Even if you are not familiar with the sound of Alois Maxwell Hirt, a.k.a Al Hirt, you may have crossed paths with his music if you are a hip hop fan? Sampled by the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, this legendary artist was known as the “King of Trumpet” and became one of the most popular musicians in the US in the 60’s! After his legendary performance at the Dunes in L.A in 1960, his success soared and throughout his career he was requested to play for 6 US presidents!
Born in 1922, Al Hirt was introduced to music as a child! At the age of six his father gave him his first trumpet, which he purchased from a pawn shop. Later that same year, the young prodigy made his first public appearance on stage at the Saenger Theater with the Junior Police Band. He studied music at Jesuit High School and in 1940 he won a scholarship to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. It was during his time in Cincinnati that he began to take music seriously. In 1942 he returned home to New Orleans, and after the war he played with the big bands of the era including Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, and Horace Heidt.
In 1950 he began his recording career and his path to stardom began. During his career, he received twenty-one Grammy nominations winning the Grammy award in 1964 for his version of Allen Toussaint’s song Java. From 1963 to 1965, the album Honey in the Horn (from which Java was taken) remained on the Billboard charts.
Whilst most of Al Hirt’s discography is not considered too collectible or, indeed, too ‘cool’, there is one album that remains popular and that is his Soul In The Horn LP. Released in 1967 on RCA Victor, this record contains the heavily sampled Harlem Hendoo – featuring in The Roots, Stay Cool, Damu The Fudgemunk’s Ego Trooping and De La Soul’s Ego Trippin (Part II) It’s massively chilled groove and ‘just the right amount’ of jazz trumpet (for me) makes for a perfect unfurling escape! Check it out above.