Monday, January 8, 2007

The influence of Roy Elridge

Occasionally I find myself surprised by the emergence of a memory of a long forgotten musical influence. Coming across the name of Roy Elridge, the fiery trumpet player, triggered this within me recently. I was reding Ian Rankin's latest Rebus novel, The Naming of the Dead. One of the victims is called Ben Webster and the associations flowed.

In the pantheon of American jazz trumpet players Roy stood as a bridge between Louis Armstrong and Dizzy. ie, he played swing. Perhaps it was because, like Lester Bowie, one of his seminal influences was carnival music that Roy played with a great sense of drama.

This is best illustrated in the 50's record Ben Webster and Associates. Apparently Ben ran into Roy on the way to the recording studio and invited him to the session. It's really a jam session that was so popular in those times... a couple of blues and standards. Now that's normally a formula to turn me right off but the playing is superb. Roy's solo starts with the 1st 12 bars of a blues repeating a triplet riff G# A B over and over. By the change in the second chorus he is screaming like a Baptist preacher (even though he was a Lutheran). ecstatic, exuberant, the glory that is a trumpet. He seems like he's pushing his instrument to the max. Jubilation is the object. Roy is just not doing the changes but has this preacher -in- the -pulpit quality that so suits the trumpet.

As a little aside, I'm including this little article I found that illustrates the racism endured by Afro Americans playing in white bands.

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