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Joe Torregano, Saxophones and Clarinet BORN: New Orleans, February 28,1951 Played with Dejan's Olympia Band, the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, and the Hurricane Brass Band; currently with Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band Interviewed at the corner cafe on Royal and Conti Streets, October 2001 Joe Torregano with the Hurricane Brass Band, 1980 Photo by Mike Casimir I have one brother, Mike, who'spretty well known in New Orleans. Not everybody knows that there's a third brother,Louis. He doespiano,guitar, bass, organ;he's more involved in church music. My father, Louis Sr., didn't really play—well, he flayed a littlepiano, butjust at home. His godfather was Adolphe "Tats" Alexander, and his grandfather Joseph, who I'm named after, was a trumpet player in brass bands at the turn of the century. My father was born in ipio. I've never seen apicture of my grandfather. One of myfamily had apicture of him playing, but I don't know what happened to it. So the three of us brothersare active now.My brother Michael and I are bothmusic teachers in the school system during the day, in addition to beingprofessional musicians. I have another brother who lives in Texas, calledRaj. His last name is Woodsonfrom my mother's first marriage. He's retired—he was a schoolteacher andpoliceman. He's eighteenjears older than me. You couldn't help but come to music if you lived in my house.My mother's name is Anna; she sang in the church choir. She had aphilosophy that her sonsshould be exposed to music. At the age of four, we all had to takepiano lessons. 48 My first piano teacher's name wasAnnabelJones. I studied with her until she died, when I was around elevenyears old. I did myfirst piano recital when I was five—a tune called "Paper Ships" out of theJohn Thompson book 1.1studied together with my brother Louis; he's five jears my senior. Michael is sevenyearsyounger. After Miss Jones, I took lessonswith Olivia ChariotCook. She's a traditionalpianoplayer, still living —she's in her mid eighties. She also taught Louis and Michael. When I was about twelve, I quitplaying piano and switched to the clarinet. As a child, I suffered from asthma, and doctors will tellj/ou, if you have any kind of respiratory problems, play a wind instrument—it strengthens the lungs. It's the same reason Pete Fountain took up the clarinet. My brotherLouis gave me my first clarinet lesson—he figured it outfrom themethod book. Then I started taking lessonsfrom Mr. Carey Levigne. Heplayed in a lot of local dance bands and taught in schools, teaching violin and all wind instruments. He had a studio called the Crescent City Music Studio, and among the teachersthere were Edwin Hampton, whoruns the St. Augustine High School band, Lloyd Harris, Laurence Winchester , Wellington McKissey, Miss Cook, and Willie Humphrey. By me having an interest injazz, Mr. Levigne talked toMr. Humphrey, and he agreed to work with me after my regular lessons. That would bearound 1964. until 1967—1studied with Willie all that time. I knew who Willie was, because I went to Craig School on St. Claude, in the Treme. The original Caldonia bar was in the neighborhood,and I sawjazz funerals several times a week. On Saturdays, myfather would bring me out to seejazz funerals, and on Sundays tosee the socialclubparades. Sobeing in contactwith Mr. Humphrey wasn't a culture shock. But contrary to whatyou might think, Willie worked with me on technical exercises more than he did onjazz. He hadplayed in the navy band, and hegot me to bring Sousa march books that we were using at school. He always told me that the technique wasjust as important as anything else. A lot of my technical skills originatefrom him and Mr. Levigne. People sometimes tell meI havea lot of technique, and I guessthat's true, because I majored in music—I was first at school at BellJunior High, and the musical director wasDonald Richardson, and then toJohn McDonough SeniorHigh, which is right acrossfrom the musician's union on Esplanade. Mr. Levigne and Mr. Humphrey encouraged me to listen to records and topick up ideas and melodiesfrom them. Mr. Levigne brought in transcriptions that he made of Benny Goodman solos;I would sit and read thosewhen we had extra time on Saturdays. I listened to every clarinet player I could find. Mj favorites from the oldschool include Omer Simeon, Willie Humphrey, Cornbread Thomas...


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