[Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt - Bio - "Jazz Musician or Pop Player?

Fr M J (Mike) Logsdon mjl at ix.netcom.com
Wed Jan 24 13:28:09 PST 2007

I recall there was a Time-Life LP of his playing one of (I think) Haydn's
trumpet symphonies/concertos.  I've been meaning to do some eBay searching
for it, but haven't gotten around to it.  I recall (I was in college at the
time) that it struck me as sounding less like a classical horn than a jazz
horn playing classical, which is all right, as I get the same feeling
listening to Goodman play classical.  Crossover versatility is certainly my

Fr M J (Mike) Logsdon, Vicar-general
North American Old Roman Catholic Church (Utrecht Succession)
Archdiocese of California

> -----Original Message-----
> From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
> [mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com]On Behalf Of Steve
> Barbone
> Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 1:28 PM
> To: DJML
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Al Hirt - Bio - "Jazz Musician or Pop Player?
> I am surprised no one picked up on the Al Hirt quote a few posts ago. What
> did he think? See the last paragraph of this Bio for the full quote.
> Just goes to show what taking things out of context can do. BTW, he
> considered his solo "Ave Maria" for Pope John Paul II during the Pope's
> visit to New Orleans as his most important work.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
>   Alois Maxwell Hirt (New Orleans, 1922 - 1999), subject of the 2000 New
> Orleans Jazz Festival poster by George Rodrigue, got his first
> trumpet from
> a pawn shop when he was six. By 17, he was calling the horses to
> post at the
> same Fairgrounds where he was to play many New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
> Festivals and, 60 years and one racing season later, have a Jazz Funeral
> held in his honor.
>   Trained in classical music at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, he
> played in the 82nd Army Air Force Band before joining the great
> swing bands
> led by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Ray McKinley and Benny Goodman. He returned
> to New Orleans in the early 50's, forming his own band with Pete Fountain
> (subject of Rodrigue's 1996 New Orleans Jazz Festival poster) with whom he
> worked as an exterminator; killing pests together by day and playing music
> together at night. Whomever got the gig was the leader that night and
> entitled to wear a bow tie on stage. They played together on and off for
> more than 50 years, with their bands touring jointly every summer
> until Al's
> health began to fail in 1998.
>   He came to national prominence in 1960 when his Dixieland Six played Las
> Vegas. Every bit the showman, the 6-foot-2-inch 300-pounder, nicknamed
> "Jumbo", caught the attention of Dinah Shore, beginning a TV career that
> spanned 28 years. That year, Hirt signed with RCA records, ultimately
> recording more than 50 albums, four of which went gold and one, platinum.
> Hirt's "pop" hit singles include Cotton Candy and Java, for which he won a
> Grammy for best non-jazz instrumental in 1964.
>   He garnered 21 Grammy nominations; played at the inauguration
> of President
> John F. Kennedy (one of eight U.S. Presidents for whom he
> performed); toured
> the world, including a 1965 standing room only concert at Carnegie Hall;
> headlined the half-time show at the first Super Bowl in 1967, one
> of 5 Super
> Bowl programs which included him; and was voted World's Top
> Trumpeter for 15
> consecutive years in the Playboy Jazz Poll beginning in 1962. In
> 1987, Hirt
> played a trumpet solo of Handel's "Ave Maria" for Pope John Paul II during
> the Pontiff's visit to New Orleans, a performance he considered one of his
> most important. Between 1962 and 1990, he appeared in seven films and
> headlined on numerous television shows, including his own
> program, "Fanfare"
> on CBS in 1965.
>   In his obituary by Associated Press writer Kent Prince, Hirt's
> talent was
> summarized as follows: "His driving power, packed with dazzling
> virtuosity,
> seemed to blow the curtains at the back of the auditorium, but when the
> tempo slowed, the honey-toned melodies flowed with a style all his own."
> Pete Fountain added "He had everything-technique, stamina,
> education." Hirt
> acknowledged being influenced by Louis Armstrong, Harry James and Frank
> Sinatra. Armstrong (subject of the 1995 Jazz Festival poster by Rodrigue),
> always made an effort to catch Jumbo's performances whenever their touring
> paths crossed.
>   Hirt, who stayed close to home so he could fish and be with his wife and
> eight children, summed up his own career, "I'm a pop commercial musician,
> and I've got a successful format. If you have the ability to perform your
> musical idea, you become a good jazz player. Any performer can think of a
> musical idea. Only a well-schooled artist can produce the idea on
> his horn."
> This advice for budding musicians adds to the legacy that this legendary
> virtuoso leaves behind.
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