Jackie Gleason and Phil Napoleon on stage
|Birth name||Filippo Napoli|
|Born||September 2, 1901|
Boston, Massachusetts, US
|Died||October 1, 1990 (aged 89)|
Miami, Florida, US
|Associated acts||Original Memphis Five|
Phil Napoleon (2 September 1901 – 1 October 1990), born Filippo Napoli, was an early jazz trumpeter and bandleader born in Boston, Massachusetts. Ron Wynn notes that Napoleon "was a competent, though unimaginative trumpeter whose greatest value was the many recording sessions he led that helped increase jazz's popularity in the mid-'20s." Richard Cook and Brian Morton, writing for The Penguin Guide to Jazz, refer to Napoleon as "a genuine pioneer" whose playing was "profoundly influential on men such as Red Nichols and Bix Beiderbecke."
Napoleon began with classical training, and was performing publicly by age 5. In the 1910s, he was one of the first musicians in the northeastern United States to embrace the new "jass" style brought to that part of the country by musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana. With pianist Frank Signorelli he formed the group "The Original Memphis Five" in 1917. He became one of the most sought after trumpeters of the 1920s. The group were very prolific, one of the most prolific in New York City at the time, and in 1922-1923 alone made over a hundred recordings. Napoleon's 1927 version of "Clarinet Marmalade" was a particular success. The Original Memphis Five split in 1928. During the 1930s Napoleon mainly worked as a session trumpeter, working in the RCA Radio Orchestra in the early 1930s, and in 1937 unsuccessfully tried to form his own orchestra. He recorded with the Cotton Pickers and the Charleston Chasers and also worked with blues singers Leona Williams and Alberta Hunter.
Napoleon joined Jimmy Dorsey's then Los Angeles-based group in the mid 1940s, and he appeared with the band in the film Four Jills in a Jeep. Parting with Dorsey in 1947, he moved back to New York and worked as a studio musician at NBC until 1949-1950 when he reformed The Original Memphis Five. During the early 1950s the group became noted for their performances at Nick's in New York City. Phil also worked frequently with his nephew Marty Napoleon, a jazz pianist. On July 3, 1959, Napoleon and The Five performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, later released as an album. In 1966 opened up his own club named "Napoleon's Retreat" in Miami, Florida where he lived until his death, although continued to perform Dixieland jazz in the club up until the 1980s.
- Wynn, Ron (1994), Ron Wynn (ed.), All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, pp. 491–492, ISBN 0-87930-308-5
- Allmusic.com gives date of death as 30 September 1990.
- Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008) . The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 1066–1067. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0.
- Barnhart, Scotty (2005). The World of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 190. ISBN 978-1-61774-762-5.
- "Phil Napoleon Orch - Clarinet Marmalade 1927". National Archive. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- "Phil Napoleon". Redhotjazz.com. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- "Phil Napoleon And His Original Memphis Five". Concertvault.com. Retrieved 6 December 2013.