* September 7 1912 New Orleans, La
† July 10 2003 New Orleans, La
Born as Alvin Elmore Alcorn.
Brother of clarinet and saxophone player Oliver. Alvin’s son Samuel also played with the Imperial. He was born on the 2800 block of Magnolia Street.
His Uncle “Knottsy” Butts played with George McCullum Sr. brass band
Alvin Alcorn, a traditional jazz trumpeter who played with New Orleans musical greats from A.J. Piron to Kid Ory and George Lewis during a career that spanned most of the 20th century, died July 10 at Memorial Medical Centre. He was 90.
Mr. Alcorn’s trio, also including a guitar and string bass, strolled among the customers at Commander’s Palace for many years and is credited with starting the tradition of the New Orleans jazz brunch. “With the soft music he played, he could do that, because it was not disturbing to the diners,” his daughter Andrea Naundorf said. “He played a sweet trumpet,” said Dick Allen, a jazz historian who knew Mr. Alcorn since 1949. “But he also played lead. You don’t play lead without that power.”
Mr. Alcorn explained his success this way: “I always try to reach the public when I’m playing. I try to make the people feel happy.”
Alvin E. Alcorn Sr. was born in New Orleans on Sept. 7, 1912, and lived here most of his life. He began making music at an early age. His older brother Oliver, who played clarinet and saxophone, used to rehearse with friends around the house, and trumpeter George McCullum sr. gave young Alvin lessons. “I started gigging around the city,” Mr. Alcorn recalled years later. “I played with Armand Piron and with the Henry Allen Sr. and the Excelsior brass bands, passing for (being older). I went in the musicians’ union when I was 15 years old. That put me in a category where I could work with some of the finer musicians.” Mr. Alcorn was active in the union for many years, serving as a vice president of the segregated union for black musicians and later on the executive board of the integrated union. His first job on the road was with Clarence Desdune’s Joyland Revellers, joining the band in Omaha, Neb., for a summer on McCullum’s sr. recommendation. Returning to New Orleans, he began working with several groups, including A.J. Piron, and spent a year playing at a dance hall with Captain John Handy’s band. In 1931, Mr. Alcorn married Lulsbia Joseph, whom he had met while attending Thomy Lafon Elementary School. They had seven children. In 1932, Mr. Alcorn went to San Antonio to join the Don Albert Band, a large swing band that travelled around the country and made several recordings. Within a short time, Albert turned over the first trumpet’s chair to Mr. Alcorn, who had become known for the beauty of his tone and for never missing or cracking a note — a reputation that stayed with him, jazz historians Clive Wilson and Paige Van Vorst said.
Returning to New Orleans in 1937, Mr. Alcorn played the summer season on the steamer President with Piron, then joined the Sidney Desvigne Orchestra, with which he stayed for several years. His colleagues there included well-known musicians such as Louis Cottrell, Louis Barbarin, Waldren “Frog” Joseph and Louis Nelson. In 1951, Mr. Alcorn began playing at the Paddock Lounge on Bourbon Street with Papa Celestin’s band, an engagement that led to his collaboration with trombonist Kid Ory. “We went to the Beverly Cavern on the West Coast for a month, replacing Ory,” he recalled. “Toward the end of our stay, Kid Ory came into the club and asked me to join his band right away. He’d asked me back during the war, but I couldn’t go at that time.” Mr. Alcorn spent four years with Ory, taking part in many recording sessions and a European tour and appearing in the film “The Benny Goodman Story.” Back in New Orleans once again, Mr. Alcorn was in demand for the rest of his life, working with Albert “Papa” French at Dixieland Hall, George Lewis at Preservation Hall and Cottrell at Heritage and Economy halls and Crazy Shirley’s.
He also went on several more overseas tours and recorded with his trio, Lewis and other bands before retiring about 1990. Mr. Alcorn’s wife died in November at 88. Survivors include four daughters, L. Alva Willis of Los Angeles, Luticha A. Perkins of River Ridge, Andrea A. Naundorf and Alcornette A. August; a sister, Elnora Knott; 16 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren. A funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Peck United Methodist Church, 3631 Washington Ave., with many jazz musicians and the Society Brass Band participating. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Providence Memorial Park.
According to Wilbert Tillman the first job in which Alvin Alcorn played with the Excelsior Brass Band, was the funeral of baritone horn and trombone player Gus Metcalf. If the memory of Alvin Alcorn was write, this took place in 1929.