New Orleans Jazz – News and Views – Elmer ‘Coo Coo’ Talbert


Elmer Talbert “Coo Coo”

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

What follows is a very brief resume 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. He had lessons from Kid Rena and sometimes worked with Rena’s Bass Band, and with Paul Barnes. He was, like many other musicians in New Orleans, a part-time musician and earned a living working in a laundry. In 1947 he suffered a stroke but recovered well.

Between 1947 and his untimely death from another stroke in late 1950, he made some remarkable recordings all with the George Lewis Band. On November 23 1949 a party was held at 1111 Bourbon St. by jazz fan Herb Otto. The complete George Lewis Band was there, with other musicians and jazz buffs present. Herb Otto and his friend Bob Greenwood both had recording machines and much of the music was taped. On the American Music Label AMCD 74 “The George Lewis Band at Herb Otto’s party 1949” you can hear the result. Not hi fidelity but the music shines through, it is very hot, and our first chance to hear “Coo Coo” Elmer Talbert.

In May 1950 Dr. Edmond Souchon arranged a recording of 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 sultry New Orleans day; cold water, soda, beer and good stuff was available with lots of ice. Bandleader George kept strict control of the drinks, and the resulting music is arguably one the great classic sessions of jazz in any style. It is yours to listen to on “George Lewis Jam Session” on AMCD 104. The whole band is of course fantastic but Elmer Talbert’s trumpet and his amazing vocal on ” 2.19 Blues” and “Pallet On The Floor” are Desert Island Discs for me!

Only weeks later on June 5 1950, the George Lewis Band with “Coo Coo” on trumpet made four tracks for the “Good Time Jazz” label. This was recorded in New Orleans and supervised by Jack Lewerke. In my opinion, this is some of the best quality with regard to the 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 on the Good Time Jazz L12005. GTCD 12005-2.

Lastly, on Jazz Crusade JCCD 3054 an air shot recording of the George Lewis Band with Elmer Talbert. This was a Dixieland Clambake programme 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 trumpet.


Source by Geoff Gilbert

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