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May 6, 2011

Irvin Mayfield & NOJO Debut Hall of Swing


THE 16-PIECE ORCHESTRA TO PERFORM RARE COMPOSITIONS IN THE INTIMATE PLAYHOUSE VENUE, LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE.

GRAMMY-AWARD WINNER IRVIN MAYFIELD AND THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ ORCHESTRA DEBUT HALL OF SWING, FEATURING THE MUSIC OF LEGENDARY EDUCATOR AND ARRANGER CLYDE KERR, SR.

THE 16-PIECE ORCHESTRA TO PERFORM RARE COMPOSITIONS IN THE INTIMATE PLAYHOUSE VENUE, LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE.

(New Orleans, LA – May 3, 2011) - Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra announced today that a limited amount of tickets are still available for the highly-anticipated debut of the Hall of Swing, a concert dedicated to the music of the legendary bandleader Clyde Kerr, Sr. on Sunday, May 8th, two shows 9pm and 11pm at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by calling 888.512.SHOW or at jazzplayhouse.frontgatetickets.com. For more information, call 504 553-2299.

The concert will feature the rarely performed music of Clyde Kerr Sr., the prolific arranger, composer and educator, who taught music to such legendary artists as Wardell Quezergue, Clarence Ford, Alvin ‘Red” Tyler, Nat Perriliat, Earl Turbington, Wilson Turbington, Warren Bell Sr. and his well-known son Clyde Kerr Jr., along with many others. “We are excited to break open the Clyde Kerr Sr. archives and perform some of his original compositions,” states NOJO’s Artistic Director Irvin Mayfield. Adding, “His music is complex, advanced and speaks volumes as to the important role played by music educators in New Orleans jazz history.”

Born in 1913, Clyde Kerr Sr. experienced the early jazz sound of Papa Oscar Celestin’s Orchestra and the neighborhood sounds of Louis Armstrong and Buddy Bolden. He became a featured trumpeter with the McDonough 35 High School orchestra, under the tutelage of the legendary teacher Osceola Blanchet. Kerr wrote his first composition, Love Have a Little Pity at the young age of 15. He taught himself how to arrange music for a big band by saving enough money and buying sections of sheet music, one section at a time at the Werlein’s Music Store on Canal Street. He would study the trumpet charts, save more money, buy the bass section, study the bass section and on and on, until he had the entire score. He would also arrange by ear by just listening to the recordings of songs.

Kerr graduated from Xavier University in 1935, where he served as the bandleader for the Xavier Orchestra and where he formed the Clyde Kerr Orchestra. Kerr paid his way through college by writing special arrangements for local bands and was usually the first band to be able to perform the popular songs of the day. This led to his first long-running gig at the Tick Tock Tavern, where Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Jimmie Lunceford played during their visits to New Orleans. His band included his brothers Lowell and Uinens and Dave Bartholomew.

After graduating, Kerr fell in love with a young soprano --Violet Carmen Baquet and embarked on a musical and teaching career. He joined the Navy during World War II, and was assigned to the New Orleans Navy Band, which featured Manuel Crusto, McNeal Breaux, and Willie Humphrey. Under his artistic direction the Navy Band, toured around the country and even had a stint performing behind such actors as Humphrey Bogart and Betty Grable. After being discharged from the Navy, he came back to New Orleans and re-established the Clyde Kerr Orchestra. With musical taste changing and two small children, Kerr sought a teaching position.

In 1946, he was appointed bandleader at the Booker T. Washington Senior High. Kerr’s instant rapport and simple instruction allowed students to master complex music and build confidence to take on musical challenges. Teaching was a 24-hour a day passion for Kerr, who opened his home at 820 N.Rocheblave for students to come and practice. On any given day there would be 30 or more students rehearsing in the front room of Kerr’s shotgun house. He named his house band the Clyde Kerr 30-piece Studio Orchestra and although they were mostly a practice band, they performed at a 1946 mayoral campaign rally for Chep Morrisson.

Kerr went on to teach at Xavier Prep and Priestley Junior High School, where he taught more students that went on to make their mark in jazz including Samuel Berfect and Pierre Poree. Throughout his teaching career, Clyde Kerr continued to perform with his Clyde Kerr Orchestra and in the late 1960’s his son. Clyde Kerr Jr., a rising trumpeter, joined the band. Although, Kerr retired from teaching in 1976, he stayed in touch with his students including Wardell Quezergue who invited his mentor to record on his Royal Dukes of Rhythms recording of the famous Mardi Gras Song, Big Chief. As he got older, Kerr continued to perform and was invited to join the touring band of the Broadway hit One Mo’ Time. Kerr passed away in 1986, leaving an immense musical legacy.


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