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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

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Book Review

Roy Eldridge
                Little Jazz Giant


John Chilton

Published by Continuum

Price £19.99

ISBN 0826456928


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.

Don Mather

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