Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy birthday, Little Jazz

Congratulations, you made it to Friday. But watch your back! As dates go, January 30 has not always been kind to people or history. We've seen:
  • The beheading of King Charles I of England in 1649.
  • The naming of Adolph Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in 1933.
  • The assassination of Gandhi in 1948.
  • The spectacular fireworks known as the Tet Offensive in 1968.

So even if you're having a lousy day, remember that it could be worse. And by all means, don't be a tyrant out there.

On an upbeat note, January 30 is also the date, in 1911, when jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge was born in Pittsburgh. So if you can find a record or download with Eldridge on it, play it on your stereo or IPod today and get the hitch out of your giddy-yup.

"Little Jazz'' never received the wide acclaim of contemporaries like Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, but he played an essential role in the transition from the swing to be-bop eras, and other players and band leaders held him in high regard. For a full biography click on or just Google his name.

Jackie Robinson is always the centerpiece in discussions about blacks breaking the color barrier, but jazz players like Eldridge were enduring racial hatred and humiliation well before Robinson's much celebrated appointment with big league baseball. Eldridge, in particular, was singled out for joining Gene Krupa's band in 1941, and later hooking up with Artie Shaw in 1944. Eldridge's spectacular solo playing added a crucial component to the brass sections of those popular groups, but this was a difficult time to be a black player in a white swing band.

Tap a foot for Little Jazz, who would have been 98 today.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jimbo.

    One of the coolest things that ever happened was the session that Louis Armstrong did with Jimmie Rodgers. Musicians were light years ahead of the rest of the country in breaking down racial barriers.