100 Jazz Profiles
1911 - 1989
Trumpeter. One of the most vibrant and exciting trumpeters of the swing era, Roy Eldridge was the stylistic link between the pioneering playing of Louis Armstrong and the modern jazz of Dizzy Gillespie. He developed his rapid technique by playing saxophone exercises on trumpet, and he began his career in the territory bands of the Midwest.
He made his first discs with Teddy Hill's Orchestra in 1935, before going on to join Fletcher Henderson. He also recorded widely as a freelance, making excellent discs with Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton among others, and becoming famous as the leading trumpeter of the day.
In 1936 he formed his own band in Chicago and he continued to lead groups of varying size from octets to full-size big bands until 1941 when he joined Krupa's Orchestra. As an African-American soloist in a white band, Eldridge endured racial prejudice and had similar experiences when featured with Artie Shaw in 1944, and despite some brilliant discs with both bands, including Drop me Off Uptown and Little Jazz respectively, he returned to leading his own groups.
He felt marginalised by the arrival of bebop and went to Paris where he made some excellent recordings, before coming back to the USA, where he became a figurehead of the mainstream swing style. He was often featured on Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts, and had a long musical partnership with Coleman Hawkins.
In 1970, he began leading the house band at Ryan's jazz club in New York. His trumpeting career was ended by a stroke in 1980, but he continued to make public appearances, often as a singer. His brother Joe (1908-1952) was a saxophonist and often worked with Roy.
John Chilton: Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz Giant (London, Continuum) (forthcoming)
French Cooking (Vogue 74321154962)
Suggested track: Fireworks
Biography and links to Ken Burns' Jazz TV series.
on radio 3
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