A Creole-speaking Texan with music skills that cover traditional, contemporary zydeco — and then some — is set to lead the Zydeco Capital Jam at 1 p.m. Saturday in Opelousas.
The jam session, held the second Saturday of each month, is free and open to all musicians and fans of zydeco music.
Randall Jackson of Good Springs, Texas was a student in the Traditional Music Program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He also teaches guitar and keyboards along with jazz/music theory.
“He’s quite a player. He can pretty much play anything that’s on the stage,” said Herman Fuselier, adding that the “accordion is his speciality.”
Fuselier would know. He’s the executive director of St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, a zydeco enthusiast (if not historian on the genre) and the man who brought back the zydeco jam after nearly a decade.
"RJ is one of the most versatile players to emerge on the zydeco scene in recent years," said Fuselier. "He's studied the grandmasters, but he's also developed his own style.”
While you may not be familiar with Jackson’s name, he’s a regular on keyboards with Rusty Metoyer and the Zydeco Krush and recently toured the world as a bass player with Grammy winner Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band.
Jackson also played accordion, sang and helped produce Black Pot, Carrier's latest CD.
“He’s all over that. He helped produce it and played accordion and sang and did some other stuff,” said Fuselier. “So he’s quite a talented guy.”
So, yeah, you can say Jackson’s got some zydeco cred.
"Some may not know his name, but they'll never forget his music,” Fuselier said. “Zydeco Jam fans are in for a real treat."
When you think of a music jam, herding cats may come to mind. But there is a method of presenting and holding a jam.
“I always like to have, not necessarily professional musicians, but let’s say seasoned musicians lead the jam,” Fuselier said. “Because sometimes musicians coming for the first time are kind of shy of playing or starting off a song. So with the veteran musicians, they do that all the time so it’s no problem for them to jump in.
“And I always look for somebody who’s versed in styles. They’ll know the Clifton (Chenier) songs, the Boozoo (Chavis) songs and all the pioneers. But they can play some of the more modern stuff, too.”
Fuselier said he also looks for a jam leader “who can handle all sorts of styles and who might be even good at teaching in that jam session setting.”
And there’s a reason for that, too.
“It’s not so much about performing, it’s about everybody getting together and enjoying the jam and helping other musicians learn new songs and encouraging them,” said Fuselier. “That’s pretty much the mindset behind it.”
The Zydeco Capital Jam began in February with Corey Ledet at the helm. JoJo Reed led in April, followed by Jeffery Broussard in May and Kaleb Leday in June.
The jam skipped March for “St. Landry Sounds,” a conversational show with zydeco/Creole musicians Black Ardoin and Cedric Watson. Chris Ardoin showed up, and a jam between the three ensued.
At the jams, Fuselier said the leader will announce a song and if jammers can’t quite recall it, “they’ll kind of show them a little bit of it,” he said. “They might not know the title, but they definitely recognize the melody.”
But if that doesn’t ring a bell, there’s some back and forth that “I like to see,” Fuselier said. “That’s all part of the jam.”
The jam is also for the spectator.
“It’s real entertaining just to sit and listen. Most people who have come, so far, have been listeners,” said Fuselier. “Every now and then somebody’ll get up and dance.”
In addition to learning zydeco tunes, or even just listening to zydeco music, the genre’s backstory is also shared and Fuselier will interview the guest jam leader.
“They have stories to tell about themselves and music and people they’ve been inspired by,” said Fuselier. “I like sharing those stories and just keeping zydeco active in St. Landry Parish.”
Fuselier brought the zydeco jam back to St. Landry Parish. The previous zydeco jam was held about 10 years ago at the Offshore Lounge, owned by late zydeco musician Roy Carrier.
“There are Cajun jams all over the place, which is great,” said Fuselier. “But, oddly enough, we don’t have any zydeco jams. So, just to get the idea and concept out there, there’s no better place than the home of zydeco, St. Landry Parish.”
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A Creole-speaking Texan with music skills that cover traditional, contemporary zydeco — and then some — is set to lead the Zydeco Capital Jam …