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Group Members: Tom McDermott, Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic, The Minnesota Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Danny Barker, Jim Hall, JB Scott's Swingin' Allstars, The Jim Hall Trio, Jim Hall And Ron Carter, Jerry Fuller Sextet, Tim Laughlin, The Jim Hall Quartet
All Music Guide:
The story of the Dukes of Dixieland is, in fact, a chapter in the broader saga of one of New Orleans' many musical dynasties, that of the Assunto family, which can boast at least three generations of musicians to its credit. Jac Assunto was one of the first jazzmen to record in New Orleans, documented in 1925 by Ralph Peer as a member of the Midnight Serenaders. The Dukes were formed by his two sons, Freddie and Frank, in 1949, and during the '50s they rose to national prominence, first as a feature of the Bourbon Street scene at the Famous Door, then as a touring act when they traveled to Chicago and Las Vegas in 1955. By this time, "Papa" Jac had joined the band, and the following year, the Assuntos made Las Vegas their headquarters as they prepared to take the country, and the world, by storm. Between 1956 and 1966, the band made numerous recordings, including several with Louis Armstrong, and began an international touring schedule that covered most of North America, Japan, and the Far East.
The death of Freddie Assunto in 1966 brought the Dukes back to New Orleans in 1967; six years later Frank passed away, ending the predominance of the family in the band, as well as its first phase of development. Still, the Dukes continued on with a new lineup, and in the late '70s, they established themselves as a tourist attraction once again in their own penthouse nightclub atop the Montleone Hotel in the French Quarter. In the mid-'80s they underwent further personnel changes but continued to hold forth well into the 21st century. They held forth at Lulu White's Mahogany Hall (the former Paddock Lounge), located on Bourbon Street. In 1991, Mahogany Hall was sold and closed, and the Dukes moved to the Steamboat Natchez at the Toulouse Street wharf in the French Quarter, where they have been performing since. They received their first Grammy nomination in 1999 for Gloryland, a collaboration with Moses Hogan's New Orleans Gospel Choir. In all their various manifestations, the Dukes of Dixieland have offered listeners a snappy, toe-tapping style of jazz that is at once musically and visually entertaining. The four-disc Timeless appeared in 2006, an anthology of songs and tunes from the 16 albums the group recorded between 1974 and 2006. The genre-bending When Country Meets Dixie appeared in 2012, featuring the group in a country/jazz fusion with the Oak Ridge Boys.
The Dukes of Dixieland was a New Orleans "Dixieland"-style revival band formed in 1948 by brothers Frank Assunto, trumpet; Fred Assunto, trombone; and their father Papa Jac Assunto, trombone and banjo. Their first records featured Jack Maheu, clarinet; Stanley Mendelsohn, piano; Tommy Rundell, drums; and Barney Mallon, tuba and string bass. During its run the band also featured musicians such as jazz great clarinetist Pete Fountain, Jerry Fuller, Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, and Bob "Duke" Assunto [son].
Fred and Frank Assunto both died young, and the Dukes of Dixieland disbanded in the early 1970s. In April 1974, Producer/Manager John Shoup restarted the DUKES of Dixieland with Connie Jones as leader, leased Louis Prima's nightclub atop the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter and renamed it "DUKE'S PLACE." The DUKES of Dixieland have not been affiliated with the Assunto Family since 1974, some 37 years ago.
Dukes of Dixieland were featured on the first stereo record, released November 1957, on the Audio Fidelity label. Sidney Frey, founder and president of Audio Fidelity, had Westrex cut the disk for release before any of the major record labels. In 1978, the DUKES recorded the first Direct-to-Disk album, and then, in 1984, were the first jazz band to record on CD. In 1980, they recorded a television special at the old Civic Theater in New Orleans, with the New Orleans Pops Orchestra and later performed in a TV special with Woody Herman, "Wood Choppers Ball." In 1986, they invited jazz master Danny Barker to perform with them at Mahogany Hall to record a television special "Salute to Jelly Roll Morton". In 2001, their gospel CD "Gloryland" was nominated for a Grammy. In 2011, they recorded with The Oak Ridge Boys, in Nashville, TN, a CD titled "Country Meets Dixie."
They have performed with symphony orchestras, including the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, National, New York Pops (in Carnegie Hall), and 29 other orchestras around the world. In 2005, they traveled aboard the Steamboat Natchez up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Cincinnati, OH, raising money for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Relief Fund, while many of the band members' homes were still destroyed. In 2011, they performed with the Boston Pops.
Band Alumni 1959-61 — Rich Matteson
1975-80Mike VaxDick JohnsonBilly MenierOtis BazoonAl BernardJerry MehanBob O'RourkeBill Huntington
1981-85Frank TrapaniPhamous LambertBobby FloydFreddy Kohlman
1986-89Harry WatersJ.B ScottMike Waddell
1990-2010Richard TaylorAl BarthlowEverett LinkBen SmithTim LaughlinKevin ClarkEarl BonieMike FultonJamie WightTom McDermott
2011-2012Kevin ClarkBen SmithScott ObenschainRyan BurrageAlan BroomeJ.J. Juliano
2013-Kevin ClarkBen SmithScott ObenschainRyan BurrageAlan BroomePaul ThibodeauxColin Meyers