Bringing traditional jazz to the bayou

The Florida Street Blowhards, a traditional jazz band, are based in Baton Rouge

The Florida Street Blowhards, a traditional jazz band, are based in Baton Rouge

The Florida Street Blowhards is a group of Baton Rouge musicians who are exploring that “other” Louisiana music known as traditional jazz.

The Blowhards will be performing Saturday, October 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. at NuNu’s in Arnaudville.

Bandleader Sam Irwin, a Breaux Bridge native, has been exploring the music created by the jazz musicians of New Orleans.

“A lot of the great musicians who invented jazz were from New Orleans, like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton,” Irwin said. “But others came from the small towns along the Mississippi River, like Kid Ory of LaPlace, Joe “King” Oliver of Donaldsonville, John Robichaux of Thibodaux and Clarence Williams of Plaquemine.  Jelly Roll Morton actually took his name from his Mouton stepfather and anglicized it. If you read up on early jazz, there’s a lot of French, Cajun and Creole names sprinkled about so there’s a lot of French Louisiana in jazz.”

Irwin, a  former music major at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, is the author of “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” and “It Happens In Louisiana: Peculiar Tales, Traditions and Recipes from the Bayou.” He picked his trumpet after a long layoff and started practicing after hearing trumpeter Nicholas Payton perform on Allan Toussaint’s album “The Bright Mississippi.”

Allen Toussaint's The Bright Mississippi“I heard Payton’s playing and it knocked me out,” Irwin said. “I wanted to play like that and I wanted to play that music. So I began practicing again and kept asking people if they wanted to play traditional jazz. Now we’ve got a band and we’re ready to perform.

“The band is a mixture of young and old players. David Seymour is a 30-year-old wood wind player from California. Drummer Zach Bourque is from Zachary and bassist Philip Vincent is from Baton Rouge. Both of those musicians are in their 20s. Pianist Terry Byars is a veteran musician from Baton Rouge and has played church and Broadway show music for many years. Trombonist Jim Kersh of Mississippi is, well, old enough to know better, but he is a great musician. Tim Manes, a former band director, provides a great low brass sound on euphonium.Several of us live off Florida Street in Baton Rouge so that’s part of the reason for our band’s name. We’NuNu's in Arnaudville, La.re all rediscovering the music of New Orleans.”

Jazz wasn’t as common in the rural communities like Cajun, zydeco and blues but the jazz musicians often traveled by train to the smaller towns and played from the train cars at the stations, Irwin said.

“It’s in that spirit that I wanted to bring traditional jazz to Arnaudville,” Irwin said. “If the bayou can’t go to New Orleans, we’ll bring New Orleans to the bayou.”

Irwin said the Blowhards’s repertoire include jazz standards like “Royal Garden Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Tin Roof Blues” and “St. James Infirmary.”

Irwin noted that Kurt Boudreaux of Lafayette will be filling in on piano for the NuNu’s performance.

“Kurt is probably the best piano player in Lafayette and we’re very lucky to have him play with us for this show,” Irwin said.

The Florida Street Blowhards - A Traditional Jazz Band

The Florida Street Blowhards – A Traditional Jazz Band

It Happens in Louisiana; Peculiar Tales, Traditions and Recipes from the Bayou

It Happens in Louisiana; Peculiar Tales, Traditions and Recipes from the Bayou

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean by Sam Irwin

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean by Sam Irwin