The Eighty-Seven Years Of Doc Cheatham

The Eighty-Seven Years Of Doc CheathamAdolphus Anthony “Doc” Cheatham (1905-97) had a rather unusual career. Although inspired early on by King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, the technically skilled Cheatham spent a large part of his prime years as a nonsoloing lead trumpeter in big bands including McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway (1932-39), Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson and Claude Hopkins.

After the swing era ended, he worked with Latin bands in New York. Cheatham did get to play jazz now and then, including being a member of Wilbur DeParis’ New New Orleans Jazz Band when fellow trumpeter Sidney DeParis was declining, and having a stint with Benny Goodman. But if he had stopped playing in the early 1970s, Cheatham would be largely forgotten today.

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The trumpeter was nearing 70 when he musically reinvented himself, working hard and becoming a top-notch soloist who still had a wide range. Cheatham’s last 20 years found him becoming a major swing stylist and a fine jazz singer. In fact, one could argue that he was the greatest 90 year old trumpeter ever to record.

Cheatham appeared on sessions frequently during his later period. 1992’s The Eighty Seven Years Of Doc Cheatham finds him playing brilliantly. He leads a quartet that includes pianist Chuck Folds, takes some touching whispered vocals (including on “That’s My Home”), and stretches out on such numbers as “Blues In My Heart,” “Muskrat Ramble,” “Wolverine Blues,” and “Miss Brown To You.” The trumpeter hits high notes with ease, never runs out of ideas, and swings throughout with confidence. While there are quite a few worthy Doc Cheatham records (even though he only led one session before 1973), this is an excellent one to begin with.

The Eighty-Seven Years Of Doc Cheatham (Columbia CK 53215, 14 selections, TT = 59:34) 

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Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for AllMusic.com. He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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