|Leroy Jones. Photo credit: Katja Toivola|
“I keep a foot in the past and one in the present,” says trumpeter Leroy Jones, one of the stars of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, who will shortly be on tour in the UK. This feature by Peter Vacher, who has heard him frequently in New Orleans and interviewed him there, gives some background, and places Leroy Jones within the New Orleans trumpet lineage. Peter Vacher writes:
New Orleans has always been a trumpet town. The lineage goes way back to the near-mythical beginnings of jazz, first, with Buddy Bolden, its later heroes and crowned kings including Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and the greatest creative genius of them all, Louis Armstrong. And there the legacy starts to falter in the eyes of some, until, that is, the arrival of Leroy Jones.
African-American jazz music in the post-war era in New Orleans had largely reverted to a small-town affair, any player looking to make a mark usually forced to leave the city. It took the famed guitarist Danny Barker to change things when he created the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Marching Band and picked out 13-year old Leroy Jones to join the other youngsters he’d recruited and eventually to lead them. Within a few years, Leroy was on the move as a soloist, sitting in with veteran players but also cocking an ear to more modern jazzmen like Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. As he says, “I keep a foot in the past and one in the present” and this has marked his musical concept to this very day.
Where his fellow-townsman Wynton Marsalis took the high road to the Big Apple, Leroy stayed home in the Big Easy, earning his spurs in r&b club dates and brass band gigs, strictly a down home musician who was intent on building his own style. It took another New Orleanian, popular pianist/vocalist/actor Harry Connick to transform Leroy’s career, when he hired the trumpeter as part of his touring ensemble, this taking in four years of world-wide travel, including an appearance in London in 1995, their association still in play. From this stemmed a CBS/Sony recording contract, the formation of the Leroy Jones quintet and a burgeoning world-wide touring schedule.
These days, he works with his wife Katja Toivola who plays trombone in his band.
Jones has a clear sense of where he stands in that distinctive trumpet lineage, one among many perhaps, but very much a leader of the pack. He’s 57 now but still based in his home city, often appearing at Preservation Hall and always a major festival attraction in the US and abroad, his clipped attack, relaxed vocals and flair for assertive phrasing pleasingly contemporary yet still rooted in his city’s traditions.
Leroy knows how to re-invigorate familiar material and his Connick experiences make him a fine accompanist to singers. This new UK national tour is a treat in store, combining Leroy and Katja with some of our most open-minded local musicians and sparked by the presence of two stars of vocal and piano jazz, Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe. As they say in the Crescent City, good to the last drop!
LEROY JONES UK TOUR DATES
23rd – 27th October Pizza Express Dean Street
*Ian Shaw on 27th only *No Joe Stilgoe for Pizza Express dates
29th October St Albans Arena, St Albans
1st November Harrogate Royal Hall, Harrogate
2nd November Rose Theatre Kingston, Surrey
3rd November Malvern Festival Theatre
4th November The Concorde Club, Southampton
*Leroy Jones Quintet only
5th November Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
7th November The Lighthouse, Poole
9th November The Apex, Bury St Edmonds
11th November Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
*Lizzie Ball as guest in place of Joe Stilgoe
The Leroy Jones UK 2015 tour is produced by United Agents Music