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Notations from...James Andrews


From brass bands to playing with Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Dr. John, and appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, trumpeter/vocalist/composer James Andrews  (aka “12” and “Satchmo of the Ghetto”) comes from a family of musicians, and was a protégé of New Orleans’ beloved Allen Toussaint.

If a musician is going to do jazz in the Crescent City, what is it that he/she has to understand?

I would say the rhythm. One thing about it, when we talk about jazz, we talk about different kinds of jazz and what we play is New Orleans jazz. That’s the stuff that makes people dance and want to have a party. Then we got the jazz that’s more modern-style jazz, more of people just socializing and talking, never dancing, music. But New Orleans music is more danceable. As long as it swings, you can play any style. You can take any song and turn it into that. That’s what we do in New Orleans, we take any song and make it a New Orleans song and make people dance.

 You’re talking a walk in Audubon Park and you see some musicians who have passed. You get to talk to one of them; who would it be?

Allen Toussaint. I knew him. I worked with him on my first solo album called Satchmo of the Ghetto. He produced it. Allen was that kind of person. You could talk to him, approach him and talk to him about anything. Music and other stuff. His personality was truly New Orleans. He was always a fun guy to talk to, to listen to when he played his shows. He was just a fun guy to see out in New Orleans and places.

Were you born with jazz in your soul or did you acquire it?

No, I was born with it. I came up in New Orleans where a lot of family members were playing music and just being around older musicians from New Orleans, listening to them and watching things they were doing. My grandfather was Jesse Hill. He wrote the [1962] song Ooh Poo Pah Doo that so many people recorded and covered. My other uncle is Prince La La and my other uncle played with Prince La La. They had a song called She Put the Hurt on Me. Then, my other uncle was Papoose Walter Nelson. He played with Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. I have cousins and brothers [Trombone Shorty] who play music, just a lot of family members that have played music. It’s common in New Orleans, where families for generations play music, then they pass it on to younger generations that pick it up.

Are you a dancer?

Yes, I dance at every show! The dancing makes the show more exciting and it’s good to see people having a good time dancing to our music. The crowd reaction to the music when we play – most times we get the crowd up dancing and having a good time, probably 99 percent of the shows all over the world.

Some quick questions:

What food goes best with jazz?

Of course, it’s red beans and rice, gumbo, some collard greens, fried chicken and a little cornbread on the side.

What would you play for the president?

Some Louis Armstrong, a little Professor Longhair, a little New Orleans party music. It gets anybody going – it’s a crowd pleaser.

What music do you like that just might surprise people?

I like R&B, blues, Cajun music, zydeco music, funk and country music. It looks like country music people are going more soul.

What tune would play for someone not familiar with jazz?

I would choose Ghetto Funk Music from my album The Big Time Stuff. It’s got that funk; it’s got jazz in it; it’s got a mixture of everything, like gumbo!

By Deborah DeMoss Smith, host of The Second Line, Sun, 11am-1pm

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