Albert “Gentleman June” Gardner Passes

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The versatile New Orleans drummer and bandleader died on November 19, 2010.  He was born in 1930 and like so many of the post World War II generation of players, Gardner was comfortable in virtually any style of music.  In his later years, he was best known for leading a crack traditional jazz band that always opened the Economy Hall tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

However his career began much earlier.  He first burst on the scene in one of the seminal New Orleans R&B bands, the guitarist Edgar Blanchard’s Gondoliers.  In the mid-1960s, he played behind the legendary soul vocalist Sam Cooke and appeared on two of his live recordings.  He was also the drummer on the New Orleans classic, “Working In The Coal Mine,” which was recorded by Lee Dorsey and composed and produced by Allen Toussaint.

In 1966, Gardner recorded an album called Bustin’ Out, which appeared on Mercury Records.  It featured arrangements by “the Creole Beethoven” Wardell Quezergue.  The song selections attest to the leader’s musical flexibility.  The album included the bop standard, “One Mint Julep” and the rock hit, “Hang On Sloopy.”  Another cut from the record, “It’s Gonna Rain” appeared on CD in 2000 on the collection , New Orleans Funk, which was released on the obscure Soul Jazz label.

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