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Why I love trumpeter Leroy Jones - Part 1 of Many  

Okay there is no getting around it; I love trumpeter Leroy Jones. It is as simple as that. When I decided to do a doc feature film about Leroy, I talked with other filmmakers who had done documentaries, and heard many stories about how it is a very complex relationship between the film director and subject. Not for me. As mentioned about two seconds ago, I just straight up love Leroy Jones. I’m fascinated by his trumpet playing, his charisma, and how he has become an ambassador of jazz from the great city of New orleans.


As part of the making of this film, I also wanted to chronicle the many things about Lee (as his friends call him) that are unique that might not have time to make it into the final film. Part of that is his huge discography he has amassed over the years. You could probably just make a doc film just discussing all of Lee’s amazing work on records as a bandleader, and as a guest trumpet soloist.


I’ll never forget the first time I heard Leroy Jones. Perhaps the summer 1992, I believe. A good friend of mine showed Harry Connick Jr’s album “Blue Light Right Light”. He presented it as if it was almost some special magical drug that only we could try. He was like “dude, you got to listen to this right now,” as he flashed it out of his backpack. We were definitely band and music nerds, and often could cut school to go home and work on music. Junior high school kids cutting school to go home and arrange and play big band music. I guess you could call it an addiction. So we immediately cut class this, jumped into his car and popped in the album. My buddy quickly cranked up the volume and skipped all the tracks until the last song.


The last song on the album is called “Just Kiss Me”, and it hits you like a wall of bricks when you first hear it. Intense, fast, loud, hard swinging and yet melodic at the same time. I had heard great big band stuff growing up; Ellington, Basie, Benny Goodman and the like. But this was different, the sound was different the feel was different and the arrangement of the song by Connick Jr. was very unique. So to realize that there was a modern big band swinging this hard in the 90’s brought a giant oversized smile to my face.


Then the solo break of the song hits, and Leroy starts his solo about the one minute mark of Just Kiss Me. At this point when Leroy starts soloing, my jaw just dropped down to the dirty car floor of my friends sweet 1973 toyota Celica. Lee’s huge trumpet sound, his quick dexterity, and mastery of the chord changes and his instrument were immediately noticeable as ripped through the fast moving solo. His solo (Which starts at about 49 seconds) comprises everything I love about Leroy and his trumpet playing, as he weaves traditional NOLA feel, to be-bop, to his own unique Jazz sound. All of it  all came through in this solo first solo I heard. So we all owe a great thanks so Harry Connick to exposing Lee to a larger audience, as this is when a lot of us got to first here Leroy.


I’ll be covering more of Leroy’s discovery as we go through the years, and hope to show more of of why Leroy jones is such an important figure to jazz music and new Orleans history.


Cameron Washington

-Director “A Man and His Trumpet: The Leroy Jones Story”



Composing and Arranging for a NOLA Brass Band style album

May 29th 2015


I’ve been in the studio composing for the upcoming album from the SF based, New Orleans style band, Brass Band Mission. I’ve been composing Jazz tunes since I was a young buck, but had never composed specifically for a Second Line style brass band, which has always been some of my favorite music. My favorite aspect of the Second Line brass band beat is the basic visceral feeling you get when you hear this style of music. You hear the hard bass bass drum and riff swinging snare, and you may get up and dance, yell, cry, laugh, or all of the above. The sound of the NOLA Second Line beat is unmistakable, and for me anyway, instantly washes away the stresses of life.


My goal when composing for this album was danceablity and groove. Usually the music I love, and the jazz I love in particular, swings hard as hell. So I wanted to compose something that you can feel, that makes you want to shake your money-maker.


A quick scan of popular brass band NOLA tunes from the past few years shows the variety within the genre. There’s the traditional Jazz almost Dixieland style brass band, modern brass band like Rebirth or New Birth, that mix R&B and Hip Hop with traditional NOLA jazz.


I decided to compose something funky and nasty. A hard groovin tune that would keep folks dancing on Frenchman street. Nasty sousaphone, heart-attack level loudness in the percussion, raunchy horns. Sounds like heaven.


I came up with the name “Busted Key Stomp” one day while arranging this chart. Having listened to my fair share of modern brass band songs, one thing jumped out at me is the fact that almost all Brass Band Music is in the key of B flat, which makes sense, as it’s one of the easiest keys to play in for almost all brass instruments, including trumpet, trombone, and sousaphone. But even cover songs that were on the radio in different keys, brass bands would switch their cover versions to the key of B flat. Not a big deal for your average listener, but this can be grating for me as a musician and producer to hear song after song in the same key (nerd alert).


