Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Hopps, Jimmy (James Edward Hopps Jr.)

Hopps, Jimmy [James Edward Hopps Jr.], drummer; b. Washington, DC, 18 June 1939. His mother, Louella T.W. Hopps, was born in Winston Salem ,North Carolina 1911. His father, James Edward Hopps, was born in Leonardtown, Maryland 1898.

Jimmy began piano-lessons at age-five, studied-with two private-teachers, Mrs. E. Sheppard, age 5-9, and had a blind piano-teacher, Prof. Lincoln, 9-13. He performed a classical recital, at jr. high school-level. He had tutored schooling and piano study at home for 2 years. In 1953, he was critically-injured, with both legs shattered when struck by a truck on the way to a piano lesson. 

As result of testing, entered Sr. high school at the age of 15, in an advanced-grade. He studied B-flat-clarinet, earned 2nd-chair-status in the city high school symphony orchestra, and sang in senior choir (basso-profundo) with private voca -coaching offered, with a special personal introduction to operatic baritone William Warfield by the choir director, Mr. Finley. He was taught military rudimental percussion by the lead drummer of the Cardozo Sr. High School Drum & Bugle Corp., with no public-performances. 

He performed as R&B piano accompanist for popular local singers, including Marvin Gaye, The Emeralds, Herbert (of Peaches & Herb), and Van McCoy, and coached other vocalist that became internationally known, 1955-1960. He was with R&B-singer-pianist, Billy Stewart who learned, practiced regularly, to play piano in Jimmy's house from 1949-56.  Jimmy was Music-Director/A&R, and vocals-coach, for Start Records Co., D.C. 1960-63, and recorded in D.C., and Chicago as a pianist, arranger, recording-session-director, for The Jewels, Miss Connie X-Mas, The Blossoms, and R&B guitarist Bo Diddley and Billy Stewart.

His first professional drum gig was with Bo Diddley at The Howard Theater, D.C. He toured all of the last vaudville-houses/"chittlin' circuit" (The Apollo Theater, The Regal in Chicago, The Royal in Baltimore, etc.) and performed at the invitation of Mrs. Angier Biddle-Duke, Chief-of-Protocol, for the U.S.A., at The Pepper Mint Lounge Gala, held at The Pan American Union, Washington  D.C. 1963.

In 1964, he studied big band drumming with house band drummers at The Howard Theater, in Washington D.C., (one of the last 5 Vaudville Houses in theU.S.A.), Washington Irving Rucker and Mr. Harold. He made his big band drumming debut at The Annual Lorton Reformatory Jazz Festival under the leadership of Rick Henderson, who had also played Alto sax in The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Coincidently The Duke Ellington Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald were the star attractions on this festival and because of a personal approach by
trumpeter Cat Anderson, from that day, Jimmy was determined to memorize the music/drum parts, of The Duke Ellington Orchestra repertoire.

He played Carnegie Hall NYC accompanying Miss Jackie "Moms" Mabley in the John Hicks Trio. This show was also the American Debut for South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela. Formed a jazz organ duo, with Jackie Hairston (a local protege  of organistJimmy Smith of Pittsburgh PA). He was partnered also with Miss Sedatrius Brown, D.C. organist vocalist, who had been organ accompanist with the Sir Isaac Hayes Show. In 1965, Hopps was flown via chartered airplane to Atlantic City NJ, to join The Wild Bill Davis Swing Organ Quartet (without audition). He was personally recommended to Bill Davis (of the Louis Jordan Tympani Five) by the former road manager of Billie Holiday, a Mr. Frank, who also had  Frank's Organ Lounge , in D.C. Jimmy played full summer at Graces Little Belmont  recorded in NYC with members of The Duke Ellington Orchestra, and appeared at the Basin Street East Club in NYC, in concert with Ella Fitzgerald (nightly, for one month), traveled throughout the U.S.A.

In 1966, Jimmy was member of the trio ESP the first jazz group to be given residence in The Lutheran Church of North America (Luther Place Memorial Church Washington DC) under Reverend Jack Herrera who had played clarinet in the Benny Goodman Orchestra.  This group was also the house rhythm section at the Bohemian Caverns in DC where they accompanied Chicago Saxifonist Eddie Harris, vocalist Andy  & The Bey Singers, Joe Carroll, and  comedian Bill Cosby.  Hopps did too, play as house drummer at The  Blues Alley, in Georgetown DC, with Stan Getz, and singer Michael Frank.  He met Rahsaan Roland Kirk in D.C. sat in on drums, during a Sunday matinee, joined band almost immediately.  That particular band, was one of the first jazz groups, to play in The Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco, and eventually at The Fillmore East  in NYC, under the personal  aegis of Rock Music Promoter Bill Graham.

