THE DOZENS: TWELVE TRUMPETERS YOU NEED TO KNOW ON A FIRST NAME BASIS by Ted Gioia

We all know about Dizzy & Miles, Louis & Wynton, Bix & Brownie. Some trumpeters are so famous, that even a single name is sufficient to identify them. But there are other great trumpeters you may not have met yet, equally deserving of your undivided attention.

As part of our latest ‘Dozens’ feature, I am sharing my list of “Twelve Trumpeters You Need to Know on a First Name Basis.” All of these masters are now departed, and we can only enjoy their music through their legacy of recordings. For each one, I am highlighting an outstanding performance that shows why they deserve to have a home in your music collection. A few of these musicians hovered on the brink of celebrity, while others never enjoyed even the standard fifteen minutes of fame. But each one left behind at least a few examples of incomparable artistry.

With no further ado, let me introduce you to Jabbo, Dupree, Tony, Fats and all the rest of the gang.


Jabbo Smith: Jazz Battle

Track

Jazz Battle

Group

Jabbo Smith's Rhythm Aces

CD

Hot Jazz in the Twenties, Vol. 1 (Biograph BCD 151)

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Musicians:

Jabbo Smith (trumpet), Omer Simeon (clarinet), Cassino Simpson (piano), Ikey Robinson (banjo).

Composed by Jabbo Smith

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Recorded: January 29, 1929

Albumcoverjabbosmith-hotjazzinthetwenties-volume1

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

"Jabbo was as good as Louis [Armstrong] then," bassist Milt Hinton later remembered. "He was the Dizzy Gillespie of that era. He played rapid-fire passages while Louis was melodic and beautiful . . . [Jabbo] could play soft and he could play fast, but he never made it." Until the Great Depression, Smith always seemed just one step away from stardom. While still a teenager, he recorded with Ellington on a memorable version of "Black and Tan Fantasy" but turned down's Duke's offer to join the band. He went head to head against Louis Armstrong in Chicago during the late 1920s, sometimes on the same bandstand, and Jabbo could hold his own with the jazz legend. Smith's Brunswick recordings with the Rhythm Aces were supposed to make money off the audience Armstrong had built with his classic Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, but they sold poorly at the time. Yet Smith's trumpet work, as demonstrated on "Jazz Battle," was exceptional, full of fire and executed with virtuosity. A few years later, Smith had moved to Milwaukee where he worked for a car rental agency, and his sporadic attempts to return to music never made much headway. But in his prime, he was one of the greatest trumpeters of his day.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Duke Ellington (featuring Bubber Miley): The Mooche

Track

The Mooche

Group

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra

CD

The OKeh Ellington (Columbia 46177)

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Musicians:

Duke Ellington (piano), Bubber Miley (trumpet), Arthur Whetsol (trumpet), Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton (trombone), Johnny Hodges (reeds), Harry Carney (reeds), Barney Bigard (reeds), Fred Guy (banjo), Lonnie Johnson (guitar), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums), Baby Cox (vocals).

Composed by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills

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Recorded: October 1, 1928

Albumcoverokellington

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Duke Ellington once described Bubber Miley as "the epitome of soul and a master of the plunger mute." In time, Miley's alcohol abuse and unreliability would lead to his departure from the Ellington band, and he was dead from tuberculosis before his thirtieth birthday. But no one, apart from Duke himself, did more than Miley to shape the early Ellington sound. His incomparable mute work helped transform "The Mooche," "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" and "Black and Tan Fantasy" into classic statements of the jazz idiom. In an era in which jazz was increasingly focusing on virtuoso soloists, Miley remained true to King Oliver's philosophy that emphasized the quality of sound rather than the multiplicity of notes. With his arsenal of bends, moans, whimpers and growls, Miley could turn even the simplest melody into a deeply personal statement. Ellington, who always knew how to write to his band members' strengths, contributes one of his finest compositions of the decade.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Hot Lips Page: Lafayette

Track

Lafayette

Artist

Hot Lips Page (trumpet)

CD

Kansas City Jazz (Stardust)

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Musicians:

Hot Lips Page (trumpet), Eddie Barefield (alto sax), Don Stovall (alto sax), Don Byas (tenor sax), Pete Johnson (piano), John Collins (guitar), Abe Bolar (bass), A.G. Godley (drums).

