Silent revolutions

An exploration of 1941, Jimmie Blanton’s ‘forgotten’ year

Authors

  • Matthias Heyman University of Antwerp (Belgium)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v9i2.30202

Keywords:

Jimmie Blanton, Duke Ellington, double bass, 1941

Abstract

 Jimmie Blanton (1918-1942), best known for his tenure with Duke Ellington between 1939 and 1941, is by many considered to be one of the most influential bassists in jazz history. He has been widely studied, resulting in a paradigmatic depiction of his life and music. But a closer look reveals that all studies on Blanton focus on a single year, from November 1939 and November 1940, of his six-year career as a performer. Thus, a paradox is born. While many believe to profoundly understand Blanton’s music through the writings that abound, many of its aspects remain ‘hidden’, and only a partial and unnuanced narrative of this musician surfaces. Using 1941, Blanton’s final year with Ellington, as a case study, I will unravel the reasons, several of which are extra-musical, behind this period’s omission and detail its far-reaching consequences, which continue to pervade literature on the bassist to this day. 

Author Biography

Matthias Heyman, University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Matthias Heyman is currently finalizing his PhD research at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) in affiliation with the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp, where he obtained his MA in Jazz Bass Performance. In his research he seeks to contextualize the bass playing of Ellingtonian Jimmie Blanton (1918-1942). In 2011, Matthias led a research project on Belgian jazz heritage, and he continues to specialize in his country’s jazz history. He is also active as a freelance double bassist, and is a lecturer of all jazz history and research courses at the Jazz Studio (Antwerp) and the LUCA School of Arts (Leuven).

References

Anon (n.d.) ‘Jimmy Blanton: Pioneer Bassist Extraordinaire’. Typed text by anonymous author, possibly for use in the African-American Museum in Chattanooga (now the Bessie Smith Cultural Center). Courtesy of the Ken Steiner Collection.

Bigard, Barney, and Barry Martyn (1986) With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist. New York: Oxford University Press.

Blanton, Caroline (1993) Radio interview by Phil Schaap, WNYC (5 October), special on Jimmie Blanton’s 75th birthday, microcassette. Courtesy of the Ken Steiner Collection.

Blanton, Dorothy (1983) Personal interview by Richard Davis (3 September), tape. Courtesy of the Richard Davis Collection.

Bozarth, Rex O. (1981) ‘An Assessment of the Role of James “Jimmy” Blanton in the Development of Jazz Bass’. Problem in lieu of thesis, North Texas State University.

Campbell, Jeffrey (2002) ‘Two Profiles in the Development of Jazz Bass Playing: A Study of Jimmy Blanton and Ron Carter’. PhD dissertation, University of Rochester, NY.

Chilton, John (1996) ‘Blanton’s Early Days’. Blue Light 3/4: 3–4.

DeVeaux, Scott, and Gary Giddins (2009) Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton.

Dunning, John (1998) On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ellington, Edward K. (Duke) (1973) Music is My Mistress. New York: Da Capo Press.

Ellington, Mercer, and Stanley Dance (1978) Duke Ellington in Person. London: Hutchinson & Co.

Gioia, Ted (1997) The History of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gluck, Bob (2016) The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226303390.001.0001

Hajdu, David (1996) Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. New York: North Point Press.

Hentoff, Nat (1955) ‘Marshall, Bass on Own after 6 Years with Duke’. Down Beat 3/6 (23 March): 6.

Heyman, Matthias (2015) ‘Of Icons and Iconography: Seeing Jimmie Blanton’. Journal of Jazz Studies 10/2: 119–56. http://dx.doi.org/10.14713/jjs.v10i2.88

Lambert, Eddie (1999) Duke Ellington: A Listener’s Guide. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Marshall, Wendell (1999) Radio interview by T. Sharif Abdul-Hakim, KJLU (29 April), microcassette. Courtesy of Lewis Porter.

——(2000) Radio interview by Phil Schaap, WNYC (24 October), special on Marshall’s 80th birthday, microcassette. Courtesy of the Ken Steiner Collection.

Nash, Robert (1999) ‘The Solo Vocabulary of Jazz Bassist Jimmie Blanton’. PhD dissertation, Louisiana State University.

Owsley, Dennis (2006) City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895–1973. St. Louis: Reedy Press.

Robinson, J. Bradford (1988) The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 3 vols. London: Macmillan.

——(2002) The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd edn. 3 vols. London: Macmillan.

Shipton, Alyn (2001) A New History of Jazz. London: Continuum.

Sudhalter, Richard (1999) Lost Chords: White Musicians and their Contribution to Jazz, 1915–1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, Michael E. (2001) ‘James Blanton, Raymond Brown, and Charles Mingus: A Study of the Development of the Double Bass in Modern Jazz’. PhD dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, PA.

‘To Fete St. Louis Band Leader Here’ (1939) The Pittsburgh Courier (19 August): 5.

Tucker, Mark, ed. (1993) The Duke Ellington Reader. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ulanov, Barry (1975) Duke Ellington. New York: Da Capo Press. First edition 1946.

van de Leur, Walter (2002) Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195124484.001.0001

Whyton, Tony (2010) Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Willard, Patricia (1988) Liner notes to Duke Ellington. Jump for Joy. Smithsonian Collection of Records R 037 DMM 1-0722, long player.

zur Heide, Karl Gert (1971) ‘Judge Riley’. Storyville 32 (December–January): 66–70.

Published

2016-08-23

How to Cite

Heyman, M. (2016). Silent revolutions: An exploration of 1941, Jimmie Blanton’s ‘forgotten’ year. Jazz Research Journal, 9(2), 145–168. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v9i2.30202

Issue

Section

Articles

Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.