Don Albert, jazz trumpeter and bandleader, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 5, 1908. Nephew of New Orleans trumpeter Natty Dominique, Don Albert was born Albert Anité Dominique. He was the son of Georgiana and Ferdinand Dominique, a cigar maker, and was the eldest of five children. He grew up in the Seventh Ward, a predominately Creole community in New Orleans. From childhood he was influenced by the area’s brass bands. He studied trumpet with Milford Piron, a local orchestra leader, and began playing professionally at the age of fourteen. While still in his teens, Albert moved to Dallas in the mid-1920s. He toured the Southwest with the Dallas-based band of Alphonso Trent (1925) and the San Antonio-based band of Troy Floyd (1926 to 1929). He was featured on Floyd recordings “Shadowland Blues” and “Dreamland Blues.” In Christopher Wilkinson’s book, Jazz on the Road: Don Albert’s Musical Life, the author discusses the fusion of New Orleans jazz and the Texas blues style that developed during Albert’s tenure with the Troy Floyd band. On September 8, 1927, Albert married Hazel Augustine Gueringer in New Orleans. Eventually, they had a son and a daughter.
Albert debuted his own band, originally named Don Albert and His Ten Pals, at the State Fair in Dallas in 1929. They played as the house band at the Chicken Plantation in San Antonio and then worked as the house band at Shadowland in that city. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Albert worked out of Texas with his band, and he focused on managing and leading the group rather than performing on his trumpet. According to Albert McCarthy in Big Band Jazz, Albert’s band was “the first to use the word ‘swing’ in its title,” billing itself as “Don Albert and His Orchestra, America’s Greatest Swing Band.” Albert’s band toured twenty-four states during the 1930s, and eight tunes recorded by the band for the Brunswick label in San Antonio in 1936 are included on San Antonio Jazz. Those recordings include the “Sheik of Araby” and “Liza.”
In the 1940s Albert served as a local promoter in San Antonio and then opened Don’s Keyhole, an integrated jazz club there. The establishment closed in 1948, and Albert moved to New Orleans for a time but eventually returned to San Antonio and opened a new integrated club. After repeated harassment from city authorities, Albert filed a restraining order against the city in a case that eventually went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. Albert prevailed and continued to operate his club until the mid-1960s. During this time he also maintained a day job at Fort Sam Houston, where he worked as a civil servant for twenty-five years until his retirement in 1974.
Although he retired from performing around the late 1950s, he picked up his trumpet again later in life, playing and recording periodically. In 1969 he played at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. During the last years of his life, Albert, a Catholic, performed at Masses at San Antonio’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where he was a longtime parishioner. He had a mild stroke in 1976 but did not seem to suffer any major effects from it. In 1978 Albert was seriously injured in an automobile accident, and Hazel, his wife of more than fifty years, was killed. Although Albert survived the accident, he never fully recovered from his injuries. He died of kidney failure in San Antonio on March 4, 1980. His funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and he was buried in Meadowlawn Memorial Park in San Antonio.