Brian Quezergue bears an esteemed name in New Orleans music. His father, Wardell Quezergue, created the brilliant arrangements heard on Earl King's "Trick Bag," Professor Longhair's "Big Chief," The Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love," Robert Parker's "Barefootin'" Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff," King Floyd's "Groove Me," Dr. John's Goin' Back to New Orleans album and many other classics.
Quezergue followed his father's footsteps into composing and arranging. He writes at the piano, but his principle focus is bass — four-string fretless bass and six-string fretted bass.
Quezergue has recorded one album so far, and the all-instrumental Reflections contains elegant, even spiritual, contemporary jazz.
"That's my original music," the musician and music educator says between classes at Phillis Wheatley Community School. "It's all coming from inside of me, from my experience."
The birth of Quezergue's son inspired the mystical Reflections track "Seed of Life." His wife sparked the lyrical "Shyvette." For the especially songful "Emelda," a tribute to his mother, he climbs into the extreme upper register of his fretless bass.
"The fretless bass sings," he says. "It's difficult to play it in tune, but worth it to hear that lyrical quality."
Lately, he has been exploring melodic ideas in the bass' lower and midrange.
"The instrument sounds beautiful in every register," he says. And moving between fretless and fretted bass offers him two distinctive musical worlds, both of which he loves.
In addition to gigging with his own group and being an on-call bassist for trumpeter James Andrews, vocalist Stephanie Jordan and others, Quezergue teaches pre-K through fourth grade in the Firstline Schools charter school network. For the past 22 years, he has performed Sundays at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church under the direction of local gospel mainstay Veronica Downs-Dorsey.
For his own gigs and studio work, the bassist strives to surround himself with musicians he respects and admires.
"I get something out of that," he says. "It's not, 'I'm the leader! Look at me!' Sometimes, like the other night at Snug Harbor, one musician may pull the thing in another direction. If everyone drops the ego and follows the music, it becomes an adventure.
"That's what I'm hoping people see in our Jazz Fest set. I want the audience to walk away with a holistic experience that's bigger than any one instrument and person."
Quezergue seemingly was destined to play the essential rhythm-section instrument.
"When I would go to the studio with my dad, I always loved to see the music come together from scratch, from the rhythm tracks," he says.
His father died in 2011 at 81.
"He was a genius," Quezergue says. "In his lifetime, he definitely did not enjoy the monetary fruit of his labor. But that was not as important as the work, because he left a legacy. Once you pass, the work you put out in the air, that's more important than money."
• Colin Lake