- John Chilton
(b New York, NY, June 28, 1903; d Homestead, FL, May 15, 1956). American jazz bass saxophonist and vibraphonist. He was originally a pianist and xylophone player, and worked from 1922 to 1927 with the California Ramblers, with whom he made hundreds of recordings. While with this band he bought his first bass saxophone, and specialized on this instrument throughout the 1920s and early 1930s; he also provoked admiring astonishment among fellow musicians by playing jazz on novelty instruments such as the “hot fountain pen” and the “goofus” (an instrument resembling a toy saxophone and made by Couesnon in France during the 1920s). In these years he became one of the first outstanding white jazz musicians; his adept improvisations on the unusually cumbersome bass saxophone were melodically inventive and possessed rhythmic vitality and swing. He is best remembered for his series of recordings with Bix Beiderbecke, wherein he displays considerable adroitness, both in the improvised ensembles and in his solos. During the 1930s he began to concentrate on playing vibraphone; he never rose above competence on that instrument, however, whereas in his by then rare performances on bass saxophone he still showed mastery. The last years of his life were spent mainly playing commercial engagements in Florida. His brother Art Rollini was a tenor saxophonist with Benny Goodman’s band....