Alphonso Trent

Alphonso Trent, a pianist and leader of a band, was born in Fort Smith (Arkansas) on October 24, 1905. In the 1920s and 1930s, he led one of the most important territory bands in the Southwest. Budd Johnson and Louis Jordan, Herschel Evan, Dickey wells, Mary Lou Williams (Tyree Glenn, Jimmie Crawford, Buddy Tate), all acknowledged the impact of the Trent Orchestra on the early stages of their careers. Tate stated, for example, that the Trent Orchestra was “outplaying Duke …. I really believe so.” If they had continued, they would have been just as big as Duke and any other of them. Trent attended Shorter College, Little Rock. There he started playing in the capital with the Syncho Six, which was led by Eugene Cooke. Trent was the pianist, Crooke played banjo, Edwin Swayzee played trumpet, James Jeter played saxophone and John Fielding sang. A. G. Godley drummed, while Leo “Snub”, Mosley, the famous trombonist, was only fifteen years old at the time. Hayes Pillars and Stuff Smith, Chester Clark, T. Holder (and Charlie Christian), Peanuts Holland, Cleo Raran, Cleo Roran, Charlie Christian, and T. Holder were all important jazz musicians that Trent played with over the years. The band was known as The Alphonso Trent Orchestra when they went to Texas in 1925. The band’s longest engagement was at the Adolphus Hotel, 1315 Commerce Street, Dallas (Texas) for 18 months. This is a record-breaking time that no other black band has ever achieved in this region. The broadcast of this engagement was also carried on WFAA’s 50,000-watt radio station. These broadcasts were the first for a black orchestra and reached a wide audience in the Central United States as well as Canada. Trent’s group played Texas from 1926 to 27. They visited the Gunter Hotel (205 East Houston Street), San Antonio, Waco Hotel (where Harry James was born), Austin Hotel, Fort Worth Hotel, Galvez Hotel (21st Street, Seawall Blvd.) and the Galvez Hotel (21). In Galveston, they opened the Plaza Hotel (100 Villita Street in San Antonio) and the Rice Hotel (903 Texas Street). The inaugural ball was also performed by them. The Trent Orchestra toured east from 1927 to 1929, performing in Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington, Buffalo, Stanley, Ontario and their last New York City appearance at the Savoy Ballroom. The band recorded its first four songs for the Gennett Company, Richmond, Indiana. It also “battled” with the legendary Louis Armstrong. After a fire at Cleveland’s Plantation Club, Ohio, the Trent Orchestra’s instruments, library, and library were destroyed, the band was forced to return to Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1933, the Alphonso Trent Orchestra took one final road trip. At the Kenmore Hotel (145 East 23rd Street), Albany, New York was where it all ended. Trent formed a smaller tour group and toured the Dakotas, Wyoming Colorado, Texas, Colorado, and Colorado. Trent spent the 1940’s and 50’s playing occasional dates as soloist and with small groups around his home in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he died on October 14, 1959. from

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