On The Levee Jazz Band
Redwood Coast Music Festival 2020 Performing Artists
On the Levee Jazz Band is:
Drums - Hal Smith Trombone - Charlie Halloran
Trumpet - Ben Polcer Reeds - Joe Goldberg
Bass - Josh Gouzy Guitar - Alex Belhaj
Piano - Kris Tokarski
The simplicity of Kid Ory’s trombone style coupled with the light swing of the rhythm section, wellthought-out routines, “in-the- pocket” tempos, a varied repertoire and a judicious use of dynamics set the Ory band apart from all other groups that were active during the New Orleans Jazz Revival circa 1940 – 1960. On The Levee Jazz Band takes its name from a San Francisco nightclub owned by Kid Ory from 1958 – 1961.
Veteran drummer Hal Smith has been an ardent fan of Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band since hearing the band’s recordings and hearing Ory in person in the mid-1960s. Besides his admiration for Ory’s distinctive trombone style, Smith also reveres the propulsive but understated rhythm of Ory’s longtime drummer Minor Hall.
Recently, several elements came together which inspired Smith to organize the On The Levee Jazz Band. First was a musical engagement with a band that included bassist Joshua Gouzy. Smith thought he heard the influence of Ory’s bassist Ed Garland in Gouzy’s playing. When quizzed about it, Gouzy confirmed that Garland was his primary inspiration. Next, pianist Kris Tokarski expressed an interest in the music of Don Ewell, who played with Ory’s band in the early 1950s. Finally, Smith’s longtime musical associate Clint Baker mentioned that he hoped for an opportunity to play trombone in a Kid Ory-style band.
The time was right to organize a band with Gouzy, Tokarski and Baker when the Jazz Society of Pensacola contacted Hal Smith with an offer to bring a band to Pensacola to perform a concert at the “Foo Foo Festival.” Smith rounded up the aforementioned musicians, then contacted three outstanding New Orleans jazzmen – Ben Polcer, Joe Goldberg, and Alex Belhaj – to complete the group.
On The Levee Jazz Band made its debut at Phineas Fogg’s in Pensacola on Nov. 13, 2017 – playing for a large and enthusiastic audience of listeners as well as dancers. In 2018, the band performed at the Bombay Club and the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans and will be featured at the New Orleans French Quarter Festival as well as the San Diego Jazz Fest. On The Levee Jazz Band also recorded a compact disc in January 2018.
For Redwood Coast, the well-blended front line of Halloran, Polcer and Goldberg are backed by the New Orleans swing of Smith, Tokarski, Gouzy, and Belhaj; producing a sound that pays homage to the Kid Ory tradition, but with fresh ideas from the individual musicians. The band delights in playing danceable music from a traditional repertoire that includes stomps, rags, marches, blues and vintage popular songs.
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