"Papa" Jac Assunto

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The patriarch of the New Orleans Assunto clan, Jacob "Papa Jac" Assunto presided over a family of musicians who in some ways would help create a less serious image for the city's jazz community…
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The patriarch of the New Orleans Assunto clan, Jacob "Papa Jac" Assunto presided over a family of musicians who in some ways would help create a less serious image for the city's jazz community of Italian descent. The Dixieland association with silly striped suits and corny stage antics was influenced in a large way by players such as the members of the Assunto family. By doubling on banjo and trombone, the senior Assunto took no chances on his musical usefulness. But he wound up playing mostly in a popular group organized by one of his sons and dubbed the Dukes of Dixieland. Trumpeter and vocalist Frank Assunto masterminded the band, originally as a one-off gig for a 1948 talent show organized by Horace Heidt. The band, eventually to emphasize showmanship as equally as jazz, if not more, took off, but not with daddy. Jac Assunto did not join up until 1955, and is featured on the group's handsomely recorded series of releases on the Audio Fidelity and Roulette labels.

Father Assunto's trombone style strongly influenced his son Fred's approach to the instrument. The family also had two daughters that were musicians, but not professionally. Prior to joining his sons' combo, Jac Assunto taught music and was the director of the Redemptorist High School band. The success of the Dukes of Dixieland drew him out on the road, as an upsurge in interest in New Orleans jazz combined with the recording label's potency on the hi-fi market meant a full club schedule, as well as regular television and radio broadcast appearances. This may not have endeared the band to jazz purists who felt the Dukes of Dixieland were getting too much attention, but the combo eventually held its own in collaboration with some New Orleans jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Edmond Hall. The group ended in 1964 following the death of Fred Assunto.