2009-04-24

Alphonse Picou playing High Society (1958)

Alphonse Picou (born New Orleans, October 19, 1878 and died New Orleans, February 4, 1961) formed his own Independence Band in 1897 and played with Oscar Duconge in 1899, the Excelsior Band (1900) and Freddie Keppard's Olympia Band. Then he had short periods with other bands such as Bunk Johnson's, Wooden Joe Nicholas' and Emanuel Perez's. He was semi-retired in the 30's, but due to the New Orleans revival he started to play again making records with Kid Rena (1940) and Papa Celestin (1947).

Picou is best known for originating the clarinet part on the standard "High Society". Although it is believed that George Baquet was the first clarinet player who played the difficult solo part of "High society", it is without doubt Picou who made it popular. He has been mistakenly credited as the writer of this tune, but in fact it was a 1901 marching band composition by Porter Steele. Picou made his own arrangement, making it gently swing and paraphrasing the Piccolo part to create his famous clarinet solo, which became a standard part that every New Orleans clarinetist should be able to duplicate.

Now you can watch him playing "High Society" with the Paul Barbarin band. Although the uploader states it was recorded in New Orleans, I think it could be from an Art Ford's Jazz Party on December 25, 1958, with the following line-up, according to Bruyninckx and Lord discographies: Punch Miller, Percy Humphrey (tp) Jim Robinson (tb) Alphonse Picou (cl) Armand Hug (p) George Guesnon (bj) Alcide Pavageau (b) Paul Barbarin (d).


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