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American Routes Shortcuts: Treme Brass Band

Treme Brass Band
Treme Brass Band

We’re celebrating the NEA National Heritage Fellows, and I thought we’d honor a past group of fellows; New Orleans’ Treme Brass Band received the award in 2006. They’ve since brought the tradition forward into the present. It’s the Treme Brass Band live at Artisound Studios in the 9th Ward, with “Shake It and Break It” on American Routes Live

“Shake It and Break It” Treme Brass Band
American Routes original recording

Nick Spitzer: [applause] Yeah, Treme Brass Band. How about that? John Gilbert on saxophone and singing too. Benny, maybe you could just say a little bit about how you first got involved making the Treme Brass Band happen.

Benny Jones: I came out of a neighborhood–the Sixth Ward is not called the Treme. And I come from a musical family. My father was a drummer. During my time coming up in the Sixth Ward, on the weekends when they have a big parade or something going on, I would always follow the brass band, and follow them and walk the street toward the back with the rhythm section, because I always wanted to be a drummer, you know? I didn't go to school for drumming, but I'm a self-taught musician.

NS: You went to school on the streets.

BJ: Well I took and started practicing drums, I was on pots and pans at my house. My mother had twelve kids. She couldn’t afford to buy, you know, drums, so I had to play on pots and pans and learn how to play the drums.

NS: She needed those pots and pans for twelve kids. Good Lord.

BJ: Yes indeed.

NS: Yeah. Did she mind that you played on the pots and pans?

BJ: Ohh yeah, well, you know, I always was a good kid, there was no bad kids. I'd always respect my parents. And I always respect the people in my neighborhood. So I never was a bad kid so, by me doing that, I never had no problem trying to learn what I wanted to do in life.

NS: Well, if the worst thing you did was play on the pots and pans, man, you’re in good shape. And look at you now, all these years later, still got Treme going.

BJ: Yeah. Well, a couple of weeks ago I made 80 years old.

NS: Is that right? Yeah! Alright! [applause] So, what should we go on with here gentlemen? Who calls tunes? Do you call the tunes or everyone calls?

BJ: We all do most the time.

NS: It's a democracy sort of.

BJ: I call sometimes, but most of time I leave it to the front row.

NS: That's right. You gotta take care, make sure everybody's got a say.

BJ: I got to keep the time back here.

“Go To New Orleans” Treme Brass Band
American Routes original recording

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.