This Saturday New Orleans lays to rest one of its beloved young talents, Travis ‘Trumpet Black’ Hill, who died earlier this month while in Japan from a tooth infection that set in after a routine dental procedure done here in New Orleans. He was 28 years old. News of his imminent death swept quickly throughout the extended music community when medical officials in Japan called the family on May 4th to ask for permission to pull the life support plug, saying they’d done all they could do to save him but nothing more could be done once the infection reached his heart.
The young trumpeter who played with the premier music groups like New Birth, The Hot 8, Lil Rascals and Trombone Shorty Brass Bands, and most recently with Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet as well as his own ‘Heart Attacks’ band almost seemed to lose his way early in life, spending nearly nine years in prison for armed robbery. But upon his release in 2011, Travis got himself together and began building a solid music career, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, New Orleans R&B great Jessie Hill who produced the musical dynasty that spawned cousins Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, James Andrews and Glen David Andrews.
Tradition dictates that when a brass band musician dies in New Orleans, the music community pays tribute to their fallen star every night until the body is laid to rest. In a sad twist of fate, family and friends could barely wrap their heads around the swiftness with which the seemingly benign surgery felled the prodigious musician yet went about upholding tradition, hosting three long weeks of nightly tributes which took place without fail as the body made its way back home from Japan in preparation for its final resting place.
Several of the nightly concerts took place at Travis’ family’s bar ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ on Orleans Ave, named after Jessie Hill's 1961 hit, a banner out front declaring it "home of Trombone Shorty, Trumpet Black and James Andrews". And this past Monday, family members and friends of Travis walked from the bar to the Orleans Ave. I-10 offramp to greet the hearse, which had just retrieved his body from the airport, and second lined him past the bar, through his Treme neighborhood, to Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home which is handling the services. You can watch footage from the tribute here:
In addition to the nightly music fests, a different tribute of sorts was also raised in honor of Travis. Renowned artist and video producer Brandan Odums erected a mural with the musician’s likeness on the side of an apartment complex on N. Claiborne Ave at Gov. Nicholls St. in Treme. Brandan met Travis two years ago on the set of Trombone Shorty’s ‘Fire and Brimstone’ video which Brandan produced and a mutual appreciation society blossomed between the two.
“I was painting a mural of Trombone Shorty and Travis kept complimenting me on how dope it was," recalls Brandan. “His excitement was contagious, it just made the environment magical. After that we kept in touch, bouncing ideas of each other, brainstorming projects we wanted to do together. We never got the opportunity to do one together. Once I heard the news (of his death), I knew I wanted to do this mural.” Brandan met the owner of the Treme apartment complex which features the painting of Travis at Brandan’s spectacular ExhibitBE graffiti project back in November 2014. It was a perfect locale, housed in the neighborhood that helped raise Travis, his extended family of musicians, as well as many of the great brass band musicians of our time.
Brandan, who says he didn’t profit from the painting, notes there were many hands that went into its production. The mural’s incredible likeness of Travis was taken from a photo by local photographer Gus Bennet. NOLA Paint And Supplies, a local company whose owner was a friend of Travis’, donated paint along with Home Depot. The owners of the building have promised the mural will stay put as long as they own the property. Brandan observes, “There’s green space there with benches, people can come sit, bring flowers. Its a tribute space. The long term goal is to bring the area to life. I want it to be a celebration, not to make people sad. We celebrate life in New Orleans. Thats the whole goal.”
Remaining services for Travis ‘Trumpet Black’ Hill are as follows:
Friday, May 22
Public viewing 6 p.m.-7 p.m., Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave.
Musical tribute 7 p.m.-until, Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave.
Saturday, May 23
Public viewing: 9 a.m., Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave.
Funeral services 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave.
Traditional second line through Treme
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