How This Top Jazz Drummer Spends His Sundays

Willie Jones III knows it’s not easy to make a living as a jazz drummer in 2019.

But he also knows that, for those willing to hustle, there’s a way. Mr. Jones started playing with Roy Hargrove when he moved to New York from Los Angeles in 1997. He went on to join the bands of Horace Silver, Cedar Walton and others. “Now I don’t have to make calls or send emails, because a lot of great musicians know me,” he said.

From Nov. 14 through 17 at Dizzy’s Club (part of Jazz at Lincoln Center) Mr. Jones, 51, will lead a quintet playing music inspired by his “all-time favorite drummer,” Billy Higgins, who recorded with Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk, among others.

When Mr. Jones is not leading a band or playing in someone else’s, he is teaching or recording. Twice a month, he flies to Chicago to teach in the jazz studies program at Northwestern University. Alongside Wynton Marsalis, he is currently featured on the soundtrack of the film “Motherless Brooklyn.”

Mr. Jones lives with his wife, Zooey Tidal Jones, a publicist, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

SEVEN UP No matter how late I’m up the night before, I’m up before 7. It’s because Zooey is not a night owl like me. I hear the TV in the living room. She’s in there doing yoga stretches. Usually, we’re on the subway to Equinox in Manhattan by 7.

BALL Zooey takes a class. I go straight to the basketball courts. I don’t have the discipline for weights. A lot of times, I play by myself, but I’ll also play pickup games. There’s a lot of cardio involved, which keeps Father Time off my back. I played basketball in high school. I like to say I’m pretty good. As a matter of fact, for a musician, I’m very good. For a musician over 40, I’m really good.

NO MENU REQUIRED Then we eat. We go to this place called the Smith down the street from Equinox. It’s one of my favorite breakfast spots because I know what to get: the caramelized French toast with bananas. It’s not the healthiest thing, but it’s the weekend.

CLEANING GROOVE When we get home I put on music, either jazz or ’70s soul. If it’s jazz, it could be Art Blakey or Max Roach or Lee Morgan or anything that features Billy Higgins.

If it’s soul, it’ll be Marvin Gaye or Minnie Riperton or Donny Hathaway. I’m giving you the obvious names. Also Al Wilson. I like to have music on when I’m cleaning the house. Sometimes on weekdays when Zooey’s at work I’ll make a mess. I try to clean up by the time she gets home but it doesn’t always work out, so I’ll clean on weekends.

SCREEN TIME If it’s football season, which it is right now, we go into our separate rooms. She’s in the bedroom, and I’m watching the Giants or the Jets on the big screen. I’m not sure how big it is. It’s huge. If I’m not watching football, then I’m watching an old detective show or movie. My mom turned me on to detective shows like “Perry Mason” many years ago, and I’ve seen them all a million times now but I still love them. Sometimes I’ll break down and watch something with Zooey like “Dr. Phil.” If I do, half of my attention is on my computer, checking the scores.