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Arts and Entertainment

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


Elmer Talbert “Coo Coo”

Born in New Orleans on August 8, 1900 – died in New Orleans on December 13, 1950.

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

In 1929 he was with the Arnold Depass Dance Orchestra. She took lessons from Kid Rena and, at times, worked with Rena’s Bass Band and Paul Barnes. He was, like many other musicians in New Orleans, a part-time musician and made a living working in a laundry. In 1947 he suffered a stroke but made a good recovery.

Between 1947 and his untimely death from another stroke in the late 1950s, he made some notable recordings, all with the George Lewis Band. On November 23, 1949, a party was held at 1111 Bourbon St. by jazz fanatic Herb Otto. The entire George Lewis Band was there, with other musicians and jazz fans 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 really hot, and our first chance to hear “Coo Coo” Elmer Talbert.

In May 1950, Dr. Edmond Souchon arranged a recording for the George Lewis Band on behalf of the New Orleans Jazz Club. The understanding 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; there was cold water, soft drinks, beer and good things with lots of ice. Bandleader George kept a tight grip on the drinks, and the resulting music is arguably one of the great classical jazz sessions in any style. It’s yours to hear on “George Lewis Jam Session” on AMCD 104. Of course the whole band is fantastic, but Elmer Talbert’s trumpet and incredible voice on “2.19 Blues” and “Pallet On The Floor” are Desert records. Island for me. !

Just a few weeks later, on June 5, 1950, the George Lewis Band with “Coo Coo” on trumpet did four songs 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 in terms of sound and balance for the George Lewis Band. I suppose there is a certain 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 the Good Time Jazz L12005. GTCD 12005-2.

Finally, 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 1950. Some great George Lewis and Jim Robinson here and sadly our last chance to hear Elmer on the trumpet.


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