Tut Soper

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Little is known about Tut Soper, and he seems to have made very few recordings, so why should we care about him? The answer to this question materializes when we consider the many accomplished Chicago…
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Little is known about Tut Soper, and he seems to have made very few recordings, so why should we care about him? The answer to this question materializes when we consider the many accomplished Chicago musicians who considered him solid enough for regular employment in their various bands. The earliest definitive example would be Tut's inclusion in an ill-fated dance orchestra that never made any recordings. This band was being assembled and polished for a steady gig at the Paradise Ballroom by Frank Teschemacher and Wild Bill Davison. The project was postponed forever when Tesch was mortally injured in a ghastly automobile accident in the early morning hours of the first day of March, 1932. It was Tut himself who stated years later that, from that point onward, the ensemble was "doomed." In the days and weeks following the demise of his friend, Wild Bill (who had been driving the car from which Tesch was thrown) couldn't hold himself or the band together.

Tut proceeded to develop his career as a popular solo act. He found additional work with reedmen Bud Freeman, Boyce Brown, and Orville "Bud" Jacobson, and with trumpeter Johnny Mendel. Tut also performed with drummer Danny Alvin and with Frank Snyder, who played drums with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1922. While hot jazz was artistically rewarding, Tut found greater monetary security working with popular hotel-orchestra leader George Olsen. The great recorded legacy of this grievously overlooked pianist consists of six duets he recorded with master percussionist Warren "Baby" Dodds. Five of these sides, recorded January 31, 1944, can be found on Jazz & Blues Piano Vol. 2: 1924-1947. With Tut sounding at times a bit like Earl Hines, these tasty stomps provide a tangible context for his reputation as a mainstay of traditional Chicago jazz. The only other session involving this pianist that has come to light is a 1957 Dixie revival date led by guitarist/vocalist Marty Grosz, released on Riverside as Hooray for Bix! and reissued in 2000 on the Good Time Jazz label. Tut's impact upon the evolution of jazz in Chicago was greater than this handful of obscure phonograph records can ever demonstrate. His story serves as a reminder that the real history of this music is a mosaic of many individual lives; it runs much deeper and is far more intricate than the standard pantheon of famous names and familiar faces.