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