Bob French, an iconic New Orleans drummer who led the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band for decades, died Monday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. He was 74.
French inherited leadership of the Tuxedo Band — which has existed for more than 100 years, and specializes in traditional jazz — from his father, Albert “Papa” French. Bob French also held a volunteer DJ slot on WWOZ, the community-supported station which primarily broadcasts Louisiana music; in that role, he was notably outspoken about just about everything.
Though a stalwart of the local music scene, French didn’t see much national attention. But in 2006, he appeared on the cover of DownBeat magazine at the behest of pianist Ellis Marsalis. The following year, Branford Marsalis’ record label issued his best-known recording, Marsalis Music Honors Bob French, a collection of New Orleans standards featuring Harry Connick Jr. and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.
Keith Spera’s obituary in the Times-Picayune captures the defiance and charm of French’s personality well in a detailed story. NPR’s Morning Edition also produced a brief remembrance, with clips of French’s voice, for Tuesday morning’s broadcast.