Roy Eldridge

Roy Eldridge was one of the most dynamic trumpeters during the swing era. His combative approach and chance-taking style, as well as his strong musicianship, were an inspiration to Dizzy Gillespie’s next generation. Eldridge was a tireless performer who never gave up, even though he did sometimes push himself to the limit. Roy Eldridge began his career playing drums and trumpet in circus and carnival bands. He was a Nighthawk Syncopator and received some attention for playing a note by note re-creation Coleman Hawkins’ solo on “The Stampede”. Eldridge was inspired by Jabbo Smith’s dynamic playing (Eldridge wouldn’t discover Louis Armstrong for several years). Eldridge also played in a variety of territory bands, including Speed Webb and Zack Whyte. In New York, where he arrived in 1931, he collaborated with Elmer Snowden, McKinney and, most importantly, Teddy Hill (1935). Eldridge’s recordings with Hill, supporting Billie Holiday, and with Fletcher Henderson (including the 1936 hit “Christopher Columbus”) received a lot of attention. He appeared in 1937 with his octet, which included brother Joe on alto, at the Three Deuces Club. There he recorded many outstanding selections as a leader, including “Heckler’s Hop”, and “Wabash Stomp”. Eldridge was able to play at the Arcadia Ballroom, New York with a larger band by 1939. Eldridge was the most prominent trumpeter in jazz at this time, despite the declining popularity of Bunny Berigan. Eldridge was a pioneer in Gene Krupa’s Orchestra from 1941-1942. He recorded classics of “Rockin’ chair” and “After You’ve Gone”, and interacted with Anita O’Day during “Let Me Off Uptown.” While the difficulties of traveling with a White band in a racist period affected him, some of the incidents that occurred during the stay with Artie Shaw (1944-1945), were not as bad as the music. Eldridge can often be seen in several “soundies”, which are short promotional films that focus on single songs. These were made by Krupa, often in association to O’Day. Eldridge is also prominent in the band’s appearance at Howard Hawks Ball of Fire. He plays a lengthy performance of “Drum Boogie”, which Barbara Stanwyck mimes. The clip was shot shortly after Eldridge joined in April 1941. “Drum Boogie”, a song Eldridge co-wrote and Krupa wrote, was also filmed. Eldridge was a member of a small band that toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic. He then experienced a identity crisis after realizing his playing wasn’t as modern as the beboppers. He realized that originality was more important than being current during his stay in France between 1950-1951. In the 1950s Eldridge was a steady recording artist for Norman Granz. He was also a star of JATP, where he fought Charlie Shavers, Dizzy Gillespie, and was by 1956 often paired with Coleman Hawkins as a quintet. Their 1957 Newport appearance was memorable. As recording opportunities became scarcer and work became harder, the ’60s were even more difficult. Eldridge was a leader of his own group at the end, despite having brief and unfavorable stints with Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie’s Orchestra. Eldridge spent a lot of his ’70s playing at Ryan’s and recording with Pablo. Although his range had decreased a little, Eldridge’s competitive spirit was very strong. His horn could not be stopped by a stroke in 1980. Roy Eldridge recorded for almost every label throughout his career. Allmusic

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