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New Orleans Jazz – News & Opinions – Elmer ‘Coo Coo’ Talbert

Elmer Talbert “Coo Coo”

He was born in New Orleans on August 8, 1900 – died in New Orleans on December 13, 1950.

The following is a brief summary of Elmer Talbert’s career thanks to “New Orleans Jazz – A Family Album by Dr. Edmond Souchon and Al Rose (Louisiana University Press)

In 1929 he was part of the Arnold Depass Dance Orchestra. He took lessons from Kid Rena and sometimes worked with Rena’s Bass Band and with Paul Barnes. He was, like many other New Orleans musicians, a part-time musician, earning his living working in a laundromat. In 1947 he suffered a stroke but recovered well.

Between 1947 and his unexpected death from another stroke in late 1950, he made some notable recordings, all with the George Lewis Band. On November 23, 1949, jazz aficionado Herb Otto held a party at 1111 Bourbon St. The entire George Lewis Band was there, with other musicians and jazz aficionados in attendance. Herb Otto and his friend Bob Greenwood had recording machines and much of the music was recorded. On the American record label AMCD 74 “The George Lewis Band at Herb Otto’s party 1949” you can hear the result. It’s not hi-fi, but the music shines, it’s very hot, and our first chance to hear “Coo Coo” Elmer Talbert.

In May 1950, Dr. Edmond Souchon arranged a recording by the George Lewis Band on behalf of the New Orleans Jazz Club. The deal was that if Dr. Souchon could sell the record, George and the band would get the money. The recording took place at Filiberto’s Music Store on Barracks Street. A hot and muggy day in New Orleans; Cold water, soft drinks, beer and goodies were available with plenty of ice. Bandleader George kept a tight rein on the drinks, and the resulting music is quite possibly some of the great classic jazz sessions in any style. It’s yours to hear on “George Lewis Jam Session” on AMCD 104. The whole band is, of course, fantastic, but Elmer Talbert’s trumpet and incredible voice on “2.19 Blues” and “Pallet On The Floor” are records of a deserted island for me. !

Just a few weeks later, on June 5, 1950, the George Lewis Band with “Coo Coo” on trumpet did four tracks for the “Good Time Jazz” label. This was recorded in New Orleans and supervised by Jack Lewerke. In my opinion, this is one of the best qualities regarding sound and balance of the George Lewis Band. I suppose there is a degree of personal bias here because this version of “Burgundy Street Blues” was played at my wedding to Diana Clark at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. The CD is in Good Time Jazz L12005. GTCD 12005-2.

Lastly, on Jazz Crusade JCCD 3054, an aerial recording of the George Lewis Band with Elmer Talbert. This was a Dixieland Clambake show in New Orleans in September and October of 1950. Some great George Lewis and Jim Robinson here and sadly our last chance to hear Elmer on trumpet.

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