The 25th anniversary of the death of swing trumpet giant Emmett Berry

The 25th anniversary of the death of swing trumpet giant Emmett Berry

Joined: March 18th, 2018, 7:37 am

June 22nd, 2018, 7:28 am #1

Emmett Berry (July 23, 1915 – June 22, 1993) is IMO one of the great underrated swing trumpeters.  There are three reasons he has been underrated.  First, he has the reputation of being a Roy Eldridge disciple.  There is some truth to that for his early years, but even then he was no mere Eldrdige imitator.  Second, he rarely made records under his own name.  Third, he was a swing player who (despite his records with Fletcher and especially with Horace Henderson) did most of his best work after the Swing Era was over.  Nevertheless, his best recordings can easily stand comparison with those of any of the other great swing trumpeters, including not only Eldridge but Berry's own good friend Buck Clayton.  

Some of my favorite Berry performances:

(1) "Chloe" (1940) with Horace Henderson: 

(2) "I Still Have My Dreams" (1940) with Horace Henderson: 

(3) "Ain't Misbehavin'" with Horace Henderson (1940): 

(4) "Coquette" with Edmond Hall (1944): 

(5) "St. Louis Blues" with the Little Jazz Trumpet Ensemble (1944)  The first trumpet solo is by Roy Eldridge, the second by the more Armstrong-influenced Joe Thomas, the third one by Berry.  The  final solo is again by Eldridge.  Gunther Schuller wrote in *The Swing Era* that "Roy's heart does not seem to have been in it, and Berry consistently outplayed Eldridge with some very handsome, elegant, blues-ish solos (especially on St. Louis Blues)."  https://books.google.com/books?id=6EZ2TDuGEOkC&pg=PR573   I'm not so sure Berry "outplayed" Eldridge but he (and Joe Thomas) are certainly at least his equal here

(6) "What Is This Thing Called Love" (1945) with Corky Corcoran (an underrated tenor sax man, by the way) 

(7) "Berry's Blues" (1946) with Illinois Jacquet:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gXL9xQE00U

(8) "Berry Well" (1951) with Al Sears:

(9) "Steady Eddie" (1951) with Al Sears http://picosong.com/w9kMs/ Berry shows he can growl! (By the way, there is a debate as to whether the alto soloist here is Johnny Hodges or--as Hodges himself claimed--Charlie Holmes; if the latter, this is certainly the most Hodges-like solo Holmes ever recorded...) 

(10) "Jappa" (1952) with Johnny Hodges:

(11) "Lullaby of Birdland" with Coleman Hawkins Sextet (1954)

(12) "Swingin' the Berry's" (1956) recorded in Paris with Sammy Price on piano and Guy Lafitte on tneor sax:  http://picosong.com/w9eqN/

(13) A 1958 album with "Bobby Donaldson's Seventh Avenue Stompers" (Vic Dickenson, Buster Bailey, etc.) 
There are good Berry solos on "Basin Street Blues" (4:22), "Muskrat Ramble" (8:27),  "How Come You Do Me Like You Do (11:00), "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" (14:40) and "Sunday" (22:00).

(14) "Don't Give Me Sympathy" (1959) with the Edmonnd Hall Sextet.  http://picosong.com/w9YVR/ OK, Edmond Hall's singing is no match for his clarinet playing, but he, Berry, and Vic Dickenson all have good solos here.. 

(15) "Yes, Indeed"--an album with Claude Hopkins and Buddy Tate (1960) All the tracks are good but my own favorite is "Empty Bed Blues" at 24:19.

(16) "Outer Drive" with Buck Clayton All Stars (1961) The first trumpet solo is by Berry, the second by Clayton.

