Durham, Eddie

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Durham, Eddie

Durham, Eddie jazz trombonist, guitarist, arranger; b. San Marcos, Tex., Aug. 19, 1906; d. Brooklyn N.Y., March 6, 1987. The entire Durham family was musical; Eddie’s brothers included Joe (bass), Allen (trombone), Roosevelt (violin/piano/guitar), Earl (piano) Clyde (bass), and Sylvester (piano/organ). He received initial training from a brother, later attending the Chicago Cons. He first played guitar in the Durham Brothers Orch., then began doubling on trombone. He toured (on trombone) with the 101 Ranch Circus Band until 1926, then worked with Edgar Battle’s Dixie Ramblers. During the late 1920s he played in the Midwest with Eugene Coy, Jesse Stone, Terrence Holder, and Walter Page’s Blue Devils. He briefly played with Elmer Payne’s Ten Royal Americans (1929), then joined Bennie Moten (1929), remaining with the Moten band until 1933. After working with a few other bands briefly, he joined Jimmie Lunceford early in 1935 as trombonist-arranger. He was also featured as solo guitarist, and was one of the pioneers of amplified guitar work. He joined Count Basie in 1937, principally as arranger, but also featured on trombone and guitar. He left in 1938 to concentrate on full-time arranging, and scored for most of the popular big bands. He formed his own big band in June 1940, and later that year was musical director for Eon Eon (Tunnell) and His Buddies. From 1941–43, he toured as musical director for the all-girl International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and later he directed his own all-girl band. During 1947 he toured with the Cavalcade of Jazz, and in 1952–53 led a small touring band accompanying vocalists Wynonie Harris and Larry Dar-nell. He continued regular arranging throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including scoring for and playing with Swingers Inc. From 1957 through the 1960s has led his own small band for residencies on Long Island. In October 1969, he joined Buddy Tate on trombone (doubling guitar). He performed with The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band (from 1977).

A prolific composer; his joint composition (with Edgar Battle) of “Topsy” was made into an international hit by Cozy Cole’s Band, and he was also part-composer of “Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” With Buster Smith, he wrote the standard “One O’Clock Jump” for Basie. Durham was also a creative player somewhat ahead of his time. His first trombone solos with the Moten band have the surprising leaps characteristic of Miff Mole and his circle. His first electric guitar solos (with Lester Young and The Kansas City Six in September 1938) are also jagged and full of jumps from high to low strings, a far cry from the smooth flow and long lines of Charlie Christian, who nevertheless probably knew these recordings.


Lunceford: Hittin’ the Bottle (1935). Kansas City Six: Kansas City (1983).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter