Dizzy Gillespie’s Mentor and Idol: “Little Jazz” (Roy Eldridge)

jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge (1911 to 1989)
Roy Eldridge (1911-1989)

Roy Eldridge (nicknamed Little Jazz) was Dizzy Gillespie’s idol and mentor and in addition to being a fiery improviser whose music influenced bebop, he apparently had a fiery spirit, and loved a good cutting contest. There’s a story of him walking by a NY club, inside which he heard another trumpeter, so he pulled out his horn and charged the stage playing a high C as he did it. Check out the first video for a glimpse.

RoyEldridgeAtPianoHe was a pioneer against racism, too, being the only black guy in both Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa’s bands. Both bandleaders ended up in jail defending his rights, but Eldridge suffered the worst of it.

His estate went up for auction a while ago. If I’d had $73,044.31 to spend, I’d have beat out that winning bid in a heartbeat. Check it out.

Roy Eldridge’s birthday was yesterday, January 30. Happy birthday, and RIP to a great man.


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