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Arthur Briggs

A fine early trumpeter whose cousin was tuba player Pete Briggs (who recorded with Louis Armstrong's Hot Seven in 1927), Arthur Briggs spent most of his life living in Europe, leading to his eventual obscurity in the U.S. Briggs started playing trumpet as a youth and performed in the 369th U.S. Infantry Band but was too young at the time to be shipped overseas during World War I. He first visited Europe as a member of Will Marion Cook's Southern Syncopated Orchestra in June 1919, an ensemble that included Sidney Bechet. After playing in England and France, he returned home with the band in 1921. A short stint with Leslie Howard's Orchestra followed and then he went back to Europe in 1922, forming his own Savoy Syncopated Orchestra which was based in Belgium. Other engagements found the band playing in Vienna and in Germany (1926-1928). Briggs worked with Noble Sissle off and on in Europe during 1928-1930, visiting the U.S. with Sissle briefly in 1931 before returning overseas. In the '30s, Briggs co-led a band with pianist Freddy Johnson, led several of his own groups, recorded with Coleman Hawkins (1935) and Django Reinhardt, and was considered one of the best trumpeters in Europe, even playing in Egypt. During the latter part of World War II under the Nazi occupation, Briggs spent time in a concentration camp but fortunately survived and resumed his playing career in 1945. He gigged regularly in France into the mid-'60s, becoming a music teacher and a professor in 1964. Arthur Briggs' Savoy Syncopators' Orchestra recorded no less than 64 selections in Berlin during 1927, primarily dance band numbers with some jazz solos. He also led one session apiece in 1929, 1933 (four numbers backed by Freddy Johnson), 1940 (four cuts with a band that includes Django Reinhardt), 1945 (two titles), and ten selections with a studio orchestra in 1951. All of Arthur Briggs' recordings as a leader (other than the 1933 and 1940 dates) are very obscure.
© Scott Yanow /TiVo


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