, himself, a musician’s musician; able to pick up a new instrument and teach himself to play. This gift was passed down to young Joey and now manifests itself in Joey’s extraordinary keyboard skills: piano playing and organ wizardry, not to mention his undeniable mastery of the trumpet.
Joey’s desire to play the trumpet began after touring with the great Miles Davis. An interesting encounter would introduce the two; Miles was a guest on a Philadelphia television program where Joey was a band member. Instead of critiquing the featured high school trumpet players, Miles inquired about the organ player and quickly gathered Joey’s contact information. Joey would soon become one of the two youngest musicians ever to be asked by Miles to join the band (the other being Tony Williams). Years later, it would be Joey who would be complimenting his own jazz organ performances with exciting bursts of trumpet tones in the notably influenced style of former employer, Miles Davis.
Initially, Joey signed an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records that resulted in a series of well-received albums and CDs that lifted Joey’s reputation and stardom higher and higher. The roster of world-class musicians with whom Joey would play and record amazed the music world. The phenomenon known as Joey DeFrancesco soon became a household name in the jazz world as he began to tour internationally with his own quartet and eventually trim his group to a trio that boasted the guitar work of Paul Bollenback and drumming of Byron ‘Wookie’ Landrum. This trio would become the longest running organ trio in modern times.
The list of established musicians who felt inspired to perform with Joey grew. At twenty-two, Joey was called upon by guitarist John McLaughlin to form the group, ‘Free Spirits,’ which included band member Dennis Chambers. This band toured extensively for four years as the sphere of Joey’s influence went global.
Today, Joey has been around the world dozens of times touring and recording with his own trio, as well as part of all-star projects, some of which include Ray Charles, David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Frank Wess, Benny Golson, George Coleman, James Moody, Steve Gadd, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, George Benson, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Larry Coryell and Bobby Hutcherson, not to mention the myriad of foreign jazz artists that he’s collaborated with as he travels.
Joey is a three time Grammy Nominee: In 2004 for his record ‘Falling In Love Again’, in 2010 for his release titled ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and, again, in 2014 for “Enjoy the View.” He was winner of Down Beat Magazine’s Critic’s poll 2002-2008, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 as well as the magazines Reader’s Poll every year since 2005. In 2014 he was inducted into the inaugural Hammond Organ Hall of Fame, and in 2016 Joey was inducted into Philadelphia’s Music Walk of Fame.
Quoted as the Master of the Jazz organ, Joey has received countless Jazz Journalist awards, and accolades worldwide.
Joey has been involved in product designs and endorsements that serve to further the advances of digital organ technology in the States and around the world.
Currently, Joey continues to tour with his own group and perform with all-star projects in major jazz clubs and festivals internationally.
He is the weekly radio host of “Organized” on SirusXM.
New recordings and creative musical projects are all vital components in Joey DeFrancesco’s future as he continues to write, perform and stand at the forefront of the digital technology that replicates the classic Hammond organ/Leslie speaker sound.
With over thirty recordings as a leader and numerous collaborations with the masters of modern jazz in his legacy, Joey DeFrancesco deservingly takes his place with Fats Waller, Wild Bill Davis and Jimmy Smith in the lineage of Jazz Organ.
“…ranging from sublime to positively pyrotechnic… the best B3 player on the planet” – Jazz Times
“Mr. DeFrancesco is a deeply authoritative musician, a master of rhythmic pocket, and of the custom of stomping bass lines beneath chords and riffs.” -New York Times
“The quicksilver nature of his technique, fluidity of his ideas [and] musicality of his phrases … have placed him in a category by himself among contemporary jazz organists.” Chicago Tribune
“No organist today plays with the skill, harmonic depth, and authority of this phenomenon from Philly.” -Jazz Police
“DeFrancesco’s consummate mastery of his chosen instrument should really be seen as well as heard to be thoroughly appreciated.” -All About Jazz