So I decided to write Busted Key Stomp in one of the worst keys for brass players. I did this because, as a trumpet player, I love a good challenge. The song is in the key of B, which is a half step above B flat. Hence the tune title “Busted” key stomp. Also the key is really horrible for trombone players who have to use the dreaded 7th (furthest out) position on the trombone with extreme frequency.


Brass Band mission got the hang of the tune after a few run throughs, and it started come together like a party on Bourbon street.  


The album was recorded and produced at Hyde Street studios in 2015. You can check out some of the tracks including Busted Key Stomp via bandcamp.



The Hip-Hop Jam of Fall 2012: “Wine Country” - done

Now on Itunes and Spotify and Facebook!  

I’m a little behind on blog updates on the projects we’ve been working on. I haven’t had much time to write lately,  as creating and producing the aformentioned projects have kicked my ass in a multitude of ways. I also have a beautifully chubby four month old baby named Elijah, who has basically not slept since he entered this world. Yeah, that’s right I played the baby card. There is no chance at a normal life with a screaming colicy baby.  I’ve got good money that says the biggest bloggers and writers are single and without kids. Just a hunch. Yes, Andrew Sullivan can amazingly pull off 100 brilliant posts a day with his eyes closed, but he only has to take care of two fat beagles. I digress.

First project for the Fall has been the release of our hip hop comedy track Wine Country. The response has to this song has been overwhelming. We got awesome love from my hometown paper the SF Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and SFist to name drop a few. I had no idea people loved drinking wine and acting like gangstas so much. But it has been a great feeling to hear how much everyone loves the track, and has been a great feeling to represent for Northern Cali.

I’m originally from San Fran, but lived in NYC for a while, and go back and forth often. On a recent trip back to NYC, we were at a bar in Brooklyn, and this rap group onstage were spitting a tune, and would not stop talking about Brooklyn. About two minutes through the tune - they had said “Brooklyn” about 275 times - I snapped. I yelled back “San Francisco!..Represent”..Another friend yelled “Oakland, son!” And so we carried on. Then we started to be dumb and esoteric, shouting back wine country cities and hamlets. “Sonoma, mofo!” “Glenn Ellen for days!”...”Healdsburg. Holla”

And the idea for Wine Country was born. I thought it would be hilarious for a hard core hip hop group to represent for Sonoma and Napa and Northern California.

I met up with my boy and producing partner Taylor Ryan out of Brooklyn to work on a beat. We thought the harder the beat, the funnier the track would be when these dudes were rapping about wine. We settled on a track that had a kind of early 90’s rap vibe, a la early Snoop, and Dre. A track you would want to bump while you cruised around Compton lookin hard. We nailed it.

Then came the flow. A big group of us sat around, listened to the beat and came up with ridiculous rhymes. I’d already written the 1st verse, which we set the beat to, and then I fleshed the song out with the funniest stuff from the session. Lots of great lines didn’t make the cut...perhaps we’ll have to do a Wine Country remix? Then it was back to SF to nail down our hop hop crew.

I wanted people for the track who really represented for the Bay Area and Northern California. I picked myself for the first emcee for purely selfish reasons. Next up was Jairo Vargas of the Bayonics, one of California’s best bands. Jairo is an unbelievable singer and emcee, and you should check out Bayonics when they are in your hood. After Jairo, I called Vallejo’s Moe Green. This guy can spit rhymes like nobody’s business, and we were luckily enough that he was into some comedy for this track. The session was recorded at Gulch Alley studios in SF. In was an incredibly fun session; we laughed the entire time. Rapping about wine. Redonk.

We shot the video for Wine Country in San Fran and in Sonoma. One of the highlights of the video is the hilarious Wine Country hip-hop girls, played by Allison Page and Ally Johnson of Killing My Lobster fame. The brilliantly funny ladies were not available the day we shot in Sonoma, so we shot their part the day before in Golden Gate park.

The main part of the video was shot in Sonoma. I would have loved to shoot all over Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino, but time just didn’t permit. So we filmed all around Sonoma  - the square downtown in front of City Hall, Bartholamew Winery, Ravenswood, Buena Vista, and Sebastiani.

Although on surface this is just a silly comedy tune, I hope it captures a little of the magic that is this place we call Northern California.

Enjoy the video and the song! Don’t be the last loser on your block to get the track, download it on Itunes immediately!


Episode Cuatro!! Behind the scenes of Sex Drugs and Jazz. Muy Picante.


Ahhhhh. Good old episode 4, “We’re Getting the Band Back Together.” The title is a throwback to the old Blues Brothers line “We’re putting the Band back together”. My overall concept for the episode and for the season was that it was time for Neptune to finally try and get into the music scene in New York. Neptune did a fantastic job getting into the ganja business quickly, and also I wanted him to get sick of it quickly, too.

