Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dupree Bolton Update-He Gave Trumpet Lessons!

I got an nice email today from a man who also knew Dupree Bolton, here it is. Isn't the internet a wonderful place!

Note* I edited the gentleman's name to protect his privacy.

       I read your article in Jazz Wax about Dupree Bolton with great interest.   I am a trumpet player in LA, and knew Dupree.  In fact, I had a trumpet lesson with him, probably about in 1986.   He had just gotten out "of detention" and came out here, where he had spent a lot of his younger years.  He was an old friend of my jazz teacher, George Lewis, a great pianist.  Anyway, George introduced me to Dupree, and I wound up having a very good trumpet/jazz lesson with him.  He didn't stay in town for very long; shortly afterwords, he moved up to the Bay Area, where I heard that he was playing in the streets for tips.  He went up there with a sax player named, Clifford Woods.
     Back in the '80's, I met and hung out with quite a few older, African-American musicians and music fans.  There was among them a strong identity with the jazz culture of the 1950's when they were all young adults, and the music was in a near constant state of stylistic innovation.   It was a great thrill for me to be a part of that scene in the '80's, particularly as I was originally an "outsider": from Indianapolis and Jewish.
    Of course, the tragic issue in almost all of their lives was drug addiction and alcoholism.   Very few of them made it to 60 years old, including my teacher.
    There is also a Harold Land album, in which Dupree is playing; as well as a video from a tv show, viewable  on youtube, in which he is playing, I believe, with Curtis Amy.
    Best regards,
                         E----- C----

And My Reply

Thanks E----- for the great story. I did not know he gave lessons. Heck until a little while ago I thought I was the only one who knew the man had existed. When I knew him he was playing in San Fran Chinatown for money form tourists. This was when I was 21-22 years old so around 1985-86. I left Edmonton when I was 21 and came back 6 months later. 

Thanks for the update on Dupree and a bit of behind the scenes history. Sonny the man I mention in the story had a closed down jazz club/restaurant that I hung in with Dupree (he would shoot heroin there at times as would several others). The club was called "My Favourite Things" after the  great John Coltrane piece. Sonny (Sonny Land) taught me much about Jazz, he was a huge Miles Davis and John Coltrane fan and understood jazz much better than I did. He told me that Dupree was good, not Miles level good but still very good. I never realized he was as good as he turned out to be. Dupree always treated me with respect so liked the guy quite a bit. I can still remember his voice, very low, unique sounding. I have seen the youtube video you mentioned, I hardly recognized him. He looked almost nothing like that man in the video when I knew him. What might have been without the drug use.

I have some photos of him playing on the street in Chinatown, will try to send some to you later if I can get them scanned, nothing special but you will get a bit of a feel for what his life was like. I know what you mean about being an outsider. I was this Canadian white kid in a African American American (west Oakland) ghetto with all these different people. Strange thing was they allowed me to be there and allowed me to fit in, made me a friend. 

Writing this I remembered one other thing Dupree said to me. He told me that his people could not make up their mind what to call themselves...he said FIRST WE WERE NEGROS, THEN COLOURED, THEN BLACKS NOW AFRICAN AMERICANS! WE CAN'T MAKE UP OUR MINDS (or words to that affect)..He thought that was funny and strange, he shook his head and smiled when he told me that. 

I remember him as being a loner, a guy who kept mostly to himself but I also remember these little moments in time, fun moment, real stuff. I remember one sad thing he told me...THAT THE DRUGS TOOK AWAY HIS APPETITE AND HIS SEX DRIVE..which I understand is common. I also remember that he loved to play real music just for the sake of hearing it, like the time he brought in a piano player and they played just for themselves and for me as I was sleeping nearby (that was in the jazz club mentioned earlier "My Favourite Things" So even thou he was a drug addict and a man who was wasting away bit by bit, he still played at times for the sheer joy of the music.

You got to love that.

Thanks again Gerry