113 – Jermal Watson: Born & Bred in New Orleans, Playing with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Allowing the Traditional to Evolve
Jermal Watson is a native of New Orleans and like so many musicians there, got his musical start playing in church. Growing up in New Orleans, he explains, young musicians learn songs and styles by ear and by the time you’re grown, all of the city’s musical languages – the swing feel of Preservation Hall, the street beats of the brass bands, the funk of The Meters and The Neville Brothers – are languages you just know. As a young drummer, Jermal was brought along on the scene by two of its elder statesmen, Russell Batiste and Gerald French and for decades now, he has been among The Crescent City’s first-call drummers. His resume includes The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Eddie Roberts, and many more. For the past two years, he has also headed a percussion program at Encore Academy, in which almost 90 elementary school students participate.
In this podcast, Jermal talks about:
His elementary school percussion program
Playing with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Why learning songs by ear on the fly is particularly common in New Orleans
How Russell Batiste and Gerald French helped him work his way onto the scene
How New Orleans changes the playing of drummers who move there
A project he was recently involved in called Attakid, a collaboration between New Orleans and San Francisco musicians
Playing with Big Sam’s Funky Nation
Where to go for live music in New Orleans (hint: it’s not Bourbon Street).
The New Orleans style of recording