Top 50 JAzz Blog

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Orleans Trumpets and the Lowly Hankie

I know what you're saying: finally, a post that combines jazz and handkerchiefs...

Truth is, the lowly handkerchief has a venerable presence in New Orleans jazz trumpet. Maybe it's the humidity. One of the first great New Orleans trumpeters, Freddie Keppard, played with a handkerchief covering his valves-at least when he thought other trumpet players were close enough to cop his fingerings, although Sidney Bechet disputes that. Freddie seems to have been paranoid enough about other players copping his licks that he apparently ceded the chance to make the first "jazz" recording to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
Tommy Ladnier, another user of the handkerchief. 

Oliver-mute specialist
King Oliver was also known to have sometimes covered his valves, although it doesn't easily jibe with his reputation as teacher and mentor, especially of Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong was the most famous handkerchief user; not to cover his valves, but held in his left hand, which holds the valve casing. And, as a copious sweater, to wipe his brow.
Louis in 1932

Another New Orleans trumpeter, Henry Red Allen, picked up the habit.

Finally, Joseph "Wingy" Manone. Called Wingy because as a kid he lost one arm in a streetcar accident, Wingy held the horn with a prosthetic and ran the valves with his left hand.

Now, someone explain to me why Louis Prima was not a hankie user.

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