Return to New Orleans

Exciting news!

Our singer and founder, Louise Balkwill, will be returning to New Orleans in February 2018 and is currently working on an interview itinerary.

She intends to return to The Preservation Hall, along with other favourite NOLA venues, to talk with more musicians about life in the Crescent City and the future of music education on both sides of the Atlantic.

Who would you like to hear from? Contact us at theoldjellyrollers@gmail.com with your recommendations and requests!

The Preservation Hall Interviews – Part 5

The fifth section of our interview on the 23rd February 2017 with Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford at The Preservation Hall, New Orleans.

(Missed part 4? Click here to read it.)

Tom: Do you think another Louis Armstrong could come around and revolutionize music like he did?

Leroy: Well, there will never be another Louis Armstrong.

Freddie: I haven’t seen him yet!

Leroy: Nah, there will never be another Louis Armstrong, but there’s so much talent – there’s a lot of talent around and you know, what I´m saying is the greatest individual at any given thing that they might do, you´ve never heard of because they never got an opportunity to get exposed. A break. So, you know, half the battle is what you know and half of it is who you know. So you know, you have musicians and artists that you´ve never even heard of but they’re so gifted – and then some of them have decided that that’s not really what they want to do! But they have it – the gift. Those really special people, like Armstrong – he had contemporaries, but he was in the right place at the right time too, I think. And he took it to a level that it had not been taken to before. I’m speaking like 1920-21, 1923 through 1933, that period. And you know, the pre-Swing, Big Band, pre-Bop period and all of that stuff. And you can hear…first comes the hearing, then comes the speaking. So you can´t have a concept if you haven’t heard anything. You know, there’s no way. You have to, like a baby leaning to speak, it needs to hear its parent, or hear someone speak to them. That’s how they learn to speak. And with jazz, with music and in particular jazz, it’s the same thing – you have to have a frame of reference – a point of reference. Your influences may be many, but eventually, when it comes out of you, the listener should be able to hear who you’ve been listening to. You know, I mean, in essence. But you take those things and you make them unique to yourself. You take that lingo and you make it…you have your own way of putting it that makes it special and individual, and as special as Louis Armstrong was, as an individual. As jazz musicians, you want to have your own individual sound that distinguishes you from, you know, as a vocalist, you don´t sound like Anita Baker, you don’t sound like Ella Fitzgerald, you don’t sound like Lena Horne – you sound like you. You know what I mean.

Louise: Which is a mix of all of that, plus your own understanding.

Leroy: Yeah, you have to have a concept of interpreting the music.

Louis: There’s something I would like to add to that – It wasn’t always peaches and cream with Louis. Being an African American in an all-white, you know, how he was treated, but New Orleans is known for overcoming adversity, and he overcame that. So you guys are gonna have to think of that as well, you know. For example, what you guys are going through right now with that split – I don’t know what the economy is going to look like in the future. They say it’s gonna be this, it’s gonna be that, you don’t know – but don’t give up your dreams with your music. If there’s a jazz club started up today, and then next month because of the economy it’s gonna shut down, that means you’re gonna shut down. Don’t do that. Keep on keeping on. Focus on that instrument, you know, because some day you’re gonna overcome that adversity, okay? You understand what I’m saying? Because that’s what it is here. It’s not always peaches and cream here. We go through seasonal hurricanes. Not just hurricanes – lately, we’ve been going through tornados, which is something new to us!

Louise: I heard about that one a couple of weeks ago, that was shocking!

Louis: Yeah, yeah right! So we have to be prepared for anything that comes our way, and we have to overcome that and get back on that horse. Don’t let anyone or anything discourage you from what you wanna do, your ambitions in life.

Louise: Very wise words.

Tom: We love the music we play but in our small little circles in London sometimes we feel like we’re kind of blamed, I don’t know if you feel the same, for being musically conservative – I just wondered what you guys thought about that and the music that you play compared to other jazz musicians.

Leroy: You getting fire from the modernists?

Tom: Yeah, yeah!

*laughter*

Tom: How do you feel about that in this country as well?

