Origins of a Passion for Music

JB: Hal, over the past several columns, we’ve explored obscure musical heroes, dissected seminal early jazz pieces, and celebrated iconic ensembles. Let’s take a break this month and turn the magnifying glass on ourselves. The origins of a passion for a music that was already fringe long before any practitioners still on this side of the sod were born fascinates me. I won’t immediately put you in the hot seat; I’ll begin with the first time I heard early jazz on record. I became a teenager in 1980, so my most impressionable years, the years when my ears were most open and receptive to input, were spent in the 1970’s. With no YouTube, internet or even home computers available, all I had at my disposal were the radio and my parents’ record collection. They had eclectic tastes, so Barry Manilow would open for Dr. Hook, then Anne Murray, The Beach Boys, Bix Beiderbecke, the Oak Ridge Boys, Henry Mancini, Olivia Newton John…WAIT a minute? Backing up I see the name of one of my heroes amidst the stars of the bell-bottom age! How can that be? Turns out my dad was a closet jazz fan; he had the 1950’s three-volume Columbia releases comprising The Bix Beiderbecke Story (CL 844, 845, 846) with magnificent liner notes by George Avakian. Dad would take out the old, tarnished trumpet he’d played in high school, spin one of those discs and play a 4th trumpet part to the Whiteman
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Hal Smith is an Arkansas-based drummer and writer. He leads the New Orleans Night Owls and the
Mortonia Seven and works with a variety of jazz and swing bands. Visit him online at

Jeff Barnhart is an internationally renowned pianist, vocalist, arranger, bandleader, recording artist, ASCAP composer, educator and entertainer. Visit him online at Email: [email protected]

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