Jerome Darr

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For a player who rates only three lines of biographical information in one major jazz reference book, Jerome Darr had an incredibly versatile and prolific career, showing up on sessions from blues to…
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For a player who rates only three lines of biographical information in one major jazz reference book, Jerome Darr had an incredibly versatile and prolific career, showing up on sessions from blues to bebop and even strumming a few arpeggios behind Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. He was one of many fine players to hail from Baltimore and his first major professional affiliation was in sort of a jug band, the Washboard Serenaders. The guitarist was a member of this group from 1933 through 1936, a tenure that included a well-received European tour.

Jazz researchers find great, glaring holes in Darr's activities from this point, either picking back up on him in the classic jazz context of Buddy Johnson's band in the early '50s, or wondering about his involvement with the much more modernistic Charlie Parker during roughly the same period. The guitarist was not hiding in a closet during the '40s, however: he simply focused on work as a studio musician during an era when the efforts of such players went largely uncredited.

Discographer Tom Lord, for example, lists less than 20 recording sessions in total for this artist between 1935 and 1973. Such a thin statistic indicates that the hefty, complete list of recordings Darr appears on include many other styles besides jazz. Simply fitting in may have been the main requirement in these contexts, and it is indeed difficult to pinpoint whether it is Darr or someone else such as Skeeter Best playing on some of the Lymon tracks, as studio bandleader Jimmy Wright made use of several different players. In his final years, Darr was mostly swinging in the busy band of trumpeter Jonah Jones, in a sense coming full circle with the type of playing he had started out with.