Our annual Jazz All-Star
by GERALDINE WYCKOFF
Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson
“Music was my baby sitter,” says Wess Anderson, explaining that his father, who played drums, would take him to all his gigs. Anderson began on piano, taking private classical lessons, and soon added clarinet. After hearing Charlie Parker at age 14, he took up the saxophone. Anderson attended a Saturday afternoon private music school, benefiting from the host of professionals, such as Jimmy Heath, who came into teach. At 15, the saxophonist joined his father at gigs or, as he says, “My father pushed me out front.” It was meeting Wynton and Branford Marsalis that persuaded Anderson to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge. “You’ve got to study with Bat,” demanded Branford, referring to clarinetist/teacher Alvin Batiste, who headed the jazz program. “What’s a Bat?” Anderson asked. “Not a what, it’s a who,” answered Branford. He made the move in 1982, and naturally the musician came to New Orleans every chance he got. His first gig was with saxophonist Earl Turbinton and he also teamed with fellow Southern students drummer Troy Davis and bassist Reginald Veal. The saxophonist made his first European trip with Batiste and was heard regularly with electric violinist Michael Ward. An auspicious moment in Anderson’s career occurred during a 1985 Jazz Fest appearance at Prout’s Alhambra. He was playing with his eyes closed when, he says, something made him open them. Wynton Marsalis was standing at the foot of the stage. The trumpeter asked Anderson to join him to play in Cleveland. After a week, however, Marsalis told Anderson he needed to go back to school. “I had to creep back into town,” the saxophonist recalls with a laugh. Soon after, performing with the prestigious Betty Carter Trio at the 1988 Chicago Jazz Festival, Marsalis called on Anderson again. Jumping at the opportunity to perform with the noted trumpeter, Anderson quit school and has been a member of the many variations of Marsalis’ bands ever since. After many moves, Anderson and his family settled in Baton Rouge in 1992. He’s led and recorded with his own ensembles since 1994, has been a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra since its inception and taught at Juilliard for several years.
Quotable: “Swing, swing alike. Swing or be swung.”
A glance at the musicians who’ve utilized Ed Wise’s bass quickly reveals that he’s an artist who feels at home in both modern and traditional jazz settings. Starting on bass at age 12, Wise was already working as a professional musician by 17. “I fell in with the right people,” says Wise, who, as the house bass player at a Houston club, had the opportunity to perform with such jazz giants as saxophonists Arnett Cobb, Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. An avid record collector, Wise learned by listening to albums and reading about the music. He attended North Texas State University and earned a master’s degree in jazz studies. Following a year of teaching and gigging, he headed to Toronto to perform with another sax great, Lee Konitz. In 1993, the bassist got a call from Jerry Fisher of Blood, Sweat and Tears fame, wanting him to join the house band at his new club, the Dock of the Bay, in Mississippi. Wise took the job, moved to Pass Christian and soon got in touch with fellow bassist Bill Huntington (All-Star 1990), whom he’d met a decade earlier when Huntington went to Dallas with Al Hirt. “He got me pointed in the right direction,” says Wise, who moved to New Orleans in 1995 to teach as an adjunct professor at Loyola University. Since he was a teenager, Wise listened to musicians including Jelly Roll Morton and Ornette Coleman. But after arriving in New Orleans and hearing and digging into traditional jazz, he gained further respect for the music, and credits trumpeter Connie Jones for his greater understanding of the tradition. These days, Wise has been heard more on the classic jazz scene than the modern one. Though as his history shows, he’s ready for both.
Quotable: “If it was bad, if it was good, if they loved it, if they hated it – in the end I got a check and paid my bills, and it was a lot better than selling insurance.”