Leroy: Well, you know, there’s that vibe sometimes as well. But New Orleans is different from the rest of the United States in general in that we have Mardi Gras Indians, we have Brass Bands, we play Secondline music that people are dancing to, rhythms and beats. I mean, it’s like something that you don’t witness anywhere else in this country or in any other country in the same manner. For us, I was told a long time ago by Danny Barker, and also an old piano player by the name of Frank Moliere. They said “Learn those tunes and you will never be out of work.” So learn those songs, the standards and the New Orleans standards, traditionals and you will always be working! And I raise my hand up and I say that I have always worked – there have been times when it’s been a little slow, and you travel and stuff, and you always have a gig. But if I had played with some no-name, top 40 band, cover band, I might have had a little gig on Bourbon Street for a week or two and then they fire the band, another band came in – you know, they’re a dime a dozen. People would come here, and they still come here I think, for jazz – for New Orleans jazz. For traditional jazz. And swing. As opposed to going to some loud club on the corner that’s got a band playing Slade or The Rolling Stones or some music that’s so loud for one thing that you can’t even hold a conversation.

Tom: Yeah, amen!

Leroy: So there’s still hope for us – I think, if you´re playing this music and you’ve got a repertoire, you’re playing these tunes, you can go anywhere and play. And you don’t have to be someone that’s super famous, because you have a repertoire and you can go play – you know, you can work with different people. It’s a universal language, as you know, you can work with different people. I’ve worked with bands where half of the band…I didn’t speak Hungarian and they spoke other languages but we played music together. We understood the chords, the harmonies and the melodies and the rhythm so that’s all I had. And, you know what I mean, there´s a beauty to this music that we chose, that we love – that you chose, that you love – that makes it special in a way that a lot of other idioms…they can’t come close to being the same. I think, you know, just like Louis said, don´t be disheartened. Can you imagine how we feel with Donald Trump as our President?

*groans of disgruntlement all round*

Leroy: I mean, it’s an embarrassment beyond words!

Louise: We’ve been having to bite our tongue on planes and stuff because we don’t know what the general attitude is…

Tom: We were saying “Don’t talk about politics when you go through customs!”

*laughter*

Leroy: Yeah, just “Yes, we love America, Donald Trump is the greatest!” – yeah, bite your tongue!

Laura: It just feels like there are many aspects of the west, if you want to call it that, that are regressing – it’s just like a huge regression, politically, but within music is the freedom. It´s a universal language – the journey, the evolution. Spiritual freedom.

Freddie: Yes, definitely spiritual too.

To be continued

The Preservation Hall Interviews – Part 4

The fourth section of our interview on the 23rd February 2017 with Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford at The Preservation Hall, New Orleans.

(Missed part 3? Click here to read it.)

Tom: Can I ask something a little different? How do you feel the internet and globalization has affected like, the mass appeal of New Orleans music? And you know, I don’t think this kind of thing would have happened a few decades ago – do you feel like it’s kind of diluted traditions or do you like the fact that there’s now more of a, perhaps an appeal to it?

Leroy: Well, I like the fact that it has promoted it and it has exposed us more to the world. And you know what really helped, if you know about the series called Treme? That, after the levees failed, after Hurricane Katrina, I must say that that, if there was one series on TV, and this was of course HBO – one of the paid channels to watch it, now it’s on DVD but it brought focus on New Orleans in a way that we had not seen before, and also it exposed a lot of truths in a way, and showed how people, musicians, really, how we are here in New Orleans. How we speak in New Orleans, unlike some other attempts to capture that, like ‘The Big Easy’ and those things that tried to depict New Orleans – but it put us on the map, you know, and everybody got a chance, all the musicians, at least… I think everybody got to make an appearance in it, and if you had your original material, your songs played on it – you got licencing for that song, which is a fat pay check for that month, and then you get a little kick back in residual over time, according to how it’s distributed to other places, and overseas. But it gave everybody an opportunity – just about everybody in the city, the musicians at some point appeared in the series, and they made sure of it. And venues got exposure – this venue, the Palm Court jazz café…other venues around the city – there’s hundreds of venues that have music. Lots of different places around the city, each giving that to New Orleans. Live music. So it gave a nice opportunity in conjunction with the social media – facebook, twitter and…you know, all of those different things. And now it couldn’t be better! You can promote yourself without any absorbent fees, you know, and people are going there and looking for you. I think it’s great. Like, personally, I think it’s great.

