emanuel paul


EMANUEL PAUL SPEAKING
 

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EMANUEL PAUL interviewed by William Russell, April 19, 1960

(courtesy Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University)

My name is Emanuel Paul, I was born on February 2nd., 1904, in the Carrollton District of New Orleans, I started around in the music fine when I was seventeen years old, that would be around 1921, that was when I played violin. During that time I was associated with the church. We built up a religions band as the pastor of that church thought it would be something interesting for the young folk, whose ages ranged from eighteen to twenty and would keep them in the church, He helped us to get our instruments, he bought the instruments and gave each member of the group one. He had a Prof. Taylor to teach us, then later a Prof. Correa, bots of them were good violinists, Later the people started dropping off so small that the group gave up al together. Out of the whole group, only two of us were still playing and the other fellow, his name was Sam Dutrey, you've heard of him, he's still playing clarinet and tenor sax.

I went on and still fooled with the violin, we used to play at parties, small groups - piano, violin and drums. Finally, it was keeping me out so much at night that the 'Mils' did not like it too much, so she pulled me in. I had to put the violin on one side for a while. She thought something was missing, though, so she said why not try to like some other instrument, so she thought of the banjo. Well, it had to be a string instrument, I didn't want any blowing instrument, which I didn't think I would ever do. I bought a banjo and learnt to play it myself.

A few months later, a cousin of mine, named James Paul, he played piano, he asked me to come out and play with him. From him I went to different other groups and at one time we had a little fellow called Shelle Lemelle, he was a wonderful little trumpet player. Now his brother-in-law, Wills, he was a good trumpet player as well, but discontinued playing. We all had an orchestra, we had a fellow by the name of Emanuel Pere he played the saxophone and there were others whose names I cannot recall. We used to have a rehearsal every Sunday, getting together to form the band, but that band kind of broke up with fellows pulling out and playing with other groups. There were so many different bands that I played with during the twenties. I continued with the banjo up to around 1934 and then I gave it up. I worked at the Marine Bank and the Canal Bank from 1923 to 1933. Then came the Depression and I had to seek other work. I had no time for music, I had to make a living for myself and my family.

In 1935 I joined the E.R.A. Band, being led by Louis Dumaine, Then in 1936, the W.P.A., a relief organisation, formed a band, that was how I feel into that. At that time I didn't have an instrument, so I borrowed one from a friend of mine, then when he needed it, I borrowed another instrument from another friend and so on. I played soprano sax, guitar, banjo different instruments. Later I purchased my own instrument, a soprano sax, and so I played that in the W.P.A. Band. I stayed in that band a long while, but later I left because they had some kind of theory instrument and questions were given for different fellows to answer and we were kind of too clever for them, so we lost our work Later I worked on private construction work, until that work ran out and then I was just jobbing around.

Finally, the W. P, A, called back they wanted me as a tenor player, well at that time 1 had no tenor, so I borrowed a cousin's tenor, Being laid up the condition of it was so bad that I had to have it repaired, later I started back playing with them. A month after 1 began playing, my cousin found he wanted to use the tenor so that left me in another pickle, I had a tough time then, Sam Lee, he helped me to find a tenor sax, it cost $72.00 The neck was bent up, but it was useful, you know I still have that tenor at my house. I used it for a long time, it had a good tone, but 1 could not get a good neck to fit it, Later on I found another old horn a kid had, it was one of the first tenors they made, l used the goose neck off of that instrument and let the rest go for scrap. From then on I Played with different fellows around.

