Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Joe D. Calls It

When I lived in Los Angeles in the 80s I was privileged to know jazz clarinetist Joe Darensbourg. He was born in Baton Rouge in 1906. He told me of hearing brass bands that had come up from New Orleans to play parades, bands featuring incredible teenage cornet prodigy Louis Armstrong. He was impressed. Joe had a great career, playing with Jelly Roll Morton, Fate Marable, Buddy Petit, Kid Ory. In the 50s he had a national hit single with "Yellow Dog Blues." He came full circle when he toured the world as a member of Louis Armstrongs' All-Stars.

He was a fine clarinetist, but his true art form was storytelling. Man, could he talk, about the people he'd known, places he'd gone, things he'd seen and done. His stories tended to blossom like flowers as further details, you know, came to him. His friends all knew this, and just enjoyed the show.

I was thinking of him watching the political coverage from Washington. I videotaped a 2.5 hour interview with Joe in 1982, which I later transcribed and published in the journal New Orleans Music. Talking of Jelly Roll Morton, another great musician and great, err, storyteller, Joe said:

Well, Jelly was a great prevaricator, or liar to be exact.

We need phrases like this in modern political discourse.

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