An era ended, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, when Preservation Hall bandleader John Brunious died after more than two decades heading the group. A pioneering member of the world-famous jazz ensemble, the trumpeter and pianist led the group for nearly half its career, playing for audiences that have included U.S. presidents, British royalty and new generations of fans at the Bonnaroo Festival and Voodoo Music Experience. Born in New Orleans' Seventh Ward, Brunious grew up steeped in the musical atmosphere of New Orleans. He learned to play both from his father, John Brunious Sr., a respected traditional trumpeter, composer and arranger and also from playing along to the hot new records coming out from artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson. Brunious' flashy, high-note solos earned him spots playing with the R&B great Clyde McPhatter and legendary jazz drummer Paul Barbarin.
During Hurricane Katrina, Brunious literally fought for his life in the floodwaters that ravaged his neighborhood. Although he received several new horns from fans and friends after the storm, he continued to play his original trumpet, which was pulled from the wreckage of his flooded home and repaired.
"John Brunious was living history," says Preservation Hall Creative Director Ben Jaffe. One of the last things John told me was, "There's another Louis Armstrong somewhere out there in New Orleans. I'm going to find them and teach them all I got.' It's now in our hands to carry on his message and legacy the way he carried the torch for so many years."