Jack Sheldon (1931-2019)


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Jack Sheldon, a West Coast jazz trumpeter who, in the 1960s, as jazz recording opportunities dried up, began to diversify into film studio work, TV acting, comedy, singing and a regular vocal part on the children's animated series School of Rock, died on December 27. He was 88.

Sheldon was most notable for his clean, round sound on the trumpet and his easy-going personality and good cheer, which often seeped into his music. Sheldon spoke on camera in the Chet Baker documentary Let's Get Lost about how hard he worked practicing his horn at a time in L.A. when other trumpeters, such as Chet Baker, made it look so easy. It was resigned frustration that his jocular spirit always helped ease.

What Sheldon had on trumpet was a pensive romanticism that sounded best on ballads. As he played, he reminded me of someone wandering the empty galleries of a museum, stopping every so often to admire the paintings. He had a warm feel that was straight up and workmanlike. Most of all, he was of Southern California and L.A.'s melancholy—bright, jocular sun but long emotional shadows. On trumpet, he fully articulated the moody, milky West Coast trumpet sound but added a jazzy unevenness that humanized such solos, which is why Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel and other West Coast arrangers admired him and loved including him on their scores. On trumpet, Sheldon could sound like someone who had suffered something emotionally painful but couldn't make up his mind about it.

Hare are my favorite Jack Sheldon clips:

Here's Jack Departs (1954)...

Here's Beach Wise (1955)...

Here's Arrivederci (1958)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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