Mr. Al Hirt
“Listen – Honey Pot MP3″
The middle of the week has come and gone and I’m a day late (but not a dollar short) with my midweek post. My only defense is that I wished that the reader/listenership would have time to savor my mix collab with the mighty DJ Prestige – which will of course remain available for the stragglers and newcomers alike.
Folks seemed to dig the idea of the split podcast, and we certainly had a great time putting it together, so there will definitely be an encore performance sometime in the future.
In other business, I check out my blog stats all the time, and for some reason an old post on Ray Charles has been getting a lot of hits and I can’t figure out why (generally when someone is linking in to one of my posts, the originating link appears in the stats). Has there been a sudden upswing in Ray Charles-related interest? Is it all a bizarre coincidence, or has someone, somewhere linked to my post. Is it Brother Ray himself, clicking in from the beyond????
Someone let me know before I start freaking out (well, not really…).
This evening’s post comes to you courtesy of a VERY unlikely source, that being portly trumpet legend Mr. Al Hirt.
Well, not all that unlikely when you take into consideration that Al was one of the most prominent exponents of New Orleans jazz in the second half of the 20th century, as well as being the man who put a huge wad of cash into the pockets of young Allen Toussaint (more on that in a sec).
My Dad has always been a huge fan of what our Limey brethren refer to as Trad Jazz, better known on these shores as Chicago Style, or even better known as Dixieland Jazz. When I was a kid, I distinctly remember Dad tuning in to the Tonight Show when Al Hirt and/or his New Orleans homeboy Pete Fountain would show up to whip a little Dixie on the Burbank squares.
I remember Al – who, like my Dad and myself was a big fella – blowing some ka-razy high notes, no doubt putting the very fear of Jeebus into Johnny Carson’s own be-sequined trumpet whiz Doc Severinson (known also to spend a little time working Maynard Ferguson’s side of Trumpet Street).
Hirt’s first big chart success came in 1964, with a little ditty entitled ‘Java’ (I don’t have an MP3 of Hirt’s recording, but check out a sample on iTunes. You’ll probably recognize the tune). That tune had been written, and originally recorded in 1958 by another famous son of New Orleans, that being Mr. Allen Toussaint (then recording under the name ‘Al Tousan’). Hirt’s version of ‘Java’ wasn’t the first recording of a Toussaint tune to bring in some royalties, but it was at the time, the biggest – until a few years later when another Toussaint tune – ‘Whipped Cream’, originally recorded by Toussaint’s band the Stokes – ended up as the theme to the Dating Game (in a cover by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass).
So, that all said, though Hirt mainly worked in a Dixieland bag, he managed to record in a wide variety of pop settings, and even made one, soul-oriented LP, that being 1967’s ‘Soul In the Horn’.
Now, I have to tell you that I probably never would have grabbed my copy of this LP were it not for it’s rep as sample fodder, specifically the cut ‘Harlem Hendoo’ which was used by De La Soul on ‘Ego Trippin Pt2’. That fact tucked away in my cluttered brain, I happened upon ‘Soul In the Horn’ during a record stop on my last vacation (I think this LP came from Saratoga, but I can’t remember for sure). Not traveling with my GP3 (it would be poor taste to embark on a family vacation with digging supplies in tow), I didn’t get to listen to the album until I got home, and when I did I was pleasantly surprised.
While ‘Soul In the Horn’ isn’t going to set the funk 45 diggers back on their heels, it has some very interesting moments, the best of those being ‘Honey Pot’.
When I first unsleeved the LP, ‘Honey Pot’ caught my eye because it was the only track on the LP not co-written by keyboardist Paul Griffin (who seems to have helmed the sessions with arranger Teacho Wiltshire). The tune was in fact written by Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson Jr. (aka the MGs) , Isaac Hayes, Wayne Jackson, and Andrew Love and originated on the 1966 LP ‘Great Memphis Sound’, on which the “Mar Keys” were made up of those musicians (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love better known as the Memphis Horns)*.
Hirt’s version of the tune is quite tasty, featuring some heavy drums. While I can’t say for sure who the drummer is, my guess – based on his frequent session work with Griffin – would be Bernard Purdie. The tune is actually pretty soulful, with just a touch of mid-60s au-go-go flavor. While I wouldn’t suggest dropping a lot of dough on the LP (I didn’t, and you really just downloaded the best track on the album), it’s worth having, if only for the groovy cover, as an addition to your crate of sample bait, and as insurance for that day in the future when Al Hirt suddenly becomes cool again.
Just remember where you heard it first…
*The tune was also covered by Willie Mitchell