In   1967  Jazz Critic Producer Impresario George Avakian, arranged for the Rahsaan Roland Kirk Quartet, to be invited to The U.S.S.R. Chekoslovakia,Poland, to  be  among the first American Jazz Musicians to perform in the Soviet Union since WW II. After having studied classical percussion, for two years, with Dr. Joseph Leavitt, ( Principle with The Washington National Symphony,and The Baltimore Symphony), with modern chord structure,  transposition/notation at a D.C. Conservatory, he traveled to audition at conservatory thru out the U.S. Jimmy chose to enter The Berklee School of Music at Boston; there to study Composition & Arranging, under Charlie Mariano, Phil Woods, and other professional musician teachers, The Schillinger System of Notation (under  Lawrence Berk), and Marimba study, with Alan Dawson.  Performed in Boston with Webster Lewis & The Post Pop Space Rock Be Bop Gospel Tabernacle Chorus & Orchestra which also featured trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, with special study at The New England Conservatory, under Pres. Gunther Schuller, (eventually recorded with this same band, in Oslo Norway "Club 7" w/concerts in collaboration with a world famous Scandinavian Film and Television Star (?), and performed this same concert, for: The Ambassadors to The United Nations/at Carnegie Recital Hall, presented by  Mr.& Mrs. Lionel Hampton 1974).  

While in Boston, Jimmy was an original member of White Elephant , an electro rock band, which featured singer song writer E. Gene McDaniels, no public gigs  occurred with the original band, but the songs they developed, were recorded. In 1967 he lved in London, England, took the place of Mitch Mitchell, with a gig and atelier included, in the new solo group of Georgie Fame, the English jazz singer that had a international hit record ("Yeh Yeh"), they traveled thru Great Britain and France. (Mitchell had joined The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the U.S.A.) Jimmy also played Ronnie Scott's Club Soho London, w/scat vocalist Jon Hendricks.

From 1968- 69m he returned to the Rahsaan Roland Kirk Group. Jazz Promoter George Wein, chose that group to perform at  what was the final, actual Newport Jazz Festival  at  Rhode Island That same year, in D.C., Jimmy  was  inspired to sit in with The Pharoah Sanders Band, they traveled and recorded.  Also joined ranks with Charles Tolliver, Stanley Cowell & Music Inc., w/Bassist Steve Novosel, to tour thru out Europe, record in England, Spain (TV), Belgrade, Skopia Yugoslavia.  (That group, returned to U.S.A. and Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell, independently established Strata East Records Inc, recording, and developing a substantial  catalog of independent music artist and producers).

From 1969- 70, he lived and studied in Oslo, Norway, and in Paris France, was able to study Be Bop Drumming with Kenny Clarke. He played in Amsterdam with Pony Poindexter, and in Copenhagen Denmark, played in house band with pianists Kenny Drew, Mal Waldron, while accompanying Ben Webster, Hank Mobley, and Dexter Gordon.

In 1970, was sent to Africa by his  personal mentor, Dr. Maxwell Mlonyeni, of South Africa. Received invitations to Guinea, Kinshasa du Congo, was an official guest of the Republic of South Africa.  Jimmy Hopps, was billeted in The Jan Smuts Aero port Hotel, (when it was against national law, to accommodate those of African Descent).  Not feeling comfortable in his Honorary White status, Jimmy, moved to MBabane, Swaziland, where he performed an American Jazz Drum Recital for HRH. King Sobhuza II, and The Royal Family, and performed in trio with South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand),and South African Contra Bassist Johnny Dyani, SomXholo Stadium. Spent an extended period in Swaziland, before traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as guest of the family of The Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Jimmy Hopps recorded with various artist during the period 1971 1974, including Jazz Organist Miss Shirley Scott, and Joe Bonner. Columbia Records Jazz Producer John Hammond, produced a demo session with Linda Sharrock vocal, Chicago violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassist Juni Booth, Tenor sax Billy Harper later released on an independent label Muse).  Recorded with Marion Brown, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Cecil McBee, Dick Griffin, Eugene Ashton, Dr. Juma  Santos, David S. Ware. In 1975 Jimmy Hopps, received a grant for study/research, at The U.S. Library of Congress and U.S. National Archives.  During that time in Washington D.C., he played at the jazz hobby club of an local psychiatrist, and math professor at Georgetown Harold Kaufman's Rogue & Jar. Recorded with Saxophonists Buck Hill, Richie Cole, pianist Rueben Brown, contra bassist Marshall Hawkins, (who was a member of the Miles Davis band circa1966 after Paul Chambers.
Marshall was also Jimmy's oldest friend, since childhood). Jimmy, recorded and broadcast via radio, an international concert in celebration of the 75th Birthday of HRH. King Sobhuza II  of Swaziland, and an concert dedicated to the passing  of Mr. Paul Robeson, at age 77 in Philadelphia PA.