Composed by Count Basie and Eddie Durham

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Recorded: New York, November 11, 1940

Albumcoverhotlipspage-kansascityjazz

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Hot Lips Page departed the Basie band shortly before the group left Kansas City for New York. Page hooked up with Louis Armstrong's manager Joe Glaser, who promised to make the trumpeter into a star. But Page's dreams of becoming "the next Louis Armstrong" failed to materialize, although he had all the tools for jazz success: fluid technique, a strong sense of swing, an energetic solo style, and could even (like Louis) sing a blues or popular song with aplomb. By the early 1940s Page had stepped back from fronting his own band, settling for a sideman gig with Artie Shaw. He spent most of the remaining years of his career, before his death at 46, freelancing. "Lafayette" finds Page in top form, stoking the fires of a hard-swinging band with his trumpet pyrotechnics. Though stardom eluded Page, jazz cognoscenti still prize his classic recordings.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Chu Berry & Roy Eldridge: Body and Soul

Track

Body and Soul

Group

Chu Berry and His Little Jazz Ensemble

CD

Roy Eldridge: Heckler's Hop (Hep 1030)

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Musicians:

Chu Berry (tenor sax), Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Clyde Hart (piano), Danny Barker (guitar), Artie Shapiro (bass), Sid Catlett (drums).

Composed by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton and Johnny Green

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Recorded: New York, Nov. 11, 1938

Albumcoverroyeldridge-hecklershop

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

This record exerted a tremendous influence during the late 1930s. Coleman Hawkins may well have learned from Berry's example -- although Hawk's famous tenor solo on the same chord changes eleven months later shows how fast jazz was evolving during these years. But Berry's tenor musings are merely an appetizer for the main course provided by Roy Eldridge. Eldridge upstages the bandleader with a trumpet solo for the ages. A generation of brass players studied this performance, and even saxophonists memorized these licks -- a recording of Charlie Parker from 1940 finds him quoting Eldridge's solo. This landmark recording sums up the previous decade, and looks forward to the next stage in the evolution of the jazz idiom.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Bud Powell (featuring Fats Navarro): Wail

Track

Wail

Group

Bud Powell's Modernists

CD

The Amazing Bud Powell, vol. 1

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Musicians:

Bud Powell (piano), Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Fats Navarro (trumpet), Tommy Potter (bass), Roy Haynes (drums).

Composed by Bud Powell

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Recorded: August 8, 1949

Albumcoveramazingbudpowellvolume1

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

"Wail" is one of my favorite bebop recordings. This three minute gem has it all -- a great melody by Bud Powell (why don't more musicians play his tunes, with their great heads and blowing changes?), a hot rhythm section and a glimpse at eighteen year old tenor-titan-in-the-making Sonny Rollins. But, for me, the star of the show is trumpeter Fats Navarro. His tone is big, beautiful and brassy, and each note is hit perfectly on center even at warp speed. Navarro starts out with bugle boy purity for the opening eight bars of his solo, plays around with a clever interpolation from "I Hear Music" in the second eight, and breathes fire over the bridge before sliding safely into home plate at the turnaround. Just thirty-two bars, but every one is perfect. Less than a year later, Navarro would be dead at age 26, a victim of the combined effects of tuberculosis and drug addiction. "Wail" shows how much the jazz world lost by his untimely passing.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Woody Herman (featuring Sonny Berman): Sidewalks of Cuba

Track

Sidewalks of Cuba

Group

Woody Herman

CD

The Essence of Woody Herman (Columbia 57157)

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Musicians:

Woody Herman (clarinet), Sonny Berman (trumpet), Pete Candoli (trumpet), Bill Harris (trombone), John LaPorta (alto sax), Flip Phillips (tenor sax), Marjorie Hyams (vibes), Ralph Burns (piano), Billy Bauer (guitar), Chubby Jackson (bass), Dave Tough (drums),

Chuck Frankhouser, Ray Wetzel, Carl Warwick (trumpet); Ralph Pfeffner, Ed Kiefer (trombone); Sam Markowitz (alto sax), Pete Mondello (tenor sax), Skippy DeSair (baritone sax),

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Composed by Mitchell Parish, Irving Mills and Ben Oakland. Arranged by Ralph Burns

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Recorded: Los Angeles, September 17, 1946

