Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BLANTON, Jimmy

(b October 1918, Chattanooga TN; d 30 July 1942, Los Angeles) Bass. Played with Jeter/Pillars band, then Fate Marable; discovered by Duke Ellington '39 playing three-string bass in a St Louis hotel, he bought a four-string bass on credit and joined Ellington; in the short time before he died of TB he revolutionized the instrument, influencing all who came after him. He was first to utilize the bass fully, playing harmony and melody lines as on a solo instrument, while 'pushing' the beat slightly with such graceful swing that the band sounded as if it was dancing on tip-toe. He was a capstone of one of Duke's greatest periods; best heard on 'Jack The Bear' with full band, on small-group sessions (e.g. led by Johnny Hodges, including 'Squatty Roo'), and duets with Duke's piano (all RCA '40-41). Blanton is thought to have been developing as a composer and arranger, too; 'The Strollers' played by Ellington was said to be his piece. He is one of those who left us much too soon.