Richard M. Sudhalter, a trumpeter and cornetist who doubled as a jazz critic and author, died Sept. 19 at a hospital in New York City. The cause was multiple system atrophy, described as being similar to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Sudhalter was 69.
Sudhalter was a proponent of early jazz, performing music in the styles of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and other pioneers of the first half of the 20th century.
Sudhalter was better known, perhaps, for his writings, which included a controversial 1990 book titled Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945. In its nearly 900 pages, Sudhalter made a case for the origins of jazz being attributable to white musicians as well as black. Some fellow critics and musicians dismissed the book’s premise and lambasted the author, who continued to claim its accuracy.
Bix: Man and Legend, a biography of 1920s trumpet legend Beiderbecke, which was published two years later; Sudhalter also performed the artist’s music. During this time Sudhalter also led a 29-piece orchestra that performed the music of bandleader Paul Whiteman.
Settling in New York in 1975, Sudhalter wrote about jazz for the New York Post for nine years while continuing to perform. He also became a concert promoter and hosted a TV interview program.
In 2002, Sudhalter published a biography of songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, but in 2003 Sudhalter suffered a stroke. Although he partially recovered, he soon contracted the illness that would ultimately cause his death.