The 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.