|Date:||7/27/03 11:02 AM|
Calypso Version 3.30.00.00 (3)|
Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2003 11:02:03 -0500
From: "Bobby Breaux" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fat Tuesday on a Sunday night
It’s 6:45 p.m. on a Sunday, and the cramped back room at Tierney’s Duck Inn,
a Lake Dallas seafood joint, is swinging. Hard.
It’s 6:45 p.m. on a Sunday, and the cramped back room at Tierney’s Duck Inn, a Lake Dallas seafood joint, is swinging. Hard.
People sit elbow to elbow at Tierney’s. A lot of people pay no attention to the piping hot catfish fillets and baked potatoes in front of them. Instead, they yank the white cloth napkins off their laps to twirl them in the air.
The N’awlins Gumbo Kings might be mostly unknown, but its players bring years of experience, hefty resumes and a collective feeling of devil-may-care fun to the band.
"I wish I could have ’em come down to the house and play in our back yard," diner Bill Smith shouted to his wife, Patsy, over the rollicking brass blasts, the thumpity-bump of the string bass and the hissing of the drums. Then, Mr. Smith is riveted again on the suit-clad Gumbo Kings.
How did Tierney’s Duck Inn become a sudden Sunday night hot spot? It all starts with the N’awlins Gumbo Kings trumpet player, Steve Howard.
Mr. Howard grew up in Lake Dallas, and his family owned the restaurant when it was just The Duck Inn. Though Mr. Howard spent some time working in the dining business, music was his calling. He was a member of the Two O’clock Lab Band in the University of North Texas College of Music for a year before he went to New Orleans to play Dixieland jazz.
"That’s the thing everybody latches onto and it really doesn’t have anything to do with Dixieland," Mr. Howard said. "It sort of does because he was interested in the music, but it’s just one of the things I did and it gets a lot of attention. This is what I’m about, here."
Dallas resident Mike Sizer, the Gumbo Kings arranger, clarinet and saxophone man, was in New Orleans the same time Mr. Howard was. The two worked with the same people in Dallas, but didn’t meet until they played a gig together in 2002.
The two men got to talking about how nice it would be to start their own group, a group in which horns are the star players.
"It’s a little tough for horn players," Mr. Howard said. "In most bands, when a band gets successful enough, they say: ‘Oh, now we’re doing well enough to afford some horn players.’ Then when times get bad, the horns are the first to get fired. It’s just the nature of the beast."
Between Mr. Howard and Mr. Sizer, the sax, trumpet and clarinet were covered. They needed a trombone player.
Enter Brad Herring, who lives in The Colony. Mr. Howard had met him while both were working on a Texas Film Institute project.
"I told Mike about Brad, and it turned out that he knew him," Mr. Howard said.
"I had been thinking about Brad to play trombone, too," Mr. Sizer said.
The Kings are serious musicians. Mr. Howard can play a luscious, curvaceous phrase one minute, then back off and harmonize with Mike Sizer’s rat-a-tat fast clarinet so intuitively that the crowd will hoot and whistle. Brad Herring is both musician and showman, dropping his horn every now and then to do the cabbage patch. Danny Hollis takes lead on the few songs they perform that require vocals, while Kerby Stewart and Bobby Breaux tat their rhythms around one another. Each man takes a solo in every live number.
Mike Sizer and Steve Howard seem to be the consistent crowd favorites. They need only tip their hats to jazz’s founding father, Jelly Roll Morton, and the white napkins swirl anew in time with "Joe Avery’s Blues."
Greg Tierney, the restaurant owner, said he’s trying to book the new band several times a month. Sundays can be slow, but since the band has been playing, Mr. Tierney says he can hardly keep up.
"The more they play, the more popular they get," Mr. Tierney said at a gig. "I’ve been turning people away since Thursday."
The band had a good turnout for its debut. The band chose Tierney’s because of Mr. Howard’s relationship with the restaurant.
The band members said they were surprised by the crowd at their first show.
"At first it was scary for me to see that many people packed in a room. Halfway through the second song, though, I thought, ‘This feels pretty good,’" Mr. Herring said.
There were a lot of musicians out there for that first gig.
"I didn’t quite know what to think," Mr. Sizer said. "I thought, ‘Here all these people came to see six guys who’ve never played all together before.’ People immediately wanted to get a schedule of gigs and they were asking about an e-mail list."
The Gumbo Kings’ crowd is mostly 40 and older. Many spectators sing along, slap the table in time to the music and move in time to the percussion.
"They’re great!" said Les Huey during second visit to see the Kings. He saw them for the first time in June. Mr. Huey, a string bass player in Denton, declared pianist Danny Hollis "a monster." That’s a compliment of the highest order, said Gaynelle Gray, who came to the restaurant with Mr. Huey.
"We got the best seat in the house," she said. Indeed, her group was seated at the table closest to the band. "We can see the hands."
Mr. Smith said he decided to give the Kings a listen when he saw "Dixieland" on Tierney’s marquee. He and his wife, Lake Dallas residents for more than a decade, have always sought out live music and "good old Dixieland" during their travels.
"We went to New Orleans, and all I heard there was country and Western and rock music. I was just telling Bill that who’d have thought we’d be able to hear Dixieland in Lake Dallas? Of all places," Ms. Smith said.
"I guess it’s the nostalgia," Mr. Smith said. "I was born and raised in the South, but I like this kind of music from all over. Chicago. Memphis. Anywhere. Everywhere. These guys are as good as any I’ve heard."
Denton trumpet player and pianist David Hume said he could see himself driving to Lake Dallas to see every Gumbo Kings gig.
"We’re trying to become N’awlins Gumbo Kings groupies," he said.
Mr. Howard said the band is planning to record an album and is already scouting Dallas for new performance venues. Mr. Sizer said he’s ready to go on tour.
"You know?" Mr. Howard said. "A gumbo is a mixture of all this stuff thrown in a pot. When we put this together, we were thinking about the ricky-ticky mechanical sound of it, and what we could do with the clarinet, trumpet and trombone. I think we have a swing other groups like this don’t. We aren’t purists. We’ll do a Louis Prima-sounding tune and wrap a blues tune in there. This is what we put in the pot."
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
N’awlins Gumbo Kings performances
When: 6 to 9 p.m. tonight, Aug. 17 and Aug. 31
Where: Tierney’s Duck Inn, 503 Main St., Lake Dallas
Details: Dinner reservations are required. Call 940-497-2412.
* Trumpet player Steve Howard has played with Dr. John, Ray Charles, Luther Kent and Paul McCartney’s Wings.
* Clarinet and saxophone player Mike Sizer has performed with the Dukes of Dixieland.
* Trombone player Brad Herring has played with Mel Torme, Tommy Loy, the Bee Gees and the Beach Boys.
* Drummer and Louisiana native Bobby Breaux has played with Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Woody Herman and Ellis Marsalis.
* Keyboard player and singer Danny Hollis has performed with Jim Cullum, Tommy Loy and Don Goldie.
* Upright bassist Kerby Stewart has kept time for Woody Herman and Stan Kenton.