This is the first installment in a series on New Orleans brass band leaders.
For years now Ive said I was going to diagram the Andrews Family tree, that musical dynasty from the Treme neighborhood that has made such an enormous impact on the brass band music scene. Interviewing the youngest descendant in the clan presented me the opportunity to finally make good on that threat. I sat down recently with 15 year old Glenn Hall III, leader of the Baby Boyz Brass Band, who is fascinating to watch not only because of the awesome talent he demonstrates at such a young age but because of the intimate glimpse he provides into the gifted genetic pool to which he and several of his teenage bandmates belong. Glenns family includes Verve recording artist Troy Trombone Shorty Andrews, world renown trumpeter James Satchmo of The Ghetto Andrews (who is also the father of Baby Boyz bass drummer Jenard), bass drum player Terence T-Bell Andrews of the sorely missed, post-storm defunct Little Rascals Brass Band and the iconic trombonist Glen David Andrews who mentors the band and is often seen performing with the Baby Boyz at shows around the city.
Over the last three years Ive watched young Glenn and his bandmates taking their fledgling steps on stage, oftentimes pushed and prodded along by the elder Glen David who bears a remarkable resemblance to his young cousin - a hereditary tendency in the Andrews Family. What began as awkward tentative appearances by the Baby Boyz has transformed into steady composure and full blown fire music performances. Watching the young band of teenagers hype the crowd with increasing confidence is gratifying to watch.
Glenn is remarkably soft-spoken, especially for a a teenager - and especially for an Andrews. But dont let the smooth taste fool you. Catch him performing a second line parade with Rebirth or playing with Jeremy Davenport and Kermit Ruffins at Generations Hall and hes holding his own with the big blustery major league players.* All of us were a little nervous in the beginning, says Glenn. We just had to realize we were the band people we coming to see and we had to make people feel good about coming to see us. Glen David comes through and shows us a couple of tunes, teaches us about band theory and stage presence. He tells us Never be scared. Project your voice, have fun, make the people have fun and enjoy yourself.
A jazz student at NOCCA, Glenn plays several brass and percussion instruments as well as piano and says hes wanted his own band since he was six years old. After Hurricane Katrina, the Halls Gentilly home was flooded displacing the family for a year and a half. Upon returning to New Orleans, the young Glenn decided the time had come to jumpstart his career. Basically I told my parents we wanted to start a band and needed a place to rehearse and they opened the house up to us. His music education as well as being able to provide the rehearsal space led to him becoming the bands leader. His parents Patrice and Glenn Hall suggested the name Baby Boyz and began helping the young musicians develop their band, booking their first public performance the summer of 07 at the Old School in the Park Sunday music series in Armstrong Park.
The Baby Boyz band is actually comprised of two sets of cousins that come from heavy hitters on the New Orleans music scene: Glenn Hall on trumpet, Glen Finister on snare, bass drum player Jenard Andrews, all members of the Andrews family and trombonists Caleb Windsay and Jerome Steib, cousins related to jazz singer Topsy Chapman and Soul Rebels trombonist Winston Turner. Other Baby Boyz band members include Chris Birdsong on trumpet, Dwayne Waples on saxophone, and Desmond Provost on tuba. The band is oftentimes accompanied by The Baby Girlz second line dance troupe which includes daughters of Rebirth band members Derrick Tabb and Corey Henry as well as Glenns sister Jazz. At any given music festival in New Orleans, youre bound to see one or both of Glenns parents herding a swarm of 20 plus youth performers, the majority of which trace their family roots back to the brass band epicenter of Treme.
The bands biggest challenge to date is not battling stage fright or coordinating a large brood, says Glenn, but the age old challenge facing all great bands: staying together as a group. We have so many personalities, we have to learn to come together and work together. My dad used to be a football coach for Stallings Park and hes the band manager now so he gives us lectures on what we have to do and all that.
Over the last two years, The Baby Boyz have become regular fixtures at JazzFest, French Quarter Fest, and Satchmo SummerFest and recently began booking regular club dates at Rock and Bowl, Howlin Wolf, and Tipitinas which, because of their young age, requires that they leave the premises immediately after performing. Currently theyre in the studio recording their first CD to be released around Mardi Gras of next year which will include originals such as Our Song.
The band has also recently wrapped up work on Spike Lees post Katrina documentary sequel If God Is Willing And Da Creek Dont Rise in which they perform the Saints anthem Stand Up and Get Crunk. Spikes earlier film When The Levees Broke features Glenn at 10 years old playing St. James Infirmary and pining for the city of his birth: I want to go home because thats where I was born and I want to stay there all my life. And I still wanna visit other places but thats my main place, New Orleans. When asked if he still feels the same way about remaining in New Orleans, he smiles and nods. After I finish NOCCA, I want to go to a conservatory out of town, like Berkeley or Juilliard. Ill move wherever for school but after college Im coming back home.
The Baby Boyz are performing today at the Satchmo Second Line from St. Augustine Church and at Satchmo SummerFest on the Red Beans and Rice Stage at 1:35pm.
Glenn Hall playing with Rebirth Brass Band at the Revolution SA&PC Second Line