Our music would not exist if it were not for the mentoring relationships that occur between the generations. It is widely referred to as, “oral tradition.” This practice has evolved throughout the many years – adopting more academic techniques. Nevertheless, it has been going on for a long time and, it will go on, in some form or fashion, as long as there are generations.
Louis Daniel Armstrong stands as this legacy's most highest students, and perhaps its most potent professor. At Xavier University, as Mr. Barker conducts a Q&A, he reminds his students that Jazz's Valedictorian began as a Protege´.
“You know who King Oliver is, do you?
So much of cornetist, composer and bandleader, Joe 'King' Oliver has been well documented. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the part that he played in the life of Armstrong, ultimately in offering the 21 year-old the 2nd Cornet chair in his band. By 1922, Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was setting the south side of Chicago on fire with this new approach to music: high-velocity tempi, wild improvised polyphony, and undeniable passion.
There is so much more to this part of the story however, I will ask you, Dear Reader: You know who Manny Perez is, do you?
Cornetist and bandleader, Emanuel Perez was also a significant musical mentor to the young Louis Armstrong. He was also an uncle to my father, i.e. the older brother to my grandfather. Born in 1871, he was Joe Oliver's senior by fourteen years when Little Louie would follow the Onward Brass Band – which he co-led with Oliver. Family legend (which in this case is scant) informed me that Louis would run little errands for Manny in exchange for musical tutelage. Apparently, the affable Little Louie knew exactly how to deliver a Po' Boy sandwich to the well-respected Creole – with Cuban ties – to each' satisfaction.
Danny Barker had this declaration regarding Manny Perez.
“He could hit those high notes, because he had eaten two pots of gumbo before he left. Most of them fellows who played the parades were full of whiskey!”
Perez was said to be the only cornetist in New Orleans to rival the legendary icon, Buddy Bolden. In the voice of character, Dude Botley (who may have actually existed) from the chapter, “A Memory of King Bolden” (from, Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville) Danny tells.
“Now there was only one other cornet player who could make the King take notice and that was the Creole from downtown, Manuel Perez. He could and would blow. Things would get real tense when Robichaux would hire him in his band over on the dicty pavilion. He would be blowing, and now and then he'd blow one of the King's songs. But John Robichaux would not let him extend himself because the pavilion was full of high class folks. When Perez would blow out, Bolden and the band would laugh. The King would say, 'Listen at the Frenchman! Sounds like he's raring to go, but old John won't let him 'cause he knows the King is over heah!'
The are no known recordings of Manuel Perez – only a few attributed wherein he would be playing in the brass section of Charles Elgar's Creole Orchestra. There are many extremely swinging recordings of Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, wherein Louis Armstrong's cornet was heard for the first time. One of the most compelling is Oliver's own creation, Snake Rag. It will charm you, if you go to My Music on my Main Page.
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
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