[Dixielandjazz] Helping the kids with gigs, passing the torch, etc.

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 18 11:30:52 PST 2009

Back 60 years ago, or so, the older OKOM players were very much into  
helping the kid wannabes get into the genre. They actively mentored  
them, and brought them on the bandstand at various clubs. For example,  
Bechet and Bob Wilber, Teagarden and Johnny Windhurst and  Brunies and  
Mickey Gravine. These kids were virtual proteges of the older guys.   
Wilbur even moved in with Bechet for a while, and Brunies used to call  
Gravine "my 14 year old son." Even wannabes like me were able to sit  
in at Nick's, Ryan's and other clubs with the old pros and Dick  
Sherman, the drummer in my band, took lessons from Tony Sbarbaro which  
were hapilly given at no charge.

A group of us older players were bemoaning the fact that sharing the  
stage with young sit-ins doesn't seem to happen much anymore. There  
are some exceptions, but it seems to me that relatively few OKOMers  
really get into mentoring. And then, after touching base with Jonathan  
Russell the 15 year old jazz violinist, I found out, that, Wynton  
Marsalis is one guy actively helping (without much fanfare) to pass  
the torch by bringing the young on stage.

Seems Jonathan had gone to Lincoln Center to see a 14 year old girl  
jazz pianist who had won a Mary Lou Williams competition and was  
performing with LCJB. Upon seeing him, Marsalis invited him back stage  
after the performance. "Where you been?", asked the band members. You  
are part of the family now after having performed with us, so don't be  
shy, come visit.

Wynton invited him to attend any rehearsals that were convenient and  
when "J" stopped by the first time, he was asked to sit right behind  
Marsalis so he could see the music. The band members told he they  
wanted to see him more often, especially since he goes to school  
nearby. "Come on Wednesdays and sit in, jam with us,"they said  
affirming again that he was part of the family.

Nice going Wynton. And nice going Jonathan. Nothing like being  
recognized by the folks who are really big time, and at the top of the  
food chain.

Steve Barbone

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