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Trumpeter Wrote The Book on DukeCopyright © 2001
Ken Rattenbury was a cultured exponent of traditional and mainstream jazz styles, and a very capable arranger. His lengthy career in jazz began in 1933, when he first joined a jazz band as a pianist in his native Lincolnshire. He took up trumpet by the end of the decade, and refined his skills in an Army big band during six years of service from 1940-46.
He led his own quintet while on an overseas posting with the Army, and after the war became a prominent part of the jazz scene in the Midlands, both performing live and broadcasting on radio and television. Dental problems forced him to give up trumpet for eight years from 1978, during which time he concentrated in arranging.
As well as a musician described by jazz critic Steve Voce as "an island of good taste and musicianship in the midst of the crude Trad boom of the 1950s", Rattenbury was also a fine writer on jazz. He contributed reviews to several newspapers and jazz mazagines, although he could never bring himself to be a harsh critic, even where the matter in hand deserved it.
He wrote an autobiography of his life in jazz, Jazz Journey 1925-94 (1995). His best known and most important book, however, was his detailed analytical study of the music of one of his greatest heroes, published as Duke Ellington - Jazz Composer (1990).