The New Orleans Jazz Vipers: Our Band and the Music
Learn more information about the music of The New Orleans Jazz Vipers.
For over fifteen years The New Orleans Jazz Vipers have been an institution of Swing music on Frenchmen Street, the jazz mecca of New Orleans.
The Jazz Vipers have been regarded by many as pioneers of the “Frenchmen Street Swing Renaissance.” With infectious rhythm, spirited horns, and a diverse line-up of vocals, they are all that is swing and all that is New Orleans.
Among other weekly shows, The Jazz Vipers have performed their weekly gig at The Spotted Cat Music Club since the infancy of New Orleans’ vibrant Frenchman street music scene. They have been featured on the HBO show Treme playing their original tune "I Hope You're Coming Back to New Orleans" and their most recent album "Going! Going! Gone" has been selling rapidly both nationally and internationally.
The History of the Jazz Vipers
Heading up the band is Joe Braun (alto sax/vocals), who learned New Orleans music playing in Jackson Square with the likes of Tuba Fats, Uncle Lionel Batiste, and many young members of the Andrews/Hill family. He, along with Jack Fine (cornet), John Rodli (guitar/vocals), Clay Windham (bass), A.P. Gonzalez (drums), and Genvieve Duvale (trombone) began playing as The New Orleans Jazz Vipers at The Abbey, a French Quarter bar on Decatur Street in 1999. “We were playing for tattood junkies and punk rockers,” recalls Joe. The band was quick to gain in local popularity and soon were featured on John Sinclair’s WWOZ radio show.
In 2001 The Jazz Vipers became the first jazz band to play at the now world-renowned Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street. In that same year they won Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for "Best Emerging Traditional Jazz Band". The following year they recorded their first album, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers. As their momentum kept building, so did their regular crowd of local swing dancers. “We’ve always been a dance band,” says Joe Braun. In 2004 they recorded their sophomore album, Live on Frenchmen Street, and received Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album. The next year they won The Gambit’s Big Easy Award for Best Traditional Jazz Group.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, the Jazz Vipers traveled to the Monterey Jazz Festival and remained in San Francisco for some time. They later relocated to Austin. “We could have stayed either place, we were so welcomed, but we knew we had to go home,” says Joe. The Jazz Vipers were one of the first bands to return to New Orleans. They played in Jackson Square and at The Spotted Cat, even when there was no electricity. In 2006 they recorded their third album, Hope You’re Coming Back, which won Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album. Joe’s original tune from the album, “I Hope You’re Coming Back to New Orleans”, was later featured in the first season of HBO’s Treme in 2010. Joe played himself on the show and the band performed in a scene at The Spotted Cat. The song was included in the soundtrack compilation, which was later nominated for a Grammy.
The New Orleans Jazz Vipers have morphed and evolved considerably over the years. In its time the band has amassed an impressive roster of former and current members. World-class musicians such as Robert Snow, Tom Saunders, Linnzi Zaorski, Charlie Fardella, Bruce Brackman, Matt Rhody, Neti Vaan, Steve Yokum, Matt Perrine, St. Louis Slim, Dave Boswell, Wendell Brunious, to name just a few.
The Jazz Vipers’ current lineup includes some of the city’s best traditional jazz talent, with Joe Braun (alto sax/vocals) at the helm: Kevin Louis (trumpet/cornet/vocals), Craig Klein (trombone/vocals), Oliver Bonie (bari sax/vocals), Molly Reeves (guitar/vocals), Joshua Gouzy (bass/vocals). The band’s calendar includes their long-standing “Monday date” at The Spotted Cat Music Club. As trombonist Craig Klein put it best, “You have to be there to feel the vibe. It’s like a dream. Young people dancing, smiling, having a good time- and it’s the music that gets them high. That’s why the fans are there. That’s why we, the musicians, are there. It’s our drug. The interaction of music, musicians, and the people loving it is magical.”
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Best of the Beat "Best Emerging Traditional Jazz Band" (2001, 2003)
Best of the Beat "Best Traditional Jazz album" (2004, 2006)
Big Easy Award "Best Traditional Jazz Band" (2005)
Festivals and Other Appearances
Jazz Ascona in Switzerland (2016)
Monterey Jazz Festival (2005)
Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing (2006)
New Orleans French Quarter Festival (2001-2010, 2012-2015)
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (2004-2009)
New Orleans’ Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown (2015)
Satchmo Summerfest (2001, 2013, 2015)
Featured in the book "1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die" by Tom Moon