Birthday Celebration For Alphonso Trent | Arts & Culture
Celebrate the birthday of Fort Smith native and well-known jazz musician, Alphonso Trent. October 24 at 12:00 noon, enjoy for a free lunch hour jazz concert on the sidewalk in front of the Fort Smith Museum of History. Hosted by the Lincoln Echo, the concert features Rev. Ronald D. Meyers, M. D. with Eddie Dunn and Earlton Batles Manley.
Alphonso Trent was born in Fort Smith in 1902 to E. O. and Hattie Trent, well-respected community leaders. At an early age, Alphonso began studying with local piano teacher
W. O. Wiley. Proving to be a gifted pianist, he began performing with local professional bands and orchestras while in his teens. He soon organized his own group, which first performed in Eureka Springs. In the spring of 1925, the musicians traveled to Dallas, Texas and were booked to play in the ballroom of the Adolphus Hotel. The performances were broadcast on WFAA radio station, the first broadcasts of their kind for a black orchestra. The orchestra was established as an important and influential musical organization.
In 1928, the Alphonso Trent Orchestra made its first of four recordings. That year, the orchestra played its only engagement in New York City at the Savoy Ballroom. Following a disastrous fire at the Plantation Club in Cleveland, Ohio which destroyed the orchestra’s instruments and musical library, Trent returned to Fort Smith in 1931. Although the group continued to play under Trent’s name, Alphonso played locally in Fort Smith nightclubs until his death in 1959.
Although the Trent Orchestra was not well known nationally, it was a sophisticated orchestra, which played in the finest ballrooms and hotels. Alphonso Trent was acknowledged as a superb musician. Jimmie Lunceford, in an article Esquire’s 1947 Jazz Book, states, “I’d say that Trent’s band gave inspiration to more young musicians than any other.”