Booker Little

Booker Little Jr. (April 2, 1938 – October 5, 1961) was an American jazz trumpeter and composer. He appeared on many recordings in his short career, both as a sideman and as a leader. Little performed with Max Roach, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy and was strongly influenced by Sonny Rollins and Clifford Brown. He died aged 23.

Booker Little Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee to Booker, a Pullman porter who was a trombonist, and his wife Ophelia Little, who was a church organist. He also was the brother of Helena, Vivian, and Vera Little (Vera later sung with the London Opera Company). From such a musically inclined family, Little naturally gravitated towards music at a young age. His first instrument was trombone (like his father), but he switched to clarinet at the age of 12. At 14, his band director urged him to switch to trumpet, and he settled on the instrument quickly. In 1952, Little started attending Manassas High School where he continued his development on trumpet and later graduated. Being in Memphis, Little was able to further develop his talent with contemporaries such as Phineas Newborn Jr., George Coleman, Frank Strozier, and his cousin Louis Smith. He was performing with Newborn on a casual basis by his mid-teens.

After graduating, he moved to Chicago, Illinois to continue his studies at the Chicago Conservatory in 1954. At the conservatory, he continued to study trumpet but also incorporated studies in composition, theory, and orchestration with a minor in piano. He would later on graduate with a bachelor’s degree in his main instrument. As a sophomore, Little met Sonny Rollins. For about nine months, they both stayed at the YMCA where Rollins would influence Little greatly by encouraging him to find his own sound versus mimicking other musicians

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