Joe: I think it’s great too, because I hate it when people come up to me and say you know, well, traditional music is dying. So through social media and stuff, people know like, hey, not in New Orleans! And like, y’all youngsters, interested in this traditional music – I mean, come on, where’s it going?

Louise: Yeah, as long as people are constantly accessing it and loving it then it’s never going to die. I think it’s really sad when people say that. It’s one of those depressing things, isn’t it – like, my own mum, she is a classical musician and an actress, and she said to me ‘Why are you playing jazz?’ you know, ‘Jazz is dying’…MUM. No.

Hannah: You can say the same about classical music though, too. I mean, it’s very hard to get people along to classical concerts and pay for it, you know. Especially, like, we see that a lot in the Royal Festival Hall – there are just so many empty seats, and not many people I know my age at all, except on my course, listen to classical music. I know a lot of musicians doing the classical course who don’t even like listening to classical music. That’s the extent of some of it.

Martin: Same with Scottish trad as well, like, Scottish trad is going downhill now because of people [not supporting it]

Leroy: I mean, recently I was up in Royal Festival, and Lockerbie, you know, in Scotland, and places where they’re strong on traditional jazz there. You know, and up in Edinburgh there’s a nice jazz fest, and it’s jazz, you know, it’s not like Parliament and Funkadelic, which I love, like George Clinton and the P-funk and all that stuff, you know, I like good music, period. So I’m not biased against any…I love great classical music, I mean, we have a great Symphony out here in Louisiana Philharmonic, and then there’s societies that support the symphony, so those people are on salary. And fortunately – it’s like with the Opera, you know, I’ve been going to the opera lately with George, we’ve been going to sit in the operas, we get the tickets – they’re more reasonable than trying to go and see The Lion King at the Saenger, where the cheapest tickets are eighty bucks per person! And twenty-three dollars to sit up at the back, got your binoculars for the opera, and the symphony’s playing and it’s, you know, famous operas and great…and the music is great, the acoustic, and you know, if you wanna look closely, you put your binoculars on like them movie folks over there, and you can see…and it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful musical experience, and it happens here. I mean, it’s full! There are people here, probably societies too, that support the music that’s considered not popular. And fortunately, thank God for those people, because then the symphonic musicians and so forth – they wouldn’t have a job. And, of course, they can teach, and then you could, I mean…*sighs*…I think every player wants to play, and it’s great to…and we’ve all, I mean I know I have, and he (Louis) does more than anyone, teach. There’s a lot of teaching. And I’ve given private lessons to trumpet students and teach people. But my forte, what I enjoy most, is performing and composing and making music – you know, getting together with cats to make some music together. So it’s, you know, I think that it is a pity that there is a lack of appreciation overall because there’s a certain norm of pop music that’s supposed to be popular. It may not be so good as far as having artistic merit, but it’s popular.

Louise: And I suppose I think that that’s one of the ways that the internet has affected music and jazz – People have access to so much music that it’s easier for most people (who aren’t musicians and don’t understand music) to listen to what’s on the radio and what their friends listen to and never even hear jazz because there’s so much music out there now.

Laura: It’s about exposure and what you’re lucky enough to cross paths with.

Freddie: Yeah, definitely.

Laura: Popular culture, driven by capitalism is ramming out loads of generic, ‘lesser’…well, I wouldn’t say lesser but of musical merit, for me personally, lesser quality music. It’s about the exposure you’re fortunate enough to meet.

Louise: I think everyone sees that one gig, don’t they, that inspires them, or meets that one musician, or hears that one song and then that’s is – and it’s about having access to that.

Click here for part 5

Instruments for Schools

Do you have an unwanted or unused musical instrument?

That instrument could provide the beginnings of a life long musical journey.

Remember the days when all school music departments had a variety of instruments that students were free to use?

Well, sadly, many schools across the UK now no longer even have music departments, let alone instruments.

In an age where funding for the arts is suffering and music is gradually fading from the school curriculum, we are developing a schools workshop series to bring music education back to the musicians and audiences of the future.

A big factor in the success of this outreach endeavour is the sustainability of our efforts to inspire school children after the workshops take place.

Our plan is to supply schools with donated instruments so that the young people who partake in our workshops can keep the ball rolling when we leave.

(This is where you guys come in!)

We will gladly and gratefully accept all instruments in any condition.

These instruments will be refurbished and given a new life in the hands of an enthusiastic and inspired child. In addition to this, we will keep donors up to date with news on the schools that the instruments have been supplied to and on the progress of the children playing them.

This outreach programme will start in London in the 2017/2018 academic year.

Help to give the greatest gift of all – A creative mind!

Drop us an email at theoldjellyrollers@gmail.com to help out.

(Still sceptical about the benefits of music education? Click here!)

The Preservation Hall Interviews – Part 3

The third section of our interview on the 23rd February 2017 with Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford at The Preservation Hall, New Orleans

(Missed part 2? Click here to read it.)

Laura: I’m interested to know, in the path of becoming an accomplished jazz musician, what some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced along the way have been and how you’ve overcome them?

Joe: …Life!

*laughter*

Leroy: I guess times when you don’t have a lot of work, and off the back in the old days, you were on a one or two week notice, so you’d get a week’s notice of two week’s notice, and then there’s another band coming in. But you’ll eventually end up working somewhere else, at least, that’s the way it was on Bourbon Street. You could tell, you’d have a feeling that you were going to get fired not for a reason, just because somebody else – the owner liked them more than you maybe, and wanted to give them a shot.

Louis: Another setback, you know, is that musicians unfortunately have this stereotype, you know, that they do this, they do that, you know…they have a bad rap. ‘No, I don’t want you dating this guy because he’s gonna do this and do that, you know. But that’s not true; all musicians do not do drugs, do not drink, etcetera… for example, dealing with finances, you know. Myself and Leroy, we had a very lucrative job travelling with an icon, perhaps you’ve heard of him, he’s called Harry Connick Jr. – and I walked in the bank one time to sign for a car. [The bank officer said] “Do you have a job?” and I said ‘yeah’, I’m sitting down with the bank officer and he’s ready to sign…”What’s you’re occupation?” ‘Musician’… “Oh…erm, excuse me for one moment.” you know, I was talking to the president of the bank… “I’m sorry, declined.” So then I decided, okay, well I’m going to go back to teaching, you know. Which was a hundred percent less what I was making when I was on the road with Harry – “What’s your occupation?” – teaching!

Louise: At least you could get your car!

Louis: Oh, not a problem! So that could be a setback.

Laura: I’ve had that with car insurance – they wouldn’t insure me because I was a musician, so I told them I was a teacher.

Louise: It’s kind of the same attitude in London towards musicians being debaucherous and not being able to pay.

Laura: Unreliable!

Freddie: Look, if you can’t pay it off in two days, we can’t buy it!

Louis: They say being a musician is inconsistent, but that’s not true! Because we work every day. Actually, me and Joe, we’re in the band, we’re on our fourth cup of coffee right now, because we had four gigs last night! And I have three today, you know, and Joe as well – so we’re constantly working. But you can’t explain that to the bank. They look at you in one way, so that’s a setback.

Joe: And a lot of us need to put our kids through college!

Louis: Exactly, yeah, like he’s just said, my father played with Fats Domino, you know – I’m a fourth generation, and he had five kids, and my father sent those to parochial school – like Leroy mentioned to you, he went to a parochial school, Saint Augustine high school – I went to college, I got a degree in music education. My sisters went to college as well, you know, my brother as well, and all done by my father being a professional musician, you know. He worked seven days – seven days, none stop. Two or three jobs a day.

Joe: That’s true.

Louise: That’s amazing.

Leroy: And back in those days, the gigs that were along here, on this strip, on Bourbon Street, were six times forty-five minute sets.

Louise: Six? Goodness me!

Leroy: Yeah. And some places had three bands a night, and so they’d have eighteen hours continuous music. And you know, you establish yourself. For one thing, musicians, I think…well you have to, for one thing, follow your taxes at the end of the year and have something to show that you’re in the system, legit, even though you’re self-employed. So you can itemise, so you can have deductions on stuff if you’re doing your taxes yourself. Or have a tax accountant do it – I have a tax accountant, because to me it’s very complicated if you’re going to go into that, doing that, the long form is when you getting ten ninety nines where you haven’t gotten…nothing’s been taken out, you’ve got all your money, but you have to pay, you know, you don’t have to, but you should! Not to mention the repercussions if the IRS decides to audit or…you know, same thing everywhere, I’m sure. And I know taxes are really high in the UK, because I’ve played over there and I know how it is for the local musicians, I have friends that I recently toured with over there and I know how it goes there. But here it’s the same, basically. And I think that, you know, it’s almost in America, it’s like your credit is worth more than your collateral. It’s almost like, if you don’t have good credit – you can have as much money as you want – you have a problem; the first thing they’re gonna look at is your credit. Credit check, credit check. I wanna pay cash for the car. Whatever. You know, because it’s all about, you know, they’re trying to make a profit off of you, so…but I think if you’re working a lot and you’re legitimately doing things right, it helps. Not saying you will, but just saying being self employed, performing artist – just to make sure that you keep your papers in order, as far as your taxes and stuff. And I think that can help you to not have to come into a situation where, you know, ‘okay well, we can’t give you this because you’re insufficient on credit or your job is not stable’, you know…whatever.

Louise: Yeah, if you can prove your job’s stable, you should be okay!

Louis: It’s like, you know where you guys are from, again, dealing with demographics, I understand with the music that you’re going to be majoring in – that’s going to be your profession. That area’s going to have to be willing to embrace that profession, you understand what I’m saying? Because, I mean, if I was living in Jamaica and trying to make a living playing traditional jazz, it’s not gonna happen! So, if you wanna focus on being a traditional jazz musician in London, you have to hope that there are going to be clubs there, hotels, that’s gonna embrace that and promote it for you so that you can make a living.

Louise: At the minute, I mean it’s kind of like an underground scene, isn’t it, traditional jazz.

Adam: Yeah, but it is definitely there.

Louise: There’s this kind of hipster revolution where all the kids want to go out swing dancing because, you know, it’s become… they don’t really understand the music or the culture or anything.

Martin: It’s like, films as well, when a new film comes out, like, is it La La Land?

Louise: Yeah like when La La Land came out and everyone was like…I work in a Jazz bar in Greenwich, London, called Oliver’s, which is an amazing place with live bands every night – but Monday to Thursday is pretty much dead; no one comes in. Since La La Land, this film, has come out, it’s been packed every single night! So I suppose…

Martin: It’s a good thing.

Louise: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great thing that that’s happened, but it takes that – it takes some kind of hype to get people involved. And then they’re interested for a couple of months, and then they go onto something else.

Louis: It’s a fad, then it just fades out.

Louise: Yeah, which is frustrating for us, obviously, because this is our life – this is what we care about and this is what we love and are passionate about. So it’s trying to inspire people to get on that boat with us, and I mean, at the minute we’re trying to get people involved and inspired and teach, and you know, I think the most important thing is to access young people and to inspire them, because they are the musicians of the future.

Leroy: Sure.

Louise: And the grown-ups of the future.

Leroy: And the audiences of the future!

Louise: And the audiences of the future, exactly!

Laura: I think it’s also – In England there’s been…unfortunately in Europe it feels like it’s all shifting more towards the conservative side again, which is really sad. And with that, in England now, the arts have been quite slayed, so, when I grew up you had art education, music education in the general curriculum, studying on the state, whereas now they’re removing the arts and all the funding, so…

Leroy: It’s the same thing has happened over here, I mean…and it was the first thing to go. When they’re gonna cut expenses, the arts are out the window. When I was growing up in the early-mid sixties through the seventies, a little boy to teenager, youngsters that didn’t have parents who could afford an instrument for them, instruments were provided at the school – I’ll never forget, York was the brand for brass, we were playing York. Cornets – you had the cornets, trumpets and trombones, you know, and kids could use the instruments throughout the year, school year, and take it home…I think you had to give it back at summer unless you were in a summer camp, but I mean, you had an instrument to take home and practise on. And your folks – many parents couldn’t afford to, you know…a good instrument is expensive, even more expensive today than it was. I mean, I remember my first new horn was a Bundy, a Selmer Bundy, and it was a great horn, a student model – it was $250 in 1969. $250 was a lot of money in 1969 for a new student model horn! Today, when you consider the fact that you get student models now – I’ve seen them now going for $899, $870, you know, so actually, in reference to that, the price has dropped for student model horns. Of course, if you’re talking about professional instruments and custom made horns, you’ve gotta think, you know, it’s like, ‘What’s your bid?’ you know!

Click here for part 4

The NOLA Diaries – Day 2

(Missed Day 1? Click here to read it)

After a good night’s sleep and surprisingly un-jetlagged, we rose with the glorious southern sun to our first full day in the city of dreams. By daylight, we could truly appreciate how lucky we were to have landed such a stunning hotel with pool-side rooms and a waffle machine to boot, and couldn’t resist having a little warm up (and a massive breakfast) before hitting the town.

Stuffed full of waffles and at risk of losing Tom to the streets in his excited state of urgency, we made our first day-lit steps towards the French Quarter in search of The Preservation Hall, where we would later be interviewing four of the most celebrated jazz musicians in New Orleans.

To the French Quarter!

The streets were even more beautiful than we had imagined; marvelous French architecture beaming with colour and life, bars pouring out music on every corner, mule-drawn carriages and more Mardi Gras beads than you could imagine in green, purple and gold hanging from every balcony.

Luckily, The Preservation Hall was only a short walk from our hotel, so we had ample time to bide. In the distance we could hear the faint sounds of a brass band, so took a stroll down the street towards it.

The music just so happened to be coming from Jackson Square, just outside St Louis Cathedral, where we sat for our first glimpse of NOLA street music. They called themselves The Jackson Square Jazz Band, and were playing all of the New Orleans traditionals that we had been learning prior to our trip such as ‘Lil’ Liza Jane’, ‘Oh When The Saints’ and ‘Bourbon Street Parade’.

This first taste of the music-and-culture-rich NOLA that we had been dreaming about was the perfect aperitif to whet our appetites in anticipation for what the week before us was to hold; The sun was shining, the music was swinging and everybody was smiling.

After singing along with “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In” at the top of our lungs, we headed over to The Preservation Hall to begin our interviews with jazz legends Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford.

The Preservation Hall Interviews

As we entered The Preservation Hall, we were overcome with excitement – our first engagement in New Orleans, and it just so happened to involve interviewing some of our heroes! This was also a little nerve wracking at first, however; what should we expect? We stepped in awe into the room where those at the centre of traditional jazz revival inspire hundreds of people every day – Leroy, Freddie, Joe and Louis greeted us with enthusiasm and warmth. We had attempted to prepare by forming a list of questions which provided comfort at first, but as we got into the interviews the conversation flowed from one topic into the next and we all felt at ease. More than anything, we were delighted and relieved to discover that despite being greatly celebrated musicians, they were humble and honest people too.

Click here to read the interviews

Out on swing-patrol

After the interviews, and with a 5pm Preservation Hall Band show penned into our diaries, we headed out onto the street where were lucky enough to be greeted by our first glimpse of Second Line Parade;

After being handed our first Mardi Gras beads by a group of kids who were following the parade, we decided to walk down to the river to soak in the views of the Mississippi before hunting down more musicians. Most probably in typical British tourist fashion, we burst into a gleeful chorus of “Down By The Riverside”. It had only just turned midday on our first day in the Crescent City and we had already seen and done so much.

We headed back over to Jackson Square in search of some NOLA local cuisine only to find the Jackson Square Band still playing in front of St Louis Cathedral. This time, we were invited to play with them! We had not yet sussed out whether or not rocking up and joining in with the local musicians was the done thing, but it soon became apparent that the street musicians all over NOLA were more than happy to collaborate with us – a bigger band draws a bigger audience, after all!

To Tremé

After an hour or so of jamming our favourite tunes, we squeezed into a taxi and headed over to Tremé in search of The Mother In Law Lounge, where we hoped to meet Kermit Ruffins for another interview. Unfortunately, we were informed by the bartender that Kermit was playing at The Blue Note in New York and must have made a mistake with his diary – we did, however, get to have a brief glimpse of another part of town and unmanageable quantities of some much deserved food!

 

Evening antics

With our bellies full of seafood and buffalo wings, we headed back to the hotel to take a breather before heading over to The Preservation Hall once more for their 5pm show. The band play several shows every day, all of which are open to people of all ages. When we got there, we were invited to sit on a row of cushions right at the front – they had been incredibly generous and had put us on the guest list!

We sat in anticipation as the band entered, and were delighted to see that Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford would indeed be playing, joined by Gregg Stafford on trumpet and Steve Pistorious on piano. The gig was a fully immersive experience that got everyone clapping, singing, laughing and literally following Freddie in and out of the room in a conga-line like fashion!

After the show, alive with inspiration, we decided to brave the streets for the first time by ourselves as a group of street musicians. We found the perfect spot on the corner where Toulouse Street met Royal Street and began to play. We quickly gathered an enthusiastic crowd, and the joy of playing jazz at the top of our lungs at 7pm on a residential street and being congratulated for it was one of the most warm and welcoming feelings that we could imagine; It was a far cry from being moved on from a public walkway in Greenwich for busking in the middle of the day because street music ’causes an annoyance’. Freddie Lonzo himself even passed by and stopped to listen for a while! We knew that New Orleans had a rich musical culture, but were not expecting to be so readily and immediately accepted as musicians there ourselves.

Our busking session was promptly followed with our first daiquiris (frozen cocktail slushies!) and the rest of the evening was spent jamming with the house band in Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub.

Who knew that so much fun could be had in one day? Keep your eyes peeled for our next diary post to find out what we got up to on our third day in New Orleans.

The Preservation Hall Interviews – Part 2

The second section of our interview on the 23rd February 2017 with Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford at The Preservation Hall, New Orleans

(Missed part 1? Click here to read it.)

Laura: When did you start playing trombone, how old where you?

Freddie: I started when I was thirteen years old.

Laura: And how did you start? What was your, sort of, journey?

Freddie: Let me see if I can make this quicker – I had an older brother and he’s a trombone player, okay – and basically he used to practise at home. But it’s kinda crazy, what he used to do to me is basically he’d lock me out of the room because he didn’t want me to come in and watch him play trombone! It was kinda like, I always said, a forbidden fruit, you know. So when he graduated from high school, he went away to a junior college, and this school only had vocal – they didn’t have any instruments, only vocals. So we were renting a horn at the time and we were going to send the instrument back to the music store. When I found out that he was going and the horn was staying, that was my chance – I scooped it up! I said no, leave it here, I’ll mess around on it!

Laura: What trombone was it? What kind?

Freddie: It was an old King, I can tell you – I feel like it was a Liberty, it was a student horn, yeah, an old Liberty. And basically my brother left it there and I just kinda jumped on it, you know.

Laura: Did you have lessons or where you exploring it for yourself?

Freddie: Well basically it was like in the middle of the year, so what happened was the beginners’ class had already started in the school, so they stuck me in the advance class which, I mean, I had no business being in, I have to be honest. But the teacher would take some time out – she’s come and spend some time with me. She’d stick me in the practise room, you know, kinda sound proof – not completely sound proof – and she’d come in, because she’d put me in the classes with the trombones, the tubas, all the French horns and the baritone – that was all in the same class. So she’d come and spend some time with me and she’d send me to the practise room. It wasn’t completely soundproof so while I was trying to play what she was showing me, I was also listening to what was going on outside. So it was kind of ear training in a sense and what she had presented to me in the books. Erm, I’m going on and on because I’ve lost myself! So basically, I tell you what, I’ll back it up a little more – I was in a woodwind class, so actually I flunked plywood so they wouldn’t let me in, they would happily send me out of that class because I was going around doing all kinds of crazy stuff, so they were glad to get me out of that class, you know “Yeah, you go and play the trombone!” Like I said, I flunked plywood.

Leroy: So you did have private lessons when you started playing trombone?

Freddie: Yeah, she spent some time with me, you know, as much as she could because she had a whole class to deal with. So I mean, if you want to say that’s private, yeah – she had to deal with everybody, but not really one-on-one, nah I never really had that in that sense.

Tom: What about any of you other guys?

Leroy: Well, I started playing when I was ten and my parents rented a cornet for me because the school I was going to had a band programme and the headmaster was Sister Mary Hilary who was Orleans parish, she covered like, Dominican high school, Catholic schools, and she had also St. Leo the Great and uptown Lady of Lourdes. So I wanted to play cornet because Louis Armstrong played cornet and I mean my ears were open to music even before I picked up a musical instrument. Actually, the first instrument I played was guitar and I taught myself before I had a horn, and fiddled around on the guitar until I was about eighteen but I started taking lessons, private lessons, every once a week. I took private lessons for about four years. I became involved with a brass band called the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, a Christian marching band that was in essence formed by Danny Barker, who you’ve heard of probably, and Danny Barker was a member of the Fairview Baptist Church. The pastor at that time was Reverend Andrew Darby who asked Danny to recruit some young people to complete this band because there were not enough youngsters among the congregation playing instruments appropriate for brass band. There were a few, but not many, so that’s how I got involved with that, even though I was going to St. Leo the Great school and taking lessons and so the first two years I was not involved with the brass band thing, with the age old tradition of brass band music in New Orleans, which is something that I had been exposed to growing up in the city and going to be part of the Second Line and not to mention too far in to details about that, you know, that proposal of things that were put on by the social aid and clubs, these black organisations that have, they go back a hundred years or more and they were organisations that helped African Americans who didn’t have money for, say, a burial or a funeral, they were helping each other you know. It was a benevolent organisation, and it’s still around today, and they do a parade every year, so I started playing gigs when I was twelve, so I still was in school.

Tom: And that was on the cornet?

Leroy: On the cornet, not long before I switched to trumpet. Everybody played the cornet back then, even the elementary books would be like, for cornet 1, cornet 2, you know, it was cornet parts, as opposed…as far as what I remember when I first started playing in band, and you were playing symphonic music mostly – all classical pieces. Marches, John Phillip Sousa marches mostly and a few other things we did that were related, but I played in band, and it was a sort of a wind ensemble. And later I played in a high school that this young man went to after me, Saint Augustine. They had a bigger organisation – a big marching band, a hundred and twenty five piece marching band and the music got a bit more difficult, it was a bit more advanced. I played with that band, I played with the symphonic band, then we played classical pieces and some arrangements of music for our peers, like pop music that was popular during the 70’s when I was at high school. And from there I went to Loyola for one year before they got the fancy building, I spent a year at Loyola on jazz studies, aspiring to be a performing artist and other circumstances caused me to drop out and end up joining the union, and I ended up working a gig on Bourbon street at a place where this man (Joe Lastie Jr.) is working at The Maison Bourbon, my first jazz gig back in 1978 – and I haven’t stopped since! I was sixteen years old actually when I decided – his (Louis Ford’s) father was a great saxophonist, clarinettist, musician that I had an opportunity to learn from as well, we played together. And when I say learn, when you get on the bandstand and stand next to, like, his dad Clarence Ford was a master, and associated peers Ed Frank, a piano player – these men are deceased now but those are just mentioning two that I learned how to play jazz, the concept, how to develop a proper concept of improvisation so, you know, because jazz is a language with many different dialects, so you know, I chose that one, with a mixture of what I had been exposed to before I started playing what I would define as jazz or swing music. I knew I wanted to be a professional musician when I was sixteen. So that’s it in a nutshell, you know. Fifty nine now and I still love it!

Martin: Do you feel the classical music background helped?

Leroy: Yeah, as far as from a technical stand point, what the teachers had, they were giving me pointers on how to properly manipulate the instrument I mean, you know, any trumpet player can tell you, any wind instrument player will know that the instrument is demanding – you can’t just say “Okay, I’m gonna play” one day and then put the horn in the case and leave it for two or three days. I mean, you can, but it makes it rough when you come back and have to deliver with precision if you really, you know – so yes. I would say so in as far as the reading aspect as well, although there’s a misconception about New Orleans musicians, a lot of people think that New Orleans musicians all just play by ear; many of them do, but they also read music. I mean, we all read music. All these bands, we had marches and we had a guy, there were certain people wo – Adrian Morgan is a guy who was phenomenal, underrated – he wrote arrangements for the bands we played for in high school, and the hundred and twenty five piece band would play, like, say a tune like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ or something like that, and it sounded just like the record because this man had transcribed parts that fit for each various instrument – low brass, upper brass, reeds, everything was just like that, and so when we would march up the street, like during carnival, we played all the parades, the band sounded like a mobile jukebox. Seriously!

Click here for part 3