Friday, January 30, 2015

Frankie Trumbauer: King of the C-Melody Sax

Frankie Trumbauer, born in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1901, is one of the first great jazz saxophonists. He became famous as a player of the rare C-melody saxophone, an instrument with a pitch that falls between an alto and tenor saxophone. Trumbauer was a saxophonist of considerable influence who is credited by many later greats of the instrument as an inspiration. Trumbauer was often referred to by the moniker, “Tram.” 

Trumbauer began his career with the Paul Whiteman Band in the early twenties. When he switched to the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, he met the great cornetist Bix Beiderbecke with whom he would later become a close friend and collaborator.

In 1927, Trumbauer formed his own orchestra and with Beiderbecke, Eddie Lang and Jimmy Dorsey produced some of the best jazz ever recorded. In a series of legendary sessions, the Frankie Trumbauer Orchestra would record, “Singing the Blues,” “Clarinet Marmalade,” “For No Reason at all in C,” “Riverboat Shuffle,” Ostrich Walk,” and others. Bix Beiderbecke’s work on these recordings is considered to be his best ever work. On the brilliant side, “Trumbology,” Trumbauer delivers one of the first true saxophone tour de forces in recorded jazz. Trumbauer died in 1956.

Trumbauer’s recordings can be found on the “Chronological Classics” series of jazz compilations and his recordings with Beiderbecke were considered good enough to warrant inclusion on the venerable collection of early jazz recordings, “The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz” (1973).