• Africatown Media

#TBT - 100 Years ago one of the best jazz schools in America was in the CD.

What is today know as the Chinatown / ID neighborhood was the home of the Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxaphone and was a hotbed of Black music and culture.

The #TBT series is a collaboration between the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and Africatown Seattle to give historical insights and perspectives into Black history and Black contributions in the Seattle area and Washington State as a whole.

Frank D. Waldron was one of the most influential musicians and teachers in the first half of Seattle’s 20th century jazz scene. Waldron was born in San Francisco in 1890 and by 1907 he was living in Seattle.

Waldron remained in Seattle through World War 1 and played music at a dance pavilion frequented by soldiers from Camp Lewis (now Fort Lewis). Following the war, he played in various bands including the Wang Dang Doodle Orchestra and the Odean Jazz Orchestra. The latter band played downtown Seattle at the Nanking Café (1616 ½ 4th Avenue) at a time when it was rare for black musicians to play downtown venues.

Waldron established himself as a teacher with a unique style. He opened The Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxophone in 1919 in the heart of Seattle’s emerging jazz district at 1242 S. Jackson Street. Waldron was an expert saxophonist and trumpeter, and while many teachers would teach the basics of sight-reading, tonguing, and phrasing, he added ear-training and improvisation to his instructional techniques. For the next few decades his students would include some of Seattle’s top musicians including Quincy Jones, Buddy Catlett, Jabo Ward, and Barney Hilliard.

Waldron self-published a 32-page saxophone tutorial book, Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic in 1924. Utilizing nine of his original compositions as a vehicle to demonstrate the latest techniques of the era, he left behind a brilliant written collection of 1920s instrumental music. Waldron never recorded his music.

Local musician, Greg Ruby received funding in 2015 through King County 4Culture Heritage Programs to research, write and present compositions of Seattle jazz musician Frank D. Waldron. Ruby completely re-notated all nine songs, attending to the detail of each nuance and making every attempt to replicate the originals.The outcome is Waldron’s Syncopated Classics recorded by Greg Ruby & The Rhythm Runners.

Photos of Waldron and his band members are rare. The Black Heritage Society of Washington State holds three original images in its collection.

Here is a link that provides an opportunity to hear Greg Ruby & The Rhythm Runners play Waldron’s Syncopated Classics.

Waldron’s home in Seattle’s Squire Park neighborhood still stands.

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