Al Hirt Live at Dan's Pier 600

You might be sick of our constantly wailing "You shoulda been there", but since not only has the era left us behind, the town itself has almost been wiped off the map. So "you shoulda been there" takes on an entirely new and poignant meaning.

We have tried to provide you the opportunities to hear the sounds of authentic New Orleans jazz live from the greats who made the clubs of the 1950's thrive, as well as allow you to hear some of the great musicians of that time in their various studio recordings (James Davis, Mardi Gras Parade Music).

One of the kings of the latter period (1960's and beyond) was undoubtedly Al Hirt. His blazing technique and warm personality endeared him to the locals, tourists and the nation as a whole when he took his music to the Pop scene.

What follows is a selection of cuts done in the mid-sixties from Dan's Pier 600, an excellent jazz club on Bourbon Street right across from Chris Owens' strip club. Al played there until he got really commercially famous, then he bought the place and headlined there for a while.

I used to bitch about "live" recordings wherein you could hear lots of audience chatter, tinkling glasses, laughter and the like, but as I grow older and realize that not only are most of these revelers most likely dead, and the opportunity to "be there" is long gone, I can listen to the "audience ambiance" and transport myself back in time to a place where we all shoulda been...

  • Bourbon Street Parade - Starts this rousing live set. There's also a sweet double-vocal version by Frankie Assunto (of the "Real" Dukes of Dixieland) and Louis Armstrong elsewhere on this site.
  • Basin Street Blues - Al always surrounded himself with trombone players that were as good as or better than he. Guess he didn't have much of an ego problem, because Bob Havens continuously blew his ass off on songs like Tiger Rag. Here we have Richard Nelson blowing a technically stupendous rendition.
  • Perdido - Never knew why they named a song after this street, but the orchestra-like background passages make Al's horn solo sound HUGE, and the guys are reminiscent of the George Girard / Tony Almerico bands little background ditties on songs like the Saints.
  • Show Me the Way to Go Home - Need we say more?
  • Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans) - Listen to that baritone saxophone rolling down to pin those roots to the ground. 'Nuff said...
  • Diga-Diga-Do - Composer must have been drunk when doing this title, but the group does a Charleston-like ensemble with Big Al tattooing the ending note.
  • That's A Plenty - One of the old chestnuts roasted over a roaring tempo fire.
  • Yellow Dog Blues - No live performance would be complete without a Clarinet blues number, and Pee Wee Spitelera is no slouch.
  • While We Danced At The Mardi Gras - A great ensemble tune with which to end. Used to be the anthem of the well-to-do as they attended their Krewe's formal balls both before and after the big parades.

Wish I'd been there this time...