Simon Lott found his place in New Orleans. It’s a drummer’s town.
“New Orleans is so rich with sounds,” said the jazz drummer and composer originally from Baton Rouge. “The city has a rhythmic personality and language.”
Musically insatiable, Lott leads multiple projects, including the Simon Lott Trio, which will perform Friday, March 1, at Chorum Hall in Baton Rouge. Piano prodigy Seth Finch and bassist Peter Harris join Lott in the trio, playing an expansive vision of mid-20th-century modern jazz.
“It’s my take on the acoustic piano trio, but the music is influenced from different places,” Lott said. “From bebop, but also hip-hop, metal, punk rock and even noise, classical music and electronic music. Some reggaeton and New Orleans rhythms as well.”
As for the members of Lott’s trio — Lott and Harris have been performing a universe of styles together for 18 years, including country, funk and rock.
“Our musical connection is tight,” Lott said. “Peter’s playing is diverse and always with a deep groove and warm sound.”
Finch, a Baton Rouge pianist, is just 16 years old. “For someone so young, he goes a lot of places in the music,” Lott said. “He has all these classical influences and he’s playing jazz and improvising. His groove is deep, too.”
Lott's other projects include Context Killer, which he created to perform hip-hop- and punk-influenced electronic music played in real time. Very Cherry is his revisionist rock band, featuring rapping and a multitude of instruments. And his Diamond Kinkade is a studio-only venture featuring piano and/or synthesizer.
Lott gigs six days a week in the birthplace of jazz. His weekly engagements include shows with classic jazz vocalist Germaine Bazzle and trad-jazz band Jumbo Shrimp. He also performs with Dinosaurchestra and tours with 20th Congress, the soul-jazz-funk unit led by keyboardist Robert Walter.
Lott began playing professional gigs at 13. During his high school years, he performed with various jazz musicians at M’s Fine and Mellow Café. He studied drums privately with Troy Davis and Robert Aertker and learned by watching drummers and listening to records. Jazz greats Billy Higgins and Art Blakey were major inspirations, but so was Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
A pro with years of experience by the time he reached college age, Lott studied English at LSU rather than music. He has no regrets.
“There was a balance between the two worlds,” he explained. “Especially when I was in school doing a ton of reading and then doing a gig at night. And I thought studying poetry would help me write lyrics and songs.”
A class in literary criticism made a major impact on him.
“Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Keats talking about what they tried to achieve with poetry,” he said. “It was so cool to see the parallels between music and poetry. And because music is so ethereal, people don’t know how to put it into words. Musicians struggle when they talk about music at rehearsals. It’s nice when you can have words to help musicians get somewhere.”
Lott grew up in a musical family. His mother played cello in the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and orchestras in Lafayette, Lake Charles and Shreveport. Although he didn’t begin playing drums until he was 11, they came to him instinctively.
“It was totally fun and cathartic immediately,” Lott said. “I loved it and it was always really easy for me.”
He even liked practicing.
“Sometimes an hour, sometimes six hours,” Lott said. “It felt so good to do something for that long. I was hooked on it and it was a great place to put myself into.”
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and its music scene, Lott moved to New York City. He returned to Louisiana in 2007, bypassing his hometown and moving straight to New Orleans.
“Part of me was exhausted by New York,” he said “I needed to reconnect with the South. I really learned how beautiful New Orleans is by moving away. It was great to come back to New Orleans and feel that soul. New York was amazing, but New Orleans makes sense to me.”
Simon Lott Trio
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1
Chorum Hall, 1024 Executive Park Ave.