I played at Shadow land with Albert French and Sam Mossey tin drums, just the three of us. We played the Shadow land during the war-time and we used to pack that place. Our tips used to be as high as $30.00. Albert used to sing many songs. At that time we were not in the Union, so one day this fellow, Victor (the owner) he managed to get us in the Union and then he wanted a larger band. Now he forgot that the three men he put in the Union had to be paid the Union rates. Now that big price came on and now he didn't want to pay it, but it was too late then, so he had to pay the Union rate to everybody, so that cut out the big tips, but they started having big bands there. Later we left Vie and went to a place on St. Charles Avenue, I forget the name now. Our group was made up of Anderson Minor, Specks Robinson, drummer Alvin elements, Dominique T-Boy Remy was the trumpet player, and he had a girl friend who used to go around with him, this girl used to play some piano, wonderful piano player. I cannot recall her name though, she left New Orleans and went to California. Then after she left, they had this fellow from across the river, Benny Turner, he played the piano with us and we stayed there about three months. Our tips were so much then that Minor would take about half an hour to count the tips while we were still playing, we used to make good money there. Then along came some tax troubles, so we quit that job. T-Boy he found another place out on Napoleon Avenue, near the river, we made up a new out-fit there. Now this girl, Ruby Thompson, she played piano with us, she's dead now, she was a school teacher and she was very critical about who she would play with, but she liked to play with us, We had T-Boy. Minor and a non union drummer from across the river, and that was when T-Boy asked me around 1945 to play with the Eureka Brass Band. Before that I had played with Kid Howard, the first funeral I ever played was with Kid Howard, that was before the Eureka Brass Band. Since then, most of you know my story and of my connections with the Eureka Brass Band and Kid Thomas's band, so much so, that I will not go into that for the present, that remains to be told later.

Editor's Note: The above article was the result of a taped interview with Emanuel Paul on his English tour in 1964. We are extremely grateful to David Griffiths for allowing us to print it here.


    Historical document from Tulane University

EMANUEL PAUL interview

April 19, 1960     Also present: William Russell, Ralph Collins. 

Emanuel Paul, born February 2, 1904, in the Carrollton Section of New Orleans, La. Interview at MP's present home, 3028 Mistletoe. MP's family was not musical; he was an only child became interested in music through church, the Broadway Baptist Church [See Ralston Crawford's photographs of Eureka funeral showing this church.]. The church had a band, it provided the instrument’s and instructions by Professors Taylor and Carrere. MP chose to play violin they rehearsed at a certain time each week; he was about 17 years old then, it was about 1921; he was baptized and joined the church then and was given his instrument.

The project of the band sort of fell apart after some time because the youngsters had too many outside interests and wouldn't come for instruction. Answering WR, NIP confirms that Mahalia Jackson's father once was a preacher or deacon at that church. (same as Broadway Street Baptist Church, down by the Levee, on General Scott Street.) Mahalia went there too. The church used to be on Broadway Street, that's how it got the name. MP knew Mahalia ever since she was about 12 years old; he didn't know her father at all. He doesn't remember her singing in the church then; but she came to visit MP's father sometimes, being a distant relation of his, through his wife [apparently not MP's mother]. MP doesn't quite understand exactly how they were related. Mahalia would come in [to church] at times and she would bang on the piano and sing hymns etc.; MP would stand there and listen to her; and then sudden­ly she would run out without saying a word, to go and play; MP wouldn't see her until next Sunday, and often he would look for her in vain. He doesn't know so much about her singing in church, be­cause he never attended the church she sang in, Mt. Moriah [Baptist Church]. WR says Mahalia Jackson left town to go to Chicago, when he was 16 years old, so MP couldn't have heard her much singing in public, anyway. MP says they have a minister there at Mt. Moriah, Rev. Hat [sp?J who used to start out at Broadway Baptist Church with them; he studied trombone; but then he studied and became a minister.

Cutting back to MP's violin playing, it was a very hard instrument to learn in a group of course; Professor Carrere wanted to teach him at his home; MP took instructions from him for a while, but then his home life got so busy that he didn't have time to practice and keep it up. So he gave up the violin and music for some time. Later on, his first wife who didn't like the violin wanted him to play another instrument; so she bought him a banjo; it did not matter to MP what kind of an instrument she brought him; he says aill he could do was learn it; he went out and bought a "Myrtles" Method for the banjo. He'd stay home a lot and study it and practice. He had no formal instructions on the banjo. After some tune other musicians who had heard him asked him to play with them--MP suddenly remembers that he did have a relative who played an instrument. He had a cousin who played piano; he was called "Bully Beans". He used to go around and play at house parties. MP once went with him to one of these house parties, and brought this banjo for a try-out; he played and they seemed to like it

