Jimmy Blanton

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Jimmie Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Blanton originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. After leaving university to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra (with whom he made his first recordings), he joined Duke Ellington's band in 1939.

Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Previously the double bass was rarely used to play anything but quarter notes in ensemble or solos but by soloing on the bass more in a 'horn like' fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth- and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing. His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument's unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Ellington put Blanton front-and-center on the bandstand nightly, unheard of for a bassist at the time. Such was his importance to Ellington's band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, that it became known as the Blanton–Webster band. Blanton also recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington and played in the "small group" sessions led by Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges, and Cootie Williams in 1940-41.

In 1941, Blanton was diagnosed with tuberculosis, cutting short his tenure with Ellington. His last recording session was cut on September 26, 1941 in Hollywood. Blanton died the following year after retiring to a sanatorium in California, aged 23.

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Discography

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1967 RCA Victor Jazz/The First Half-Century: The 40's Various Artists 1
1994 The Chronological Classics: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 1939-1940 Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 1
1995 Jazz Café: Piano Various Artists 1
1995 The Chronological Classics: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 1940, Volume 2 Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 1
1999 100 Years of Jazz Various Artists 1
2001 Music for Sunday Mornings Various Artists 1
2006 Jazz Piano History Various Artists 1
2006 Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936–1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions Duke Ellington 1
2008 The Encyclopedia of Jazz, Part 2/5: Swing Time - The Heyday of Jazz Various Artists 1

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