Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


BOLTON, Dupree

(b Dupree Ira Lewis Bolton, 3 March '29, Oklahoma City; d 5 June '93 in a convalescent hospital in Alameda CA) An extremely fine post-bop West Coast trumpeter who recorded very little and about whom nothing was known for most of his life. The only thing he said to John Tynan in an interview was 'When I was 14, I ran away from home.' When he ran away it was to join Jay McShann; he played and recorded with Buddy Johnson's band '44-5 and worked for Benny Carter '46: years later Johnson was dead and neither McShann nor Carter could remember Bolton, but he is thought to have played a short solo on Johnson's 'Walk 'Em', and old files list him as playing on several recordings with Carter. He then disappeared until The Fox '59, by the Harold Land quintet, which immediately and deservedly achieved classic status (see Land's entry). Bolton played briefly in Gerald Wilson's big band, and is prominently seen and heard in a 25-minute film made by the fine west coast sextet of tenor and soprano saxophonist Curtis Amy for the TV series Frankly Jazz, broadcast in the USA in 1962 and later available on videotape. Then Katanga! '63 was the best of several albums by Amy's various lineups. Bolton wrote the title tune, but as Max Harrison wrote in Jazz Forum Sep. '87, 'Nearly everything Bolton does here suggests a major talent; he is even able to to start his ''Native Land'' solo by quoting Coltrane's entry to ''Milestones'' without sounding like anyone except himself ... The trumpet's sound is tart, unrounded, and Bolton presents ideas that are less patterned than the post-hard-bop classicism [that The Fox] entailed. There are remarkable shadings of tone and accent, at once subtle and abrupt; hear his paradoxically intent yet explosive sadness on ''You Don't Know What Love Is''...' (see Amy's entry). Other critics predictably reached for the names of Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown, but there was nobody like Bolton. David Axelrod, who had produced The Fox, also said, 'He'd never sounded like Miles Davis, which was what most young trumpeters were after, and he didn't sound like Dizzy Gillespie, either. He always sounded like himself.'

Bolton's long stretches of silence were due to drug problems. Two of the best albums of the era, The Fox and Katanga! were each made in one evening of inspired music making. Three of the musicians on The Fox were junkies: pianist Elmo Hope, drummer Frank Butler and Bolton. Hope and Butler were killed by the habit, but both kept playing right up until the end; Bolton apparently traded his music for dope. A recording exists of a band playing at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington Oklahoma; the three tunes come alive when Bolton solos. In the early '80s he scuffled in Oklahoma clubs, once allegedly sitting in with Dexter Gordon. He was later seen busking in the street, e.g. by Axelrod in San Francisco. We owe the uncovering of these bare facts of Bolton's life to Richard Williams; see his collection Long Distance Call (Aurum Press Ltd, 2000).