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Benny Bailey

Benny Bailey

American musician
Benny Bailey
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American musician
A.K.A. Ernest Harold Bailey
Was Musician Trumpeter Jazz musician
From United States of America
Type Music
Gender male
Birth 13 August 1925, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Death 15 April 2005, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands (aged 79 years)
Star sign Leo
Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland, Ohio
Peoplepill ID benny-bailey
The details


Benny Bailey (13 August 1925 – 14 April 2005) was an American jazz trumpeter remembered for his performance on "Cold Duck Time" and "Compared to What" tracks, part of June 1969 soul-jazz live album Swiss Movement (at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland).

Life and career

Benny Bailey was born Ernest Harold Bailey on August 13, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. In his early years, he studied piano and flute before switching to trumpet. 

After finishing his music education at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music, Bailey worked in the 1940s with Bull Moose JacksonScatman Crothers, and Jay McShann.

He was influenced by Cleveland native Tadd Dameron and had a significant influence on other Cleveland musicians, such as saxophonist Albert Ayler, bassist Bob Cunningham, pianist Bobby Few, trumpeter Bill Hardman, and saxophonist Frank Wright. Bailey also played with Tony Lovano, father of saxophonist/alto clarinetist/flautist/drummer Joe Lovano.

In 1947-48, he played with saxophonist Teddy Edwards and the Dizzy Gillespie big band and then gained some recognition as an important member of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra (1948—53). 

Bailey left Hampton during a European tour, becoming an expatriate. He spent time in Sweden, where he worked with Harry Arnold's big band (1957-59). In addition, he recorded with saxophonist Stan Getz and joined Quincy Jones on his European tour of 1959. He preferred big bands over small groups and became associated with several big bands in Europe, including the big band of drummer Kenny Clarke and Belgian pianist Francy Boland

In 1960, Bailey returned to the United States and recorded a classic album Big Bass for Candid Records. He was also invited to the studio as part of Freddie Redd's sextet to record Redd's Blues after meeting the pianist during a tour in Sweden. 

He returned to Europe, first to Germany, then Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he settled permanently.

He recorded with Eric Dolphy (1961), and toured with Swiss pianist George Gruntz's Concert Jazz Band.

In 1969, he played on Eddie Harris and Les McCann's album Swiss Movement, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, although it was not his usual style of music. The album was a hit record, as was the accompanying single "Compared to What", with both selling millions of units.

In 1986, Bailey was a member of Nathan DavisParis Reunion band.

Over the years, he has recorded as a leader for many European labels, including Sonet, Metronome, Saba, Freedom, Enja, Ego, Iazzcraft, Hot House, Gemini, and Mons, and has appeared as a sideman on many records.

Despite all of his accomplishments, Bailey's fiery trumpet solo on "Cold Duck Time" (from the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival) remains his main claim to fame.

Video: Compared to What

Bailey was actively recording and touring in his later years. In 1988, he worked with British clarinetist Tony Coe and recorded albums until 2000 when he was in his mid-70s. In 2000, he recorded a well-received tribute to Louis Armstrong titled The Satchmo Legacy.


Bailey passed away on April 15, 2005, at his home in Amsterdam. He was 79.


  • Quincy - Here We Come (Metronome, 1959) also released as The Music of Quincy Jones by Argo in 1961
  • Big Brass (Candid, 1960)
  • Soul Eyes (MPS 1968)
  • Folklore in Swing (MPS, 1966)
  • The Balkan in My Soul (MPS, 1968)
  • Soul Eyes: Jazz Live at the Domicile Munich (MPS 1968)
  • Mirrors (The Amazing Benny Bailey) (Freedom 1971)
  • Islands (Enja 1976)
  • Serenade to a Planet (Ego, 1976)
  • East of Isar with Sal Nistico (Ego, 1978)
  • Grand Slam (Jazzcraft, 1978)
  • While My Lady Sleeps (Gemini, 1990)
  • No Refill (TCB, 1994)
  • Angel Eyes (Laika, 1995)
  • Peruvian Nights (TCB, 1996)
  • I Thought About You (Laika, 1996)
  • The Satchmo Legacy (Enja, 2000)

With Count Basie

  • Basie in Sweden (Roulette, 1962)

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

  • Jazz Is Universal (Atlantic, 1962)
  • Handle with Care (Atlantic, 1963)
  • Now Hear Our Meanin' (Columbia, 1965 [1963])
  • Swing, Waltz, Swing (Philips, 1966)
  • Sax No End (SABA, 1967)
  • Out of the Folk Bag (Columbia, 1967)
  • 17 Men and Their Music (Campi, 1967)
  • All Smiles (MPS, 1968)
  • Faces (MPS, 1969)
  • Latin Kaleidoscope (MPS, 1969)
  • Fellini 712 (MPS, 1969)
  • All Blues (MPS, 1969)
  • More Smiles (MPS, 1969)
  • Clarke Boland Big Band en Concert avec Europe 1 (Tréma, 1992 [1969])
  • Off Limits (Polydor, 1970)
  • November Girl with Carmen McRae (Black Lion, 1975 [1970])
  • Change of Scenes with Stan Getz (Verve, 1971)

With Eric Dolphy

  • Berlin Concerts (1961)

With Stan Getz

  • Imported from Europe (Verve, 1958)

With Benny Golson

  • Stockholm Sojourn (Prestige, 1964)

With Dexter Gordon

  • Sophisticated Giant (Columbia, 1977)
  • Revelation (SteepleChase, 1995 [1974])
  • The Rainbow People (Steeplechase, 2002 [1974])
  • Round Midnight (SteepleChase, 1991 [1974])

With Quincy Jones

  • Quincy's Home Again (Metronome, 1958) - also released as Harry Arnold + Big Band + Quincy Jones = Jazz! (EmArcy)
  • I Dig Dancers (Mercury, 1960)
  • Quincy Plays for Pussycats (Mercury, 1965 [1959-65])

With Billy Mitchell

  • De Lawd's Blues (Xanadu, 1980)

With Freddie Redd

  • Redd's Blues (Blue Note, 1961)

With Charlie Rouse

  • The Upper Manhattan Jazz Society (Enja, 1985 [1981])

With Sahib Shihab

  • Companionship (Vogue Schallplatten, 1971 [1964-70])

With Randy Weston

  • Uhuru Afrika (Roulette, 1960)

With Jimmy Witherspoon

  • Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues (Prestige, 1964)

With Phil Woods

  • Rights of Swing (Candid, 1961)
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