Ocie Davis grew up around rhythm. His father is a conga player, so by age 7 the youngster got his first set of drums, and at 8 he was already taking lessons. While Davis played in the marching band and joined the jazz band in high school, he always considered music just a hobby. It was when he started gigging in 1991 that he began taking the music seriously and considered jazz as a profession. He found further encouragement studying with drum master Billy Higgins, who had a club in the Los Angeles area where he held clinics and workshops. Davis says of jazz: “That was the style of music that fit me.” Prompted by his interest in jazz and the presence of a lot of family members in New Orleans, the drummer moved to the city in 1996. He attended the University of New Orleans and profited from the tutelage of musicians Ellis Marsalis, Harold Battiste, Terence Blanchard (All-Star 1997) and Herman LeBeaux (All-Star 2002). He also received insights from fellow drummers such as Shannon Powell (All-Star 1995) and would head to Preservation Hall to pick up on the traditional jazz workings of Ernie Elly (All-Star 1999). Davis’ first gig in the city was with bassist Walter Payton, who immediately recruited the drummer for a job in Germany that marked his first trip overseas. Capable in many genres, Davis is a much-called-upon musician. At Jazz Fest alone he’ll play modern jazz with several leaders, be heard in Dave Bartholomew’s (All-Star 1999) band and put on a serious reggae beat. When he heads out of town, it’s usually with saxophonist Donald Harrison or to play with friends in Los Angeles. Davis is also working on an album in which he is the leader.
Quotable: “I want jazz music to be more relevant to young people. I want it to be in the mainstay of people’s consciousness and have it be more exposed.”
Andrew Baham has one foot in modern jazz and the other in brassy street beats. While a few musicians wander into the two genres, the talented trumpeter dedicates equal energy to both styles. “Actually they work really well together,” assures Baham, “both are based on swing and groove.” The trumpeter began playing a little cornet at age 12 and while at Gregory Junior High School was a member of the Black Jack Brass Band. He attended John F. Kennedy High School and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), during which time he played with both the Soul Rebels and the Lil Stooges brass bands. Like so many All-Stars, Baham comes from a musical family. His father was a record collector who played percussion in high school, and his mother, a flutist, graduated from Dillard with a music education degree. While at NOCCA the trumpeter became further exposed and entrenched in modern jazz. He attended both Dillard University and the University of New Orleans with a time-out to perform and travel with the Ellis Marsalis Quintet. The trumpeter was also heard regularly with drummer James Alsanders’ Jazz Project. Baham credits the drummer for encouraging him to attend NOCCA. In May of last year, Baham returned from two semesters at the Berklee College of Music. In a reverse of the perceived notion about employment for musicians in New Orleans, Baham says that he came home to gig more and make more money. As heard on his two fine straight-ahead jazz releases, Baham reveals talents as a strong composer. He cites educator/trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr. for encouraging him to write. His involvement in both modern jazz and brass band music has afforded the trumpeter opportunities to travel to both Europe and Asia. “I like to see myself as a person who has taken in everything that New Orleans has had to offer – I just love the music.”
Quotable: “Never have so few owed so much to so many. If everybody plays their part, there can be a much greater reward at the end than if you just try to do things by yourself.”
“I was always in music,” declares Roger Dickerson, a renowned and prolific composer who has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes for his “A Musical Service for Louis” and “New Orleans Concerto.” He’s also taught throughout his life both privately and at institutions such as Xavier and Dillard universities and retired three years ago from his position as music coordinator of the Southern University at New Orleans concert choir. Dickerson grew up in musical neighborhoods and everybody in his family had a piano in their house. The youngster began playing, started lessons at 8 years old and in elementary school was involved with musical productions. Church also played an important part in his life, and it was at Sunday school at St. James that he met Ellis Marsalis, with whom he would share friendship, many classrooms and much music. The two attended Gilbert Academy and with Marsalis on sax, played together in Dickerson’s band. The repertoire came from the likes of Louis Jordan and Roy Brown along with some bebop. Both also sang and Dickerson began writing and arranging material for the group. Throughout, the pianist continued to study classically. Dickerson took up French horn and E-flat melaphone and at McDonogh 35 he started playing baritone horn. It was the instrument with which he won a scholarship to Dillard University. In part, he credits learning these and other various instruments with his abilities as a composer today. “I had a personal relationship with the instruments.” At Dillard, Dickerson jammed daily with fellow students Marsalis and Harold Battiste. He was also gigging regularly and going out for shows presented by the Dew Drop’s Frank Painia with R&B musicians like Joe Turner and Guitar Slim. While at Dillard, Dickerson joined the Army Reserve, primarily to play with the top-flight band that included musicians like saxophonists Clarence Ford (All-Star 1993) and Charlie Burbank (All-Star 1994) and clarinetist Alvin Batiste. He and Marsalis also organized a group called the Four Upperclassmen that sang material from the Four Freshmen. Dickerson graduated from Dillard and went on to Indiana University for his master’s degree and then entered the Army. He was discharged in 1959 and received a Fulbright fellowship to study in Vienna, Austria, where he spent three years. It was then that he began writing his first of many symphonies. He returned to New Orleans in 1962 to, he says, “discover New Orleans again.” Dickerson’s work reflects the African and European blending that he says is what makes New Orleans work.
