This new book is the work of John Chilton, who
already has books about Henry ‘Red’ Allen, Sidney Bechet and Coleman
Hawkins to his credit. Chilton himself a fine jazz trumpet player,
who is often heard with his band supporting vocalist George Melly,
is the ideal author for a work of this type. In my experience, it
is only someone who has experienced the jazz life, that has the
understanding to enable such a production.
Roy Eldridge was one of the true giants of jazz.
As a record reviewer, I have come across numerous dreary big band
recordings from the 30’s and 40’s, on which the only thing rewarding
to listen to, is some sparkling trumpet solos from ‘Little Jazz’.
Chilton has obviously put in a great deal of research before producing
the book, but the thing that is most important to me, is that he
knew this genius of the trumpet and equally importantly he knew
other people who were close to him. After reading the book you feel
like you knew Roy Eldridge and I can think of no greater tribute
to the author than that. I found it riveting reading and hard to
put down. A similar book I would normally read over the course of
a week, this one took just a day and a half!
Roy liked to play; he could not wait for the next
opportunity to do it. He developed his skill by solitary practice
and never turning down the opportunity to play, wherever and with
whomever the opportunity occurred. In today’s world that opportunity
doesn’t exist, the chances to ‘sit in’ or to play on a ‘jam session’
are almost non-existent for the young musician.
John Chilton has given this very detailed insight
into the world of Roy Eldridge, but he has done it with the respect
that such a great musician and entertainer deserves. Where there
was contention it is mentioned, but there is no attempt by the writer
to be judgmental, that is left to the reader.
The book is essential reading for anyone with a
real interest in jazz, or for that matter for anyone who would like
to get a real flavour of the life of one of the finest jazz musicians
the world has produced.