(Sept. 5.) Since 1963, it has been strange but true that one of the best places to hear traditional, New Orleans-style jazz was 540 miles away in culturally dissimilar San Antonio.

The life of the man who made it so, Jim Cullum, Jr., was celebrated Aug. 31 in a fitting tribute to one of the true greats of the art form’s unfortunately rare breed.

Cullum, who died Aug. 11 of a heart attack at age 77, had joined his father in helping launch the jazz club The Landing as one of the very first establishments on what became the city’s internationally famous Riverwalk. For a quarter-century until 2012, some 200 radio stations nationwide carried Cullum’s weekly Riverwalk Jazz broadcast.

It’s hard to describe, for those who aren’t jazz purists, just what a miracle it seemed that San Antonio should be one of the few great repositories of the New Orleans sound. Before swing, R&B, and rock-and-roll took over, traditional jazz, of course, had been popular coast to coast. But even then, most of its great practitioners were New Orleans natives, either in the Crescent City or living as transplants in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, the Riverwalk Jazz show was an auditory oasis for people like my late father, Haywood Hillyer III of New Orleans, who thought that even 1940s big-band “swing” music was a too-modern debasement of the purist’s jazz of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

So true to the music’s original form was Cullum’s band, and so infectiously listenable, that my father taped the show off the radio for purely private use (which is legal), week after week, for several years on end. I can still distinctly hear the introductory theme, as “sponsored by See’s Candies,” in my mind’s ear….

[For the rest of this tribute column, please follow the link right here.]


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