Quotable: “I believe that my work is an expression of inner devotion and freedom; an expression that combines love of art with human relationships and the sense of godly duty.”
Having grown up in a musical family in New Orleans’ music-filled 7th Ward, John Boutte remembers records spinning and voices singing around his home. His earliest memory is singing to his dog on the front porch. Later, he and a group of his friends would get together to harmonize on doo-wop tunes, and in junior high he became interested in gospel music. Cornet, however, became his main instrument when he took it up in the New Orleans Recreation Department’s band. “It was a great program,” Boutte exclaims. He continued on the horn at Rivers Frederick Junior High under the tutelage of William Houston Sr. Another strong educational presence was music director Mercedes Stamps with whom Boutte studied at Joseph S. Clark High School. During these years, he continued to sing doo-wop with the group Spirit. Boutte entered Xavier University, majoring in business with a minor in economics. “Music is what I did on the side,” explains Boutte, who also studied piano at the university and was a member of the ROTC. After graduation, he entered the Army, where he directed choirs. He was discharged in 1984 and worked behind the scenes at the World’s Fair and then went into the banking industry. After meeting superstar Stevie Wonder, who offered encouraging words, Boutte headed to Europe to join his sister Lillian and to see if music was the place for him. He spent six years there, learning the ropes and meeting people. On his return to New Orleans, convention gigs kept him going while he picked up other jobs in the music industry. Using his earlier connections, Boutte started heading to Europe on his own. While traditional jazz was his usual calling card overseas, the versatile Boutte could be heard in more modern settings working and recording with New Orleans musicians such as Glenn Patscha and drummer Brian Blade. Jazz standards filled the repertoire of his annual summer excursions to play with the Grand Hotel Orchestra on Mackinac Island. Boutte’s adaptability is demonstrated through his recent associations and recordings with Uptown Okra group, the internationally acclaimed Cubanismo and the Grammy-nominated Los Hombres Calientes.
Quotable: “Time is precious; don’t waste it. You need to seek purity and teach each other how to love. Basically I try to do that through my music.”
Ernest “Doc” Watson
Growing up in New Orleans’ 3rd Ward, Ernest “Doc” Watson’s musical interests were sparked by kids moving into the neighborhood who played music. “I wanted to play like Ellis Marsalis,” admits Watson, who remembers when the now-renowned pianist blew saxophone. Watson was in and out of Booker T. Washington High School and credits his graduating to music and his participation in the concert and marching bands. He then entered the Army, went to Korea and played in a band entertaining the troops. He was discharged in 1954 and used the GI Bill to attend the Houston School of Music and began working at Tulane Medical School. Watson, who is best known as a member of the Olympia Brass Band, always had an interest in modern jazz and played with childhood friends Ellis Marsalis and pianist Roger Dickerson. “They were the real serious musicians,” says Watson, who describes the 3rd Ward as being “nothing but musicians.” Watson was and continues to be active in R&B and was a regular with vocalist Lil Millet and His Creoles. The saxophonist’s first brass band gig was marching with the Tuxedo Brass Band, then led by Herman Sherman, for the Jefferson City Buzzards. It was in the early 1980s that he hooked up with the Olympia. There was a dedication for a Martin Luther King Jr. statue, and the Olympia announced that other musicians were welcome to join its ranks for the ceremony. Watson remembers thinking, “I think I’ll go. That’s something worthwhile.” Leader Harold Dejan said to him, “I’m glad you came out. I’ll try to throw some jobs your way.” Three weeks later, the saxophonist got a call asking if he’d like to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the Olympia. That was the start of his now 25-year relationship with the world-renowned band. While Watson is now retired from his career as a lab technician at Tulane, he continues his lifelong work as a musician.
Quotable: “Early on, brass-band music only meant jazz funerals but then I just got wrapped up in the history of it. I’m proud to play it now. It keeps alive the memories of those who came before.”
