Yet Michael did not begin to teach himself the clarinet until he was in his mid-twenties.
|The early days in New Orleans.|
Michael is on the right. Shaye Cohn is playing piano.
There is a video of considerable historical interest of The Loose Marbles in a 2008 configuration, performing at Preservation Hall. You can watch it by clicking here. And see them in the street the same year (with Kiowa singing and Shaye on piano) by clicking here.
As dancers migrated to New Orleans, they tended to join the Loose Marbles family too - stars such as Chance Bushman and Amy Johnson; and they became part of the spectacle. The band busked in Europe in 2007: enjoy the dancing by clicking here.
Some of the musicians who played in The Loose Marbles have gone on to form bands of their own. Think of Tom Saunders and the Tom Cats, for example. And Meschiya Lake, branching out into a wide range of musical styles, now sings with her own very popular band Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns. Above all, there is Tuba Skinny. Shaye Cohn of Tuba Skinny has said: 'One thing really important to The Loose Marbles was ensemble playing. When I first started with them, I was playing second trumpet. So I had to work to find a voice where I could fit in. It taught me to play very simply, and to listen.'
So The Loose Marbles still exists and is attracting plenty of gigs. As the sixty or so musicians who have played in Loose Marbles all still feel part of the family, it is easy enough for Ben and Michael to put together half a dozen of them to play at a gig.
To view a really pleasing and exhilarating video of the band in 2015 CLICK HERE. Michael is still in a central rôle, leading off with the melody in the first chorus. Marla is on trumpet and vocal.
Interesting to think that, although we fans in our eighties regard all those musicians currently working so well in New Orleans as the 'young generation', the years seem to have passed so rapidly since Hurricane Katrina that it won't be long before Ben and Michael are considered the 'elder statesmen' of traditional jazz!
Having said that The Loose Marbles is the most important traditional jazz band of the early Twenty-First Century, I must add that I consider Michael Magro himself as the most important individual musician. If you speak, as I have, to some of those slightly younger musicians who have settled in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, you find they all have immense respect for him and they are all grateful for what he has done. Another reason why I consider him so important is that he has a very clear idea of how he wants a band to sound. As soon as he takes charge of a group of musicians, something magical happens. He is one of the few great leaders who can immediately impose a style that brings out the collective best in his colleagues. For proof of this, even as recently as 2016, watch this wonderful programme:
Finally, here is a picture Bob Andersen sent me of a Loose Marbles 2009 line-up (including himself on this occasion). He scanned it from a newspaper of the time.
Bob says the picture was taken at the Portland, Oregon, Blues and Jazz Fest. You see Shaye on piano, Robert Bell on guitar, Jason on tuba, Ben, Michael and also Benji Bohannon on drums.
The book Enjoying Traditional Jazz by Pops Coffee is available from Amazon.