Louis Nelson Delisle
|Louis Nelson Delisle|
Nelson Delisle in 1910
|Birth name||Louis Nelson Delisle|
|Also known as||"Big Eye"|
|Born||January 28, 1885|
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Died||July 20, 1949(aged 64)|
|Years active||1910s – 1940s|
"Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle (28 January 1885 – 20 August 1949) was an early twentieth-century Dixieland jazz clarinetist in New Orleans, Louisiana. He also played string bass, banjo, and accordion professionally on occasion.
Early life and education
He studied clarinet with the elder Lorenzo Tio.
By the age of 15, Delisle was working professionally in the music venues of Storyville, an area of brothels and clubs. He developed an early style of hot playing in the earliest days of jazz, and was an important influence on such later New Orleans jazz clarinetists as Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone.
In his early career "Big Eye" often played a C clarinet, as opposed to the more common B♭; the C was also used by other New Orleans clarinetists of the era, such as Alcide Nunez.
In 1917, Delisle joined the reconstituted Original Creole Orchestra that included Freddie Keppard and Bill Johnson. The band had disbanded in Boston in the spring of that year but was reassembled in New York City in the fall of the same year. Big Eye replaced clarinetist George Baquet, who had toured with the group in vaudeville. After a short while, Big Eye was replaced by Jimmie Noone. Big Eye was the regular clarinetist with the Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight but did not play on their 1929 recording sessions.
He made his only recordings in his later years in the 1940s, by which time he was often in poor health. From contemporary accounts he was past his playing prime, but still capable of producing some beautiful phrases. The recordings are available on compact disc on American Music Records. Critics describe Nelson Delisle's playing as more blues influenced and fluid compared to the statico and raggy playing of Alphonse Picou, an older New Orleans clarinetist.
- Hazeldine, Mike. Original Creole Band. in Kernfeld, Barry. ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd Edition, Vol. 3. London: MacMillan, 2002. p. 200.
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