Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Chu Berry was considered one of the top tenor saxophonists of the 1930s, just below Coleman Hawkins (his main influence), Lester Young, and Ben Webster. Particularly strong on up-tempo numbers (although his ballad statements could be overly sentimental), Berry might have become an influential force if he had not died prematurely. After playing alto in college, he switched to tenor in 1929 when he joined Sammy Stewart's band. In 1930, he moved to New York, playing with Benny Carter's band and Charlie Johnson's orchestra. He was prominently featured in Spike Hughes' 1933 recording sessions, was a star with the bands of Teddy Hill (1933-1935) and Fletcher Henderson (1936; to whom he contributed his song "Christopher Columbus"), and then found a permanent home with Cab Calloway in 1937. Berry was used on many sessions including with his friend Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton (a classic version of "Sweethearts on Parade"), Teddy Wilson, and Calloway (his version of "Ghost of a Chance" became well-known); in addition he led a couple of his own fine dates. Chu Berry died from the effects of a car crash when he was just 31.