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

Instruments for Schools

Do you have an unwanted or unused musical instrument?

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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 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

The Preservation Hall Interviews – Part 1

The first 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.

Tom: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this, I’ve wanted to come here and see you guys and listen to you all for a long long time, so thanks so much! The first thing I’d like to ask is when are your gigs between now and the 1st of March when we have to leave, have you got anything that we could come and see?

Freddie: Well, I’m here today from 5 ‘til 7 at The Preservation Hall, and then I’m down at the Maison on Bourbon. And then tomorrow I come back here again at five. Then on Sunday I’m at The Jazz Playhouse.

Tom: Is that with Shannon Powell?

Freddie: No, Tim Laughlin.

Tom: Have you (Leroy) got any gigs over the next couple of days?

Leroy: Tomorrow there’s an annual greasing of the poles over in front of the Royal Sonester Hotel which is where the Jazz Playhouse is – inside there. And between 10 and 11am tomorrow they do what they call the greasing of the poles, where they have some celebrity guests on the front poles of the hotel putting lard on the poles, and you know, on Mardi Gras day some crazy people like to climb up to get to the balcony, so if all that grease is on there then they can’t climb up! So we play this brass band thing, bring ‘em out, it’s very brief. And there’s the football team, the New Orleans Saints cheerleaders all there – some of the members of the Zulu Krewe are there and maybe a couple of other guests, local and celebrity guests. So that’s happening tomorrow.

Tom: At 10am?

Leroy: Yes, 10 until 11. And then I’m playing Saturday night at The Bombay Club from 8:30 until 11:30pm and that’s on Conti, up this way between Bourbon and Dauphine, and it’s in the Prince Conti Hotel. But if you google The Bombay Club, it’s like a British pub actually! *laughter* That’s all until after Mardi Gras, so…because this is the big weekend coming up!

Louise: We’re all stupidly excited, this is our first day!

Leroy: And the weather’s great, too!

Louise: Well, Hurricane Doris has just hit England, it’s like 11 degrees there.

Laura: Yeah, we’re lucky to be here in the sun!

Louise: So, we wondered about all of your early influences and what led you to where you are today?

Joe: Well, I’ve got a question for y’all.

Louise: Absolutely!

Joe: You said something at the top of the conversation about in London, trying to learn jazz, and my question is, which jazz?

Louise: Well, I suppose in London, the route if you want to be a musician is to study, do your grades maybe and then go to conservatoire where you’re basically told what you’ve got to learn to pass your course. At the beginning, certainly for me, when I went I was excited to learn and to play and to sing but you kind of come out having been a little bit squeezed into a mould.

Joe: Well, what kind of genre?

Adam: It’s mainly focussed on Bebop.

Tom: Yeah, it’s very harmony orientated at the conservatoires. But there are a lot of great musicians that have stayed clear of the conservatoires and just been really good and been on the scene and worked their way up. But the nice thing is that it does just give you a community where you can form bands like this.

Joe: What kind of songs do you learn?

Louise: Great American Songbook mostly; Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael

Freddie: So basically it’s very academic, not as…not sure if that’s quite the right word.

Louise: Yeah.

Leroy: Well it’s the same with the university curriculum here, if you want to be a music major, you know you’re going to have to have theory and you’re going to have to study a certain way jazz was at a certain point in time, which excludes before Coltrane and before even, sometimes, before Charlie Parker. But Bebop is traditional now, because it’s over 60 years old. So I’m saying that’s not what you would call modern jazz but at one time, that’s what you’d say that’s modern jazz. But what they don’t teach, I’m sure in London like here for example – well, in New Orleans, we have some of our institutions like the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, I think the kids there are getting a little bit of everything, am I right? Because the musicians who are professional performing artists there are also showing them the New Orleans tradition, which you are definitely not going to get in any university! And so they are being exposed to that, as well as getting the necessary things to obtain a degree in whatever, in theory or harmony or whatever – or performing art, and of course, the classical aspect is there as well, if you care to venture in that direction, but it’s the same. It’s the same here. But I think in New Orleans it’s better in that if you might be going to uni and studying there to get a degree at Loyola, they have a conservatory at Loyola university, but also you have these opportunities to come and learn like this, like we do, you know. Many of us have various levels of musical education but great degrees of musical education when it comes to growing up in this city and listening to the musicians who were our mentors – and many of them have passed on but you can kind of feel on one hand that they’re still around, they have inspired us and taught us.

Freddie: To elaborate on what Leroy was saying, being fortunate that we’re from New Orleans the music here is ancestral – it’s been passed on from generation to generation. Just recently we had what, about 25 Japanese students, actually they left today, that came in town. And their sole purpose was to come in and listen, study and play along with us and the unfortunate thing is that they’re not accustomed to that in their own demographics. Here, we’re surrounded by that and we grew up with that, you know, so it’s in our genes.

