Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Bolton, Dupree

Bolton, Dupree, trumpet (b. Oklahoma City, March 3, 1929, d. June 5, 1993, Oakland, California). Dupree Bolton is one of the most obscure performers in the history of jazz. His turbulent personal life nearly sidelined his entire career. His entire recorded legacy consists of a solo on a 1944 Buddy Johnson 78 (and it may not be Bolton soloing), the 1959 Harold Land LP, The Fox, the 1963 Curtis Amy LP, Katanga, an appearance with Amy on a Los Angeles TV show, an aborted 2-song session with alto saxophonist Earl Anzera, a session with the Onzy Matthews band and four virtually unknown recordings from 1980 with the Oklahoma Correctional Institute Jazz Ensemble (Of these, only the Johnson, Land & Amy recordings were on major labels, the prison recording had limited distribution and the rest remained unissued until 2007.) The total time of his collected recordings is just over 2 hours.

Bolton, who had at least 2 Social Security numbers and first recorded under the name Lewis Bolton, was in and out of prison throughout his life on drug-related charges. While incarcerated, he practiced incessantly and continued to develop and expand his style. On the 1959 Harold Land LP, he played more or less in the style of Clifford Brown. By the time the album was released, Bolton was in San Quentin, where it is believed he played in the prison band with saxophonists Art Pepper and Frank Morgan. Both Pepper and Morgan were interested in the new styles of jazz, and their enthusiasm must have had some impact on Bolton as well. "Katanga!", composed by Bolton, was the trumpeter's first solo opportunity after being released from prison. He was like a new man, with a slashing attack and ferocity of ideas. While not derivative, his 1963 style was reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard and late Lee Morgan. Although Richard Bock of Pacific Jazz tried to further Bolton's career, the trumpeter was back in prison before long and other than the obscure recordings by the Oklahoma prison band (now issued with the TV appearance and the Anzera session on Uptown), Dupree Bolton made no more recordings. At the end of his life, Bolton was an indigent street musician in Oakland.

Bolton's story has been painstakingly researched by jazz historians Richard Williams and Ted Gioia. Williams' initial essay appeared in the literary magazine "Granta" and then in his collection of essays, Long Distance Call. He wrote the liner notes to the Uptown CD, Fireball, which also includes notes by Paul Brewer, who worked as an artist-in-residence at the Oklahoma prison. Gioia, who conducted the only known full-length interview with Bolton, has written superb articles which can be found here and here.

Contributor: Thomas Cunniffe