Silent revolutions

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


  • Matthias Heyman University of Antwerp (Belgium)



Jimmie Blanton, Duke Ellington, double bass, 1941


 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).


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How to Cite

Heyman, M. (2016). Silent revolutions: An exploration of 1941, Jimmie Blanton’s ‘forgotten’ year. Jazz Research Journal, 9(2), 145–168.




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