This encouraged him to study much harder. MP answers WR saying it was a regular tenor four--string banjo. Later on, other musicians whose names he doesn't remember hired him to play at house parties with them. There were a lot of those house parties then, without interference from the police. They'd play all "Penny Parties", fish fries, suppers. MP answers WR, explaining that often these parties were given to raise funds for a church or some club, or somebody who was in need due to the depression; they'd. play for them for a reasonable price; there'd be a lot of dancing and most of the time they would play inside the house (not like a lawn party) . MP answers RC that there would be drums, piano and banjo in the band. MP played with Claiborne Williams [WR says that Louis Nelson studied with Williams, but MP corrects him saying Nelson studied with the "old man"; they then decide that the old man's [father's] name was Claiborne Williams, whereas MP played with the son, George Williams] ; Chambers, a guy from Shreveport and another man by the name of Willie [Landiz?]; also with Sam Dutrey, Jr. Dutrey was one of the organizers of MP's old church band.He played clarinet then, plays tenor saxophone now. They had a, lot of jobs.

Later on the band broke up. So MP went with the band of a man named Nathan Zahn. they didn't know much about music; MP wouldn't play with him; he'd help him organize the band and tell the musicians how to play the music. MP says he tried his best to show Nathan Zahn the music, but no matter how much he would explain a piece of music to him, he'd cut it off in the middle. Anyway, MP would help him out every now and then. Once he played in a band with Alvin Alcorn; Alcorn was just learning to play his horn then; he lived on Prieur Street; the band needed a trumpet player; Alcorn was a little shy playing with the band; they told him not to be afraid, they would help him out; MP says he encouraged him in many ways, although Alcorn did know his instrument pretty well. MP showed him how to play the music, play with the other musicians etc. Then MP starts talking about a musician by the name of [George] Fleming, trumpet. MP was in an organized band then, but doesn't remember the name of it--yes, he does remember after all, thinks it was the Gol­den Leaf Orchestra. WR has heard of it; MP says the manager of it was Richard Gray. The band included Gray and Robertson. They needed a trumpet player, found Fleming. Fleming was a good player, but only in one key, F. He stumbled but had a good ear, and finally he got used to the other keys and to the swing of the band and became  an excellent trumpet player. MP says he left town, and he doesn't know where he is now; he used to live on Washington, near Freret. This was around 1931 or 1932.

MP started playing the banjo in 1928. He played banjo until 1933, then the bank at which he had been employed for 12 years, closed, and he had no job and gave up music and all and went out to "hustle He had to support himself and his another. After a while he joined the WPA Band. He didn't even have an instrument. He borrowed a banjo but had to return it.

Then he borrowed a little curved soprano sax in a pawn shop on Rampart Street, after he had received his first paycheck; he believes he paid about. $ 25.00. It was a silver soprano. So he got back into the band. He had taught himself how to play it. No instructions. He picked up most of his music all by himself, just like the banjo. The banjo really was a wonderful instrument; it gave: him a lot of understanding of music. They'd have concerts in church, and one lady, Miss Alice Joseph, put on these concerts; she arranged for MP to play banjo solos in concerts all over town; MP had a special system of playing the banjo: he'd tremolo and rap at the same time, making him sound like two or three instruments. MP answers WR by ex­plaining that he played with a pick., not three fingers like some gui­tarists. A lot of people couldn't understand how he did that, how he put in these extra strokes, because he was going so fast; he used to have pretty good-size audiences in these church concerts, and looking cat the drowd he'd tremolo even better, he'd be trembling at the same time, since he was quite shy. He says because of his shyness he has turned down many, a good offer. He used to play banjo with "Sweet" Williams, a pianist who, according to WR, used to play in Chicago with Lee Collins; they'd play as a piano and banjo team at houseparties all over town. WR asks MP if he could tell him more about Williams, if he knew anything about his life, etc. WR also makes a mental note to interview Williams the next time he gets to Chicago. MP says he played mostly by himself; he had no time to play in a band, as the house parties kept him [and MP] busy. Answering WR, MP says that Williams was about his age. MP is 56 now. Williams left this town "with the  races; he had a big family but left them behind; he went to Chicago and sent for his family after he had worked there for about a month. Later he tried to get MP to come and join him in Chicago; he said he had a job for him; he worked in some house up there and needed some support; he thought he'd do much better if he had MP playing with him. Later he said he had a band. WR heard him playing with Lee Collins' four-piece group; but he played by himself also. WR heard him on N. Clark Street. MP didn't want to quit his job with the bank and at that time [about 1931] he didn't want to leave home either. Williams tried again a few years later; he sent his sister down to persuade MP to come, but MP wouldn't do it; so Williams gave up on him; but he heard he was doing well, playing on boats to Canada etc.

