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Edgar "Sarge" Smith, Bass Horn BORN: New Orleans, February 23,194.8 Played with Doc Paulin, co-led the MajesticBrass Band with Flo Anckle,played with Dejan's Olympia Brass Band for eighteen years; currently with Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band Interviewed at 3621 Burgundy Street, October 2002 Before crack became an epidemic in New Orleans , we had the opportunity to see what it could do in New York City. It was like "When this gets to New Orleans, it's gonna fuck some shit up." Lo and behold. — KEITH FRAZIER And some of those smart kids who think you have to be completely knocked out to be a good hornman are just plain crazy. It isn't true. I know, believe me. — CHARLIE PARKER, Hear Me Talkin' to Ya Purely from the music standpoint, the Olympia Brass Band was the crossover. It was the fork in the road, especially after Milton Batiste and Ernest ["Doc"] Watson and BoogieBreaux got in the band. Milton Batiste hadplayed rhythm and blues, and so had Boogie and Doc Watson. When jou get guys like that, who have a different insight into music, thenjou'regonna have that change.They stillfeel compassion for the old standards and the traditional music, but they want to add a little spice to the gumbo. That's the whole New Orleans thing: whatyou add to the gumbo. It opened up a lot of different avenues. I was working with the Majestic Brass Band led by Himas Floyd Anckle, better known as "Flo." He had a bebop and rock 'n' roll background. He had worked with a lot of the big names; heplayed tenor and alto saxophones. He was a real good musician , could read anything. Flo was a restlesstype of person. I hadfirst met him when we worked together in Doc Paulin's band. We decided to leave that band and do our own '43 thing. We wanted to try something else. We heard things like the Olympia playing "Hey Pocky Way." They were the first brass band to do it; they called it "Tuba Fats." Milton infused other things like "Hi Heel Sneakers." Flo and I listened and thought we could do the samesort of thing. He was very much influenced by LouisJordan, and he wanted to take that music to the street. We had Cyrille Sahant on cornet, Joe Taylor on bass drum, Lawrence Trotter on snare, Ayward Johnson on trombone, I was on trombone,and Tuba Fats was helping us out on bass horn. That's what inspired me toplay sousaphone;up to then I had beenplaying trombone. We started doing funerals, and a lot of people started topay attention to us. That's how wegotJazz Fest in 1977. Wegot rave reviews. The only surviving members of that band besides me areJerome Davis, Daryl Smith,Joe Taylor, andDaryl Walker. Then we gotJoe Salisbury in the band on sax.The trend wasgetting the so-called genuine musicians —guys who could read, doparts, andplay harmonies correctly.Later on, we had Greg Davis on trumpet for a while. We always had three trumpets playing three-part harmony. Twosaxes and two trombones in harmony, basshorn, and two drummers. Greg stayed with us a couple ofyears, and then he started the Dirty Dozen withRoger Lewis, whoI think is oneof thegreatest reedmen we have. Heplays all reed instruments equally well,andyou don'tfind that with a lot of musicians. He's dedicated himself to his craft— he's an excellent readerand an excellentorchestrator. He reads all the directions— if it says "pianissimo," you don't have to stop and say, "Wait, let's do thatpart softly." I remember we wereat Lawrence Trotter's housefor apractice oneSunday,and Greg Davis told us, "I'm notgoing tobeable towork withy'ou somuch.I'm startingmy own band." The Dirty Dozen started setting a different pace. They justpicked it up— respected the traditional music but came up with their own thing. There's a lot of people who say they're not respecting the music, but I have to question their understanding. The Dirty Dozen was number onefor musicianship. Theyounger bands have the enthusiasm andfire, but they don't have the know-how. I'm not knocking, but I have to say, there are very few young brass bands that arepaying their dues. Straight out of school, straight on the street. Guys say to me, "You stillplaying that old style." I tell them, "Well, it works. I'm playing what the tuba's supposed toplay...


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