Big band trumpeter Chris Griffin dead at 89

Chris Griffin, a member of the acclaimed trumpet section in Benny Goodman's big-band orchestra, has died. Griffin, 89, died June 18 at Danbury Hospital. The cause was melanoma, according to his fiancee, Louise Baranger.

Griffin was a member of what critics called “The Biting Brass” trumpet threesome in Goodman's orchestra, playing alongside Harry James and Ziggy Elman. Duke Ellington once called the three “the greatest trumpet section that ever was.”
Griffin played with the orchestra from 1936 to 1939 and performed in the famous 1938 concert in Carnegie Hall. The concert was a critical moment for swing music, because it was the first time the music, popular with youth, played in a hallowed music hall. Born in Binghamton, N.Y., on Oct. 31, 1915, Griffin learned to play the horn at age 12 and moved to New York City as a teen to become a musician. After leaving Goodman's orchestra, he went on to play lead trumpet in television orchestras, including the “Ed Sullivan Show” and the “Jackie Gleason Show.”

In the final years, he dictated his memoirs, “Sitting in with Chris Griffin.” His wife, Helen, died in 2000, and he became engaged to Baranger, a jazz trumpeter and arranger.

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