Jimmy Blanton

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Jimmie Blanton
Birth name Jimmie Blanton
Born October 5, 1918 (1918-10-05)
Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Died July 30, 1942 (1942-07-31) (aged 23)
California, U.S.
Genres Jazz, big band
Occupations Double bassist
Instruments Double bass, Violin
Years active 1936–1942
Associated acts Duke Ellington

Jimmie Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an influential American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 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. 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.

In 1941, 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.

Sources[edit]

  • Carr, Ian, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestley. Jazz: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-528-3
  • Jimmy Blanton — by Richard S. Ginell, from Allmusic
  • "Jimmy Blanton". African American Almanac. 9th ed. Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 11 April 2006