Gordon, Claude (1916-1996) | University of Illinois Archives
Claude E. Gordon (1916 - 1996) was born into a family of musicians in Helena, Montana. He became a professional cornetist at the age of eight, a "private music instructor" at fourteen, and the leader of his own eight-piece jazz band by the time he was sixteen. He also was an accomplished accordion player and gave performances on both the cornet and accordion for radio shows in Great Falls, Montana. Claude moved to Los Angeles, California to study cornet with Herbert L. Clarke from 1936 through 1945. Gordon was hired by the May Company in April 1938 to record accordion commercials. Donald Ricardo hired Gordon on May 6, 1938 to play accordion with the NBC Orchestra. In 1939, Claude was cast as the gypsy accordion player in the Universal Studio's motion picture musical, An Old Spanish Custom, later renamed In Rhumba Land. During the 1950s Gordon emerged as one of Hollywood's frequently sought-after jazz trumpet soloists. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Gordon toured the United States with his orchestra, performing at such venues as Hollywood's Palladium Theater and New York City's Roseland Ballroom. Gordon's big band won the national title of "Best Dance Band" in a 1959 contest sponsored by the American Federation of Musicians.
By the mid-1960s Gordon rededicated his life to teaching, establishing himself as a leading educator of the cornet and trumpet. He taught at several different colleges and universities on America's west coast, and established a summer brass camp for music students of all ages and abilities. He wrote several method books: Systematic Approach to Daily Practice, Daily Trumpet Routines, and Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing, among others. It is reasonably safe to say that Herbert L. Clarke strongly influenced Gordon to write Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing. Additionally, Gordon edited the Clarke-Gordon Technical Studies for Bass Clef, annotated Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet, and created the educational videotape series, The Seven Natural Elements of Brass Playing. Gordon also worked with the Selmer Music Company in the 1980s to develop their "Claude Gordon" model, an instrument that became a "standard" for their modern trumpet design. The "Claude Gordon Method" as his books, video tapes and teachings are referred to, continues to influence new students of brass playing. It will continue to be his legacy.