Born: 1923 in Dallas, TX
Died: Aug 4, 2003 in Dallas, TX
Piano and saxophone player Big Al Dupree, a mainstay on the Dallas music scene for over 60 years, made his first appearance in the Twin Cities in March. At 73 he is still playing piano with a vitality that shows no signs of slowing down. His deep resonate voice was very easy to listen to and his superb and versatile piano playing offered an outstanding change of pace (and change of instruments) in this blues series.
Dupree started playing piano and saxophone in his early teens during the 1930's and studied music when he went to college at the age of 16 in New Orleans. He toured with T. Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton during the 1940's playing saxophone and has played in piano lounges and supper clubs around the Dallas area since the 1950's. He said he preferred the steady paying work closer to home than the tough times on the road. He only recently recorded his first album Big Al Dupree Swings the Blues.
Regarding his experience with T. Bone Walker he said "we all enjoyed playing with T. Bone because he was so versatile. He could play blues and then turn around and play some complex jazz progressions. A true professional on stage and a pleasure to play with." His experience with Pee Wee Crayton was another story. He said Pee Wee was a little irresponsible and couldn't read maps too well. On one trip they missed the first two performances because Pee Wee misjudged the distances and barely made the third. That was enough for Big Al to say "no thanks" to future road tours.
During the show Dupree explained the difference between what he defines as blues songs and other types of music that didn't fit his definition of what blues were. He then went on to demonstrate what he was talking about with some entertaining musical examples. He said the blues depicts longing, loneliness, despair and anxiety (I think some would take issue with this narrow definition). But boy could you feel those emotions in his piano playing.
Dupree plays outstanding piano in a variety of styles from hot jazz, to boogie woogie, to slower blues numbers. Listening to him play the piano elicits certain moods, certain feelings. On some of his melancholy blues numbers you could almost imagine you were sitting around the piano in a dim lit, smoke filled lounge listening to the piano player as you drowned your sorrows in a glass of whiskey. Or, you found your foot tapping to an up-tempo boogie woogie that Dupree delivered in flawless fashion. Dupree seems more comfortable playing jazz, ballads or songs with a more positive or up-beat message which seem to fit his personality better. This was excellent piano playing by a superb musician and a nice gentleman.