Albert Brunies

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The extensive Brunies family of New Orleans could have by itself populated the "Irish Channel" neighborhood of New Orleans with jazz musicians -- there were some half a dozen brothers and sisters who…
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The extensive Brunies family of New Orleans could have by itself populated the "Irish Channel" neighborhood of New Orleans with jazz musicians -- there were some half a dozen brothers and sisters who performed on various instruments, not to mention a musical mother, father, and cousin. This neighborhood also was the home of many other players of German, French, Irish, and Italian descent, including the entire membership of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. So nobody seemed to mind much when the complete Brunies family band would set up their instruments on the front porch and blast away. Albert Brunies, better known as Abbie Brunies, was an influential cornet player and also led Abbie Brunies' Halfway House Orchestra, which despite the name did not consist of recovering alcoholics or felons on parole. The Halfway House was a club, so named because it happened to be located approximately half of the distance between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Players in this group included Charlie Cordella, Mickey Marcour, Leon Rappolo, Bill Eastwood, Joe Loyacano, and Leo Adde. The original version of this group functioned for around eight years beginning in 1919.

Abbie Brunies actively gigged in the New Orleans area until the mid-'40s, when he relocated around the bend in Biloxi, MS. He led a group there called the Brunies Brothers Dixieland Jazz Band. The fine cornetist "Papa Ray" Ronnei was considered to have been influenced greatly by Brunies' playing style. Brunies himself seems to have undergone a stylistic transition in the late '20s, showing an understanding of the Paul Whiteman concepts of orchestrating jazz, even going as far as to toss in a few Bix Beiderbecke licks. Much less is known about his playing style by the '50s, as the Biloxi group did very little recording. The most famous members of the Brunies clan were trombonist and bandleader George Brunies, who later shaved his name down to Georg Brunis, and Merritt Brunies, proficient on both cornet and trombone and also a successful bandleader. There was also another trombonist, Henry "Henny" Brunies; guitarist Ada Brunies; Richard Brunies on cornet; and Rudy Brunies, who played the "slap" bass style and made beer for a living.