Snooky Young, whose one solo at the Lionel Hampton Festival was a highlight of the entire week, has been exciting people with his trumpet playing since he was a teenaged member of the Wilberforce Collegians. During the swing era, when it was not unusual for sidemen to become famous, he was one of the best known members of Jimmie Lunceford’s influential band. He went on to work with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Les Hite, Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, Gerald Wilson, Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland and the Tonight Show band. Young was the prototype of the great lead trumpeter who was also a distinguished soloist. One memorable night on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson wished Young a happy birthday and brought him down front to play and sing. You can see and hear him in his triumphal moment in this video clip.
That rocked! As a former trumpet player myself, guys like Snooky deserve the moniker “living legend.” He also demonstrates one of the most basic components of why Jazz is so extraordinary. No, it’s not Swing, as Wynton Marsalis would want you to believe, it’s just the pure Joy of playing and being alive.
Louis Armstrong also exemplified this quality, whereby the listener can’t help but be awash in good feelings, even when the musical expression has a sad or poignant quality. It’s also to me what separates Jazz from many other types of music, and what attracts jazz artists to incorporate other music with similar vibes in their own expression (Brazilian music, for instance).
All hail Snooky! And a big raspberry to Ken Burns for not including guys like Snooky and Benny Carter.
He was also part of the touring ensemble that traveled with Doc Severinsen, performing live concert dates, corporate events, and headling shows in the main rooms of Las Vegas. The one nighters usually occurred on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, as Doc was committed to the Tonight Show weeknights. Snooky performed nightly with Doc, and he was featured prominently for several solos, as well as a trumpet version of “Dueling Banjos.” Snooky was the musical centerpiece of the orchestra, and was always helpful, supportive, and encouraging to the younger players on the bandstand. He also was well known throughout the country, and airport skycaps would frequently get his attention by offering compliments about different projects that he had played on. He would always take a moment to chat with his fans & friends.