You need to know about Roy Eldridge, if you don’t know of him already. He’s one of the most important trumpeters of the swing era and his musical ideas were a precursor to the bebop revolution that was just around the corner. Eldridge’s use of tritone substitutions and other harmonic concepts made him the perfect mentor for Dizzy Gillespie, who would go on to create bebop with Charlie Parker and others. Check out his discography.
Roy Eldridge had to put up with some awful treatment to play the trumpet at the level he played it. He was a member of both Gene Krupa’s band and Artie Shaw’s small group at a time (1930s) when it was actually illegal for black and white folks to play in the same group. Outrageous! Check it (from Wikipedia):
Artie Shaw commented on the difficulty Roy had in his band, noting that “Droves of people would ask him for his autograph at the end of the night, but later, on the bus, he wouldn’t be able to get off and buy a hamburger with the guys in the band.” Krupa, on at least one occasion, spent several hours in jail and paid fines for starting a fistfight with a restaurant manager who refused to let Eldridge eat with the rest of the band.
Here’s “Little Jazz” in 1957 playing Willow Weep for Me for a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert with Oscar Peterson Trio. Some great closeups!
Want to learn how to play better? Curious about mutes? Transposing parts? Anything else trumpet-related? Get yourself a copy of Sound the Trumpet: How to Blow Your Own Horn. If you’re just starting out, have a few years in, or are just getting back to the horn, the book will help.
Even better, learn to practice so you can get as good as these players. Just published, The Practice of Practice is a great place to start. Both are available world-wide. See the links to the right if you live outside the United States.