Art Landry

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Equally adept with alto saxophone, clarinet, and violin, Art Landry led a jazzy little dance band during the 1920s that made records which are comparable with the best offerings from bandleaders Sam Lanin,…
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Equally adept with alto saxophone, clarinet, and violin, Art Landry led a jazzy little dance band during the 1920s that made records which are comparable with the best offerings from bandleaders Sam Lanin, Isham Jones, Jean Goldkette, and Paul Specht. Landry was born in Montreal in 1896. Classically trained as a violinist, he served in the U.S. Marines with saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft. In 1918, they took themselves to San Francisco where they performed with bands led by Art Hickman and Paul Whiteman. Landry also made a point of sitting in with African-American groups in the district known as the Barbary Coast. By 1922 he was leading his own orchestra, which for awhile spent much of its time on the road. Legend has it that while touring with the band, Landry made a point of circulating among the crowd during the first part of each engagement, observing dancers and absorbing the mood of the local population.

Landry made his first recordings in 1923 for the Gennett label with an eight-piece unit variously billed as his Call of the North Orchestra, his Syncopatin' Six, his Commodore Band, or the Regent Orchestra. Key members of this group were clarinet and sax man Don Murray (best remembered for his work with Bix Beiderbecke) and hot jazz drummer Stan King, then mostly active as a member of the California Ramblers. It was during this period that Landry befriended New Orleans cornetist and bandleader Joe "King" Oliver. Like his Barbary Coast adventures, a friendly series of interactions with Oliver and other musicians of color clearly influenced Landry and resulted in his best jazz recordings. Drummer Howard Emerson and banjoist Sam Carr, in fact, claimed to have sat in with Oliver's group just hours after making records with Landry.

In 1924, Art Landry's Orchestra played the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, and made its first Victor recordings in Oakland. Over the next three years, at least 28 sides were waxed for this label under his name. Several important musicians worked with Landry's band, including pianist Joe Reichman, later known as the Pagliacci of the Piano; arranger and multi-reed player Lyle "Spud" Murphy, as well as pianist and songwriter Jerry Livingston (nee Levinson), who went on to compose important airs like "Fuzzy Wuzzy," "Mairzy Doats," and the Bugs Bunny theme song. Landry's biggest recorded hits were "Dreamy Melody", "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," and "Sleepy Time Gal."

During the late ‘20s, Landry ran a successful booking agency with offices up above the Paramount Theatre at 43rd and Broadway in Times Square. Subsequently, he led radio broadcast bands and toured with theater pit orchestras. He was successfully employed in the television industry for which he composed themes used in educational videos for children, and taught music in the Ticonderoga, New York public school system. Late in life, he essentially turned his home into a music store. He and his wife Ann hosted a TV show on WCAX in Vermont, and then moved to Florida. When Landry passed away in Sarasota at the age of 94, he was survived by his second wife Peggy Jean and his brother Eddie, a singer, string bassist, tuba handler, and veteran of Gus Arnheim's Cocoanut Grove Orchestra. Ed Landry and Zip Keyes also show up on records made in the late ‘30s with a dance band under the direction of Abe Lyman.