“I’m strictly out of left field,” says the affable Thais Clark of her vocal career. Her mother entered her into staged operettas as a dancer, and in the eighth grade, she handled the choreography for a school production. As a student at Joseph S. Clark High School, she participated in chorus, and after meeting vocalist Topsy Chapman at Delgado she joined her family gospel group, the Chapman Singers. It was encountering Vernel Bagneris that turned life around for Clark. He asked both she and Chapman to be in his musical “One Mo’ Time.” “He took a chance on all of us,” says Clark, who helped with the choreography and played the part of Ma Clara Reed. With her big voice and gutsy stage presence, Clark filled the bill to belt out blues numbers like “C.C. Ryder” and “Black Bottom Blues.” The show ran a year before going to New York for three-years; then it played in Europe, including a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. Clark was also in the cast of Bagneris’ “And Furthermore,” which played in New York. Multi-instrumentalist Lars Edegran was the musical director for “One Mo’ Time,” and Clark began traveling to Europe with him as well as singing with bands he led in New Orleans. English clarinetist Sammy Rimington sent for her to sing gospel with his band. “I’m still not a gospel singer,” Clark declares. For the last nine years, she’s been a featured vocalist at the Palm Court Jazz Café. She started out there with Edegran and also shared the stage with Danny Barker, and then became a Friday-night regular. She’s always a lively presence and gives audiences her all. “I come to please,” says Clark, “I’m living on the earth and not under it.” Her talents have been called upon for larger endeavors including tributes to Louis Armstrong performed by clarinetist Michael White’s band and backed by the New Orleans Symphony, as well as with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in New York and Hong Kong.
Quotable: “Good is not always right, but right is always good.”
“It was always the drums for me,” says Stanley Joseph, who began playing on a toy drum set at around 6 years old. “I tore through that,” he remembers, adding that he received upgraded instruments until he ended up with a real set, a gold sparkle kit purchased from Woolworth’s. Joseph came from a family steeped in music, which includes his great-uncle, Papa John Joseph, his grandfather Henry Joseph plus cousins fretman Don Vappie, clarinetist Michael White (All-Star 1990) pianist/bassist Thaddeus Richard (All-Star 2000), bassist Richard Moten (All-Star 2004), saxophonist Plas Johnson and trumpeter Reynolds Richard. He first hooked up with Vappie in the 1970s, playing mostly R&B. At St. Augustine High School, Joseph was a member of the noted Marching 100 and also played in the orchestra. He was also behind the drums playing R&B gigs at now-defunct nightspots like Sylvia’s and the Nightcap. He went on to Xavier University, enrolling in the school’s pre-pharmacy program and then headed to Texas Southern on a music scholarship to complete his degree in pharmacy. Joseph did “lay out” of the Houston school for a time to do some gigging but remembered the promise he made to his father when he purchased that gold sparkle drum set for his son. Joseph gave his word that if he got those drums, he’d go to college and get a profession. He kept his vow and returned to school and earned his degree. Back in New Orleans, he began working in the paramedical field and also playing drums with his “cousin-in-law” Joe Simon as well as various spot jobs. Vacation time from his long-standing day job in the pharmaceutical industry has allowed Joseph to travel oversees to perform with Vappie and clarinetist White and Lars Edegran as well as heading out on his own to play with European musicians.
Quotable: “I feel fortunate to be in the position to play with world-class guys at night and still do the pharmacy thing in the daytime. Those are my two lives.”
As a youngster, David Boeddinghaus was already intrigued with his father’s recording of Fats Waller’s “The Minor Drag.” When a piano arrived at his home to accommodate a Nigerian student that was staying with the family, Boeddinghaus soon started playing around with it, and at age 8 began lessons. From the time he was 10 or so, he and his father would head to New York City to go to record stores as well as shows to hear the likes of pianists Eubie Blake, Bill Evans and Cecil Taylor. “I appreciated everyone for something,” Boeddinghaus recalls. The pianist attended Indiana University for two years to study music and then spent a year in Vienna as party of the college’s exchange program. On his return he worked in a record store and gigged, playing classic jazz of the 1920s and early 1930s including a stint with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks (the group seen in the film “The Aviator”). But the pianist remembered what piano giant Teddy Wilson had told him – “further yourself” – so Boeddinghaus returned to school to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance. A month before he finished, he received a call from bandleader Banu Gibson to play full time with her ensemble in New Orleans. A mutual acquaintance from New York had recommended Boeddinghaus for the job when told Gibson was looking for somebody who played stride piano. Eager to check out New Orleans and incredulous that he could walk into a job, Boeddinghaus moved here in 1983. He enjoyed eight years with Gibson, playing various Bourbon Street venues and the French Quarter Bar at the Hilton and had the opportunity to meet an abundance of musicians. He also performed on the Cajun Queen and Creole Queen. In the 1990s, Boeddinghaus often headed out of town with Gibson’s band and was a member of Eddie Bayard’s Classic Jazz Orchestra when it made its historic engagement in Beijing. The pianist started turning up as a regular at the Palm Court in the late 1990s and presently is heard weekly with clarinet star Pete Fountain at Casino Magic. A much-called-upon freelancer, Boeddinghaus can also be heard with clarinetist Tom Fisher’s seven-piece band.
