New Orleans is the only American city seemingly impervious to the natural fading in popularity of musical styles. Jazz had a thirty year reign nationally before giving way to rock n’ roll. But in New Orleans it remained a part of the mix. In the 50s and 60s R&B groups drew local followings in cities nationwide but can you name the local favorites from your nearest city? In New Orleans they still can, hitmakers like Ernie K. Doe are never far from musical discussions.
The legacy of musical families across generations has something to do with it. An uncle who played soul, a cousin who toured in a funk band, a great-grandfather who played jazz before it had a name. When you’re from New Orleans all those styles are part of your musical heritage, and beyond that several more.
Every national trend has molded itself uniquely to the New Orleans sound. Songs played at Mardi Gras, like Christmas songs, have a long life span. Mardi Gras Mambo (sung by a 16 year old Art Neville), makes the mambo yet another local style to draw on if your goal is to be a pan New Orleans band.
The Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band is something like that. While rooted in traditional New Orleans jazz they revel in goofing off and introducing riffs and rhythms from the panoply of local material available to them. As a group their goal is to have unserious fun, while appreciating each others talents. You can hear it on “Cakewalkin’ Babies”, played rambunctiously rather than in the usual hot style. They play New Orleans party music in its best sense.
Led by Colin Myers, who landed in New Orleans after Katrina, the band was born as a busking group on Jackson Square around 2009. They’ve long moved in doors and now hold court Thursday night at the Spotted Cat. They are goofs but it’s not like they couldn’t play some deadly serious trad jazz if they wanted to. Several members have been part of Squirrel Nut Zippers, the rest from a variety of other respected outfits. The Shrimps “progressive traditional jazz”, is their chance to experiment more freely and give tribute to other styles, mostly New Orleans roots music. It’s in good fun with the spirit of spontaneous, infectious creativity that birthed jazz in the first place.
The Crustaceous Capers of the Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band is a fun little album that gives an idea of the trad jazz diversity their live shows embrace. Each song is given a new and unique arrangement, some are even hard to identify before the lyric starts. Dr. Sick adds a violin to three tracks. The drummers seems to spin into a surf rock beat on a couple tracks; why becomes clear when you look at their background.
I can easily see the Jumbo Shrimp providing a New Orleans party break at classic jazz festivals, filling a similar function to the zydecco party bands. The true dixie diehards may not stick around too long but they won’t wonder why they are there.
Colin Myers – trombone, vocals (1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)
Mike Fulton – trumpet, vocals (5, 9, 12)
Dr. Sick – violin, vocals (4, 8) viola (6)
Joshua Gouzy – bass, vocals (3)
Russell Welch – guitar
Paul Thibodeaux – drums (1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12)
Simon Lott – drums (2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13)