[Dixielandjazz] Emmett Berry

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Mon May 3 17:37:40 PDT 2010

Hi All,

Good to see a great, and largely forgotten, trumpeter like Emmett Berry getting so much attention. I hadn't heard Jersey Jump Off before, and while Emmett's contribution is punchy and exciting, I have to say it's really Coleman Hawkins's record. His solo is concise and coherent, where, to my ears at least, a lot of the other stuff on the side is a bit unfocused and frenzied.

I first came to Emmett through one of my all-time favourite recordings, Buck Clayton's great album Songs for Swingers. Later on I asked Buddy Tate about Emmett and he told me that Emmett "wasn't quite right." When I asked him what he meant, Buddy said that Emmett had a mental age of about 12 or 13 (except when he was playing trumpet). All the musicians of his generation loved and admired him and would look out for him and make sure nobody exploited him. When they toured with Buck's band they all looked after Emmett off-stage like a younger brother, but on-stage he was perfectly capable of holding his own. As I understand it, he was later institutionalised. It's a very sad tale, but it's also very heartwarming that his musical ability enabled him to lead a relatively normal life (if there is such thing for musicians!) and that his colleagues appreciated his ability so much that they would gladly protect him from a world for which he was largely unequipped.

I've got the Lonehill CD but haven't listened to it in ages, so I'm off to give it a spin now.


Ken Mathieson


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