18 January 2016


During my April 2016 visit to New Orleans, I managed to attend three gigs by The Shotgun Jazz Band.
The Shotgun Jazz Band at one of its performances
in April 2016.
This wonderful band, that plays pulsating, raw, passionate traditional jazz, had provided me with some of the best moments of my previous visit - in April 2015. At that time, I made a video of them playing Royal Garden Blues. It was a remarkable, thrilling performance of that tune. If you haven't yet seen it, I hope you will kindly do so by clicking here.

The members of The Shotgun Jazz Band were so warm-hearted, friendly and amusing to chat with. When I returned in April 2016 and went straight to The Spotted Cat to hear them, I was greeted like an old friend.

In April 2015, the string bass player, Tyler Thomson, had been on crutches, having broken a foot while playing basketball. In 2016, there were no crutches but he told me he had recently had another accident involving the other foot. He wrongly thought for a time that he had broken that too. The outcome is that he has given up basketball and put on just a little weight. But he told me he is very happy with his body shape! I have said before in this Blog that I think Tyler is currently the best string bass player in the world for the kind of traditional jazz I enjoy. And he happens to be a pretty good pianist too - and not at all bad as a singer. I made some videos of the band during the April 2016 visit, and you can watch one in which Tyler sings the Stephen Foster song from 1853 'My Old Kentucky Home' - by clicking here. (On this particular video, the reed player is Craig Flory.)

On banjo, the Band as ever has John Dixon, playing accurate rock-solid 4/4 alongside Tyler. What a team they are! Impossible to beat. They have very rarely had a drummer since their young percussionist (Justin Peake) went off to College. When Justin is with them, the rhythm section is sensational. (Remember that great Abita Springs video: if you haven't yet tried it, please do so BY CLICKING HERE.)

John's wife, Marla Dixon, leads the band on trumpet and vocals. Her playing is technically brilliant and both her trumpet-playing and singing are passionate.

I had been asked by friends to find out whether the band would be likely to tour in England some time soon. Marla told me that, although touring could be very appealing, the Band had no plans to do so in the foreseeable future. The reason was simple: they were so happy in New Orleans. They currently had four regular gigs every week, not to mention quite a few other invitations to play, either as a band or individually as guests in other bands. And I could see for myself that, whenever they played, they were surrounded by large numbers of enthusiastic and adoring fans, many of whom had travelled thousands of miles to be there.

One of the reasons why the band is so great is that, since early 2014, they have had James Evans playing clarinet and saxes (and sometimes trombone). James, who is unquestionably one of the most talented improvisers in the world, as well as being technically super-skilled, is also a great team player. Marla did very well to secure his services almost from the time he moved to New Orleans from the U.K.

The trombonist in 2015 (seen in the Royal Garden Blues video) was the great Haruka Kikuchi. But by 2016, she had branched out into many other activities and was playing in several bands, including one of her own. So The Shotgun Jazz Band was using Charlie Halloran and occasionally others on trombone. Or, as I mentioned above, James would switch to trombone with someone else invited to play reeds.

Chloe Feoranzo - one of the most brilliant reed players in the world, and still under 25 years of age, had just moved to New Orleans when I arrived there in April 2016. Chloe told me she intends to remain in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Marla invited her to play with The Shotgun Jazz Band and the result was sensational. Note the final two minutes of this video, in which she trades bars in Bye Bye Blues with James Evans. Just watch the looks on the faces of James and of Tyler Thomson during those four final choruses. They knew this was something really special. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.

That great musician Ben Polcer frequently plays piano with The Shotgun Jazz Band. He also switches to trumpet occasionally, giving Marla a break - for example, while she is carrying the 'tips jar' among the audience near the end of a set.

If you would like more information about the forming and evolution of this great band, please read the post I wrote after my April 2015 visit. You can do this by clicking on here.