Don Albert

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Albert Dominique, the nephew of illustrious New Orleans jazz legend Natty Dominique, changed his name to Don Albert and actually had as much to do with the Texas jazz scene scene as he did with the land…
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Albert Dominique, the nephew of illustrious New Orleans jazz legend Natty Dominique, changed his name to Don Albert and actually had as much to do with the Texas jazz scene scene as he did with the land of swamps and gumbo. Nonetheless, a few notes from one of his solos or lead parts will almost always bear the trace of the early years he spent in his hometown parade bands, prior to hitting the road for the first time with Trent's Number Two Band. In 1926, he was playing as a teenager in Troy Floyd's Band at the Shadowland Ballroom in San Antonio, a scene that dripped with atmosphere. For the next three years this was the trumpeter's milieu, playing big-band music with a beat equal parts New Orleans and Kansas City, and backing up a variety of blues singers at recording sessions -- all of it done in his new professional identity of Don Albert. Floyd, who featured the trumpeter on instrumentals such as "Shadowland Blues" and "Dreamland Blues," was apparently the one who advised the name change.

At the close of the decade Albert headed home, the idea being to find players to enlist in a band under his own leadership. The Dallas State Fair of 1929 turned out to be the debut venue for the new Don Albert band which has been considered an important territory band even though the group's touring schedule must have resulted in postcards far afield from any one particular American region. Albert's band toured the east coast and even shuffled off to Buffalo for engagements. By about 1932, the suspicion was that the leader had lost his chops, as Albert began to focus solely on directing and rarely blew his trumpet anymore. Still, the group toured extensively, including dates in Mexico and Canada. Several newspapers claimed this was "the greatest swing band in the nation" but are only eight recorded songs with which pundits can argue this case. The most popular with record buyers were a pair of 78s featuring the rich "Sheik of Araby" backed with the miserable "You Don't Love Me," and a cute "Liza" backed with a promising "Tomorrow." Between 1937 and 1939, Albert canned the group as a reaction to the recession, staying between Houston and San Antonio for various engagements.

In this era he became a civil service employee at Duncan Field in San Antonio. This was followed by positions managing a nightclub and blowing trumpet in Fat Martin's house band. In 1942 Albert worked as a local promoter for traveling bands and briefly re-formed his own. Several years later he opened his own club named Don's Keyhole in San Antonio and began bringing in national jazz acts. He would greet customers as they arrived and also worked as an emcee, sometimes sitting in with bands on trumpet. His club was integrated, not at all normal for San Antonio and inevitably a reason for the city fathers to shut it down on April Fool's Day, 1948. That was it for Albert: he headed back to New Orleans where he bought and opened another club.

Albert put groups together if the engagement was right during the subsequent decade, and had a longish stint at the Palace Theatre in New York City in the spring of 1949. He settled in the Alamo city during the '50s and '60s, playing part-time but with the time-and-a-half attention that he had earned. In 1962, he cut some well-received sides in New Orleans, and also worked on recording projects with the Alamo City Jazz Band. Albert performed at the 1969 New Orleans Jazz Festival. He died of kidney failure in San Antonio.