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It was on Sept. 22, 2006 that three of the five original Salt City FIve members appeared at a “Jazz ‘N Caz” concert. It was their last appearance together. Arnold Koch, longtime manager of the Salt City Five/Six, introduced the evening....

Fifty-four years ago, five guys from Syracuse, three of them from the Syracuse University Marching Band, started a dixieland band called the Salt City Five. They were: Will Alger, trombone, Jack Maheu, clarinet, Don Hunt, trumpet, Bob Cousins, drums, and Charlie French, piano. It is our loss that neither WIll nor Charlie are still with us.
What the five musicians started lasted 26 years. Over that time, the Five, later the Six, employed 110 musicians - including musicians such as Wild Bill Davison, Don Ewell, Jimmy McPartland, Dave McKenna, Morey Feld, Eddie Hubbell, George Brunis, Gene Mayl, Kenny Davern, and Vince Falcone, who became Frank Sinatra’s accompanist and orchestra leader for several years.
Keep in mind that this was a traveling band. Their longest engagement in one spot was 16 weeks at Child’s Paramount in 1953, a 700-seat restaurant club in Times Square below the Paramount Theater.
I’m happy to say that we have 2/3rds of the front line of the Five with us tonight, Jack Maheu and Don Hunt, and half the rhythm section - Bob Cousins. Bob Cousins is here from Chicago. During his career he has played with Coleman Hawkins, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Tex Beneke’s Big Band, Ralph Marterie, Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Erwin, Marion McPartland, Bucky Pizzerelli, Jimmy McPartland, Art Hodes, Muggsy Spanier, Benny Carter’s Big Band, George Brunis and many other name jazz artists. . While with the house band at the College Inn in Chicago, he backed up Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Engelbert Humpernick and even Tiny Tim.
Don Hunt remained with the band long enough to provide the outstanding lead trumpet that helped win Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts and appeared at major engagements like Childs Paramount, The Meadowbrook and Hotel Syracuse. His playing was crucial for the demo that landed a contract with Jubilee Records.
We lost Jack Maheu for a time to the Dukes of Dixieland where he was on 8 of their 9 albums, also as an arranger. During his career, he has played with Muggsy Spanier, Al Hirt and Marion McPartland. Considered probably the nation’s top jazz clarinetist, after leading the Salt City Six for many years, he worked at Eddie Condon’s for six years. Interviewed by the ' Mississippi Rag in 1985, Jack said, “I loved the job at Condon’s because it was always, always fresh. You were constantly being tested. You're not being tested when you are playing something that you could play in your sleep.”
After settling down in New Orleans, the Times-Picayune headlined in 1994: “Transplanted Clarinetist Now Local Mentor.” It quoted Eddie Edwards, head of the Louis Armstrong Foundation: “Jack Maheu is the best clarinetist in New Orleans. When Jack talks other musicians listen. His presence commands the respect of other musicians.” According to John Royen, pianist at the club Fritzels: “We call him The General. He has very high musical standards. You must be on top of your game to play with him. He pulls the best out of you.”
As far as playing dixieland, Jack comments, “there are only two kinds of jazz - good and bad. Each style has its own flavor. The ensemble sound in dixieland is one of the greatest things in music. Leonard Bernstein was quoted in print saying that the most exciting music is a good dixieland band at full tilt. He didn’t say ‘one of the most’, he said THE most exciting.”
Jack added, “I do not play the clarinet. I play music on it. I use it to express my personal feelings. An instrument is just heap of dimensions with no life or intelligence. How different this can become in the hands of someone who has mastered the technical difficulties and uses it as a means to transfer both the composer’s and his own thought into sound. It is no longer lifeless and dull. It lives and reflects the message of the music, no matter how sad or cheerful it may be.”
One of Bob Cousin’s biggest fans who is also playing tonight is Danny D’lmperio. Danny was with the band for a number of years and played with Jack at Eddie Condon’s for several years until it closed. Danny reminded me that I first heard him sit in with Spiegle Wilcox at the Hotel Syracuse. His father was on trumpet. Danny was 14. He was then sidelined for two years recovering from mononucleosis. l contacted him when he was 16 and ~
asked him to play with the Salt City Six and his father to play piano which they did for several years. Unfortunately, after playing at Memory Lane late on a Sunday night he would sometimes miss school on Mondays. Those absences ended one evening when his homeroom teacher happened to be in the audience.
Danny has had a stellar career playing with the Glen Miller Orchestra led by Buddy DeFranco, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman’s New Thundering Herd, Les Elgert, and Tony Bennet. When Buddy Rich was recovering from bypass surgery, it was Danny who took his place. Danny was playing with Jack at Eddie Condon’s the night it closed and described it in JazFax this way:
“The final tune was ‘September in the Rain’ - the first tune played when the original club opened in 1945. Not a dry eye on the bandstand. The final cutoff. The cymbal overtones fading away for the last time.
“All the booze gone, sold out - people going around the corner to buy beer and bringing it back in the club in an effort to ward off the final goodbyes. Alas l The song is ended but the melody lingers on.”