There are few listeners in New Orleans who’ve devoted themselves as fervently to the cause of covering traditional jazz as Tom Jacobsen. Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversations With the Men Who Make the Music is a unique oral history of a subject surprisingly neglected: the lives of people who’ve made their living playing trad jazz in our city over the last 40 years. The 14 essays cover a wide spectrum, from well-publicized entrepreneurs like Irvin Mayfield to splendid but unsung artists like Tom Fischer. The book is, in fact, pleasantly clarinet-biased with profiles of Fischer, Evan Christopher, Dr. Michael White, Joe Torregano, Tim Laughlin and the late Brian Ogilvie; it turns out Jacobsen is a long-time correspondent for the journal The Clarinet.
In my 28 years in New Orleans, I’ve worked with most of these musicians and know some of them quite well. Nevertheless, in every chapter I found new and interesting sides to these gentlemen. That’s what often happens when you let the musicians speak for themselves.