Albumcoveressenceofwoodyherman

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Sonny Berman was on the road as a jazz trumpeter at age sixteen and dead from a heroin overdose at 22. He worked with many of the Swing Era greats -- Benny Goodman, Harry James and Woody Herman -- but was deeply immersed in the bebop vocabulary, which he played with fluency and dramatic flair. Berman possessed tremendous expressive range on the trumpet, able to belt out big, brassy lines or coo gently with a mute in hand. He starts out his solo on "Sidewalks of Cuba" with a bravura quote from "Flight of the Bumblebee," and proceeds to show off his melodic inventiveness and full-bodied trumpet tone. Had he lived longer, Berman would have been a major figure during the 1950s and after. As it stands, only a handful of recordings testify to his greatness.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Henry 'Red' Allen & Coleman Hawkins: I Cover the Waterfront

Track

I Cover the Waterfront

Group

Henry 'Red' Allen All Stars

CD

World on a String (RCA Bluebird 2497)

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Musicians:

Henry 'Red' Allen (trumpet), J.C. Higginbotham (trombone), Buster Bailey (clarinet), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Marty Napoleon (piano), Everett Barksdale (guitar), Lloyd Trotman (bass), Cozy Cole (drums).

Composed by Johnny Green and Edward Heyman

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Recorded: New York, March 27, 1957

Albumcoverhenryredallen-worldonastring

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

"In 1957, [Henry 'Red' Allen] made a startling recording for Victor," Whitney Balliett wrote of this session. "It included several long ballads, and Allen converted each into a massive lullaby." But don't let this lullaby put you to sleep -- you might miss one of the finest trumpet solos of the decade. Allen shows how to craft a complete musical statement on the horn, each phrase developing a story, without wasted energy or empty pyrotechnics. Allen had learned his craft on the riverboats with Fate Marable, and assimilated the Great Leap Forward signaled by Louis Armstrong in the 1920s; but he was still raising the level of his game during the Eisenhower years. One even hears faint echoes of Miles Davis and the 1950s cool school in this gently ambling improvisation. And then Allen invites Coleman Hawkins to join in on tenor. Can you get too much of a good thing? Listen to it once, and then listen to it all over again. Then -- and only then -- is it time for bed.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Tony Fruscella: I'll Be Seeing You

Track

I'll Be Seeing You

Artist

Tony Fruscella (trumpet)

CD

An Ace Face (Giant Steps GSCR023)

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Musicians:

Tony Fruscella (trumpet), Bill Triglia (piano),

Bill Anthony (bass), Will Bradley, Jr. (drums)

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Recorded: New York, April 1, 1955

Albumcoveranaceface-theadventuresofalleneager

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Tony Fruscella spent most of his short life in institutions of various sorts -- orphanage, army, prison, hospital. But on those rare occasions when he graced the bandstand, he was one of the finest "cool school" trumpeters in jazz. Fruscella still has a small, dedicated cult following (check out this tribute, for example), but many even knowledgeable jazz fans have never heard his music. Those who admire the 1950s work of Miles Davis and Chet Baker would do well to track down his definitive performance of "I'll Be Seeing You." Fruscella's solo is beautifully crafted from start to finish, every phrase rich in melodic invention, and the whole infused with deep emotion. A musical gem from an unfairly forgotten master of the horn.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Harold Land: The Fox

Track

The Fox

Artist

Harold Land (tenor sax)

CD

The Fox (Contemporary OJCD-343-2)

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Musicians:

Harold Land (tenor sax), Dupree Bolton (trumpet), Elmo Hope (piano), Herbie Lewis (bass), Frank Butler (drums).

Composed by Elmo Hope

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Recorded: Los Angeles, August 1959

Albumcoverharoldland-thefox

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

This may be the hottest hard-bop track ever recorded on the West Coast. Butler drives a blistering tempo at close to 400 beats per minute. At this pace, Elmo Hope’s chart is almost impossible to play. Yet the band clings together for dear life and charges ahead fearlessly. Land, who helped define the hard bop sound while with the Brown-Roach Quintet, offers up one of his most driving recorded solos. But then comes Dupree on trumpet sounding like the Angel Gabriel announcing Judgment Day. On the Scoville intensity chart for jazz solos, this one ranks somewhere north of the habañero. Can you play hotter than this? Not without melting the grooves on your LP.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Eric Dolphy & Booker Little: Fire Waltz

Track

Fire Waltz

Artist

Eric Dolphy (alto sax) and Booker Little (trumpet)

CD

Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot (Prestige OJCD-133-2)

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Musicians:

Eric Dolphy (alto sax), Booker Little (trumpet), Mal Waldron (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Ed Blackwell (drums).

