Jimmy Blanton (Jimmy Blanton)

Jimmy Blanton

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jimmy Blanton originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. After leaving university to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra (with whom he made his first recordings), he joined Duke Ellington’s band in 1939. Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Previously the double bass was rarely used to play anything but quarter notes in ensemble or solos but by soloing on the bass more in a ‘horn like’ fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth- and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing. His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument’s unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Ellington put Jimmy Blanton front-and-center on the bandstand nightly, unheard of for a bassist at the time. Such was his importance to Ellington’s band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, that it became known as the Blanton–Webster band. Blanton also recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington and played in the “small group” sessions led by Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges, and Cootie Williams in 1940-41. In 1941, Jimmy Blanton was diagnosed with tuberculosis, cutting short his tenure with Ellington. His last recording session was cut on September 26, 1941 in Hollywood. Blanton died the following year after retiring to a sanatorium in California, aged 23.

Born

  • October, 05, 1918
  • USA
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee

Died

  • July, 30, 1942
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

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