In Episode 4, he gets his band together, starting with meeting his grandpa (Peter Leahey) who is spunky, homeless, and lives in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of Manhattan. It was a beautiful day when we shot this scene, 65 degrees with a slight fall breeze, and I remember enjoying New York at that moment. I then looked down by my foot to see an old petrified decaying rat which I tried to ignore as we shot, but I gotta be honest, I did throw up in my mouth a little. I’m from San Fran originally, so I react to these everyday NY occurrences like an effeminate five-year-old.

If you’re wondering why Neptune refers to Buddha so much, I just thought it was funny to have a stoner always referencing Buddha, throwing the name around as much as we throw around Jesus. By the end of the scene, Neptune’s grandpa gives him a new guitar and assures him that Buddha will send him musicians for a band.

Chad Shapiro and Alan Gilbert return as Ricardo and Steve in this episode. We have some great broadway singing in here. Alan has lived on 51st street right near Broadway and the theatre district in Midtown for the past 30 years, and has been in tons of shows. Many a nights after a gig and many beers, Alan entertained the crowd by singing show tunes into the wee hours of the morning. Steve and Ricardo hook Neptune up with a singer named “Junior” to help start the band.

I make my first appearance in the series as Junior. The idea for this old school Rat Pack styled singer, was that I always thought Sinatra was hilarious because he was such an asshole. Sort of like a grumpy old grandpa you just have to laugh at. I throw in a little over the top mix of Phil Hartman’s impersonation of Sinatra in “the Sinatra group” and you have the motivation for Junior. Also in the band are “Frenchie” played by Ramzi Khoury, who is also a fantastic singer songwriter from the Bay and now in NYC. Frenchie is funny to me because he never understands anyone. I had a really good french friend who - although he lived in the US for 41 years - would always say at least 50 times a day...”what are you saying?..Zees is bullsheet!” On Bass, we have the “Wylie,” a super chill ladies man played by Diallo House. Diallo House is our bass player on the theme song Vineyard Gypsy, and is all over NYC playing regularly. Check his jazz group every Saturday night at 1am until the sun comes up at Smalls Jazz club in the West Village.

We finish up the episode with the band playing the entire theme song entitled “Vineyard Gypsy,” which I wrote when we stayed for a long cold month in January on Martha’s Vineyard.

Enjoy the episode!


Thoughts on Episode 3 


Where to begin when talking about Episode 3 “The Kid is Not My Son.” I originally thought of the concept for this episode because I was always astonished with the pot dealers I knew who were always regaling me with stories of the high level people they sold to in New York. Local politicians, celebrities, District Attorneys, Wall Street execs, CEO’s, professors, you name it. So I thought it would be fun if Neptune ended up selling ganja to a high level guy who works for the NSA.

Overall in this episode we see Neptune begin his ascension as the weed dealer du jour of NYC. He starts raking in the cash and the ladies, and things become complicated quickly. I have no idea how I came up with Neptune hooking up with an older black lady, but it makes me laugh just thinking about it, so that’s what I wrote. The image of them lying together on the couch post coitus is one of my favorite parts of the episode.

We shot a ton of this episode in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan. A highlight for me was when we shot the montage of Neptune selling weed on the LES. We tried to cover as many streets as possible, Orchard, Ludlow, Houston, Grand, etc...And of course we had to include a beautiful shot of the omnipresent Lower East side artist's Marco’s work.

Another major component of episode 3 is the music. The Hot Club of San Francisco is all over this episode, and I think really makes the episode cohesive. The Hot Club is such a tight and hard swinging band, their tunes are addicting. We’ve also got a ridiculously smokin song called Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘bout Miss Thing, from Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. The Hot Club and Lavay and her crew are based in the Bay Area but tour frequently around the US. So get your lazy ass off the couch, and check them out when they are in your town.

Reflecting upon this episode I think my favorite anecdote from those days of shooting, was for the intro. In the intro Neptune (Ashley Springer) calls the cop Julie, and realizes he has called a police station. His friend Chris (Trevour Zhou), tries to get him off the phone by hitting Neptune in the cahones. And then visa versa. So we all show up on set for the ball punching scene, and I assume that Ashley and Trevor will just kind of fake hit each other as no one really wants to get their balls punched. But method actor Trevor shows up with two nut protecting hockey cups. And handed one to Ashley, and was like “dude, we gotta make this believable, we really got to get each each other hard in the nuts if it’s gonna be funny.” So they put their cups on to my astonishment, and for the next couple hours, wailed away on each others nut sacks. It was brutally hilarious. And a wonderful intro for episode 3.