[Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt, Bob Havens, and Eternity

Bill Biffle bbiffle at swcp.com
Wed Feb 12 11:39:08 PST 2003

I first got excited about playing the trumpet partially, at least, from
discovering Al Hirt live on radio from  New Orleans very late at night -
would have been in the very late '50s.  With my head under the covers and an
AM radio tuned into that faraway station, I was blown away,  I'd literally
never heard anything like it.

Later on, when I got more "sophisticated", I disparaged his playing a bit,
which was the vogue, of course.  Now, having rediscovered his playing in my
efforts to listen to as much "Dixieland style" music as possible, I do like
his talent, his tone, and his energy for the task.  Commercial?  Sure.  Fun?

Bill Biffle
Albuquerque, New Mexico

----- Original Message -----
From: Patrick Cooke <patcooke at cox.net>
To: DJML <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>; Dan Augustine
<ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 12:26 PM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt, Bob Havens, and Eternity

> >>and then i played Hirt's first LP for Audio
> Fidelity (AFLP 1877, from 1958) called "Al Hirt Swingin' Dixie! at
> Dan's Pier 600 in New Orleans", not expecting very much.  I mean, i
> don't think i've played it in 10 years, and only maybe five times in
> the last 40 years.  But (and here's where i'm coming to my point), i <<<
> No need to apologize for liking Al Hirt, Dan.  During his prime he was an
> absolutely dazzling trumpet player.  The records he made when he was at
> Dan's were some of the best.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line his
> health started to deteriorate, and his playing went downhill as well.
> Sadly, he still recorded as his playing declined; and many base their
> opinions of his playing on what they heard on these recordings.
>     I was at his last performance before he died...it was pitiful.  He had
> more than a few ailments, and had to be helped onto the stand; and when he
> started to play, he was awful....He sounded like a beginner, or worse.  It
> seemed like the longest set I ever sat through.  It was so sad,
> how he played when he was on top.
>      No, he never sounded like Louis, or Bunk; and I never  thought he was
> supposed to, nor did Al.  In fact I never thought that any player was
> supposed to sound like another player.  I always thought the idea was to
> play a little different from all the others.  Al was different enough for
> the purists to dislike him, though most of them couldn't begin to play
> anything close to his playing.   But then, there are no purists on this
> list........are there?
>       Pat Cooke
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Dan Augustine" <ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu>
> To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
> Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 11:38 PM
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt, Bob Havens, and Eternity
> > Folks--
> >      The following is going to seem a little disjointed, but hang in
> > there, i do have a point (yeah, and if i comb my hair right,
> > nobody'll notice).
> >      This coming Monday night Ed Polcer's Jazz All-Stars is giving a
> > concert in town, and a friend and neighbor of mine (Jeff Van Horn,
> > president of the Austin Traditional Jazz Society) wondered if i had
> > any recordings by him, as Jeff was going to do a radio interview
> > about the concert.  As it happened, i did have the CD called "Coast
> > to Coast Swingin' Jazz" (Jazzology JCD-198), which has Bob Havens
> > playing trombone.  (The concert here has Dan Barrett on trombone.)
> > The radio fellow (a trombonist himself) was blown away by Havens,
> > never having heard him play before.  Jeff said he was going to make
> > him a recording of other tunes that Havens plays on, and i said i'd
> > do the same. Upon further reflection by each of us, we agreed that
> > Havens is one of our favorite (maybe _the_ favorite) trombonists.  I
> > looked in my collection and found a number of recordings that Havens
> > is on, and i made a short CD of a number of tunes, mostly from the
> > Great Pacific Jazz Band's cassette called "Music of Louis Armstrong"
> > (it's a major crime that this is not on CD).
> >      But i also have four albums by Al Hirt from the 1950's that
> > Havens plays on (plus some George Girard cuts on other albums), and
> > he's especially good on the one that Pete Fountain is also on
> > ("Blockbustin' Dixie" is one of the album-names). So i listened to a
> > couple of songs on it, and then i played Hirt's first LP for Audio
> > Fidelity (AFLP 1877, from 1958) called "Al Hirt Swingin' Dixie! at
> > Dan's Pier 600 in New Orleans", not expecting very much.  I mean, i
> > don't think i've played it in 10 years, and only maybe five times in
> > the last 40 years.  But (and here's where i'm coming to my point), i
> > really enjoyed it.
> >      Aha, i see your gag reflex competing for ascendancy with the
> > finger reaching for the delete-key, but hold on a second.  I, like
> > everyone else, am under no compulsion to justify what i like to you,
> > so i don't have to try to explain why i like something, just as you
> > don't have to justify to me your knock-kneed and totally indefensible
> > devotion to the twitterings of Crazy Otto.  Whatever.  It's OK to
> > like what you like.
> >      However, let us examine the Al Hirt recordings in a more
> > historical light: the players are all technically excellent (Harold
> > Cooper on the clarinet), who play in tune, with good tone.  The
> > arrangements are good, and occasionally inventive and even humorous
> > (cf. "Saints").  While Hirt does try to play faster, louder, and
> > higher than everyone, and while stylistically what he plays is not
> > (shall we say) in the mainstream of dixieland expressions, his
> > playing is interesting and doesn't make me bolt for the tone-arm (as
> > some players with foul intonation make me do).  Harold Cooper acquits
> > himself admirably, but the playing of Bob Havens is an ill-remembered
> > joy to hear.  He has such a chorus-long melodic invention, along with
> > superb chops, that i feel guilty not playing these records for so
> > long.  (Bob, if you're reading this, bless you for being such a great
> > player.)
> >      We all know people who dislike or hate music of some type, while
> > others equally knowledgeable like or love the same stuff.  That's
> > normal.  (Robert A. Heinlein had a line about 'experts', saying that
> > you can always find one 'expert' to say the other one is a
> > diamond-studded liar.)  But who cares?  Unfortunately, we do.  We
> > tend to be influenced by the fear of what others will say, so we
> > don't say anything at all, which just confirms and continues the
> > problem.
> >      Well, to hell with you then, if you think this way.  I like ol'
> > Al Hirt and Bob Havens and Harold Cooper, the (Assunto) Dukes of
> > Dixleland, the Firehouse Five Plus Two, and even Kenny Ball, the
> > Village Stompers, and Pee Wee Hunt.  I also like Jelly Roll Morton,
> > the Condon gang, the Queen City JB, High Sierra, Caoba JB, the
> > Society Syncopators, Bob Schulz, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Sandy
> > Lopicic Orkestar, and lots of others.  To me, 'art' is something you
> > can experience multiple times with pleasure, and i get pleasure
> > (different kinds, to be sure) from listening to all these bands and
> > players.  It doesn't bother me if you don't like them; i'm sure you
> > like stuff i have no use for.  But let's not step on others'
> > pleasure, shall we?  It's OK to like what you like.
> >
> >      Dan
> > --
> > **--------------------------------------------------------------------**
> > **  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
> > **    "I can't sing. As a singist I am not a success. I am saddest    **
> > **     when I sing. So are those who hear me. They are sadder even    **
> > **     than I am."  --  Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne)          **
> > **--------------------------------------------------------------------**
> >
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