From 1975-76 Jimmy Hopps accepted an invitation to further his Michio Buddhist Studies, and Chinese Oriental Medicine in Japan.  Whilst there, he eventually was persuaded, personally sponsored by The President of Pearl Instruments Co., to play jazz drums with various Japanese jazz musicians, and he found a long missing Texas Style tenor sax player, expatriate Mr. Jackson, and with Kazumi Watanabe formed a trio, featuring a young girl poet, that traveled thru out Nippon Isles (3), recorded  "MuDari Blues Africaine" in a series of sessions at a studio that was an exact copy of the Studio B of Columbia Records NYC, (where Miles Davis and other stars preferred to record). He also recorded with pianist Karashima Fumio, and bassist Suzuki Isao.

In 1978, he changed legal name to Jimmi EsSpirit, returned to U.S.A. accepted a protege, a bassist/ vocalist/ organist, worked with she in private study of The Negro Spiritual, formed an experimental group with pianist Kirk Lightsey, and saxophonist Rudolph Johnson (a member of The Ray Charles Orchestra), this group performed for Hugh Hefner's Birthday Party at The Playboy Mansion, and at Alameda University of California.  Jimmi & Cherri traveled and studied, spent one year in NYC, without public performances, practicing, studying musics (The Negro Spiritual), everyday. In November 1979, a building fire forced their experimental/study group (4 member), to have to relocate, they chose to travel to Denver, Colorado, where they were able to join up with Joe Bonner, Jimmi's dear friend from the Pharoah Sanders band.

In 1980, he retreated to a Palm Desert fruit farm, studying The Negro Spiritual (3 years). In 1984, he entered Los Angeles, California. Spent a significant moment with old friend Marvin Gaye, but departed (just after Marvin Gaye's death), after accepting residence at The University of Mexico in Colima with a jazz trio "Chia Jen", for a two year  period. In 1987, he returned to the U.S.A., New Orleans, formed experimental/ improvisational groups that were invited to open The New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festivals, which, is the largest annual music festival in the western world (Arkestra Atmosphere 90's) 1988 90.

In 1989, he met Maestro Sun Ra, was invited to perform with The Cosmic Arkestra, and  traveled with Sun Ra for only 33 days.   He has worked with Dick Griffin, Ron Burton, Vernon Martin, Charles Tolliver, Joe Habad Texidor Sonelius Smith, Henry Pearson, Charles McGhee, Charles Crosby, Khalil Mhrdi, Richard Landrum, Arthur Jenkins, Roy Haynes, Sonny Brown, Cecil McBee, Richard GeneWilliams, Frank Wess, Robert Shy, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and others.

Recordings (selected):
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Does Your House Have Lions: The... (1961); Bill Davis: Free, Frantic and Funky (1965); Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Inflated Tear (1967), Left and Right (1968), Aces Back to Back (1968), Volunteered Slavery (1969); Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969); Charles Tolliver: Ringer (1969), Live at Slugs, Vol. 1 (1970), Inc. Big Band (1971); Gene McDaniels: The Headless Horsemen of The Apocalypse (1971); Sahib Shihab: Sentiments (1971); Webster Lewis: Live at Club 7 (1971); Stanley Cowell: Illusion Suite (1972); Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Art of Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1973); Shirley Scott: One for Me (1974); Cecil McBee: Mutima (1974); Stanley Cowell: Travellin' Man (1993); Carol Kaye: First Lady on Bass (1994); Sun Ra Arkestra (Under the Direction of Marshall Allen: A Song For The Sun (1999); Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Left Hook, Right Cross (1999), Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Inflated Tear [UK Bonus Track] (2002), Vibration Continues; Marion Brown: Vista (2002); Various Artists: Atlantic Jazz: The Avant Garde (1987), Atlantic Jazz: 12 Volume Box Set (1990), Atlantic Jazz: Legends (1993), Atlantic Jazz: Best of the '60s,... (1994), Atlantic Jazz: Best of the '60s,... (1994), Strata-2-East (1997), Atlantic Jazz: Classics (1998), Legendary Jazz (1998), Transcendence: Impulse in the... (1999), Heavy Flute: Funky Flute Grooves... (2000)

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