Born: March 3, 1929 | Died: June 5, 1994 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Dupree Bolton - trumpet
An elusive figure, Bolton's early life is shrouded in uncertainty other than that he ran away from home at the age of 14. By 1944, he was in New York City where he played trumpet in Buddy Johnson's band, before moving into the Benny Carter big band. In 1946 he made the first of several disappearances through illness or imprisonment that came on the heels of his drug addiction.
In 1959, his appearance on Harold Land's “The Fox” excited considerable interest owing to his inventive bop styling. Soon afterwards, however, he was in trouble with the law over substance abuse. He reappeared in 1962 to play with Curtis Amy on “Katanga!,” again causing quite a stir.
His startlingly individualistic soloing was inventive and fully formed, his work showing a man of imagination and in complete command of his instrument. The fact that he appears to have made no other records has helped to make these particular recordings touchstones for a lost career.
Not long after the Amy date, Bolton went to prison but played with Bobby Hutcherson in 1967 before once again being imprisoned. While serving time at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he played in a prison band. Released in 1982, he worked fleetingly with Dexter Gordon in Oklahoma City but thereafter Bolton drifted from sight but it is believed he relocated to the west coast, where he was rumored to have been a street musician in San Francisco.
Below is a brief synopsis of this rare recording, and a nod to Bolton, by a gentleman who calls himself Chance Lucky.
“Fireball”, a posthumous album of Dupree Bolton's lost tracks. The material consists of air checks from the 1962 television show, Frankly Jazz (Frank Evans) where Bolton plays with Curtis Amy, two lost tracks/outtakes from a Pacific Jazz session with Amy (good again, but one can understand why they didn't get included on an album-- this material also includes solos by Earl Andeerza a sax player whose mystique as a lost jazz genius almost matches Bolton's) and most intriguing of all several tracks from 1980 of Bolton playing with an Oklahoma prison band (to me this was the saddest of all, it might have been that the other musicians couldn't push him, but there's a subdued and slightly broken quality to Bolton's playing on it that all but destroys the fantasy that the trumpeter of The Fox and Katanga's music continued to progress and grow).
In any case, Dupree Bolton's story deserves to be told and remembered. “Fireball” completes that story. In some ways, it's the quintessential bop story. A man plays a couple thousand notes on his instrument so well that those who get to hear him can't forget them, but the tradeoff seems to be that he's not allowed to accomplish anything else in his life and we can't remember him as a person. If you want to know about the story of Dupree Bolton, pick up a copy of “Fireball,” make a point of reading the liner notes, and enjoy the music on the CD. If you want to understand the legend, you need to go back to The Fox and Katanga, sit back, turn up the volume, and revel in dreams of what might have been and the fundamental mystery at the heart of the jazz experience. It is, after all, the music that lives in the moment and even the best attempts to preserve or record it never do it justice. With jazz (like the blues), what is forgotten and can't be reconstructed feels every bit as vital to the experience as what we can hold onto.