Obituary: Pud Brown

Whether or not he was a New Orleans clarinet player born and bred, Pud Brown certainly played like one. He claimed to have been born in Shreveport, Louisiana, but some reference books say he was a son of Sacramento in California, whilst others put his birthplace as Wilmington, Delaware. No matter, last week he was given his final send-off as one of the Crescent City's finest in a street parade through the lower French Quarter. The music, first funereal and then exultant, was played by the Algiers Brass Band and by the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band.

Brown possessed that limpid and full tone that made the clarinet playing of Jimmy Noone and Irving Fazola, both classical New Orleans-born clarinettists, so distinctive and attractive. He began playing music when he was five and - after playing a charity benefit two weeks ago to raise money for musical instruments for public school students in the Algiers area of New Orleans, where he lived - worked his last job at the New Orleans cafe where his band was resident on the evening before he died.

His first job, in 1927, was as a member of a family band led by his father. Pud was billed as "The World's Youngest Saxophone Player". Already a multi-instrumentalist, he was working in theatre-pit bands in the early Thirties before settling in Chicago. He became part of that city's robust musical scene and over the years worked there with, amongst others, Jimmy Dorsey, Bud Freeman and cornetist Pete Daily. He made records with Daily before moving to Shreveport in 1945. It was later, with the polished jazz of Los Angeles and the West Coast, where he settled in 1949, that he made his name, first as a member of Jack Teagarden's band from 1951 to 1952 and subsequently in the band that Kid Ory led in 1953.

The trombonist Ory had been one of the main jazz influences to come out of New Orleans in the earliest days of the century, and Brown was happy to settle into the traditional style with him. After Ory he worked with a variety of traditionalist jazz groups in Los Angeles, recording with another New Orleans veteran, the trumpeter Lee Collins, and playing in a band with Collins and the pianist Ralph Sutton which broadcast regularly from the Hangover Club in San Francisco, where it was resident.

During the Sixties Brown added trumpet and cornet to his instruments and also played double bass for a time. In his later years he played all the different saxophones, but mostly tenor, and even concocted new instruments from bits and pieces of instruments which he had collected.

His talents in constructing instruments were all part of his useful skills as a mechanic. He drew teeth as an amateur dentist and was invariably able to fix the band bus if it broke down. A keen pedal and motor cyclist, he ran a bicycle shop in New Orleans for five years, and when the time came for him to move into a balcony apartment in St Peter's Street, his old apartment was so filled with bike and car parts that he had to keep it on just to store them.

Brown lived in Shreveport from 1973 before finally moving to New Orleans, playing at the city's Blue Angel in Bourbon Street for a long spell. But he hadn't entirely shed the musical refinement of the West Coast and he put together an all-star band in 1977 for recording which included Shelly Manne, Dick Cary and Eddie Miller, sophisticates far from the simple New Orleans tradition.

During the Eighties Brown was a member of Clive Wilson's Original Camellia Jazz Band, a group highly thought of in New Orleans. In 1984 he travelled to Singapore in a band led by the drummer Trevor Richards and worked there for six months, but in the main he was content to work around the New Orleans area, and when he came back from Singapore he was booked into the band which played in the long-running New Orleans stage production of One Mo' Time.

Brown had led his own band at the Palm Court Cafe in the French Quarter of New Orleans for a long time and played his last evening there with it on the Sunday evening before he died.

Albert "Pud" Brown, clarinettist, saxophonist and band leader: born 22 January 1917; died New Orleans 27 May 1996.

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