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

The ‘Second Line’ Groove

Second line music is traditionally associated with funerals in New Orleans, but is now synonymous with almost any kind of New Orleans party/procession. Conventionally in New Orleans a funeral procession will take place between a church and a graveyard. After the family of the deceased exit the church with the coffin they lead a procession towards the graveyard, behind which, and as the ‘second line’, a brass band will follow playing solemn-dirge music (Just a Closer Walk with Thee is a common tune of choice). Once the graveyard is reached and the body is buried, the procession continues throughout the city with either an up-beat rearrangement of the dirge tune(s) played on the way to the graveyard, or a completely different up-beat/faster tune (When The Saints Go Marching In, Didn’t He Ramble, ‘Lil Liza Jane…).

Distilled to its essence, the groove itself is created by two percussionists. One with a bass drum strapped to his/her chest with a single upturned cymbal on top, and another with a snare drum. The bass drum player plays the bass drum with his/her right hand holding a big beater, and his/her left hand holding a metallic stick to strike the cymbal. Crucially the bass drum player provides the foundation of the groove with a pattern between his/her two hands that leads towards ‘the big four’ – an accent of both hands on beat four at the end of their phrase. The snare drum player plays a clavé rhythm between the hands, by use of accents, that similarly has a particular accent on the beat four at the end of their phrase. Both instruments enjoy some degree of improvisation, but are always aware of how they interlock, compliment the song, and lead towards the ‘big four’.

Below I demonstrate how the second line groove can be adapted for a drum set (link 1), as well provide a link to the rhythm section of the Rebirth Brass Band demonstrating what I have discussed (they present the tradition as well as modern interpretations).

 

 

Blog by Tom Wright

Click here to visit his website

The Importance of Music Education

As a group of musicians and musical educators, we are all aware that Arts Funding cuts are preventing many children and adults alike from being able to access music education. I have been teaching in schools as a visiting music teacher for the past 5 years, and even in such a short space of time have been alarmed at the changes that I have seen.

The Old Jelly Rollers are seven-strong, so between us we have probably spent around 100 years learning our instruments (that’s a long time!) and have experienced the joys that music education brings. I am often disheartened by the attitudes that some people have towards what we’ve spent this joined 100 years doing;

“So what, if there are fewer musicians in the world?”

“Kids go to school to learn real subjects, not to mess about with musical instruments!”

“What’s the point in learning an instrument if you don’t want to be a musician?”

So, I thought I’d share just a few of the benefits of music education with you (just in case having a great time and learning a marvelous new skill aren’t benefits enough!)

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Confidence

Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest benefits of music education is that it vastly improves a learner’s confidence. The evidence of this comes long before you consider that getting up on stage, be it at a concert hall or at a school show, takes a lot of nerve; A big part of learning to sing or play an instrument is being asked to demonstrate what you have been practicing, or to have a go at an exercise in front of your teacher (and your peers, in group lessons). The safe learning environment that is created by enjoyment and moral support means that in no time at all, the ability to demonstrate, talk and perform is magnified onto a much grander scale, both in other areas of work and socially.

The Social Element

In our opinion, nothing is more rewarding or satisfying than that feeling that you get when you’ve put on an amazing gig with your best mates. And it’s not just about the show – The amount of time that you spend with a group of like minded, creative people when preparing for a gig, concert or tour creates the perfect environment for some really amazing friendships to develop. Amazing friendships = happy, healthy state of mind.

Expression

In this changing world of bigger classes, less playtime, more homework and greater pressure, it’s easy to forget to make some time for self-expression. The ability to express oneself is cultivated by encouraging a creative mind, and many musicians turn to their instruments for expression (or just to let of some steam) in times of high stress, emotional difficulty or great joy!

IQ and Academic Performance

Okay, so if you’re hung up on the idea that time spent learning music is time wasted as far as academic development is concerned, there are many studies that have shown that even just one year of one-to-one music lessons can significantly boost the IQ and grades of a child. This may have something to do with the “multitasking” that learners face (reading, understanding harmony, rhythm, melody and playing the instrument all at the same time!) playing a part in interconnecting brain areas, which in helps to develop an all rounded intelligence, able of critical thinking and problem solving at a much higher level than someone who has never had music tuition.

Tenacity

However fun it is, mastering any instrument is not easy. Music students very quickly realize the importance of practicing and hard work, as the results are literal and clearly apparent in their progress. They also come to understand that the reward for their hard work is the improvement that they’ve made and what they have learned from their efforts – a very valuable lesson indeed! This helps to develop a tenacity in all areas of work, and a strength that will be invaluable as they progress in later life.

So, go forth and learn!

The Old Jelly Rollers
Photography by Henrijs Grabovskis

Blog by Louise Balkwill

If you have any questions regarding this post or would like to apply to host a workshop in your school or educational facility, please feel free to get in touch with us by emailing theoldjellyrollers@gmail.com

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Featured photo: The Old Jelly Rollers at The Becky Dell Music Academy Christmas Concert 2016