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Jazz Remembered


Herman Autrey



Herman Autrey


I have always enjoyed the playing of trumpeter Herman Autrey on Fats Waller’s recordings. Fats was such a strong personality he seems to dominate the recordings to the point where Autrey and clarinettist Gene Sedric often don’t get the recognition I think they deserve. Just listen to the way Herman picks up the energy already created by Fats on Dinah. This video / recording is a little intriguing and perhaps readers can help out here? The YouTube reference says '1939' but I think that this is the Victor recording made on June 24th 1935. However, you will hear Fats shout "Swing it out then Jackson" for the reeds solo - who is 'Jackson'? The 1935 recording had Rudy Powell on clarinet and alto sax rather than Gene Sedric. Saxophonist Franz Jackson did join the Waller band at the end of the 1930s but my discography does not show him included in a recording of Dinah.




Herman Autrey was born on 4th December 1904 in Alabama. His father and two of his brothers were also musicians. He started out on alto horn, took up the trumpet in his teens and was soon gigging in Pittsburgh and Florida. By 1933 he had travelled through Washington D.C. and Philadelphia before arriving in New York City where he joined Charlie ‘Fess’ Johnson’s Paradise Ten.

The following year, Fats Waller signed a new contract with Victor Records and hired Herman, Gene Sedric, guitarist Al Casey and drummer Harry Dial for his band.


Listen to him playing with Fats on Georgia May.





Herman Autrey



Without a comprehensive, accurate discography it is not always possible to know which of Fats Waller's numerous recordings included Herman Autrey. Although he played on the majority, other trumpeters such as Bill Coleman, Paul Campbell and particularly John Hamilton played on some.

In his book The Best Of Jazz, Humphrey Lyttelton wrote: 'I know few other performances which demonstrate so unashamedly the sheer joy of taking part in spontaneous jazz creation when total rapport and momentum have been reached. That Fats presided over scores of such performances in sessions designed for the commercial market is all the more wondrous. The end of 'Twelfth Street Rag' brings joy to its culmination. Fats overruns the ensemble with portentous descending octaves culminating in crashing Chopinesque chords, Herman Autrey blows a derisive 'that's all' phrase on trumpet and then Fats unleashes a final ear-splitting shout of 'YEAH!!!'.




Listen to Twelfth Street Rag.





Herman was also recording with Fletcher Henderson and Claude Hopkins as well as smaller groups such as Gene Sedric's Honey Bears - here they are with The Joint Is Jumpin':






and here he is with in Claude Hopkins' band playing Yacht Swing Club




I am not sure whether there is video footage of Herman Autrey. There are some videos of Fats Waller playing but the only one I have found that I think might include Herman is this one of Fats and Your Feets Too Big:





When the 1940s arrived Herman Autrey became sideman in several bands including those of Stuff Smith and Una Mae Carlisle. He also had his own combos with musicians including pianist and composer Herbie Nichols. Here he is with Gene Sedric in 1946 in pianist/vocalist Pat Flowers band playing Googie Woogie:




His playing was interrupted as the result of  a car crash in the 1950s but he was back in the 1960s playing and touring with Red Richards and Vic Dickenson’s Saints And Sinners band and then with drummer Buzzy Drootin’s Jazz Family.

By the 1970s, Herman was losing his lip on trumpet and spent more time as a vocalist.

He died in New York on June 14th, 1980.

There is an interview with Herman Autrey (now lodged at Rutgers University Library) available to listen to here that gives much more detail about his life than I have included here.


As it is December, perhaps we should end with Herman Autrey, Fats Waller and Gene Sedric and Swinging Them Jingle Bells.





Herman Autrey with Fats Waller

Fats Waller and his Rhythm


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More Jazz Remembered
Tracks Unwrapped
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