Rolf Ericson, one of the all-time, all-encompassing masters of jazz trumpet, has given up his world travels and settled in Los Angeles, where he played a break-in date Tuesday at the Biltmore's Grand Avenue Bar.
The Stockholm-born veteran, who has enjoyed long residences in Scandinavia and Germany, apologized for his accent. "I've been away so long, I've forgotten my English," he said, but if there was any hesitation in his speech there was never any doubt about his mastery of the universal language of jazz.
Ericson, a total professional, has played lead trumpet and jazz in so many settings that he has matured into a brilliantly fluent and sensitive eclectic.
From the first bars of "Sandu," a Clifford Brown line, his total control, natural phrasing and genuine blues feeling were in evidence. Alternating on trumpet and fluegelhorn, employing the latter for a lyrical treatment of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," he used devices associated with some of the Duke's men--an occasional squeezed tone a la Rex Stewart, growl solos on "Caravan" and "In a Mellotone" in the manner of Cootie Williams, his section mate in the Ellington orchestra.
Gerald Wiggins, leading the back-up trio, is an old associate who, along with Wardell Gray, worked with Ericson during his long ago California visits. With Andy Simpkins on bass and Paul Humphrey on drums, the latter evidencing a sixth sense for every accent, Ericson was totally at ease. Backing singer Ruth Price during the KKJZ broadcast segment, he was a paragon of discretion.
Already rebooked for other Biltmore dates, among them one on June 5 with Ernie Andrews, Ericson is a sure bet to become a valuable Southland presence.