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.

CoLab 2017 Performance

Although our band rehearsed for the first time on the 7th October 2016, we began as a concept for a module of our studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; ‘CoLab’ is a two week long study period in the middle of February, in which students and teachers partake in collaborative projects with students from other departments.

Each project is allocated a performance slot – we were allocated a site specific performance on Friday 17th at he Laban premises.

CoLab2017 – Site Specific performance at Laban

We began our performance in the foyer with ‘Bourbon Street Parade’, a New Orleans traditional, before parading around the building for a further ten to fifteen minutes playing songs such as ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’, ‘Lil Liza Jane’ and ‘Down By The Riverside’. Our performance ended with a further stationary performance in the foyer.

Despite having not yet had the input of our mentor, Malcolm Earle-Smith, we had already developed a strong rapport and a good understanding of the music. This, combined with our excitement to be leaving to New Orleans only a few days later, made for an enthusiastic and energetic performance!

 

 

 

Live Sessions

We’d like to invite you to our Facebook Live sessions!

‘Like’ our Facebook page and you’ll be notified when we’re rolling. If you didn’t catch our most recent rehearsal snippets, check them out below.

>CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK<

~ RECENT LIVE SESSIONS ~

11th January, 2017

‘New Orleans Bump’ (Transcribed by Johnny Woodham)

13th January, 2017

‘Lil Liza Jane’ (feat. George Winstone)

See you online!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!)

~

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

The London Pantomime Horse Race: United Neightions!

On Sunday 11th December, we had the pleasure of taking part in a rather extraordinary and exciting event – The London Pantomime Horse Race! In the name of charity (namely, The Sick Children’s Trust), costumed pantomime horses hilariously raced through the streets of Greenwich on a fun packed assault course of giggles.

 

Each horse represented a different county, and were in competition to see which comedy pair could raise the most money – congratulations to team Neddy Kelly (representing Australia), who won by raising a whopping £590!

We paraded the horses down King William Walk to the Pre-Race Ceremony at Davenport House Hotel to the traditional New Orleans funeral march,” Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, breaking into swinging song and dance on their arrival.

We just couldn’t keep a straight face with all of those floppy horse heads bobbing about…

panto-horse-race

Check out this little snippet of the Pre-Race Ceremony!

For more information on this fun packed event and to see how you can get involved next year, click here!