In Duke Ellington's Orchestra through the years, there have usually been three different types of trumpet soloists: the wa-wa specialist (starting with Bubber Miley and continuing with Cootie Williams and Ray Nance), a lyrical player (Arthur Whetsol and later Harold "Shorty" Baker), and a "hot" soloist. The latter chair was started by Freddie Jenkins and later on filled by Rex Stewart, Taft Jordan, Willie Cook, Clark Terry, and others. And although he did not play all that high compared to later trumpeters, Jenkins could be considered the first high-note trumpeter with Ellington (a chair later filled by Wallace Jones, Al Killian, and Cat Anderson).
Unfortunately, bad health cut Jenkins' career short. He first started playing trumpet in a boys' military band. He attended Wilberforce University, worked with Edgar Hayes and Horace Henderson's Collegians (1924-1928), and in 1928 joined Duke Ellington. One can view him taking a fine solo on "Old Man Blues" in the 1930 film Check and Double Check. Jenkins was on many records with Ellington during a six-year period, and was considered a crowd pleaser. However, a serious lung ailment forced him to leave Ellington in 1934. After a year off he returned to playing, leading his own group. Jenkins was with Luis Russell a bit in 1936, had a second stint with Ellington during 1937-1938, and then broke away to co-lead a group with Hayes Alvis. But late in 1938, his lungs began ailing again and he had to quit playing permanently. His later jobs included being a songwriter, press agent, disc jockey, and press correspondent. Ironically, Freddie Jenkins would live another 40 years after his "retirement," becoming one of the last survivors from Duke Ellington's Cotton Club Orchestra. His one session as a leader was a very good one, six numbers in 1935 for Bluebird that also feature fellow trumpeter Ward Pinkett, clarinetist Albert Nicholas, and guitarist Bernard Allison. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi