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Notations from...Big Sam Part II


Trombonist/vocalist/composer Big Sam [Williams] is at home with funk, but he’s no stranger to jazz. It runs in his family. He’s been nominated for a Grammy, played in the TV series Treme’, joined the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at age 19, and currently heads up Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Part II of II 

Fill in the blank. If it weren’t for music, I’d probably be _____________. 

Bored as hell [laugh]! I’d probably be a teacher or an athlete. That’s a hard one, because I can’t see myself being anything but in music now. Maybe a teacher giving back to the community and getting cats to do positive things in their lives. 

Do you ever look at a young musician and think, “Yeah, I remember that time?” 

Yeah, all the time. The scary, freaky, weird point about that question is that, in New Orleans, you always have that little cat coming up behind you. You’re walking on the street and you hear something and you think, “Hey, that cat kind of sounds like me!” Then you know you’ve inspired them, though you don’t know them yet, but they know you. Then you wonder if a bunch of cats thought the same when I was coming up and playing. 

What music do you listen to that might take some people aback?

If it’s some good country music, I’m going to listen to it. Here’s something kind of funny. I have a song called “Funky Donkey.” I was watching Cedric the Entertainer Live from the Ville the other night on Netflix. There was this country song he was joking about. It was called Honky Tonk Badonkadonk. It’s a real song, [sings] “She’s got that honky tonk badonkadonk.” Guess that means she’s got that country booty. Country music usually tells a story – sometimes when I’m writing, and I want it to make you shake your head, I also really want it to tell a story at the same time. Country comes from gospel, the blues, so country is soulful. I have a song called “Breaking the Rules” that has a storyline going on. 

Of the following NOLA sayings, which do you use the most: 1) “Your momma and ‘em” 2) “Yeah, you right” and 3) peppering your tunes with the word “y’all” when you’re performing? 

I’ll give it to you in order: 1) “Yeah, you right” (2) “y’all” and (3) “Your momma and ‘em.” I say “Yeah, you right” every five seconds. 

What’s your response to this name: Allen Toussaint? 

[Sigh] Legendary, amazing, iconic, and missed! I knew Allen the last ten years. He was an amazing guy, a great leader and person, a great friend gone too soon. Yeah. Allen was Allen and you got to love him, I mean you’d never know how many songs he wrote for others. 

What’s in your background that nobody really knows? 

Before I started playing funk and jazz, I was in my church just trying to figure it all out. So, I grew up in the church, the Guiding Light Missionary Baptist Church. I sang in the church, the whole nine yards. Everything I play now is part of my upbringing.

See Part 1 of the interview here

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