Blanton, Jimmy [James]
- J. Bradford Robinson
(b Chattanooga, TN, Oct 1918; d Los Angeles, July 30, 1942). American jazz double bass player. He played locally in groups led by his mother, a pianist, and attended Tennessee State College briefly before moving in the late 1930s to St Louis, where he performed with fellow black musicians in the Jeter–Pillars Orchestra and in Fate Marable’s riverboat bands. There he was discovered in late 1939 by Duke Ellington, who engaged him immediately for his orchestra. Blanton’s playing subtly altered the Ellington sound, stabilizing the band’s rhythm and greatly enhancing its swing; it also ushered in Ellington’s most creative period as a composer, particularly in masterpieces such as Ko-Ko, Concerto for Cootie, Harlem Air Shaft and In a Mellotone (all 1940, Vic.), where Blanton’s bass part is especially prominent. Blanton also took part in a few of the informal jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse in New York that contributed to the genesis of the bop style. From ...