Composed by Mal Waldron

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Recorded: Five Spot Cafe, New York, July 16, 1961

Albumcoverericdolphyatthefivespot

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Trumpeter Booker Little would be dead from uremia less than three months after this celebrated recording, a promising career cut off at only 23 years of age. Eric Dolphy would also soon be gone, dead three years later at the age of thirty-six. But even if this duo had only left behind the Five Spot recordings, their reputations would be secure. The piano is out-of-tune, the audience noisy, but Dolphy and Little solo as though this is the concert to end all concerts, playing with the fervor of those true believers who walk barefoot on hot coals. On this "Fire Waltz," Dolphy leads off with a speaking-in-tongues solo on the alto, proselytizing for a new world of jazz between the extremes of Bird and Ornette. Little follows, opening in a hard-bop vein, but gradually pushing harder and harder against the harmonies. "The more dissonance, the bigger the sound," Little mentioned in a rare interview. "I can't think in terms of wrong note. In fact, I don't hear any notes as being wrong. It's a matter of knowing how to integrate the notes and, if you must, how to resolve them." Little demonstrates his thesis on this track, constantly disrupting the harmonic equilibrium with a slashing, shock-and-awe solo that ranks among his finest musical moments.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Don Ellis: Indian Lady

Track

Indian Lady

Group

Don Ellis Orchestra

CD

Electric Bath (Columbia/Legacy 65522)

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Musicians:

Don Ellis (trumpet),

Ruben Leon, Joe Roccisano, Ira Shulman, Ron Starr, John Magruder (reeds); Bob Harmon, Glenn Stuart, Edward Warren, Alan Weight (trumpet); Ron Myers, David Sanchez, Terry Woodson (trombone); Mike Lang (keyboard); Dave Parlato, Frank De LaRosa (bass), Steve Bohannon (drums), Chino Valdes (bongos, conga); Mark Stevens, Alan Estes (percussion)

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Composed by Don Ellis

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Recorded: September 17-20, 1967

Albumcoverdonellis-electricbath

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Since his death in 1978 at age 45, trumpeter Don Ellis has fallen off the radar screens of most jazz listeners. But in 1967, Ellis had the most innovative big band on the planet. The liner notes called the Electric Bath LP an "aural collage made up of the Beatles, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ravi Shankar and Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz." That's a scary claim, and maybe a bit much to substantiate, but Ellis was clearly pushing at the limits of the big band vocabulary with the exotic textures and driving 5/4 beat of "Indian Lady." Ellis had immersed himself in avant-garde and mainstream jazz traditions, and dug deeply into "World Music" before it became fashionable. He published an influential article on Indian music two years before Electric Bath, and studied with Hari Har Rao while doing graduate work in ethno- musicology at UCLA. These experiences married to his strong mastery of the trumpet ensured that Ellis not only could lead a hot band, but would also stand out as its star soloist. Check out "Indian Lady" and find out why this unfairly forgotten release garnered a Grammy nomination and an "Album of the Year" award from Down Beat back in the day.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


Woody Shaw: Theme for Maxine

Track

Theme for Maxine

Artist

Woody Shaw (trumpet)

CD

Rosewood (Sony)

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Musicians:

Woody Shaw (trumpet), Carter Jefferson (tenor sax), Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano), Clint Houston (bass), Victor Lewis (drums).

Composed by Woody Shaw

.

Recorded: New York, December 19, 1977

Albumcoverwoodyshaw-rosewood

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

"Woody Shaw was the next major stylist on his instrument," Michael Cuscuna writes, "after Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and the forgotten Booker Little." From 1977 through 1981, the CBS label agreed with this assessment, and recorded Shaw in a series of varied and smartly conceived dates. But in 1982, CBS latched onto Wynton Marsalis as the cornerstone of its jazz line, and Shaw never recorded another leader date for the label. At the time of this stellar session, Shaw was still the young lion and his reputation on the rise. "Theme for Maxine" was one of several standout tracks from the Rosewood LP which was nominated for two Grammies and selected as record of the year in the Down Beat readers' poll. Everything clicks here: the stellar rhythm section, the shimmering Shaw composition (a medium groove waltz) and the soloists who bob and weave over the changes. Shaw starts his solo in a gentle mood, moves into a more aggressive stance, before concluding with three well-aimed interval leaps like an Olympic athlete completing a triple jump. A superb track by one of the finest combos of the decade.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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