Quotable: “The first generation of jazz musicians created music just as good and just as valid as that created by later generations.”
“It’s always been a family thing with music,” says trumpeter James Andrews, whose grandfather is the mighty Jessie Hill of “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” fame, and uncles are Prince La La and Walter “Papoose” Nelson. Growing up in the culturally rich Treme neighborhood, Andrews was also surrounded by the brass-band music emanating from the streets from the many passing second-line parades. Thus musically embraced, Andrews began playing drums at 7 and then switched to trumpet. “I used to listen to a lot of Louis Armstrong albums,” Andrews recalls. He’d also head to the French Quarter to listen to the veteran musicians playing at Preservation Hall. He’d hear greats like Kid Sheik, Teddy Riley and the Humphrey brothers. He credits family friend Tuba Fats (Anthony Lacen) as an influence, particularly in teaching him songs vital to the traditional-jazz and brass-band repertoires. Andrews’ first professional gig was playing the 1984 World’s Fair with Danny Barker’s Roots of Jazz. “I learned how to play with a band and a lot of showmanship from him,” says Andrews of Barker. At 16 he formed the James Andrews All-Star Brass Band and remembers the band playing its first second-line parade for the Money Wasters club. Throughout his years at Phillips Jr. High and John McDonogh High School Andrews took music classes, though he considers himself primarily self-taught. Singing has always been part of Andrews’ repertoire – “I’ve always been a showman,” he concedes. He’s also penned material, including anthems like “Gimme My Money Back” for the Treme Brass Band, “Caribbean Second Line” for the New Birth and “Banana Boogie” from his own strong CD, Satchmo of the Ghetto. He’s traveled the world both as leader and sideman blowing in places from South Africa and Turkey to Cuba. While once he watched and listened to the musicians at Preservation Hall, now he has joined their ranks as he leads the band at the French Quarter landmark every Tuesday night. “It’s an honor to play there,” Andrews says.
Quotable: “New Orleans music is one of the greatest things that I’ve encountered, and it’s been good in my life.”
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews
In mid-February, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews was whisked off in a private jet to join Lenny Kravitz’s band in Florida. He’s scheduled to tour with the nationally known rocker for at least three months. That’s the latest event in Andrews’ career, which began when the trombonist was just 4 years old. In 1990, he played his first jazz funeral for fellow trombonist Louis Nelson. The same year marked his first professional job blowing with his brother James, who has long acted as his mentor, in the James Andrews All-Star Brass Band. It was on that occasion that James introduced him as “Trombone Shorty.” At 7, the already promising youngster put together his first band, the Tiny Toones. The group hit Jackson Square, where legendary banjoist/guitarist Danny Barker would sometimes join them. At 8 Andrews headed the Trombone Shorty Brass Band that, again, played the French Quarter. “We were so little, we were making all this money,” Andrews remembers. The trombonist was also already making weekly gigs with the New Birth Brass Band at Tipitina’s. As a toddler, Andrews met Wynton Marsalis and danced in one of the trumpeter’s videos. It was the start of a relationship between the two that has included instruction and performances. Since its inception in 1994, Andrews attended the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp. A milestone in the young musician’s development was attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA). There he added music theory and further sight-reading skills to his formidable experience and natural talent. At NOCCA he also received formal training and got involved in modern jazz. Andrews graduated from NOCCA in 2003 and from Warren Easton High School in 2004 and taught at Tipitina’s Internship Program during the 2003-2004 school year. While Andrews remains widely known as “Trombone Shorty, the talented young musician from Treme,” Aaron Neville also dubbed him “Trumpet Slim” because of his increased blowing on the smaller horn. When he’s booked on modern jazz dates, he’s simply Troy Andrews. Whatever the name or style, he makes an impression.
Quotable: “It is what it is.” •
Our annual Jazz All-Star
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