Louise: I mean, to wake up, walk out the hotel and to hear an absolutely swinging band playing down in Jackson Square was just, you know, a dream come true! If only we could step out our front door in London and hear that

Laura: What you’re describing is like, essentially growing up in a context cultivates a certain attitude that you know, you’re not necessarily going to acquire in a conservatoire where you’re learning formally, because music is experiential and if you’re embedded in the culture from square one and are exposed to your mentors then you’re going to have a different attitude.

Louis: I wouldn’t say it’s easier for us – yes, it’s somewhat, but we do have to work at it, but those that are not from here really have to work hard at it.

Laura: Well, it’s more natural if you’re conditioned from square one.

Louise: I suppose it’s like if your family always listens to classical music and then you learn the violin, you’re going to be much better at it than if hadn’t.

Joe: I wanna answer that again and think about it, you know; You said it, I grew up playing in church – the same songs we play in church, we play in traditional jazz, so I come up playing and having that feeling, watching my elders and in fact both my grandfathers played drums in church, with my cousin, so I was born into it at a very young age in church. I’m sure some of these guys grew up playing in church too.

Louise: We’re really interested in having a listen to the music in church and going to church to listen to it but do you think we’ll be out of place if we just rocked up at a church?

Joe: No, I don’t think, to answer your question, we’re really not that.

Freddie: Well here’s another thing too, I mean everybody’s pretty much said the same thing you know, for example there’s Thursday… Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, you know, there’s always music somewhere in the city someplace, pretty much you know like you said, you step out of the hotel. I mean, this is the neighbourhood outside of the quarter where a lot of people wanna go – almost any day at any time, you might see some musicians. You know, sometimes you walk downstairs and you see them all alone, you know, they’ve got trumpet or tuba, trombone – I’ve been sitting at the station, bus stop, waiting to catch a bus I see students just hanging on the corner. So this is a kind of crazy city – not crazy – a little different. I mean it’s…I guess people are not shocked when they see one or two guys standing on the corner playing, you know, ‘cause that’s how it’s always been here, as far as I’ve been here, you know.

Click here for part 2

Mentoring with Malcolm Earle-Smith

In the two days prior to our departure, we had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Earle-Smith in two group mentoring sessions. Malcolm is a multi-faceted musician with ample experience and expertise in playing (and singing) traditional jazz, among other disciplines.

We began the mentoring session by playing some of our best known songs, looking to Malcolm for advice and inspiration. He gave us the following tips to pursue a more authentic sound:

  1. Don’t get too attached to the melody – Malcolm pointed out that once the instrumental head has been played, the singer does not necessarily have to adhere to the exact melody of the song, even in their first chorus. The role of a singer in a traditional jazz ensemble is quite different to that of a contemporary jazz singer, and the voice should be viewed more along the lines of a horn. You need to project to be heard unamplified over a large ensemble so must be economical with note choices and focus on rhythm and energy.
  2. Slow down – Many of the tempos that we are comfortable with as contemporary jazz musicians would be considered unnecessarily fast in traditional or second line jazz. Does it swing better 20bpm slower? Probably!
  3. Play more collectively – After four years of essentially studying Bebop and post-bop, we have become acclimatised to the idea of soloing and queuing up for solos; in traditional jazz, the music is largely about the more collective aspect. Riffing and interacting as an ensemble throughout a song is key.
  4. Include other influences – No matter how hard we try to create an authentic sound, we have all grown up in 21st century Great Britain. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just means that we will all inevitably have had other influences throughout our musical (and non-musical) lives. Malcolm suggested not to shy away from these and to try to be open to include other influences in our music.
  5. Just let go! – Traditional jazz and second line music is all about the feeling and the joy of playing music with your friends, peers and contemporaries, so don’t be afraid to mess it up. Just let loose and play!

Our mentoring left us feeling much more comfortable in the genre and excited to have the opportunity to submerge ourselves in the real thing down in the Crescent City – Thank you, Malcolm!

Have a listen to our final moments of mentoring below.

 

We’re All Set!

First of all, a MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us and helped us to raise over £4000 towards our project. Without you, none of this would be possible. We love you!

Secondly, good news – We’re all set! Flights booked, hotel booked…what next?

We’d like to hear from YOU.

The main aim of our trip is to return to London with a piece of New Orleans, archived here for your learning and reading/viewing pleasure. We’d like to hear what you want to learn about New Orleans, second line and the music tradition in the homeland of jazz. Who would you like us to interview? What would you like to read about? Any ideas for video blogs? We want to make this trip as educational and rewarding as possible for all of our sponsors and supporters and plan to build an itinery around answering your burning NOLA questions!

We look forward to reading/hearing your responses – please feel free to use the comments section below, or get in touch with us via our contact page, Twitter or Facebook.