Jack Sheldon: He’s Alive

Sheldon Playin' It StraightThe cover photo of the out-of-print 1981 album to the left appears to show Jack Sheldon playing his trumpet left-handed. Whether someone reversed the picture by mistake or as an ironic turn on the album title is beside the point. It turned out to be prophetic.

Left-handed is the only way Sheldon can play now. His ability to do so is a testament to his courage in fighting his way back following a stroke that deprived him of the use of his right arm. He was forced to retool or stop playing. Nor has he let misfortune dissuade him from the singing that brought him as much fame as his trumpet and his comedy. Doug McIntyre’s Los Angeles Daily News story about the 82-year-old Sheldon’s comeback makes it plain that the stroke left the trumpeter-singer’s comic wit undamaged.

After 60 years on stage Sheldon vanished behind the gates of his Hollywood Hills home. Rumors of Jack sightings occasionally circulated though the jazz world, with the “Jazz Times” magazine erroneously reporting Sheldon’s death in 2012.

“I’m only slightly dead,” Sheldon said when told of his demise.

To read all of McIntyre’s report, go here.

Here is the title track from Playin’ It Straight, Sheldon doing just that with Alan Broadbent, piano; Pete Christlieb, baritone saxophone; Tommy Newsom, alto sax; Mundell Lowe, guitar; Joel DiBartolo, bass and Ed Shaugnessy, drums. The piece was included in a compilation album at the dawn of the CD era in the early 1980s.

While we’re at it, in case you’ve forgotten how good Sheldon was at 25, here he is with bassist Curtis Counce’s Quintet in 1956. Harold Land is the tenor saxophonist, Carl Perkins the pianist, Frank Butler the drummer. Land’s composition is the title track from the first of the band’s several albums for the Contemporary label. Concord, the custodian of the Contemporary catalog, seems to have let the CD go out of print, but the album is available as an MP3 download.

Best wishes to Jack Sheldon as he recovers.

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Comments

  1. Don Conner says

    Thanks for posting Mr. McIintyre’s article on Jack Sheldon & the Curtis Counce cut with Jack. The latter had me running & leaping through the stacks to see if have it, I don’t, but I have two sides with the same group on Contemporary.By the way, my AMG book has Scott Yanow’s review stating that Playin’ it Straight was made on Nov.13 and Nov. 14, 1980. No big deal, but completists might want to know

  2. Terry Martin says

    Among the ‘middle of the road’ Jazz fans, mention Jack Sheldon and you get a blank. He’s overlooked, at least in the U.K. I know that sounds an exaggeration; how could anyone overlook Jack Sheldon? Speaking for myself, he’s got it all. He was the only one of two trumpet players who got near Dizzy Gillespie in the 50s, then Miles came on the scene and it got easier. I really hope he can get along with the left-handed fingering, but he’s probably been fooling around with it for years. Don’t give up the ship, Jack.

  3. says

    I couldn’t be happier hearing the news that Jack Sheldon is alive and playing again. Good luck with rehab, Jack. I know that road is a bumpy one, but things will smooth out eventually. I’ve been a fan for such along time and wish you all the best forever.

  4. Mike Davis says

    Don’t you dare fall off the perch yet, Jack—the Falcon Club still needs every member it can retain.