Happy Birthday to Percy Jones – born December 3, 1947
Percy Jones is a Welsh bass guitarist, and was a member of jazz fusion band Brand X, from 1974 to 1980, an NYC trio called Stone Tiger (featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and drummers Mike Clark and Dougie Bowne during different periods) in 1982/83, and a reformed version of Brand X which lasted from 1992 to 1999. Residing in New York, he currently is a member of MJ12, an instrumental group based in NYC.
Jones was also a member of the jazz fusion group Soft Machine, the poetry rock group The Liverpool Scene (featuring poet Adrian Henri), and has contributed to recordings by David Sylvian, Brian Eno, Steve Hackett, Paranoise, Suzanne Vega, Richard Barbieri and Fovea Hex, amongst others.
He released a solo album, Cape Catastrophe in 1990.
Jones’s playing style incorporates an unconventional three-finger right hand technique. He also employs sliding harmonics. Over the years, he has employed various other extended techniques, such as deliberately pulling the strings over the edges of the fingerboard (creating a distinctive buzzing rattle) and thumb-on-the-fingerboard left hand technique to achieve wider-interval double stops than are normally possible. His first recordings with Brand X employed a fret less Fender Precision bass, though he later switched to what became his trademark Wal basses, produced by Electric Wood Limited in the UK.
More recently, he switched to custom-built Ibanez basses, citing a desire to simply try something different after many successful years using the Wal.
The uniqueness of his approach, particularly with Brand X and on his contributions to Brian Eno’s Another Green World and Before and After Science LPs of the 1970s, cast a long shadow. Perhaps the most obvious example of this can be clearly seen in the work of Japan bassist Mick Karn, who acknowledged Jones as an influence at various times during his career.
Jones studied Electronic Engineering at the University of Liverpool, and has used his electronics skills to potent effect over the years. In the late 1970s, he designed and built various analog signal processors for use with the bass, perhaps the most unusual of which was an amplitude- and frequency-sensitive flanger that would vary the character of its flanging effect based on what notes were being played into it, and how loudly they were being played. His other designs included an envelope-controlled Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF), which can be heard on the track “Noddy Goes to Sweden” on Brand X’s 1980 album Do They Hurt?, as well as an analog drum machine, which featured preset rhythms in various odd time signatures such as 15/16.
He is also an avid amateur radio operator, and has developed several innovative, compact antenna designs for the amateur radio HF bands.