Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers


Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers | June 7, 1981 | Burton Chase Park, Marina Del Rey | Joe, clarinet & soprano sax; Nappy Lamare, banjo; Bill Campbell, piano; Chuck Conklin, cornet (white pants); Bill Stump, trumpet; Phil Stevens, bass; Ray Hall, drums; Phil Gray, trombone | Photo by Mark Weber

JOE DARENSBOURG & HIS DIXIE FLYERS

“Do I like good Dixieland? Damn right I do — three stars!”

–Billie Holiday, Metronome, Feb. 1950 blindfold test

Even though in the 1970s I was associated with much of the jazz avant garde I still had enough sense to check out everything else that was going on in Los Angeles. In those nascent years of my jazz studies I was reading a lot of Martin Williams’ books, and he pointed in all directions.

When I came on the set — 1970s — you could look in both directions. The old cats & kitties of the 1920s were still around, and in the other direction, Coltrane, Sun Ra, Cecil, and Ornette had laid the groundwork for the avant. The whole spectrum was right before my eyes in Los Angeles. On one had you had Ed Garland and on the other you had John Carter and Bobby Bradford and Horace Tapscott.


Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers | June 7, 1981 | Burton Chase Park, Marina Del Rey | Joe, clarinet & soprano sax; Nappy Lamare, banjo; Bill Campbell, piano; Chuck Conklin, cornet (white pants); Bill Stump, trumpet; Phil Stevens, bass; Ray Hall, drums; Phil Gray, trombone | Photo by Mark Weber

In his New Orleans days Ed Garland played bass with Frankie Duson, Manuel Perez, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver ! And in the 1970s he was active in Los Angeles. I caught him many times. AND Nappy Lamare made records with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and was a charter member of the Crosby Bobcats, for gawdsakes. NORK was the band that young Bix skipped school to hear at the Friars Inn.

Dixieland had somehow been declasse by the 1950s when modernism took over our consciousness. However, artists such as Lennie Tristano, Charlie Parker, Merle Haggard, and Roy Eldridge had all declared a love of Dixieland.

Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers | June 7, 1981 | Burton Chase Park, Marina Del Rey | Joe, clarinet & soprano sax; Nappy Lamare, banjo; Bill Campbell, piano; Chuck Conklin, cornet (white pants); Bill Stump, trumpet; Phil Stevens, bass; Ray Hall, drums; Phil Gray, trombone | Photo by Mark Weber

  • Declasse
    (dã`klă`sā´, dã`klä`sā´)
    adj. 1. reduced or fallen in status, social position, class or rank; fallen from a high status or rank to a lower one.
    2. of inferior grade, rank, status, or prestige.

I remember at this Marina de Rey function, while the band was playing, an old lady with a wide-brimmed straw hat with the frayed edges stuck her head in my face and said, “This is happy music, I love happy music, do you like happy music?” It was like being in a Fellini movie. I told her I like happy music, sure. Marina del Rey is a part of town (Los Angeles) for rich folks. Nothing there is real. Most everything is fabricated.

Joe Darensbourg is the clarinet on Louis Armstrong’s HELLO DOLLY album from 1963. Also, another record that might have escaped notice: John Fahey’s (1972) OF RIVERS AND RELIGION. The Tom Lord Discography lists 85 record dates for Joe between 1944 and 1983.

Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers | June 7, 1981 | Burton Chase Park, Marina Del Rey | Joe, clarinet & soprano sax; Nappy Lamare, banjo; Bill Campbell, piano; Chuck Conklin, cornet (white pants); Bill Stump, trumpet; Phil Stevens, bass; Ray Hall, drums; Phil Gray, trombone | Photo by Mark Weber

Excerpt from my Los Angeles column, December 1981, CODA (#181):

The clarinet obbligato on “High Society” comes from a piccolo solo that Alphonse Picou transcribed to clarinet. And in the Dixieland world if you can’t play “High Society” well then forget it — this from Joe Darensbourg who I noticed had no trouble with the tricky piece at all, and then went on to knock us out with his mastery of the slap-tongue clarinet (he occasionally does it on the soprano sax, as well) technique of old, where notes come popping out of the horn. Joe was quite popular in this city during the ’50s with his Dixie Flyers and even now still flies under that banner in octet groups that include at various times Bill Campbell, Sid Horowitz, or Gideon Honore, piano; Phil Stevens, bass; Bill Stump or Dick Cary, trumpet; Chuck Conklin, cornet; Ray Hall, Gene Washington or Nick Fatool, drums; Gene Lebeaux, Phil Gray, Abe Lincoln or AL Jenkins, trombone; Red Murphy or Nappy Lamare, banjo; and Joe on clarinet, soprano, and vocals. Last year Joe released on his own Red Stick Records an album of radio broadcasts from his days at the Lark during the mid-50s here in L.A. with the original band: JOE DARENSBOURG REMEMBERS HIS DIXIE FLYERS. Available from him, along with severalother records, at 22233 Avenue San Luis, Woodland Hills, California 91364.

Mark Weber | April 11, 2012

Joe Darensbourg & His Dixie Flyers | June 7, 1981 | Burton Chase Park, Marina Del Rey | Joe, clarinet & soprano sax; Nappy Lamare, banjo; Bill Campbell, piano; Chuck Conklin, cornet (white pants); Bill Stump, trumpet; Phil Stevens, bass; Ray Hall, drums; Phil Gray, trombone | Photo by Mark Weber

Letter from Joe Darensbourg | 1981


Mark Weber & Nappy Lamare | August 22, 1982 | MacArthur Park, Los Angeles

2 Comments

  1. August is the hottest month in Southern California. No wonder Nappy and I are drinking Coors in the park. Cops be damned.

    As I’ve sed before, when I came on the scene you could look both ways into jazz — backwards into the beginnings, and forward into modernity and the avant.

    Nappy Lamare had been a member of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, for crissakes, (aka NORK) this is the band Bix followed around when he was a kid so he could listen to the cornet of Paul Mares. Nappy was also a founding member of the Bob Crosby Orchestra.

  2. Hi Mark,

    I just came upon your website. Thanks so very much for your coverage of my Dad and your assessment of jazz, LA, and the ability to look backward and forward in the 1960s and 70s.

    When I was a student at San Fernando Valley State College in 1963, I took a music appreciation course which required seeing five diverse concerts. One choice I made was to see Coltrane, who heretofore I knew nothing about, at Royce Hall. It turned out that the concert date was the day after JFK was assassinated. Unlike most other performances that day in LA, Coltrane did not cancel and played to a rather sparse crowd — for me it was illuminating and a telling moment when great art can transcend and help heal grief from a very traumatic event.

    Unfortunately for me, however, Coltrane’s music was hard to describe in a five-page essay. So I asked Dad for help. I bought My Favorite Things and we went through it on our mono system. Dad carefully, and with great respect, went note by note, chord by chord, detailing the music. It was the only assignment of the five which resulted in an A. (To this day I think i probably cheated.) At one point Dad said, with the utmost flattery, that Coltrane, when he played melodically was as true as his closest childhood friend — the great tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller.

    Indeed, there was a wonderful conjunction happening then.

    Jim Lamare

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