Frankie "Tram"Trumbauer (1901 - 1956)
as a Jazz musician have been overshadowed by the role he played in Bix Beiderbecke's career. On his own right he may have played a greater role in the history of Jazz than Bix, as the grandfather of Modern Jazz. His
cool, intellectual style of playing was a major influence on Lester Young, and something of his style can be found in the Cool Jazz movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Trumbauer was unusual in that he played C-Melody
saxophone. He got his start playing in several dance bands in the Midwest and eventually became musical director of Jean Goldkette's Orchestra. He led his own band at the Acadia Ballroom in St. Louis that featured Bix.
For the next few years Trumbauer's and Beiderbecke's careers became entwined. They played together in Jean Goldkette's Orchestra and made many highly influencial recordings together, such as For No Reason at All in C,
Singing the Blues, and Wringin' and Twistin'. They both joined Adrian Rollini's short lived band and then joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1927. Trumbauer was with Whiteman until 1932, when he left to form his own
band. He then rejoined Whiteman in 1933. In the mid-1930s he played with Charlie and Jack Teagarden and then led his own band in California. During World War II he left the music business and worked as a test pilot.
After the war he played in the NBC Orchestra and worked for the Civil Aeronautical Authority. He played occasionally for the remainder of his life, but after 1947 he made his living outside of music.
As a teenager
Trumbauer played various instruments, including piano and trombone, before concentrating on the C melody saxophone. He began leading a band while still in his teens and after military service in World War I played with
several mid-western dance bands. In the mid-20s he joined the Jean Goldkette organization, leading a band which included Bix Beiderbecke. Trumbauer and Beiderbecke made a number of fine small group recordings during
this association, which continued until 1927 when they both joined a big band formed by Adrian Rollini. They then moved on together to the Paul Whiteman band, where Trumbauer remained until the early '30s. He briefly
led his own band and was co-leader with Jack and Charlie Teagarden of the Three T's band. By the end of the decade he was working on the west coast. He quit music in 1939, taking up work in the aviation industry. He
briefly led a band in 1940 and then, during World War II, he became a test pilot. After the war he played in a number of bands, mostly in the studios, sometimes playing alto saxophone, but by 1947 was back working in
aviation. He made occasional appearances at jazz dates, including a special tribute to Beiderbecke held in 1952. He died in June 1956. The precision and control displayed by Trumbauer was greatly admired by other
saxophonists, including Benny Carter and Buddy Tate. As a soloist his work was somewhat less relaxed and swinging than his contemporaries but the association with Beiderbecke resulted in several recordings which remain
among the classics of '20s jazz.