You've probably heard The Meters's Mardi Gras Mambo as colorful floats of all shapes and sizes roll down Bourbon Street. Or perhaps you listen to WWOZ (90.7 MHz) in your car after a long day's work. Depending on the mood of the songs, they may pump you up, titillate your imagination, or evoke nostalgia. But have you ever wondered who composed the songs that the city knows and loves today? Whether they're alive or dead, these five musicians have pioneered in the production of jazz music. On November 13, show them your appreciation by sharing their work with your friends and family.
Louis Armstrong, also known as "Satchmo," was one of the world's most famous jazz musicians who influenced not only jazz history but also New Orleans' cultural landscape. A New Orleans native, he gained prominence in the 1920s, followed by his first-recorded solo "Chimes Blues" with the help of his mentor King Oliver. His hit records such as "When The Saints Go Marching In," "The Mardi Gras March," and "Boy from New Orleans" helped bring the city and its culture to life in the minds of his audience. In conjunction with his adept trumpeting skills and his well-known raspy tenor, Armstrong left his mark in the city, now known as the birthplace of jazz.
A gifted pianist and a crooning singer, Antoine "Fats" Domino, Jr. took the rock 'n' roll world by a powerful yet gentle storm. He kicked off his musical career in 1949 with the national hit "The Fat Man." Influenced by trumpeter and songwriter Dave Bartholomew, he eventually released more of his greatest hits, including "Blueberry Hill," "Walking to New Orleans," and "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," which combine elements from R&B and rock 'n' roll. Domino's songs were so phenomenal that he became one of the top-selling rock 'n' roll artists in the world, following Elvis Presley; as a matter of fact, his prowess influenced major record companies to help other local musicians follow their dreams.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Formed in 1961 by local couple Allan and Sandra Jaffe, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band dedicated itself to keeping the spirit of New Orleans jazz alive and well. The band got its name from the historically treasured Preservation Hall, which served as the heart of jazz performances during the Jim Crow era. They began touring in 1963, where they released hit songs such as "Tailgate Ramble," "Louisiana Fairytale," and "Down By The Riverside." New York, California, and even Thailand got a taste of what life in the Big Easy was like from the band's performances. Ben Jaffe, who is Allan and Sandra's son, currently leads the band, and they're still going strong. Their most recent album, "A Tuba to Cuba," was released in 2019, following the release of the documentary film of the same name.
Kermit Ruffins is a living example of the New Orleans motto, "Let the good times roll!" A trumpeter and vocalist who combines elements of hip-hop and R&B, Ruffins was influenced by jazz giants Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway, which led to him co-founding the Rebirth Brass Band in high school. Songs such as "Do Whatcha Wanna" and "Take It to the Street" helped preserve city's second-line culture. He eventually left the band in 1993 to focus on producing solo work. He joined forces with the Barbecue Swingers in 1992. Together, they released hit records such as The Barbecue Swingers Live, Live at Vaughn's, and Big Easy. Today, he continues to inspire musicians within Louisiana, which will keep New Orleans' jazz culture alive for generations to come.
Born to a musical family in the musical Tremé neighborhood, Troy Andrews' musical career kicked off at a very young age. Although he mastered the trombone, trumpet, and drums, he stuck to the trombone as his instrument of choice. Because the trombone was twice his height, his brother called him "Trombone Shorty," and the name stuck with him ever since. He composes what he calls "Supafunkrock," a genre that combines the elements of rock, pop, jazz, funk, and hip-hop. So far, Trombone Shorty has performed around the world and across the country, appeared in the PBS documentary Austin City Limits, and published two children's books. Be sure to check out his latest record Parking Lot Symphony, which captures the essence of the city through a range of deep-groove funk and brass band tunes such as "Laveau Dirge No. 1," "It Ain't No Use," and "No Good Time." Trombone Shorty hopes that his music will unite people, which is so much needed in a tumultuous time.