Noted ‘musician’s musician’ Desi Jones passes

May 13, 2024

article reposted by Chelsea


Desi Jones, the beret-sporting drummer who was one of Jamaica’s distinguished musicians, died in Kingston on May 11.

No details of his death have been disclosed but guitarist Wayne Armond, his friend of over 40 years, told the Jamaica Observer that Jones’ widow, Judith, informed him of his passing Saturday afternoon.

Jones, who was in his late 60s, had an accomplished career with the Sonny Bradshaw Band, Chalice and Skool. He also toured with Jimmy Cliff and Monty Alexander.

He was a fixture on the Kingston live show circuit for many years, appearing on events like Jazz In The Gardens at the Jamaica Pegasus and, more recently, F&B Downtown along Harbour Street.

Armond and Jones are original members of Chalice, a seven-piece progressive-reggae band which formed in 1980.

Jones is the fourth member of that line-up to pass away, following keyboardist Michael Wallace, lead singer/guitarist Trevor Roper, and guitarist/singer Robi Peart.

Speaking to the Observer from South Florida, Armond described Jones as a unique drummer.

“Desi was special because he was left-handed and played with what we musicians call an open style. He was dedicated and loved drums with a passion… With Desi, it was practice, practice, practice. He could play all styles, but had a style of his own,” said Armond.

In addition to playing on most of Chalice’s hit songs, Jones wrote three of their most popular tracks — I’m Trying, Marie, and Praise Him.

He left Chalice during the late 1980s to form Skool, which became a leading show band throughout the 1990s, playing on Reggae Sunsplash and tours in the United States. Skool’s line-up also included bassist Hopeton Hibbert, who died in April.

Impresario Tommy Cowan also knew Jones for over four decades, first working with him while he was in the Sonny Bradshaw Band. Over the years, Jones played on songs for Carlene Davis, Cowan’s wife, and backed her on stage as a member of Skool.

“The most disciplined band leader and drummer I’ve ever experienced. He led from in front. In all that, he was a jovial person with an unforgettable laughter. We were actually preparing to have Carlene sing with him this Wednesday at Hopeton Hibbert’s funeral,” Cowan told the Observer.

Desmond Jack Jones was born in Kingston and attended St George’s College. He started his career as a trombonist with the Salvation Army band while a student at the famed “George’s”.

Jones, who wrote the 1983 book The Art of Reggae Drumming was invested with the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government in 2019 for his contribution to Jamaican music.

Minister of Culture and Entertainment Olivia “Babsy” Grange, for her part, said: “I am shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of one of Jamaica’s most talented, gifted, and loved musicians, Desi Jones… I became his manager when he formed Skool, and it was one of the best artiste-manager relationships I experienced in the business, of which I have been a part for many years.

“Desi was a musician’s musician, whose skills crossed musical boundaries and, importantly, he took the time to advance younger artistes, regardless of their development or their instrument,” she said.

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