Benny Morton

The trombone was an effective musical instrument in swing music. Benny Morton is known for his lovely tone, sophisticated use of chromatics, and understatement. His participation in the essential music of the swing period was a major part of his legacy. Those who take an exploratory trip into the heartbeat of swing music will find themselves right in front of him wherever they turn. You can look at the discography of Charlie Christian, an innovative electric guitarist and Morton will be right there humming along. You don’t need to be a jazz lover to enjoy the recordings from the ’30s or ’40s of Billie Holiday. Morton is one the many great players whose contributions make these sides so special. He was a member of many of the greatest swing revival bands of later decades, including Fletcher Henderson (Count Basie), and Morton. He was still invited to select gigs long into his 70s. Yet, he is often overlooked as a hero. Even though he made many great recordings, Benny Morton isn’t a well-known name among jazz fans – unless you are talking about trombonists. He was a major influence on jazz musicians, including Bill Watrous, Eddie Bert, and Kai Winding. Morton was even stopped by the man outside a bar and asked for lessons. Morton agreed and invited the star-struck young man backstage with him to meet his idols in Basie’s group. As a child, he began to play trombone and mastered most of his skills on his own. Although he was a member of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, it is unclear if he was actually abandoned. This has been known to happen when parents learn that their child may become a jazz musician. Morton was first to notice Dope Andrews, the trombone soloist in Mamie’s band. Morton was a member of Clarence Holiday’s 1923 band. After three years of service with the band, Morton was ready to join the Fletcher Henderson group, which was the first in a series of first-ranking big bands that he would be joining, often for extended stays. He worked with Don Redman six times and Count Basie three times. He also participated in many Billie Holiday recording sessions, which a small group of Basie alumni was involved. Chick Webb’s orchestra was also his work. He also recorded the orchestra recordings of Raymond Scott, composer and arranger. His work was often used in cartoons. He made the move to smaller combos in 1940 and joined a sextet under the direction of pianist Teddy Wilson. This group is known for being one of the best swing bands of their time. It was also a vehicle for both the pianist’s and the bandleader’s talents. Morton was a member of Edmond Hall’s small band in 1943. One of Morton’s few solo dates was in the early 40s. It was a Columbia 78 that featured a trombone special. Morton’s A-side featured his rendition of “Gold Digger’s Song”, better known as “We’re in the Money”, while the flip featured J.C. Higginbotham, a fellow trombonist, and the appropriately titled “Hot Trombone Blues”. Morton was inspired to start his own band and left Hall’s band. He continued this endeavor for several years until he sought economic protection in New York theatre pit bands. He was able to connect with many recording studio and radio jobs that kept him busy in the 1950s and 1960s. Sometimes this type of career can mean the end for a player’s involvement in creative jazz. But Morton kept his slide in by recording dates that featured players like Ruby Braff and Buck Clayton. He had enough work in jazz by the end of the ’60s that he could focus entirely on swinging. His accomplishments are a story about a trombonist who went out in a blazer of glory. He didn’t care about in-fighting between the various branches of swing music and played happily alongside many of his peers. The Saints

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