Doubling on cornet and trumpet as was the tradition for a frontman in an early New Orleans jazz band, Carl Halen initially figured as a kind of babyface in the New Orleans revival scene that sprang up as an alternative to swing and big-band music in the '40s. Many of the players the Midwestern Halen emulated and collaborated with were born at the outset of the 20th century, not the end of the Roaring Twenties. It was 1948 before Halen even got on the trumpet, starting out with the accordion but realizing the brass attack would make him more appealing as a sideman. The hunch proved right and Halen was apparently a quick study, according to legend blowing with the famed Dixieland Rhythm Kings almost immediately. An Army band in the first three years of the following decade put something of a cork in the mirth, then Halen became a bandleader in his own right with the infamous Gin Bottle 7, a combo that had the capability of looking like more than a dozen people once everyone got drunk and started seeing double. The indie Riverside label, dabbling in traditional jazz as well as more modern directions, documented this group with a fine album entitled Gin Bottle Jazz. A larger mouthpiece seems to have had an appeal as the years went on, Halen switching to trombone by the early '80s to lead Carl Halen's 1982 Summa Cum Laude Orchestra. He has not abandoned his original horns, however -- based back in his native Ohio in his later years, Halen reportedly still blows both trumpet and cornet with local jazzmen in cities such as Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland.
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