Joey DeFrancesco: The reigning King of Jazz dies at 51
Paying tribute to the iconic Jazz trumpeter and Miles Davis’ associate, Joey DeFrancesco, as he died aged 51.
A legendary Jazz organ player, a multi-instrumentalist, and most importantly an extraordinary human being, Joey DeFrancesco, took his last breath on 25 August 2022.
There are a few jazz artists in every era who dominate the musical language and popularize the image of an instrument. DeFrancesco was one such extraordinaire who did the same with his organ (Hammond B-3) - that too only at the prime age of 17 - when he released his head-turning debut on Columbia Records. Not only was he the master of Jazz organ, but he also demonstrated incomparable technical command at the keyboard, flawlessly reeling off notes with his right hand. Also, he took full advantage of the sonic possibilities granted by an organ console - its switches, drawbars, and pedal board. Senor Joey could efficiently lurch his organ abruptly from a sanctified holler to an ambient hum and even change textures and timbres in the middle of any phrase. Similar to Jimmy Smith, his idol and closest parallel, he revealed new vistas on his instrument. He brought back the richly enveloping sound of his organ, the Hammond B-3, roaring into the Jazz mainstream in the early 90s, reigning as its preeminent wizard for over 30 years!
Let us throw some light on his life biography, family, wife, career, net worth, and everything else in this exclusive guide.
Who is Joey DeFrancesco?
Birthday: 10 April 1971
Birthplace: Springfield, Pennsylvania, United States
Parents: John DeFrancesco
Wife: Gloria DeFrancesco
Children: Ashley Blue Defrancesco
Siblings: Johnny DeFrancesco
Death: 25 August 2022
Joey DeFrancesco was an American Jazz organist and occasional (but impressive) singer. Joey was more of an ingenious showman, even when he was a sideman. He was basically an exceptional multi-instrumentalist who also played piano, saxophone, trumpet, and synthesizer. However, he built his remarkable career playing an old-school organ, Hammond B3.
Joey DeFrancesco’s Family
Joey got his musical gift from his family. Joseph, his grandfather, was also a famous musician of his time and used to play clarinet and saxophone in upstate New York during the period of the 30s. His father, Papa John DeFrancesco, used to play organ on the Philadelphia jazz scene. Joey attended Philadelphia High School to kick start his career. His elder brother, Johnny, is also a talented professional musician, performing as a blues guitarist.
Joey DeFrancesco’s Biography
Owing to the musical talent running in his blood, Joey started banging on a toy piano from an early age and had even graduated to his father's organ by the mere age of four. He learned not only from his grandfather and father but also from prominently renowned organists like Shirley Scott and Trudy Pitts.
At the age of nine, his father brought him to a community organization, Settlement Music School, which was famous for mentoring young talent.
Joey was merely ten when he played his first gig as a professional organist at Gert's Cocktail Lounge on South Street.
DeFrancesco also attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where his classmates included drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, McBride, and Kurt Rosenwinkel, a guitarist.
DeFrancesco was the first amongst his coeval group to get a record deal - when he impressed George Butler (a producer and A&R executive at Columbia) with his performance at the first annual competition called Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.
Joey DeFrancesco’s Career
Joey signed an exclusive (recording) contract with Columbia Records at a very young age. His appearance on All of Me HUGELY helped in bringing back the mouth organ to Jazz music in the year 1980. That same year, he also joined Miles Davis (an American trumpeter) - and his band - on a five-week live concert touring through Europe.
Joey followed up by playing the keyboard on Amandla, Miles’ album, which reached the No.1 position on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in 1989.
Joey DeFrancesco, at the age of 16 years, signed his first record deal. He has toured internationally with Arturo Sandoval, David Sanborn, Larry Coryell, Benny Golson, Frank Wess, James Moody, Danny Gatton, Steve Gadd, Elvin Jones, George Benson, Jimmy Cobb, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Tony Monaco, Lee Ritenour, and Joe Lovano.
He also had prominent work sessions with several renowned musicians, like Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles, Janis Siegel, Bette Midler, Diana Krall, and Van Morrison.
To date, DeFrancesco has released over 30 albums in his own name. Plus, he has recorded extensively as a sideman with industry-leading Jazz performers, including Miles Davis (trumpeter), Houston Person (saxophonist), and John McLaughlin (guitarist).
Joey DeFrancesco’s Awards Won
Joey was a four-time nominee for the Grammy Award, with over 30 recordings in his name as a leader. In Grammy nominations for 2004, 2010, and 2020, Joey was a nine-time winner of Down Beat and even achieved the Down Beat Readers Poll in 2005 and every year since then.
DeFrancesco also received numerous JazzTimes Awards. He was an inaugural member, in the year 2013, of the Hammond Hall of Fame, alongside Billy Preston, Brian Auger, Steve Winwood, and Jimmy Smith, his mentor.
Joey DeFrancesco’s Death
Joey was suffering from multiple health issues when he passed away. Though an official death reason has still not been revealed, we can not even expect many resources from Joey's family to speak up because they are not in the right mood but are in deep grief. Rest assured, we will update the factual details as soon as someone from his family is ready to describe it.
One thing that we do know is that his death was confirmed by Gloria DeFrancesco, who is his wife and also the manager.
Throughout his impressive career as a musician, Joey DeFrancesco gained fame and recognition for being an iconic Jazz organist as well as a flawless saxophonist, trumpeter, and singer. Twitter was flooded as the news of his surfaced, and netizens paid their tribute to the legendary musician. RIP Joey DeFrancesco - gone too soon but remembered forever!