Warren B. “Porgy” Jones, a New Orleans trumpeter who played with some of the biggest stars in jazz, soul and R&B, died Thursday at Touro Infirmary of a heart attack. He was 74.
“Porgy had a different sort of sophistication, outside of what you would anticipate from a New Orleans horn player,” said Jerome Smith, who played with Jones in the band at Joseph S. Clark High School. “He was on a constant hunt for something, a search to get beyond the mechanics of music.”
Jones grew up in the French Quarter and Treme, hearing brass-band parades and music from the neighborhoods’ many clubs. By 7, he was taking lessons from well-known band director Yvonne Busch, who later taught him at Clark.
He also played in the bands at Joseph A. Craig Elementary and McDonogh No. 41 schools. While still in his teens, Jones began playing at clubs with local musicians like Johnny Adams, Lee Dorsey, Eddie Bo, Ernie K-Doe and Tommy Ridgley.
He attended Southern University on a full scholarship and played in the concert and marching bands there for three years, until he was lured away to become a traveling musician. He hit the road with popular soul singer Jerry Butler, known as “The Iceman,” and performed at storied venues like the Apollo and Regal theaters.
Then he settled in New York City and played trumpet with many of the biggest stars of the era, including Art Blakey, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Slide Hampton Band and the Red Sanders Band.
“Porgy played with ’em all,” said drummer Smokey Johnson, 77.
Johnson, who grew up with Jones, hired him to play trumpet with him at some of his first gigs at an Orleans Avenue club called Hollis.
“Porgy was an all-right cat; me and him were tight,” Johnson said. “But, like everybody else after me, I hired him ’cuz he played his horn good.”
Survivors include his wife, Floragene Mays Jones, a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.
A viewing and musical memorial in honor of Jones will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Charbonnet-Labat Funeral Home, 1615 St. Philip St.
A funeral service will be held at Charbonnet-Labat at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, with visitation starting at 10:30 a.m. and a traditional second-line procession following the service. Interment will be at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.