Never a household name, John Letman nevertheless had a long and frequently productive career as a solid and swinging trumpeter. He worked with Gerald Valentine in Illinois, Scat Man Crothers and Jimmy Raschelle in Columbus, OH, and then spent time playing in Chicago with Delbert Bright, Bob Tinsley, Johnny Lang, Nat King Cole (1938), Horace Henderson (1941-1942), Red Saunders (1942), and other local players. After a period living in Detroit (where he worked with Teddy Buckner and John Kirby), Letman settled in New York in 1944 and played with many groups including the Phil Moore Four, Lucky Millinder (1945), Cab Calloway (1947-1949), Milt Buckner, and the Count Basie Orchestra (1951). Letman spent the '50s and '60s mostly working in the studios, on television, and in Broadway shows although he also headed his own combo and recorded occasionally in jazz settings including (during 1958-1960) with Joe Thomas, Stuff Smith, Chubby Jackson, and Panama Francis. Letman freelanced for years, playing with Sam "The Man" Taylor, Eddie Condon, Wilbur De Paris, Claude Hopkins, and many others. He visited Paris in 1968 and made a few recordings (including with Tiny Grimes and Milt Buckner). Letman stayed busy in the '70s, recording (in 1977) with Lionel Hampton, Cozy Cole, and Earl Hines. His New Orleans Blues Serenaders toured Europe during 1985-1986. Letman recorded as a leader in 1959 (four titles with a quartet that includes pianist Dick Wellstood), 1960 (a quintet album for Bethlehem) and Black & Blue (1968 with Hal Singer and Milt Buckner) in addition to participating on many dates as a sideman.
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