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Sole Heir Searches for Priceless Memorabilia Tracing Father's Illustrious Career

Los Angeles, 11 May 2001 - Babette Ory, the sole heir to the estate of legendary Jazz pioneer Edward “Kid" Ory, discovered today that the entire contents of a storage unit containing priceless and irreplaceable memorabilia collected throughout the course of Kid Ory's career has been auctioned to an anonymous bidder. Triple-A Storage of Chatsworth, California, claims that they were within their rights to auction the contents of the unit to collect back rent. Ms. Ory maintains that an error by her bookkeeper of which she was unaware caused the rent payment to be overlooked, and that she was not informed of the late rent situation or of the impending auction by the storage company. California law prohibits storage companies from revealing the identity of the auction buyer to the owner of the storage unit's contents. Lost in the auction were priceless photo albums, antique stereophonic equipment owned by Kid Ory, musical instruments, rare 78 r.p.m. LP's of historic recording sessions, autographed memorabilia, and numerous other items of great sentimental value to Ms. Ory. “Since I am currently compiling a biography on Kid Ory, I'm praying that I'll be able to find the buyer and that we can make some kind of arrangement for the return of my father's belongings," Ms. Ory said.

Along with Louis “Satchmo" Armstrong, Dixieland Trombonist Edward “Kid" Ory is recognized as one of the progenitors of Jazz music. Even if you don't know Jazz, you've heard Kid Ory's work. His song “Muskrat Ramble" has been featured in such recent feature films as “Babe," “A River Runs Through It," “J.F.K.," and “Nothing In Common." And as an artist, Kid Ory's influence has touched everyone in the Jazz milieu, from Wynton and Branford Marsalis to Woody Allen.

A collection released last year by Sony/Legacy featuring several Kid Ory songs, “Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven," won this year's Grammy Award in the Best Historical Album category. With all of the recent Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong celebrations, as well as Ken Burns' documentary on the history of Jazz, many members of the Jazz Community are celebrating some of the more unsung heroes of Jazz Music. Kid Ory played with such Jazz legends as Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Noone, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, and numerous others. Born in New Orleans, Kid Ory is considered one of the most innovative jazz trombonists of all times, and contributed many characteristics of “Creole" jazz that would influence the entire development of America's true indigenous artform. After moving to Los Angeles, Kid Ory produced the first jazz recording in the state of California at a studio in Santa Monica. His sole surviving daughter, Babette Ory, is currently working with several jazz luminaries to assemble a definitive collection of his works. Babette has uncovered several unpublished songs by her father, as well as little-seen film footage of the Kid in concert. Kid Ory will be honored by the Smithsonian Institute in their jazz history installation and travelling exhibit, and a postage stamp from the USPS is also in the works.


Los Angeles Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

Jazz Era Memorabilia Sold for Storage Fees
Legacy: Daughter of Kid Ory seeks the return of precious photos and recordings.


Babette Ory is beside herself.

The only child of legendary jazz trombonist Edward “Kid" Ory, she learned recently that personal effects of her late father, which she thought were safe in a Chatsworth storage facility, were sold at auction in March because of unpaid rent.

“I went to do my income tax, and my bookkeeper said she thought I had been paying the rent,"' said Ory, 46, a chef who lives in Santa Monica.

Ory hopes to locate whoever bought the memorabilia, which she described as irreplaceable.

“No questions asked," she said. “I just want to buy the stuff back." Ory said she contacted AAA Self Storage in the 9100 block of Jordan Avenue and was told by one of the staff that she had been sent certified letters, as required by law, telling her she owed back rent and, later, that the goods would be auctioned.

Woodland Hills attorney Vin Fichter, who represents AAA Storage, said, “There were many attempts made to notify her of this."

The certified letters were sent to Ory's last known address, Fichter said, as required by the Cal. Self-Service Storage Facility Act within the California Business and Professions Code, which deals with the legal obligations of storage facilities.

“There was no response, and there was no response to the many phone calls that were made," he said.

The rent on the unit was $68 a month, and the account was several months in arrears, Fichter said. Ory said she never received the correspondence.

She said she learned last week that the contents of the storage unit she first rented in 1988 had been auctioned off March 22. She said she asked for the name of the buyer but was told that the firm could not reveal that information.

Considered one of the fathers of New Orleans jazz, Kid Ory is best known for composing “Muskrat Ramble" and for giving a teenage Louis Armstrong his first professional gig playing trumpet in Kid Ory's Brownskin Babies.

A Louisiana Creole whose first language was French, Ory began playing homemade instruments at the age of 10 and later performed in the sporting houses of Storyville, New Orleans's red-light district. Early in the 20th century, he left New Orleans for Southern California, where, in 1921, Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band made the first recording by a black New Orleans jazz band.

“He would have been 115 this Christmas," Ory said of her father, who was 86 when he died in 1973.

Ory said the storage unit contained some of her father's correspondence, fan mail, signed photographs, old recordings, taped interviews, his baptismal certificate (in French) and other items of value, some of which she hoped to donate to the Smithsonian Institution.

The unit also contained many items of sentimental value, including her parents' dishes and “glasses from the '50s with blue and gold fish on them," she said. Also gone are the suitcases, covered with stickers accumulated during Ory's European tours, and his cooking utensils--Ory was known for his way with such Creole specialties as red beans and rice.

Babette Ory said she could not put a dollar value on the items.

“She cried all the first night," said friend Steve Werko, describing her response to the loss. “Her mother saved everything, and she saved everything, every letter."

Ory said she is especially upset because she is working with John McCusker, a writer and photographer in New Orleans, to complete an autobiography her father had started. But she is glad that the manuscript, her father's trombones and other important material relating to his life and career were elsewhere at the time of the sale.

McCusker, who conducts jazz tours of New Orleans, said he has devoted seven years to research on Ory. He is a towering figure in the history of jazz: “If you had a Mt. Rushmore of jazz, he's one of the faces on it."

Ory helped create the durable musical style that many critics regard as the only uniquely American art form.

“He pioneered the role of the trombone in a New Orleans jazz ensemble," McCusker said, and was also widely envied by fellow pioneers for having one of the hottest bands in New Orleans.

Studio City jazz writer Floyd Levin, who was a pallbearer at

Ory's funeral, said the musician made a “dual contribution" to jazz. He was not only the preeminent trombone player of the jazz era, Levin said, he was also a major figure in the jazz revival of the 1940s and '50s.

Levin pointed out that “Muskrat Ramble" and other Kid Ory tunes are still being played today. He is featured on “Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings," which recently won a Grammy for best historic recording.

Devoted to preserving her father's memory, Ory has suffered similar blows in the past. In 1985 “Boo-Boo," her father's most famous slide trombone, was stolen. It was recovered after a story about the theft appeared in The Times.

Ory asks that anyone who knows the whereabouts of her father's effects call her attorney, Neville Johnson at (310) 826-2410.

Attorney Fichter said he will cooperate with Ory in obtaining the name of the buyer of the unit's contents if AAA Storage authorizes him to do so.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

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