Tuesday, February 1, 2011


During my misspent youth, I played in a raggedy little jazz band -- me and five guys!  We were quite loud, and were primarily known for more passion than precision.  But what we did best was to listen at the feet of the great Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band at the Beverly Cavern night after night.  One thing we learned was that when the world's greatest tailgate trombonist empties his spit valve, you don't really want to be that close. 

Kid Ory had already been tagged with jazz immortality before jazz was out of its infancy -- he was a key sideman on most of the important jazz recordings of the 1920s. King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and clarinetist Johnny Dodds all considered Ory essential to the ensemble sound of classic New Orleans jazz. And though other Crescent City musicians courted Chicago or New York when they left home, Ory flirted periodically with Los Angeles, and it was here that he recorded "Ory's Creole Trombone" with his own band in 1921 on the Sunshine/Nordskog label, a recording which deserves to be universally accepted as the first REAL jazzband record. (Boosters of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band can send snarky emails now if you're so inclined) During the depression, Ory spent many years sorting mail and wrangling chickens, so he was quick to respond when Orson Welles needed a New Orleans jazz band for a radio show. That break put Ory back in business, as part of a world-wide New Orleans jazz revival, and the band he led then, Ory's Creole Jazz Band, with the rejuvenated Ory roaring away in ensembles and on solos was probably his finest band ever. The records he made in those years especially those on Jazz Man are now considered to be some of the most important and influential in the genre. Ory moved to Hawaii in 1961, and died there in 1973.  As you can see, I got an autographed photo, even though the guys in our band thought that was not cool.