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*On this date, Roy Eldridge was born in 1911. He was a Black jazz musician.
A fiery trumpet player and a key figure in the instrument's lineage, Roy Eldridge was an outstanding improvisational stylist. Eldridge was born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh and, after paying his dues with regional bands in the Midwest, moved to New York in 1930. In 1935 he joined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, then led his group before joining Gene Krupa in 1941. Through extensive tours and recordings, the Krupa engagement brought him to prominence.
As the only Black member of the band, he also brought him racial harassment, a problem that would again plague him while working with the Artie Shaw band. In 1949 Eldridge began recording and touring with Norman Granz's Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP). It was a trying period for Eldridge, as the young bebop trumpeters, led by Gillespie, were receiving some of his thunder. After a year in Europe, however, he returned with renewed confidence, convinced of his role in the mainstream of jazz.
He continued his association with JATP, though he was often criticized as a trigger-happy high-note in his cutting contests with Gillespie and other trumpeters. In the '50s and '60s, he worked with Benny Goodman, Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie. In the '70s, he held down a long-running residency at Jimmy Ryan's in New York. Although Eldridge, nicknamed "Little Jazz," is often cited as a tie between trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, he was not exactly a bebop player.
He became an elder statesman of jazz without ever losing his youthful fire. A stroke ended his career in 1980, though he appeared occasionally as a singer and host. Roy Eldridge died on Feb. 26, 1989, just three weeks after the death of his wife.