[Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt Describing His Music

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 24 08:46:52 PST 2007

Well put Lewis. 

Like Kenny Davern always said about trying to define "jazz".

"It's like asking 10 different people to describe what God looks like. You
get 10 different answers."

Any discussion of what jazz is, or isn't, or who plays it and who doesn't,
goes around in circles to the point where there are no answers but those of
Louis Armstrong's.

"If you have to ask, you'll never know."


"Jazz is what YOU are."

For any of us to define what jazz is, or is not, as a generality is
pointless. Our concepts of jazz depend upon our personal make-up and our
ears, which are personal filters to our minds.

Steve Barbone

on 1/24/07 11:15 AM, custode at aol.com at custode at aol.com wrote:

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.


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