Some time later MP decided he wanted to do some advanced study­ing of the banjo, and he went to Willie Foster. WR says Foster is living in Baton Rouge now, with his mother who must be close to 105 years now, if she is still alive, but is unable to talk; WR saw Foster there the year before. MP says Foster used to live on Cohn Street. MP bought a method and took it to Foster to see if he could give him some instructions; they went over that for awhile; then he wanted to hear how MP was playing and MP played for him and demonstra­ted his skill of tremolo and rapping at the same tune; Foster wanted to know how he did it and MP showed him and it turned out that MP was teaching Foster, so he didn't go back, because he wanted a teacher who could show him something new. WR says he thought Foster played mostly guitar and violin. Then MP had to give up music altogether, and in 1934 joined the WPA band but didn't own an instrument. He was with the WPA band through 1938, when they had a lay-off or something and transferred him out to City Park; this was not a music job but hard labor; he helped build all those lagoons and did all sorts of other jobs there; then he had a job with "the payers; he worked on St. Claude Ave, Dufossat Street, Johnson Street and all though City Park. He got tired of this job, though; he found something a little better it was still with the WPA. WR asks if he always played his soprano sax when he played in the WPA band. MP confirms this; says he played nothing else.

But after he got out of the WPA band he bought an alto saxophone from Henry Harding. WR has never heard of Harding, but MP says he was very old, that must have been before WR's time. MP started playing the alto and joined Harding's band; The'd take trips to Morgan City, stay a couple of days and return. Joe Harris used to play with Harding at that time; Harding played tenor; it was a 10-piece orches­tra, with 3 saxes,; Harris played first, Harding 2nd and EP 3rd saxophone. MP can't remember the rest of the names.Later MP played with the "Son" Johnson band; Johnson taught at Werlein' ; played alto, could play piano and clarinet also; he is still alive and around; MP also used to play banjo with [Alexander] A1 Gretta who according to MP may be teaching piano at Xavier now; they had the DeRoux brothers [see Dolly Adams] with them; one played trombone, the other trumpet. MP says WR can find out the spelling of their name and more about them from Manuel Manetta; they are from Algiers like Manetta; MP thinks one of them is dead now; MP can't remember the name of the sousaphdnist; "Booker" [Washington?] may have been with them; he died not too long ago; the rehearsed for a long time, got jobs at the Astoria [Gardens]; whenever they'd have a job there, MP would get somebody to play in his place; he wouldn't go; he was too shy.In the old days there would be band rehearsals all over town on Sunday.

MP tried to organize a band with his brother-in-law, Eugene Boyd [clarinet]; in it was a trumpet player by the name of Shelley Lamel ; Manuel Pierre, sax, who is in Colorado now, in addition to MP, banjo. Occasionally a trumpet player by the name of Wills would play with them (he was Shelley Laurel's brother-in-law). MP says he couldn't get the men organized enough to play the way he want­ed them to play, so he gave it up.Later on, Isidore Crump suggested that MP play in the band of Professor Holmes. MP joined that band, played banjo with them for a while; he'd have other jobs at the same time, too; the band had a man by the name of Duffy with them (he was Professor Holmes' nephew) ; also there was Duffy's sister; it was sort of a family band; Collins played tenor; McGee played sousaphone (he used to work at Krauss) it was a 10-piece orchestra. They used to get jobs and rehearse for them; MP worked with them off and on; When Professor Holmes died, MP took over the band. He knew enough about music to be able to tell the other musicians how to play their instru­ments, how to divide [the time of] the music, etc.

There follows a discussion of clefs. MP says he played his banjo for a long time and has received quite a bit of praise for his playing. He answers WR saying that he never played in Milneburg, that was before his time. [Compare other interviews.] In 1940 he switched to tenor sax. He had pawned his alto. At this time he was working with a contractor for 50 cents an hour. He received a card saying they wanted him back in the WPA band, playing tenor. He didn't have a tenor, but it was the only way of getting back, and the pay would have been better than what he was making with the contractor (the WPA band paid $ 1.25 per hour). So he borrowed a cousin's instrument and had it repaired by [Harold] Peterson [on Broad Street]. When he had to return it, Sam Lee took him to Grunewalds, and he bought a second-hand tenor for $ 72.00, paying $ 5.00 down on it. He still has this tenor. His present tenor case has a space for a clarinet. When his tenor was in a bad condition and he just received some money, he bought a tenor in this case from tuba-player Wilbert Tillman, for $ 125.00. The case was like new, Tillman had paid $ 65.00 for it.

