EMMETT BERRY’S BUESCHER TRUMPET, 1952

This Buescher trumpet, the advertisement tells us, is the model Emmett Berry plays with Johnny Hodges.  For tremendous power and range, which Mr. Berry would have had on any horn.

Emmett Berry came from the tradition of individualistic players — with an intense near-ferocity no matter what the context . . . with Fletcher or Horace Henderson, Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins, Cozy Cole, Edmond Hall, Bennie Morton, Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells, Buddy Tate, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Walter Thomas, Ben Webster, Budd Johnson, Oscar Pettiford, Harry Carney, Johnny Guarneri, Illinois Jacquet, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Eddie Heywood, Vic Dickenson, John Kirby, Gerald Wilson, Betty Roche, Helen Humes, Johnny Thompson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Al Sears,Al Hibbler, Lem Davis, Dodo Marmarosa, Slim Gaillard, John Simmons, Zutty Singleton, Sidney Catlett, Sammy Price, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones, Eddie Bert, Lucky Thompson, Bennie Green, Lawrence Brown, Sidney Bechet, Ruby Braff, Art Farmer, Claude Hopkins, Pee Wee Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, Andy Gibson, Paul Gonsalves, Cannonball Adderley, Shorty Baker, Chu Berry, Earl Hines, Joe Williams.  On Keynote he was the third trumpet player with Joe Thomas and Roy Eldridge.  He was in the trumpet section for a Miles Davis and Gil Evans session.

Between 1937 and 1967, he seems to have been active on gigs and in the recording studio, even if some of that work had him playing second trumpet to Buck Clayton or as part of the brass section behind a singer.  But this record of activity says to me that various people (Harry Lim, John Hammond, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Buddy Tate) valued him as a powerful, reliable, creative player — someone who could swing, improvise, blend with a section, sight-read music the first time he saw it.

Buck Clayton’s story of Berry whacking Jimmy Witherspoon in the head with his trumpet when Spoon had been particularly out of line suggests that Berry was not someone to be trifled with, and his phrasing does suggest an expert boxer and dangerous counterpuncher.

But no one seems to have interviewed him during his playing career, and I have it in my memory (true?) that he suffered some sort of late-life mental collapse and retired from music.  (What does anyone know of him in the years from 1967 to 1993?)

His sound– so vehement — remains in my ears.  On the early Clef sessions with Hodges, on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, backing Rushing on Vanguard — unmistakable.

Here’s “a little good blues” with Earle Warren, Sir Charles Thompson, Gene Ramey, and Oliver Jackson, from 1961:

Berry doesn’t take enough space, and his vehemence is hinted at rather than fully released, but his sound and physical presence are fully evident.

He’s someone I miss.

May your happiness increase.

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11 responses to “EMMETT BERRY’S BUESCHER TRUMPET, 1952

  1. Enjoyed reading the blog, and loved the music! Thank you NM

  2. There’s more information here: http://www.cleveland.oh.us/wmv_news/jazz106.htm

    Basically it says he retired due to ill health. I heard he went back to Cleveland to take care of his ailing mother.

    The lightweight, Buescher 400 trumpets are fairly rare. They don’t show up to often on ebay – certainly not as often as the regular 400 model.

  3. Emmett Berry was one of the punchiest trumpeters of all time (he had a little gravitas on his side). His recordings with Buck Clayton’s small group of the late 50’s are priceless. I don’t believe he made any recordings as a leader. Berry is in the Great Day in Harlem photograph. It’s a shame he disappeared from the jazz scene so early.

  4. There is a session under his name for English Columbia; some of the material reissued under Don Byas’ name for Savoy was first issued as Berry’s … and if you like posthumous ironies, there is a European bootleg CD called EMMETT BERRY: NEW YORK RECORDINGS, which puts together material recorded for Savoy circa 1958 under the leadership of drummer Bobby Donaldson — with EB, Rex Stewart, Vic Dickenson, Buster Bailey, Red Richards, Bucky Pizzarelli (!), Al Lucas, and others. Excellent music, but someone in Spain either admires EB or thought his name would sell more CDs than Donaldson’s would.

  5. Hi Michael…..not sure if you’ll be able to track this down or not, but an old journalist pal of mine back in the UK (Peter Vacher) wrote a series for “Jazz Journal International” called “The Forgotten Ones”. He wrote about Emmett Berry sometime in 1983. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy………

  6. I’m proud to say that Peter is a friend and he reads this blog . . . maybe we’ll hear from him!

  7. Michael Burgevin

    Such a nice tribute to yet another trumpet hero-( in the shadows?) Fortunate I was to have seen him working at Ryan’s on ocassion when Tony Parenti had leadership there… Joe Thomas as well — around 1966. I don’t remember seeing him around in the 70’s and beyond so maybe what you have in your memory is correct (sad!) Beautiful video!!! — same goes for the Buescher advertisement. I did gig with Dick Vance and Johnny Letman in the late 60’s two more very creative players and very nice men but seldom spoken of or maybe even listened to(?) Thank you for everything! Longtime

  8. Sometimes it is better to take home that weekly paycheck than to be a “star”.

  9. Stanley Dance turned me on to Berry many years ago. He did have a couple of sessions under his own name: one for Savoy with Illinois Jacquet and another for National with Don Byas. A shame there weren’t more.

  10. Christina Berry

    Michael; Thanks so much for this article on my father Emmett Berry. I had not seen the Buescher advertisement before, it would be nice to get an original print of that. I also had not heard Buck Clayton’s story about my father “whacking Jimmy Witherspoon in the head with his trumpet when Spoon had been particularly out of line”. That’s pretty amusing considering that my dad was generally mild-mannered and even a bit on the quiet side, it makes me wonder what Witherspoon did.

  11. Dear Christina,

    I am delighted to hear from you. Currently I am at a jazz party in Whitley Bay (Newcastle, England) where if I asked the musicians if they’d heard of your father, their faces would brighten and they would tell me what recordings they recall . . . when I return, I will tell you the story in Buck’s book in more detail. May your happiness increase, Michael

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