Rare film of Booker Little
Wow! Here’s rare footage of trumpeter Booker Little with the Max Roach Quintet on the Stars of Jazz television show in 1958. The show was produced at the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles shortly after the quintet's appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival; its performance at that summer's Newport Jazz Festival was released on Mercury/EmArcy.
Max’s quintet features George Coleman on tenor, Ray Draper playing tuba, and Art Davis on bass, and the tunes include “Minor Mode Blues,” by Booker Little; “The Scene Is Clean,” the Tadd Dameron original which Max had recorded with Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins in 1956; and Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale.” The film may be wavy, but for its moving images of Booker, it’s downright historic. As the Penguin Guide says of Little's recordings, "When a creative life is as short as this one was, almost every survival is of value."
Today is Booker Little’s 75th birthday anniversary. The trumpeter joined Max in 1958 at age 20, and was dead only three years later from kidney failure caused by uraemia. Notwithstanding his brief career, Little rose to the top rank of modern jazz trumpeters, and like Eric Dolphy, whom he worked with in Roach’s group and with Mal Waldron at the Five Spot in 1961, it’s tempting to ponder the impact he would have had on jazz had he lived a full life. The same is equally true for Clifford Brown, and given that both trumpeters had significant associations with Roach, they are often thought of together. But where Brownie’s playing was bright and ebullient, Booker favored minor modes that tended toward the moody and melancholy, emotions that became more common in jazz in the ‘60’s.
Stars of Jazz was hosted by Bobby Troup, composer of “Route 66,” “Baby, Baby All the Time,” and other standards. Read more about the groundbreaking tv series here, and tune in for an hour of Booker Little’s music in tonight’s Jazz a la Mode.