The singular trumpet/cornet player Connie Jones passed away in New Orleans on February 14 at age 84.
Jones played with giants of traditional jazz, joining Jack Teagarden’s band at age 29 and working extensively with Pete Fountain, Santo Pecora and Billy Maxted. He also led his own bands during several phases of his career.
Born in New Orleans, he was largely self-taught, learning rudimentary piano from a great-aunt and then bugle at military school. He applied those skills to learn trumpet and eventually cornet.
Highlights of his early days included Sundays with Tony Almerico’s junior band at the Parisian Room and membership in the “Basin Street Six” with Fountain.
Playing in a later Fountain band led to appearances on The Tonight Show, The Today Show and The Mike Douglas Show. His first stint as a Pete sideman lasted from 1966–1972.
He was the bandleader at the Blue Angel from 1978–82, and he traveled all over the country from 1988–1994 playing for the Columbia Artists’ Community Concerts. He ended his road career as a bandleader on the Delta Queen Steamboat Company from 1997–2003. After that, his steadiest work was with Fountain, including a weekly gig at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis from 2007–2015.
Connie was also a longtime advisor to the French Quarter Festival in the early days, and he was honored on its 2011 poster with his amigos, Pete Fountain and Tim Laughlin.
As Tom Piazza put it, “All the serious traditional players of New Orleans show a special respect for Jones: Something shifts in their tone when his name comes up in conversation.” One could compare him to Armstrong or Bobby Hackett (for the rightness and surprise of their note choices) or Lester Young (for their love of landing on those juicy 6ths and 9ths). But really, it seems that he had invented his own system, a virtually lick-free style that left bandmates and listeners in awe.
Connie is survived by his wife of 64 years, Elaine, and many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was under-recorded throughout his career, and his music is hard to find in the digital age. Look for appearances on Tim Laughlin’s and Banu Gibson’s later CDs for starters.