At the end of his final set at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz Festival in April, Connie Jones announced his retirement, ending a 60-year career as one of the leading trumpet-cornet players in the Crescent City. Just prior to his farewell announcement, he brought the house down singing “New Orleans and a Rusty Old Horn.”
At 17, he was a member of the Dixiecats that won the Battle of the Bands on the Paul Whiteman national TV teen show. His first professional band was the Basin Street Six that included George Girard and Pete Fountain. A New Orleans native and fishing buddy of trumpeter Al Hirt, Jones was in Jack Teagarden’s last band and served as a pallbearer at the famed trombonist’s funeral. A founder and chairman of the French Quarter Festival’s entertainment committee for 22 years, he was a regular performer aboard the Delta Queen and American Queen riverboats on the Mississippi River. In 2012, he received an honorary degree from Loyola University of New Orleans.
He toured with Bill Maxted’s Manhattan Jazz Band, was the lead trumpet in Pete Fountain’s band, and formed his own Crescent City Jazz Band that had a long stay at the Blue Angel nightclub on Bourbon Street. He performed at numerous festivals and on national TV shows, and was recorded on over a half-dozen record labels, most recently with clarinetist Tim Laughlin.
Looking back on his years as a bandleader and sideman, Connie Jones commented, “I never did a day’s work in my life. I’m a saloon musician. I go with what I’m asked to do, if possible. I’ve learned a lot about my instrument by playing with different types of bands. I never had an absolute goal and have always been a student of improvisation. I know what I’m doing. I can tell you that I’m not guessing when I get on the bandstand.”
Asked how he sees his legacy, he thought for a moment and replied, “That I tried and always gave my best when I came to work”