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George Stevenson

Trombonist George Stevenson recorded and performed with a wide range of swing and classic jazz bandleaders over the course of nearly a half a century of professional playing, but his roots were in dance bands during the Roaring Twenties. Some of these outfits sported unusual, even exotic names including Harold Stepteau & His Aristocrats and Norwood Fennan & His Nubians. The Stevenson family is itself highly musical: the trombonist's brother was a pianist, as their father was also, while son George Stevenson, Jr., wound up turning to the trombone for a creative outlet.

Senior trombonist Stevenson was only 15 when he joined the Baltimore Melody Boys. This ensemble was fronted by music teacher A.J. Thomas, who had taught Stevenson saxophone as well as his eventual permanent horn choice. Following four years of loyalty, Stevenson moved over to an earlier group led by the aforementioned Stepteau, this one utilizing the popular Melody Boys moniker. Stevenson shortly shanghaied the name itself when starting up his own Baltimore Melody Boys in the mid-'20s.

He put this group aside a few years later and relocated to New York City, working at venues such as the Arcadia Ballroom with bandleader Irwin Hughes as well as stepping out of town for Stepteau tours. As the '30s progressed the trombonist's involvements became more and more swinging and by the middle of this decade he was playing with Fletcher Henderson and Claude Hopkins, among others. One of his longer stints was with Lucky Millinder, lasting from 1939 through 1943.

From here Stevenson began working through the '40s with several superb trumpeters: Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, and finally Roy Eldridge in 1947. He was known mostly as a freelancer from this period on, gigging with fine classic jazz bandleaders but rarely staying put for long. He toured Europe with Sam Price's Bluesicians from late 1955 through the spring of 1956. Stevenson worked in and out of New York City over the ensuing decade, at times leading his own combo in Wantagh, NY, and in the late '60s holding forth as part of the mob at Big Apple venue Jimmy Ryan's. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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