MP played that tenor until he wore it out and then replaced some of the parts of his first tenor with parts from that one, to fix it up. MP relates how he got his clarinet. It was way back when he still played banjo. It was around 1932-33, he played a house party job at College Court with Nathan Zahn's band; Roy Scott played true It turned out that the man who had hired them couldn't pay the band so he gave them the clarinet to hold until he could pay them, which he never did. Zahn gave the clarinet to MP to take home and maybe learn how to play it, but MP wasn't playing any blowing instrument then. Zahn, who played alto, took it back and played it for a while, then returned it to MP who just packed it away inn his trunk. He didn't take it out until much later, when there was much talk about clarinets and he remembered he had one [in late fifties.]

In 1945 MP joined the Eureka Brass Band. [Dominick "'Ti'-Boy" [Remy] was leader then. Two or three times a week they [i.e. Remy and MP?] would play on Napoleon Avenue, at Tchoupitoulas [i.e. in a dance band?1; Ruby Thompson played piano; she teaches school. MP answers WR saying that he has played with [Albert] Burbank. several times, but not there. He never liked the sould of a clarinet and always tried to get away from it. He played with George Williams several times, down in Port Sulphur, with Tom Albert (who played cornet and violin, according to WR) , "going down to Burs". Also in the band was Albert "Loochie" Jackson, who played with John Casimir's Young Tuxedo Brass Band] and has now given up music. Percy Humphrey took the Eureka band over when "'Pi'-Boy" went to California; he still has it and MP is still in the band. Eddie Richardson was assistand manager or assistant leader. MP played tenor with the Eureka band. They never had a baritone; MP would play the baritone parts on tenor, as the tenor part didn't have enough in it; he'd play from music. WR remembers a beautiful baritone solo MP played on tenor in the tune "West Lawn", a dirge.

When MP joined the Eureka Band, it consisted of Eddie Richardson, Percy Humphrey, "'Ti'-Boy", among others. "Shots" [Madis onj wasn't in the band but would play with them at times; they had no clarinet in the band; [Reubeni Roddy was with them; the drummers changed often; MP remembers the best snare drummer he ever heard, Arthur ogle, whom MP calls Logan; both his legs were amputated; he died last year. Before Ogle joined the band, Bill Matthews' brother Reius Matthews played snare drums with them; he was very good, too; but then he joined the church and gave up music completely. RC comments that this seems to happen often, but in MP's case it was just the opposite. MP explains that the pastor of this church planned to travel to different churches with the band he organized, and this would draw attention to church affairs [which would justify the music as such]; it was too bad that it didn't work out; MP and Sam Dutrey [ are the only members of that group who still play music. MP thinks that maybe some day he'd like to go back and try a similar project again. There follows a discussion on the dubious value of giving up music when you join a church ('WR mentions two recent cases, Burke Stevenson, who used to play bass with Thomas, and Sidney Brown, who played bass with Papa Celestin and the proper amount of attention that should be given both the mundane and the spiritual sphere of life. MP played with the Kid Thomas band around 1943. He was working at the Naval Supply [Depot?] then, at Napoleon Avenue and the river; he was salvaging, bagging beans, rice etc.

he'd work up to 12 hours a day and then go right on across the river to play with Kid Thomas, three nights a week, at the Moulin Rouge. Thomas had a nine-piece band then. MP played with Thomas from 1943 to 1947. MP starts re­lating how it came about that Roddy [as] joined the Thomas band. At that time Sammy Penn [cl] and Edmund Washington [as] were in the band. [Confusion of facts here. Should interview Washington on this as he preceded Roddy in the band. See Kid Thomas band tape. Per­haps Roddy in band twice.] Roddy replaced MP with the Kid Thomas band in 1947. After a job at Raceland they had an accident on the way home, and Sammy Penn was injured. This caused MP to decide not to play any more road jobs with Thomas; he figured it was too dangerous.

