“Benny Bailey is the kind of trumpeter who makes you want to kick your grandmother. Those of us who have pitted our wits and stamina, however meagre, against the tubes and valves glorified by the title “trumpet” have only one escape when confronted by the man and his unique skills... tears!” (Bob Houston)
“He could swing with the best of them, out-think all-comers and run chord changes in a more spectacular fashion than all bar”. (Dizzy Gillespie)
Benny Bailey, born Ernest Harold Bailey (13 August 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio – 14 April 2005 in Amsterdam) was an American Bebop and Hard bop jazz trumpeter.
Bailey had some training on piano and flute early in his career, switched permanently to trumpet, and studied at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music.
In the early 1940s, he played with groups led by Bull Moose Jackson and Scatman Crothers. After gigging with Jay McShann, he was with Dizzy Gillespie's big band from 1947-1948, and then became a key member of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra (1948-1953).
The trumpeter left Hampton during a European tour, settling overseas. He spent a long period in Sweden, working with Harry Arnold's big band (1957-1959), recording with Stan Getz and touring with Quincy Jones (1959).
A brief visit to the United States in 1960 (during which he recorded a near-classic album for Candid, Big Brass) was followed by his relocation to Germany. Bailey worked steadily, recording with Eric Dolphy in 1961, being featured with the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band, touring with George Gruntz's Concert Jazz band, and in 1986 he became a member of the Paris Reunion Band. In addition to the Candid date, Bailey led sessions for many European labels, including Sonet, Metronome, Saba, Freedom, Enja, Ego, Hot House, and Gemini, plus an American set in 1978 for Jazzcraft.
But it is his explosive solos on "Cold Duck Time" and "Compared to What" from the Harris/McCann concert (now also available on video) that made him most famous. Bailey recorded a well-received tribute to Louis Armstrong titled The Satchmo Legacy in 2000 and maintained an active touring schedule.
In 1969 he played on Eddie Harris and Les McCann's album Swiss Movement which was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, even though it was not normally his style of music. Then in 1988 he worked with Tony Coe and he kept producing albums until 2000 when he was in his mid-70s. He died at home in Amsterdam on April 15, 2005.
The veteran trumpeter passed away April 15, 2005 at his home in Amsterdam.
The years with Gigi Campi and the Clarke-Boland Big Band
There is a school of thought which maintains that it is something of a tragedy that Benny Bailey has had to earn his living and play his trade as an American emigrate in Europe, far from the centre of major jazz activities in his native US. His contribution would have been so much larger appreciated. Then to those who had to live with so little of Benny Bailey, "Mirrors", with the participation of some musicians from the Clarke-Boland Big Band and the supervision of the legendary producer Gigi Campi, affords an opportunity to showcase the incredible breadth of the abilities of this great lead trumpet and outstanding soloist.