[Dixielandjazz] Natty Dominique

Paigevan at cs.com Paigevan at cs.com
Tue May 6 00:59:05 PDT 2003

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dominique at his home in 1975- he was a 
typical Alzheimers' case at that point, with superb recollection of things 
that happened in 1915 but no short-term memory. He kept his band going 
through most of the 1950s but finally stopped when "his heart started 
pounding whenever I get above the staff." He was still in the Union and came 
out to vote in elections as did his cohort George Mitchell, who hadn't played 
a note since the 1930s. He had a typical Creole attitude, speaking poorly of 
the guys who couldn't read: "Sidney Bechet was pretty good as far as he went. 
Couldn't read a note as big as a house." and he said the same about Freddie 
Keppard. He was proud of his reading skills and had worked hard to teach some 
of his cohorts, like Lee Collins, who was "blind," as the older New Orleans 
musicians used to say. 
Dominique had a very comfortable retirement, presumably from his earnings at 
the airport, with a comfortable apartment and a wife skilled at Creole 
cookery. He was one of several New Orleans musicians who basically learned 
their music after moving to Chicago due to the strong New Orleans culture- 
his father arranged lesson for him from Manuel Perez, who was a family friend 
(and also a cigarmaker, the Dominique family trade). Others in that same 
crowd (of Chicago-trained New Orleanians) included Preston Jackson, Omer 
Simeon, and Al Wynn, and they functioned as sort of a junior band to the 
Oliver band. They were allowed to sit in late in the evening if one of the 
Oliver regulars wanted to rest a bit and they were coached by Richard M 
Jones, who was slightly older and had had New Orleans experience in the late 
days of Storyville.  Dominique died about 1982. Natty was helped considerably 
during his life by Bill Russell, who encouraged him to renew his copyrights 
when they were about to expire in the mid-1950s; he wrote a surprisingly 
large number of tunes, including many from the Dodds Victor sessions. He was 
probably on as many classic recordings as Bix was, though, as Wayne Jones 
always reminded me, "People don't buy those records for Natty's playing." 

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