Al Hirt: When It's Sleepy Time Down South


When It's Sleepy Time Down South


Al Hirt (trumpet)


Al Hirt at the Mardia Gras (RCA ANL1-2657)

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Al Hirt (trumpet),

Ronnie DuPont (piano), Bill Kelsey (tenor sax), Pee Wee Spitelera (clarinet), Edward Huntington (guitar), Richard Nelson (trombone), Lowell Miller (bass), Frank Hudec (drums)


Recorded: Live at Dan's Pier 600, New Orleans; album released in 1962


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Every artistic tradition of any scope has its serious practitioners and its popularizers. But with New Orleans jazz it is sometimes hard to tell them apart. A jazz purist will tell you that Louis Armstrong was the real artist, while Al Hirt was the watered-down version for the members of the public who didn't know any better. Yet the truth is somewhat more complicated. This track is truer to the jazz tradition than many recordings that Satchmo made around the same time, and if you know the trumpet you won't need a Toledo scale to figure out that Al Hirt is no lightweight. Here he takes a song associated with Armstrong, and plays it with a big New Orleans tone, confident phrasing and sure technique. Hirt didn't always pick the best material, and a soon after he made this music he would be found recording goofy "Tijuana Brass goes to New Orleans" numbers such as "Sugar Lips" and "Music to Watch Girls By." Yet put him in the right setting with the right material, as on this date, and Hirt was a worthy inheritor of his home town's rich trumpet tradition.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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