Herbert Hardesty (March 3, 1925 – December 3, 2016) was an American musician who played tenor saxophone and trumpet. He is best known for his association with the New Orleans pianist Fats Domino and the producer Dave Bartholomew, beginning in 1948.
Hardesty was born March 3, 1925, in New Orleans. He began trumpet lessons at age six using a horn that was given to his stepfather by Louis Armstrong. He took lessons from Professor Valmore Victor and at a young age played with bands led by Papa Celestin, Sidney Designee and Chick Webb.
In 1941, Hardesty enlisted in the military two years below minimum draft age. While he was stationed in Jackson, Miss., his commanding officer bought him an alto sax which he learned to play in two days. He trained at Tuskegee, Ala. as a radio technician with the 99th Flying Squadron making him part of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was stationed in Morocco, Italy, and Germany and whenever he could, he played trumpet and alto sax with local European musicians.
When the war ended, Hardesty returned to New Orleans. He began performing in clubs with his first trio consisting of him playing double bass accompanied by a guitarist and pianist. About that time he purchased a tenor saxophone and began lessons to play it. In 1948, Hardesty formed a group called The Four Dukes where he played both trumpet and tenor sax. In 1946, Hardesty met Dave Bartholomew and shortly after became part of the studio band at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studio. For six months, he toured with Roy Brown then returned to record again with Bartholomew. Herb recorded with Jewel King, Tommy Ridgley, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Little Richard and others while still performing in local clubs.
In 1955, Bartholomew invited Hardesty to tour with Fats Domino. While on the tour, Herbert was photographed playing his sax while laying on his back on the stage floor. That picture appeared in Life Magazine in its April 18, 1955 issue. During this same tour, Fats recorded Blue Monday in Los Angeles and on that recording Hardesty played a baritone sax solo at Fats' request. It was the one and only time he had ever played baritone sax. One music writer said Hardesty's solo, "is as close to perfection as one can imagine. The eight-bar sax break is a gem of almost frightening economy. It is one of the most memorable, bluesy, and yet simple runs in all of R&B." Herb went on to play solo on most of Fats' recordings. Hardesty wrote and recorded several original pieces which were not released until his CD, The Domino Effect, came out in 2012.
Herb toured and recorded with Fats for more than 30 years. In 1971, he moved to Las Vegas, where he played with a variety of bands such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and backed vocalists such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. In 1978, he recorded with Tom Waits on Blue Valentine and toured with him throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. With Waits, Hardesty played his trumpet more than his tenor sax. Hardesty rejoined Domino from 1980-2005. He also played with other artists such as Dr. John, Bobby Setter, Olaf Polziehn Trio and Plas Johnson. Herb recorded on Mitch Woods' CD, Big Easy Boogie and toured with him as well.
In 2012, Hardesty played at the Jazz Festival in New Orleans with his own group, Herb Hardesty and The Dukes. Almost every time Dr. John and Herb happened to be in the same city, Mac would invite Herb to play with his band. It was Herb's great pleasure to perform with his good friend. Hardesty continued playing local gigs in Las Vegas until he became too ill to do so. He was honored at the 2009 Asante Awards Festival as a Legend and Cultural Ambassador. In 2016, the Preservation Resource Center honored him for Outstanding Musical Contributions to The New Orleans Community and Jazz Heritage at the Red Hot Jazz Gala's 16th Annual Ladies In Red Event.
Herbert Hardesty, New Orleans legendary tenor sax musician, passed away Dec. 3, 2016, in Las Vegas, from mantle cell lymphoma and complications. He was 91. (Info edited from an article in Las Vegas Review Journal)
In order of appearance - DAVE BARTHOLOMEW, HERBERT, RICK COLEMAN and the late COSIMO MATASSA