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By Joseph Dempsey puckerup

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The first time a musician puckered up in a fiberglass sousaphone mouthpiece, ol' John Philip Sousa probably did a contortionist trick in his grave. But unless I am mistaken, the oom-pah-pahs emanating from the blasphemous instrument have virtually the same delightful rumble as their brass counterparts. At least to the unrefined ear. And most ears are, I surmise.

The sounds coming from this pair of players on a corner in New Orleans left nothing to be desired. I had to stop patting my foot to get the shot. The musicians, as well as their instruments, were a study in contrast.

The trumpeter (or cornetist, I still can't tell the difference) was doing his best Dizzy Gillespie routine, while the sousaphonist was going about his business in a workmanlike fashion. The results were exactly as one would expect from a Crescent City street performance. A rich rolling bass and a piercing treble. Ear candy. These two were the prime visual targets. The sax, clarinet, and assorted other instrumentalists made up the rest of the group, but lacked the panache of this pair.

The event was a planned performance as part the annual French Quarter Fest, but the sounds were from a jam session where each musician was in lock step with the rest of the group, all unaware of anything other than themselves and the tune.

The sousaphonist is a protégé of the late Anthony Lacen, better known as "Tuba Fats," a legend in New Orleans. This young man is a testimonial to Tuba Fats' long history of supporting and encouraging young musicians.

When you visit New Orleans, you will, in all likelihood, see him playing in the band on the bench across from St. Louis Cathedral. Drop a few bucks in the bucket. Keep the tradition going.

N O T E :  
Nikon D200 / spot metered / Nikon f2.8 80-200 D Zoom / post processed in Photoshop CS3 and Photomatix HDR

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