A fine soloist whose sound and style became strongly influenced by Benny Carter (who was four years his junior), Hilton Jefferson was considered a valuable musician during the swing era although he never gained much fame. Jefferson actually began his professional career as a banjoist in 1925 (with Julian Arthur's Orchestra in Philadelphia) but he soon switched permanently to alto. He worked with Claude Hopkins on four occasions (1926-28, 1932, 1934-36 and 1939), Chick Webb also four times (1929-30, 1930-31, 1936 and 1938) and had stints with King Oliver (1930), McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1931-32), Benny Carter (1932 and 1933), Henry "Red" Allen (1934) and most notably with Fletcher Henderson (1932-34 and 1936-38). Although never the main soloist, Jefferson did get his fair share of solo space with each of these orchestras and he recorded frequently. He spent the 1940's with Cab Calloway's big band and later (after the orchestra broke up) Cab's small band. Jefferson freelanced after leaving Calloway in 1949, he rejoined Cab briefly in 1951 and then was with Duke Ellington (1952-53), replacing Willie Smith in the slot formerly held by Johnny Hodges. After leaving Ellington, Jefferson only worked as a part-time musician (getting a day job as a guard at a bank) but he often popped up in mainstream settings including with Harry Dial, Noble Sissle, Rex Stewart, Buster Bailey, the Fletcher Henderson Reunion Band of 1957, Wally Edwards' Uptown Concert Band and Mercer Ellington's Orchestra. Hilton Jefferson only cut six selections as a leader in his entire career, one number apiece for Folkways and Apollo in 1946 and four titles in 1957 for Victor.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group