(17) "Rose Room"--like (16) this was recorded in Belgium in 1961--for this track it's the Buck Clayton All Stars without Clayton  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNy2LMXyzY0

(What does this post have to do with Bix?  Well, to me there is a certain elegance in the greatest pre-bop trumpet and cornet players which somehow makes them all akin regardless of differences of style.  Of course I may be crazy to think that...)
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 11:08 pm

June 23rd, 2018, 7:50 am #2

Thanks for that. What a great player. A lot of your tracks were new to me but he became an instant favourite way back when when that Fletcher foursome and those Clayton All Star records came out. No problem mentioning him in the same breath as old Bix, I would think. Both guys were so clean and precise and every note had to mean something.
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Joined: March 18th, 2018, 7:37 am

June 24th, 2018, 8:34 am #3

Some more Emmett Berry favorites:

(1) "I Got Rhythm" with Horace Henderson (1940) (Viola Jefferson is the singer):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUg0HOL0NRM

(2) "Flinging a Whing Ding" with Horace Henderson (1940):  http://picosong.com/w9fFR/

(3) "Carney-Val in Rhythm" with Billy Taylor's Big Eight (1944) (Harry Carney on bartione sax) :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8pW_MQJFfw

(4) "My Blue Heaven" with the Lem Davis Sextet (Davis, alto sax; Vic Dickinson, trombone; Dodo Marmarosa, piano) (1945): http://picosong.com/w9fnP/

(5) "Mutton Leg" with Count Basie (1946):  Mostly a feature for Illinois Jacquet, of course, but still with some good Berry.

(6) "Every Day I Have the Blues" (1955) with Jimmy Rushing (Pete Johnson on piano, Buddy Tate on tenor sax, Rudy Powell on clarient, Lawrence Brown on trombone):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCrHr4GncWY

(7) "Good Morning Blues" from the same session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mEtUvlLQZI

(8) "Blue Berry" with Sammy Price (1955):  http://picosong.com/w9P5e/
 
(9) "Off the Road" (1959) with the Edmond Hall Sextet (Edmond Hall, Berry, Vic Dickenson, Ellis Larkins, Milt Hinton, Jimmie Crawford): http://picosong.com/w9P4u/

By the way, Jan Evensmo's "solography" http://www.jazzarcheology.com/artists/emmett_berry.pdf is superb, but so far only takes Berry's recordings up to 1949...
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 11:08 pm

June 24th, 2018, 8:26 pm #4

Fantastic David !
If I could throw in one? Here's Han's great Lena Horne video. Maybe Emmett Berry isn't as famous as he should be because he didn't have the rock star looks, and so many photos show him with that frown that reportedly overwhelmed him at the end. So it's so nice to see a glimpse of him laughing and doing the hand jive when Lena sings 'jive'. And he leads the rideout in best Bix and Louis tradition with fabulous playing.

Lena chokes me up here as well. Utterly adorable goofy girl, and such singing, too. The way she goes high at the end with the word 'crossed'. Oh my God. Linda Keene does that too in hers.

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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

June 24th, 2018, 10:36 pm #5

A wonderful post-Louis player. That broad full tone all the way into the top register doesn't seem to be something that was happening much before Armstrong. So many terrific players remain little known, since they spent most of their careers as semi-anonymous side men.

I'd been alerted to Joe Thomas years ago. I think by something Whitney Balliet wrote in the New Yorker. He played on almost the only session issued under Dave Tough's name. I found it on LP and listened many times.
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:43 pm

June 26th, 2018, 12:51 am #6

Is Emmett Berry the same trumpeter who had the nickname Chu?
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

June 26th, 2018, 4:03 am #7

Cousins perhaps? Chu died in a car wreck while working for Cab Calloway.
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 11:08 pm

June 26th, 2018, 8:28 am #8

I'd never heard that they were cousins. Chu was born in Wheeling WV and Emmett in Georgia. Chu was of course a tenor saxophonist, one of the greatest. They're together here in a sensational record.

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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:43 pm

June 26th, 2018, 1:01 pm #9

Thanks for correction.  I had only heard mention of Chu, obviously guessed wrong as to his instrument. Will look forward to
playing the record that includes both Berrys.
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

June 26th, 2018, 6:16 pm #10

No actual suggestion that they were related. Chu was only 33 when he died. Musicians commutes are a big hazard. From Frank Teschemacher to Clifford Brown...
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