The official New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival program this year cites Gerald French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band as “one of the oldest jazz bands to still play in New Orleans.”
French, leader of the band since 2011, the year his ailing uncle, Bob French, turned it over to his nephew, has a little different take on it.
“This is the oldest active jazz band in the world,” French said Friday afternoon in the Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent.
French and the Jazz Fest program do agree that the band began in 1910. Apropos for its long history, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band’s Economy Hall set featured much tradition and a small parade of special guests.
“Now,” said French, the band’s drummer and master of ceremonies, “I got a special surprise for y’all. Y’all ready for this? You sure about that?”
Many in the audience recognized the guest French introduced -- Tony Boyd-Cannon, a New Orleans singer who recently competed in the TV talent show, “The Voice.” Boyd-Cannon’s dark alto voice fit smoothly with the Latin rhythms of “Moon Over Bourbon Street.”
French led the band from behind, sitting deep on the stage behind a front line of five wind players and guitarist-banjo player Detroit Brooks. French’s irrepressible personality, though, like his late Uncle Bob’s, can’t be missed.
“If you stumbled in here by mistake,” he said after he dedicated Friday’s show to Bob French, “you’re in for a treat.”
The treats included veteran local jazz vocalist Germaine Bazzle. He sang, swung and scatted through “When You’re Smiling.” A lively take on Louis Armstrong’s “Dippermouth Blues,” featuring solos from trombonist Lucien Barbarin and clarinetist Tim Laughlin, proved another tradition-rich highlight.