Uniquely Swinging New Orleans Classic

johnny dodds

Johnny Dodds’s clarinet galvanized some of the greatest jazz bands of the twenties and thirties.  He was one of the earliest pioneers of New Orleans jazz, who began playing in the Crescent City before joining the mass exodus of musicians to Chicago during the twenties. Dodd’s rich tone and cascading runs were first heard on record with King Oliver’s legendary Creole Jazz Band.

Mostly self-taught, Dodds immediately earned the respect of his fellow musicians in the jazz capital of the prewar era.  Dodds rarely led his own groups but played with a wide variety of bands, often alongside fellow New Orleans expatriates as well as the Windy City’s top talent. When a young Louis Armstrong organized his first recording sessions as a leader, he picked Dodds as his clarinetist.  The recordings of Armstrong’s’ Hot Fives in turn became watershed moments in the development of jazz and American popular music.

Dodd’s style is rooted in the traditional New Orleans collective sound but Dodds was also an especially passionate blues player:

His intense, driving sound also makes fast numbers such as “Wolverine Blues” into uniquely swinging experiences:

In honor of Johnny Dodds’s birthday, Berklee City Music is proud to share the deeply blue and red-hot music of this jazz original.

Jazz Appreciation Month: Rebirth Brass Band

Founded in 1983 by the Frazier brothers, Phil and Keith, and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, the Rebirth Brass Band is a New Orleans institution.  They tour across the world and have appeared in David Simon’s HBO hit “Tremé.”

You can also catch them every Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans or, if you are in town for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, you see them perform this Saturday, April 27 at 3:40pm on the Congo Square Stage.  Click here for Saturday’s schedule.

The Rebirth Brass Band is committed to upholding the tradition of brass bands while at the same time incorporating modern music into their show.  Their signature brand of brass funk has won over several generations of music lovers.  In 2012 the Rebirth Brass Band won its first Grammy for Best Regional Roots album for their album “Rebirth of New Orleans.”  Be sure to listen to the them on our Jazz Appreciation Month playlist.

Rebirth Brass Band “Rebirth of New Orleans” Album Cover (Basin Street Records)

Among the members of Rebirth is Derrick Tabb, who is the Co-Founders and Executive Director of The Roots of Music, a Berklee City Music Network Member.  The Roots of Music runs year round music education and academic programs, providing kids ages 9-14 with programming in the areas of music, academic mentoring, positive behaviors, civic responsibility, and life skills where the goal is to give the youth of New Orleans the resources to live positive, productive, self-reliant lives.

Derrick Tabb teaching students at The Roots of Music
Derrick Tabb Teaching Students at The Roots of Music

Jazz Appreciation Month: The King of Nouveau Swing

“Nouveau Swing” is a style of jazz that merges popular dance music and Afro-New Orleans tradition music with swing, and Donald Harrison is its creator.  Be sure to listen to some of Donald Harrison’s “Nouveau Swing” on our Jazz Appreciation Month playlist.

Donald Harrison was born in 1960 in New Orleans, and was influenced by The Crescent City’s musical traditions and diverse styles.  His father was also a large influence, as he was a Big Chief in the African and Native American influenced culture of New Orleans’ Black Mardi Gras Indians.  Donald also became a Big Chief in 1999, and created the term “Afro-New Orleans” to describe the culture surrounding it.  Check this album cover to see him in one of his costumes.

Donald Harrison Jr. with Dr. John “Indian Blues” Album Cover (Candid Records)

Donald is a Berklee College of Music alumni and has performed with many of greats including Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Miles Davis, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, and Dr. John among others.

He is also the co-founder and the artistic director of the Tipitina’s Intern Program at Tipitina’s Foundation, a Berklee City Music Network member, where he teaches music, theory and history to students.

Donald Harrison at the Tipitina's Intern Program
Donald Harrison at the Tipitina’s Intern Program

He will be performing at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Friday, April 26 at 3:40pm on the Congo Square Stage.  Click here for Friday’s schedule.

Class Got Brass? A School Brass Band Battle

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On Sunday, March, 24 the Class Got Brass middle and high school brass band competition took place at Congo Square in New Orleans.  The competition is put on by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which owns the New Orleans Jazz Fest.  The competition was established to continue the New Orleans brass band tradition through middle and high school students.

The bands compete in second-line parade fashion and must adhere to guidelines to promote and keep the brass band tradition.  The bands are limited to a maximum of 12 members with only one bass drum, one snare drum, and one tuba.  The competition is open to public and private middle and high schools from anywhere in Louisiana.

This year all contestants received a gift certificate prize from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation that may be used to purchase instruments, instrument repairs, and supplies.  First place received $10,000, second place received $6,000, third place received $4,000, and all other participants received $750.

The O. Perry Walker High School “Chosen Ones”

Our three Berklee City Music Network members all play a part in many of the students’ lives who competed in Class Got Brass.  Some of the students in the middle school bands go to The Roots of Music after school program, O. Perry Walker High School has an after school music program sponsored by Young Audiences of Louisiana, and some of the schools receive instruments through the Tipitina’s Foundation Instruments A Comin’ program.

This year 17 bands competed and the competition was tight.  It was a great afternoon of music.

Check out the highlights video of the competition.

2013 Winners

  • 1st Place: O. Perry Walker High School, Band Director – Wilbert Rawlins
  • 2nd Place: KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle School, Band Director  – Kelvin Harrison, Sr.
  • 3rd Place: Joseph S. Clark Prep, Band Director – Joe Franklin

2013 Competitors

  • Chalmette High School
  • Cohen College Prep High School
  • Edna Karr High School
  • Eleanor McMain Secondary School
  • Joseph S. Clark Prep
  • KIPP: McDonogh 15 Middle School
  • L.W. Higgins High School
  • Lafayette Academy Charter School
  • Martin Behrman Charter School
  • McDonogh No. 35 High School
  • Medard H. Nelson Charter School
  • O. Perry Walker High School
  • Park Forest Middle School
  • Sophie B. Wright Charter School
  • St. Mary’s Academy High School
  • Warren Easton Charter High School
  • West Jefferson High School

For more information visit: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation