Al Hirt Biography

Alois Maxwell Hart, 7 November 1922, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 27 April 1999, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. After studying classical music at the Cincinnati Conservatory in the early 40s, trumpeter Hirt divided his professional career between symphony orchestras and dance bands and still found time to play dixieland jazz in New Orleans clubs. Hirt worked as a bugler during World War II, and following his discharge he played with bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Ray McKinley and Horace Heidt. Clarinettist Pete Fountain was a sideman, and occasional leader, in one of the first bands Hirt formed on his return to New Orleans. He first recorded as a leader for the Southland label in 1955, but in 1958 signed a career-boosting contract with the Audio Fidelity label.

In the 60s an important recording contract with RCA Records (which resulted in albums under his own name and as accompanist to some transiently popular easy-listening singers), a successful residency at his own club on Bourbon Street and a spectacular technique all helped to turn Hirt into one of the best-known trumpeters in jazz. He played at John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration in 1961, and provided the music for a number of movies. During this decade Hirt placed 18 albums in the Billboard Top 200, including the Top 10 albums Honey In The Horn (his first million-seller), Cotton Candy (on which he was joined by the Anita Kerr Singers) and Sugar Lips. As often happens, commercial success brought a measure of condemnation from jazz hardliners but Hirt was unmoved. He continued to perform in clubs and to record throughout the 70s, shrugging off a lip injury, and was still playing his high-spirited, good-humoured jazz in the 80s and 90s. During his career he received 21 Grammy nominations.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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