Interview: Leroy Jones is Talkin', playing French Quarter Fest_lowres


Nicholas Payton wrote the celebratory liner notes for Leroy Jones' new album, I'm Talkin' Bout New Orleans.

  As one jazz master to another, Payton riffs joyfully through his tribute to Jones, a trumpet and flugelhorn player, singer, composer and arranger who got his start at 12 as leader of Danny Barker's Fairview Baptist Church Christian Band.

  "I'm talkin' 'bout one of the greatest trumpeters on the planet!" Payton enthuses in the notes. "I'm talkin' 'bout raw emotion and creative expression. I'm talkin' 'bout swing, soul, funk and refinement!"

  Payton's praise flows through 16 glowing lines, every one of them true.

  Jones holds an album-release show at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at Cafe Istanbul. He also performs twice at French Quarter Festival and at other weekly gigs.

  From 1990 to 2007, Jones was a member of Harry Connick Jr.'s big band. He's busy pursuing his own musical projects these days, but when his schedule allows, he rejoins crooner-pianist and American Idol judge Connick on the road and in the studio.

  "I just couldn't give up commitments that I'd made outside of Harry whenever they'd call," Jones said. "Maybe my commitments don't pay as much as Harry, but my word has always been more important to me than a dollar."

  Jones invested his own money in I'm Talkin' Bout New Orleans. He had most of the album's songs ready after the release of his 2009 album, Sweeter Than a Summer Breeze, but didn't feel comfortable financing the project through online crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter.

  "I don't like to beg for money and do these Kickstarter things," he says. "I guess I have too much pride for that. Which is why I waited till I had the money. Also, I got the grant from the Threadhead Cultural Foundation. Then I said, 'OK, it's time to do it.'"

  Jones and the local musicians on the sessions — including drummer Shannon Powell, saxophonists Alonzo Bowens and Wessell "Warmdaddy" Anderson, keyboardist Lawrence "Larry" Sieberth, cellist Helen Gillet and, the trumpeter's wife, trombonist Katja Toivola — record-ed I'm Talkin' Bout New Orleans in five days in January at Word of Mouth Recording Studio.

  For his latest album, Jones is featuring, for the first time in his recording career, only his original compositions. Selections run from the Latin-tinged title song to the second-line strutting instrum-ental "Armstrong Parade," the funk- and island-flavored "Rendezvous" and ready-for-Mardi Gras 2017 "Carnival Is in the Air."

  Jones also employs different config-urations of horn sections throughout  the album.

  "So each piece will have its own signature," he said. "Every song has a purpose."

  Jones hopes at least some of his original material will become New Orleans standards. Another goal was making an album that has something for everyone.

  "I incorporated different genres of music, to define who I am and what I've been influenced by," Jones says. "Pop music, R&B, reggae. Music is all relative to me. Good music is good music. And if you can offer something that appeals to a wide variety of listeners, you've got something there."