[Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt Describing His Music

custode at aol.com custode at aol.com
Wed Jan 24 08:15:31 PST 2007

I have followed this discussion, being silent until now.  Here is my take: simply put, Al Hirt was one of the greatest Trumpet Players that ever walked the face of the Earth.  Any "trumpet player" will tell you, that the way he got around the horn, incorporated classical ideas, and played with power and clarity in every range of the instrument (with the exception of the "extreme high register"...double C and up) was beyond any other player.  In fact, I will go as far as to say, no other player "could" play the way in which he did.  That being said, here is a question to ponder: "Just because he played with such technique, why was that not considered "his" jazz style?"
Jazz is a very personal idiom.  Players express themselves in many ways.  Just because Al Hirt expressed himself in a way that was much beyond his peers, do mean that he didn't feel the music in that way.  Listen to the following CDs: "Live at the Mardi Gras", "SuperJazz with Peter Fountain, and "Pete Fountain presents Al Hirt in Dixieland".  Listen to the "lines" he is playing.  I challenge anyone to deny that it is jazz.  Additionally, not only does he play throughout these albums with his amazing technique, flexibility and range, he bends notes, uses different types of attacks and releases, changes his tone, and leads the ensembles with power and sensitivity.  Sounds to me like he is "expressing himself" throughout, something like....let me see..."jazz"?
Finally, I perceive the problem to be one of the classic "pigeon hole".  For some unfortunate reason, jazz people like to say exactly what is, and what is not, jazz.  Everybody is hung up on labels.  This, my fellow list friends, hurts us far more than it helps us.
Lewis D. Custode, Jr., CLU, ChFC, CASL
-----Original Message-----
From: barbonestreet at earthlink.net
To: dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
Sent: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 10:04 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt Describing His Music

Fra Mike asked if Hirt would agree with his "Instrumental Pop player" tag on
the liner notes of a CD. Hal Vickery says he remembers Hirt saying he was
indeed, a player of "instrumental pop", not jazz.

Here's what Al Hirt himself said about it according to one bio:

---start snip

Although Hirt came out of New Orleans leading a Dixieland band, he never let
himself get stereotyped in that narrow genre. He was honest about his choice
of style, never calling what he played "jazz":

"I'm a pop commercial musician," he once said. "and I've got a successful
format. I'm not a jazz trumpet and never was a jazz trumpet."

---end snip

In that vein, Anne Davison once said to me: "Many people think of Bill as a
'Dixielander'. They are ignorant, He is so much more than that."

One never knows, do one?

Steve Barbone

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