Joey DeFrancesco, masterful jazz organist, dies at 51

joey defrancesco dead


At the 2019 Montclair Jazz Festival, Christian McBride introduced his longtime friend, organist Joey DeFrancesco as “the one, the only, the great Joey DeFranceso,” during a set that also featured McBride on bass, Mark Whitfield on guitar and Oliver Phillips on drums. You can watch some of the set on the video below, starting at the 4:35 mark.

The five-time Grammy-nominated DeFrancesco — who also played trumpet and saxophone — died Aug. 25, at the age of 51; the cause has not been made public yet.

“Few jazz artists in any era have ever dominated the musical language and popular image of an instrument the way DeFrancesco did with the organ,” wrote jazz critic Nate Chinen in an obit/appreciation on

DeFrancesco played organ on McBride’s Grammy-winning 2020 album, For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (a tribute to organist Jimmy Smith, guitarist Wes Montgomery and saxophonist Oliver Nelson). And today, McBride released an in-depth statement on DeFrancesco, starting with the fact that he considered DeFrancesco “my oldest friend in music.” (The two both attended Settlement Music School in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts when they were teenagers).

They remained “best of friends” through the years, McBride wrote, even though DeFrancesco lived in Arizona and McBride, in New Jersey.

“We would run into each other on the road all the time and I would always be so happy to see him,” McBride wrote.

They also performed together occasionally, as in Montclair. (“We burned it up that day,” McBride remembered.)

McBride concluded by writing, “I’ve never had a problem saying that Joey DeFrancesco was hands down the most creative and influential organist since Jimmy Smith. In terms of taking the organ to the next level and making it popular again for a younger generation, no one did it like Joey. He truly set a new bar and his legacy will live on as such.”

You can read McBride’s statement in its entirety at


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