28 January 2015


I remember seeing in a jazz magazine about thirty years ago a photograph with the caption 'The World's Best Front Line'.

It was a picture taken in a New Orleans bar and showed a trumpet player, with a clarinettist and a trombonist on either side of him, playing their hearts out and obviously pleasing the journalist or photographer.

I was reminded of this when it occurred to me that the World's Best Front Line Award for musicians active today could well go to Jonathan Doyle (left, clarinet), Shaye Cohn (cornet) and Barnabus Jones (trombone). When those three get together, there is no matching them for rapport, teamwork and musical brilliance.
Here they are at the 2014 French Quarter Festival, playing Willie The Weeper.

I'm indebted for the picture above to my British friend and traditional jazz enthusiast, David Wiseman.

How thrilling they can make any tune sound, even just a basic 12-bar, as in this recent video put up on YouTube by the generous digitalalexa, with Erika Lewis producing a terrific vocal as ever:

Interestingly, of course, these musicians rarely appear literally as a 'front line' - preferring, when space allows, for their band to be spread out in a semi-circle, so that all the players can see each other and the audience can see all the musicians. It is also easier for signals to be given by the leader.

As I have said elsewhere, I wish more bands would adopt this formation.

And by the way, after I wrote the above, another sensational 'front line' emerged in New Orleans. It was The Shotgun Jazz Band's Haruka Kikuchi (trombone), Marla Dixon (trumpet) and James Evans (reeds).
My word, their playing is thrilling too! Try this:
Click on to watch them play 'Climax Rag'.