Born: February 19, 1897 | Died: August 20, 1937 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Johnny Dunn - trumpet
Recognized as a jazz pioneer both as a trumpeter and bandleader, Johnny Dunn was considered ahead of his time and the top trumpeter in New York in the days before Louis Armstrong.
Johnny Dun was born in Memphis on Feb. 19, 1897, and played trumpet as a solo act before joining W.C. Handy's band with which he traveled to New York in 1917. He also played with singers such as Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, and Edith Wilson, recording in the early 20s.
He then formed his own version of the Jazz Hounds and had a huge hit in 1922 with “Sergeant Dunn’s Bugle Call Blues,” followed by “Hawaiian Blues.”
In 1923 he went to Europe with a band led by Will Vodery, and returned there three years later when he recorded in London with the Plantation Orchestra. He also played with Noble Sissle's band in France. He did return to New York in 1928, where he recorded some memorable sessions with piano greats Willie “The Lion” Smith and Jelly Roll Morton. During the early and mid-30s he worked steadily in Europe, being resident for some time in the Netherlands.
Dunn was among the best of the musicians playing in the immediate pre-jazz years and he influenced many of his contemporaries. Overshadowed though he was by the arrival of Louis Armstrong, Dunn was still an able and gifted player, showing subtle power and using complex patterns that never descended into mere showmanship. His stylistic roots became outmoded during the 30s but his decision to remain in Europe and his early death on August 20, 1937, in Paris, meant that his reputation never suffered, except, perhaps, by neglect, and today he can be recognized as having been a highly accomplished trumpeter.