James Blanton (October 5, 1918 – July 30, 1942) was an American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists. Nicknamed “Jimmie,” Blanton’s nickname is usually misspelled as “Jimmy,” including by Duke Ellington.
Blanton was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable.
Blanton left university in 1938 to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra. Blanton joined Duke Ellington‘s band in 1939. On November 22 of that year, Blanton and Ellington recorded two tracks – “Blues” and “Plucked Again” – which were the first commercially recorded piano–bass duets. Further duet recordings were made in 1940, and Blanton was also featured in orchestra tracks.“Blanton also took part in a few of the informal jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse in New York that contributed to the genesis of the bop style.”He had to leave Ellington’s band near the end of 1941, because of poor health. In 1941, Blanton was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Blanton died on July 30, 1942, at a sanatorium in Duarte, California, aged 23.