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Marsalis Music Honors Bob French
Publication: Traps Magazine
Author: Robert L. Doerschuk
One of the many great things about New Orleans is its aversion to making judgments, either about idiosyncrasies or the music of its citizens. Boundaries between styles exist and are acknowledged, but musicians cross these lines freely, depending on the gig. And if they bear any condescension toward what they’re playing, they leave that at home. Like most of his compatriots, Bob French has lived in this way, playing drums in pretty much every style before finding a home base in traditional New Orleans jazz. On this set he leads a stellar band, whose members include Branford Marsalis on sax and Harry Connick Jr. on keys, all of them united in their fidelity to the nuances of this music. The repertoire is all about the city- “Bourbon Street Parade,” “Basin Street Blues,” “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans”- and the performances hang on the loose, ambling groove that French lays down. Appropriate to the style, he saves the backbeat for big finishes or shout choruses, punches accents on the kick, changes the details of the beat with each section of the tune, plays stately rolls on ballads and blues, and pours soul through the music like remoulade on blackened fish.