Sunday, October 5, 2008

Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz


A hard look and a fake I.D. won't get you
into the Metropole, but at 15 you can stand under
the marquee's heat lamps outside to listen.

That epithetical "little" must've
implied something synedochial
together with a downright

brevity. Eldridge was his own quintessence:
as Billy Tenant expressed it, "the guy who
could squeeze anything out of a trumpet."

His playing contains no stunts or slurs.
Each bitten phrase meted out with compact dignity.
Where the trumpet blares, its pointed elevation -

zigguratic high notes, chomps
goading (in Kenny Clarke, for one) a concomitant
reach in rhythm (the ride cymbal rose

in prominence) -
with an aspiration like the Chrysler Building
clinches the night air.

by Bill Berkson
from the book Fugue State

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