Since then he has turned down all jobs out of town, except for jobs just across the river. In 1945 MP gave up daily work for health reasons; he only worked music jobs. He had some stomach illness and he had all his upper teeth pulled also. WR wonders if that bothered his playing at all; he says one wouldn't think so hearing him play so well. MP says one doesn't have quite the same control of the mouthpiece. In 1948 he suffered a ruptured appendix as he lifted a heavy tub of clothes, helping his wife. He was operated on the next day; he was "seeing little angels" then, thinking it was his last day; he was in pretty bad shape and hasn't been the same ever since. He has to take care of himself. He built the house he lives in all by himself, but he had to work a week, rest in bed a week, and so on, otherwise he couldn't have made it. He says after long parades he has to go home and rest because his back bothers him.

Once he got very sick on a job in Venice, playing with [Willie] Pajeaud; this was after he had put up sheet rock all day, and he had to stay in bed for two weeks after that. [Matthew] "Fats" Houston was playing drums with them then. This was after he had quit playing road jobs with Thomas. MP agrees with RC that he has played regularly with Thomas for over three years now. MP says that Edmond Washington has been with Kid Thomas for a long time, even before MP first played with them. When MP first played with Thomas, it was a nine-piece band; [Albert] "Loochie" [Jackson] played trombone; "Bat" Moseley [clarinet] was with them then. When MP played alto, he used to play with tuba­player Eddie Jackson's five-piece band. He played a "sweet tuba"; it was a dance band, and they would play in Gretna at some big hall the name of which MP doesn't remember. Jackson was so good he was beginning to take Thomas' jobs; he used to play solos on his tuba; he died in 1942; MP can't remember the names of any trumpet players in that band; he has been with so many bands, often simultaneously. RC would like to know what is MP's impression of the music situation in New Orleans now. (RC leading, but seems not to matter)  MP thinks it's pretty band, there are not too many jobs; even during the depression there was more music; people would play for very little then; often they'd play to help somebody; he'd play for a dollar a night; $ 2.50 was a nice price then.

MP tries to explain the current situation by saying that it seems that the older people are falling back and letting the younger people take over; but the younger musicians have their own styles and don't consult the old musicians; he has heard them say that they don't want to be associated with the older musicians; so they got known for their own styles, and the new trend became the only one that would sell with their own class [i.e. youngsters]. But the older people still support Dixieland. MP agrees with WR that television keeps a lot of people at home, of course. MP says some of the rock 'n' roll music is quite nice, but it's much easier to play than Dixieland; a lot of the musicians don't know a thing about music and what they play; they just play by ear, from records, but as far as MP is concerned, that's not music. Most of it is just copied; the beat makes it rock 'n' roll; they are mostly blues, really, but the words and the rhythm are different. RC remembers a blues, "Go into the River", he once heard MP sing at the Moulin Rouge; RC had never heard it before; MP says it's an old-timer, though. RC says that they don't play those gold numbers so much any more. There follows a discussion of old records that somebody would buy up for 1 or 2 cents a piece. WR questions MP about the organization of the Eureka Band in the old days and now. MP says they have no more rehearsals now, but in the old days they would rehearse once or twice a month; this was before Sunny Henry died.

WR says MP is known to be one of the better musicians in the band; he wants to know if MP had any special responsibilities such as tuning up the other musicians; MP says he'd give some advice on the music should be played at times, but he wouldn't help anybody tune up; they were all good enough to do that themselves; he says he is not given too much authority and he doesn't want it; Percy Humphrey is the leader, [Joseph] "Red" Clark is the manager., and Pajeaud is the assistant leader. The tuning up is tricky at times; either the lip or the instrument may be the cause of somebody playing out of tune; the instrument shouldn't be too dry, that's why a t a job they always play one number and then check again. A reed instrument can get one-half tone off depending on how the reed is pressed. MP can tell from the way he has to lip to play the same note as another musician, if that one is out of tune or not. RC says he has heard MP playing with Thomas when the piano was too low; MP says he wouldn't try to tune to the piano; it's more important to get the blowing in­struments right.

