Auctions | March 13, 2014

Music Memorabilia From Jazz Legend Roy “Little Jazz” Eldridge at Auction


Boston, MA—RR Auction is proud to present a collection from the estate of Roy Eldridge that will be featured in its upcoming online music themed auction in March.

Featured is an extraordinary collection of Eldridge's papers, instruments, sheet music, records, photographs, posters, a large trunk, and other personal effects, chronicling his career as one of the most influential swing musicians of his era.

Among the list of items included in the sale:

  • Hundreds of pieces of handwritten sheet music in both ink and pencil.
  • Instruments included are two trumpets, a cornet, Roy’s drum set made up of four drum shells of various sizes with drum kit equipment and a few other percussion instruments, and his brother Joe Eldridge’s Martin saxophone.
  • A collection of recordings consists of over 100 acetates, 300 78 rpm records (1930s-1950s), studio recordings, and nearly 100 reel-to-reel tapes. Many of the acetates are original radio air checks and the tapes are reels of live concerts, broadcasts, and rehearsals. One tape is a recording of Woody Allen playing clarinet with Eldridge and Gerry Mulligan.
  • To top it off is Eldridge's black beret, a style statement of many of the great jazzmen and their contemporaries—a look made most famous by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, both of whom recorded with Eldridge.


Nicknamed ‘Little Jazz,’ Roy Eldridge (1911-1989) was a jazz trumpet player known for his sophisticated use of harmony, virtuosic solos, and mastery of the instrument’s highest register.

His prolific career lasted decades, seeing—and influencing—the development of jazz from its beginnings to its peak. His first brush with stardom came at age 14, when his brother took him along to a 1925 rehearsal session that included Duke Ellington, Rex Stewart, and Benny Carter. Eldridge hit the road on his own three years later, playing the carnival circuit and delighting crowds with note-for-note trumpet renditions of the most popular saxophone solos of the day.

After moving to Harlem, Eldridge emerged as one of the top jazz trumpeters in the world, sought after by venues, bands, and recording studios alike—Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa were both willing to defy social convention, and sometimes law, by inviting him into their bands, using him as a featured soloist in a time when black musicians were barred from white groups.

He went on to tour in Europe under the wing of jazz impresario Norman Granz and record with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus, and Eric Dolphy through the 1950s and 60s. Even a stroke in 1970 couldn't to slow him down, as he took on the duties of bandleader at a New York jazz club for the next decade.


Just as his career serves as a microcosmic summary of jazz history, his personality typified the spirit of jazz—Granz later said of him, 'Every time he's on he does the best he can, no matter what the conditions are. And Roy is so intense about everything, so that it's far more important to him to dare, to try to achieve a particular peak, even if he falls on his ass in the attempt, than it is to play safe. That's what jazz is all about.' Ella Fitzgerald once said, speaking of Mr. Eldridge, ''He's got more soul in one note than a lot of people could get into the whole song.”

 “Eldridge, who died in 1989, ‘was a keeper—he kept stuff around,’ says Bobby Livingston VP at RR Auction, “It is an instantly impressive collection of the highest interest to any jazz aficionado.”

The Marvels of Modern Music auction will run from March 13th through March 20th, and will spotlight an amazing assortment of music memorabilia. To preview the auction go to

Images courtesy of RR Auction.