DAMERON, TADLEY “TADD” EWING was born Tadley Ewing Peake  (February 14, 1917- March 8, 1965) in Cleveland to Ruth Harris Dameron (then Ruth Harris Peake) and Isaiah Peake. By 1924, his parents had divorced and his mother remarried Aldophus Dameron, who adopted Dameron. Although he never became a household name, Dameron continues to be viewed as an influential JAZZ pianist and composer, especially for his work connecting bebop and big band. His important contributions to the jazz scene and sound highlights the importance of the Cleveland jazz scene in American jazz. Despite not being as pronounced as New Orleans or New York, Cleveland’s influence on the American jazz sound cannot be denied, as highlighted by artists like Dameron.

Dameron grew up in a musically-inclined family in a city with a budding jazz scene. Various accounts credit Caesar, Dameron’s older brother and a jazz saxophonist, with bringing him to a jazz club for the first time. However, his connections to the Cleveland jazz scene extended beyond his brother; one of his classmates from CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, Freddie Webster, was a talented jazz trumpeter, who also heavily influenced the jazz scene. Regardless of the true circumstances surrounding his entrance to the Cleveland jazz scene, by 1938, he was performing with Blanche Calloway and writing arrangements for other musicians, such as Freddie Webster and Zack Whyte. By 1940, he had left Cleveland to advance his career and in 1942, he met and worked with Dizzy Gillespie. Outside of Dizzy Gillespie, Dameron also worked with Sarah Vaughan, creating “If You Could See Me Now;” Fats Navarro, who was a trumpet in his band; and Miles Davis. By the end of the 1940s, Dameron had built strong connections within the international jazz scene.

Despite this, Dameron still attempted to branch outside of the bebop jazz sphere. In 1951, Dameron began to work with “BULL MOOSE” JACKSON, an R&B artist also from Cleveland. In 1956, Dameron collaborated with John Coltrane, creating "Mating Call". In 1958, he was incarcerated for drug-related offenses for three years. After being released in 1961, Dameron continued to produce music but struggled as a result of his declining health. He passed in 1965, after surviving multiple heart attacks and cancer. Despite some accounts, Dameron had no children. His mother, brother, and wife (Mia Soper) held his funeral in New York City. His remains rest at Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum.

Dameron’s work served as an important bridge between big band and bebop. Although largely forgotten by the mainstream audience, jazz musicians and scholars acknowledge his importance in the progression of jazz. Dameron’s arrangement style and collaborations with other jazz greats enabled his legacy and influence to remain in the jazz scene despite his relative obscurity.

Michele Lew

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