After writing yesterday’s post about perfection I was looking for an example to share with you and then it hit me: Al Hirt vs. Louis Prima.
When I was growing up my father, Don, and I were both trumpet players. Well, actually my father was and I sucked – or blew – whatever the case. As a young and struggling trumpet player I always admired Al Hirt and had many of his albums. Al was a master technician and could really play the horn unlike anyone I had ever heard. He was my hero and I aspired to play like Al. My father hated him.
Instead, he loved Louis Prima and for the life of me I could never figure out why. Al played faster, hit the notes perfectly and in general made Louis Prima sound like a third string trumpet player (like me).
My father tried to teach me that Louis played with soul and the mistakes he made were part of that soul and Al played perfectly from sheet music. According to my father Louis was brilliant and Al was boring and it took me years to understand what he meant – especially the part about making mistakes.
At the time my family lived in California and I remember my parents were excited to have the chance to drive all the way to Las Vegas Nevada and watch Louis Prima, Keely Smith with Sam Butera and the Witnesses play at the Sahara hotel – something they just never did. What really stunned me was that Al Hirt was also playing live in Vegas at the same time. I felt let down that they could make the trip to watch this third string player rather than watch my A player.
Years later I understand and have always regretted the lost opportunity to watch one of the best trumpet players, singers and bands ever in the history of modern music – fortunately all is not lost for me as my parents happened to have been in the audience when they recorded the event live and it’s available to listen to today.
Al was perfect and boring while Louis played and sang as if his soul was on fire.