Jimmy Blanton Biography (BBC)
In his short life, Jimmy Blanton transformed the role of the double bass in jazz, proving that this big, cumbersome instrument could have the same lightness and flexibility as a trumpet or saxophone. Before he succumbed to TB, he made dozens of recordings with Duke Ellington that not only showed off the bass as a solo instrument, but altered its role in the rhythm section to playing flexible basslines that blended with Sonny Greer's drums and Ellington's impressionistic piano.
Blanton grew up in Tennessee, but moved to St. Louis, where he played in territory bands and the riverboat orchestra of veteran leader Fate Marable. From there he joined Ellington in 1939, who not only featured him with the full band on pieces like Jack The Bear, but also teamed up with Blanton on some piano-bass duets, including Pitter Panther Patter and Mr J. B. Blues, which remain among the most testing solos in the bass repertoire.
Blanton was also a member of many of Ellington's studio small group sessions. He was stricken by tuberculosis during the band's West Coast visit in 1941, and died in hospital in California.
Jimmy Blanton Biography (Wikipedia)
Jimmie Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Blanton originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. After leaving university to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra (with whom he made his first recordings), he joined Duke Ellington's band in 1939.
Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Previously the double bass was rarely used to play anything but quarter notes in ensemble or solos but by soloing on the bass more in a 'horn like' fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth- and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing. His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument's unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Ellington put Blanton front-and-center on the bandstand nightly, unheard of for a bassist at the time. Such was his importance to Ellington's band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, that it became known as the Blanton–Webster band. Blanton also recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington and played in the "small group" sessions led by Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges, and Cootie Williams in 1940-41.
Jimmy Blanton Tracks