MP would occasionally re-write a part or two for a number that the Eureka Band would play, but he never did any arranging. MP says that a lot of times he would play the baritone part of a number on his tenor. Roddy would never play an alto sax part but an Eb clarinet part on his alto sax. MP likes the alto very much, but he thinks a lot of musicians are prejudiced against it; for instance Willie Humphrey had an alto but would never bring it; he likes it because its tone is nice and heavy; it's a better support to him than the clarinet; the clarinet can easily sound too light; Paul [Barnes] for instance is not heavy enough [in sound]; the strongest clarinet player MP ever heard is John Casimir; "his clarinet stands up. Casimir played at a funeral a few days ago; there were two bands there; MP was not with Casimir but the other band; Casimir had Bill Matthews on trombone on that occasion, and Alvin Alcorn, Andrew Anderson; Andrew "Jeff" Jefferson and Alfred Williams played snare drums; one alto and Andrew Morgan on tenor. They had the second snare drummer to fill in for a missing trumpet [to make the band of 10 complete]. AJ had the job.

WR says that in the old days with smaller Dixieland bands, MP would play his tenor in a way that would make him sound like a bass or trombone. MP says he would get down to the rhythm section so he can fill in better and balance the chords, wherever they would be short of a note; it would also give the other musicians more swing. MP says he loves music and pays attention to all sections of the band; for MP, music consists to a great extent of feeling and imagination, and he says it is so great to be able to feel what you are playing. He plays as if he were in the rhythm section in order to support the other men and get them to swing. WR suggests that this tendency of MP's dates back from the time he played the banjo; MP admits he learned about chords then; he hasn't played banjo at all since about 1933.

He always used to practice, partly by trying to get plenty of jobs; in the beginning, when he first learned to play a saxophone, he would practice scales. He still has his straight soprano sax.Also present: William Russell, Ralph Collins.

MP shows some old photographs. The first one is a picture of the Kid Thomas band around 1955, showing a seven-piece band; Kid Thomas [Valentine] tp., another trumpet player [Lennett?]; Joe James [piano] and Edmond Washington [alto saxophone] are also on the photograph. The next picture shows the big WPA band [see S. B. Chartres, Jazz: New Orleans...], the first one MP played with; it shows him with his soprano sax; with him are just about all the musicians playing in New Orleans at that time: Willie Humphrey [clarinet or alto sax?]; Professor Pinchback Tureaud; Son Johnson, sax; "Yellow" Eddie Johnson, not to be mixed up with "Big Head" Eddie Johnson; Albert Glenny, bass; Howard Davis, clarinet; Henry Hard, John Casimir, Sidney Montague, Israel Gorman, Mitchell, clarinets; Sam Lee; Oscar ["Chicken"] Henry, bass [check this]; [Alcide]. Landry; [Bill] Brown, sousaphone; Andrew Morgan; Richard Mc Lean, banjo; Sidney Cates, banjo; Leo Songy [sp?], [Raymond] Glapion [sp?], Crawford, banjo; Henry Russ, trumpet; Louis Dumaine; [George] McCullum; Lionel [Ferbos], a friend of [Willie] Paj and' s; [Louis] "Shots" [Madison]; Gilbert Young [all trumpets]; [Douglas] Hood, banjo; in all there were about 111 musicians in the band at that time; the picture was taken at the [Milne] Boys Home, where they used to play every Wednesday.

MP shows a second photograph which was taken on February 2, 1935, by the Magnolia Studio; it was taken at Dumaine and Decatur, at the arena, where they would rehearse. It shows Professor Carter, [Ernest] Trepagnier; Ernest Penn, banjo (who was a great executor but could not read and later lost his mind and died); Tappo on second banjo; [Josiah] "Cie" [Frazier] ; [Alexander] "Battle Ax" [Burnett], guitar; there are over a dozen banjos; [Wilbert] Tillman, trumpet; Dave Morris, bass [who sold his bass to "Slowdrag" [Pavageau] and gave up music when he joined the church], Glenny and.Tureaud (baritone horn) again; [Joe?] Harris on trombone; Gorman and Humphrey again; Bandy on clari­net; Edward Stamps, who is driving a cab now; Harding; Frank Crump; Howard Davis; Hood. MP shows another picture taken in 1931; it shows him with a tenor sax that belonged to someone else; Louis Dumaine; [Joe Martinez was in charge of the band then, Dumaine was directing. Another picture is taken in City Park, the WPA band_ was wearing white uniforms on it; this must have been taken around 1937-38. One picture shows Joe Avery's funeral.

 

End of Manuel Paul interview



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