Julian Addison Lays Down the Beat on Frenchmen Street

Up-and-coming drummer Julian Addison is a percussive force to be reckoned with.

The young Ohio transplant, currently playing with the fabled Dirty Dozen Brass Band, boasts an impeccable technical proficiency that can traverse many genres, but he has a style unto himself. The streams of rhythm he pours out are compelling, varied, and intricately layered enough to almost compute like melody.

Julian Addison on Frenchmen Street

Julian Addison in action on Frenchmen Street.

Addison certainly uses his equipment in unorthodox ways–tapping on oft-neglected surfaces and wielding his sticks with idiosyncratic little motions–but it’s hard to catch because everything he does looks so effortless.

His arms sweep around lazily, he smiles serenely, he twirls his sticks in the air and catches them easily like a flair bartender, and all the while he’s somehow swirling up a syncopated thunderstorm.

The drummer cites a slew of jazz influences: Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, and former Chick Corea drummer Dave Weckl, to name just a few, but he says he’ll listen to any genre.

He draws inspiration from hip hop, funk, gospel, and everything in between. Mostly, though, he is focused on developing his own sound.

Addison began drumming as a toddler.

“I came out of the womb drumming,” he says with a laugh. “Pots and pans, steps, anything with a bit of a tone.”

He received his first proper drum kit at age four. After honing his skills throughout childhood, playing for his church and wherever else he could, he took his talent on the road and gigged around Ohio.

Soon, he and four friends, calling themselves Street Gumbo, began driving down for weekends to play in New Orleans.

After several lucrative trips, they decided to relocate for good in 2008.

In terms of whether he sees himself staying in New Orleans permanently, Addison isn’t sure at the moment.

“I rode the wave in, I don’t know if I’m gonna ride it back out again,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”

He says he could envision eventually going back to Ohio for a bit, and then heading to either California or Atlanta. At the moment, though, he is enthusiastic about his gig with the Dirty Dozen and has no plans to leave the city.

Addison  has a regular gig every Sunday night at the Spotted Cat with Pat Casey and the New Sound, a stellar group of young musicians who deliver a mean fusion jazz styles both old and new swimming in funk, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban grooves.

Besides Addison, the core group consists of Pat Casey on bass, Khris Royal on horns, Danny Abel on guitar, and Jason Butler on keyboard.

He also has a trad gig at the Cat on Monday nights with the formidable Dominick Grillo and the Frenchmen Street All-Stars. This crew comprises Grillo on tenor sax, Ashlin Parker on trumpet, Nathan Lambertson on bass, and Butler again on keys.

A recent New Sound set included an energetic Parker, sounding out long, clean trumpet wails with flair and his distinctive playing stance, like a sentinel on some medieval parapet.

As with many local jazz bands, membership is fluid. Both groups bring in regular guest talent from the slew of Frenchmen Street musicians and constantly loan members back and forth.

“This city’s all one big band, pretty much,” Addison said.

Any band with such talented and versatile musicians will never lack an audience.