The tree helped us get away from the hot ass sun. The New Orleans heat. Back then we would blow it for anybody. I would play a whole tune for anyone just because I was excited. This tree was a place we could go to have a live open audience. It was like the Apollo. They would boo if you weren’t good, but dance if they could feel it. When we first started playing under the tree, we weren’t even the Hot 8. We were the Looney Tunes. The tree reminds me of the struggle, of the vision, and everything in between. We spent a lot of days under the tree imagining what we could be. Playing on boats, playing in front of thousands of people, people chanting our name. After it came to be, when we are playing in big venues, I cry. You can’t see it because I play with my eyes closed. I think of the guys we lost—that’s why I keep doing it.
I represent the younger generation. I have played twice the amount of jazz funerals as the older musicians for those young people whose lives have been chopped down. Do you know how many funerals I played from 1993 to 2015? I am sick of playing funerals.
I keep doing it because I sacrificed so much. I want my family to understand why I kept practicing my horn, to let them witness that I’m still in a band. It’s a cultural thing, to help the people out. Music calms the savage beast.