Bob French’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Band

Going strong for nearly a century, for ninety-nine years to be exact, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band is one of the New Orleans’s most beloved institutions.

  • Traditional New Orleans jazz
  • New Orleans, Louisiana


[audio:|artists=Bob French|titles=Bob French]

From The Brothers Burton

Scott says: Classic New Orleans music mixed with old school jazz and soul. AND clawhammer banjo! These guys are for real.

Taylor says: Pretty solid Louisiana style jazz. Hard to judge this group, as everyone and their brother who ever played in Louisiana filtered through this group. Truly great stuff, and sure to please. There may even be some gumbo to be had!…okay I made that up, but there should be.

Professional Bio

Traditional New Orleans jazz embodies the creolized culture of that proud city, combining African, European, and Caribbean musical influences into a uniquely American sound that is celebrated around the world. Going strong for nearly a century, for ninety-nine years to be exact, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band is one of the Crescent City’s most beloved institutions. It is New Orleans’ oldest continually active jazz band, one that had its beginnings during the infamous “Storyville” era when jazz was still spelled “j-a-s-s.” Since that time, some of the finest talents in jazz have been a part of the group, including jazz pioneers Lorenzo Tio, Jr., Alphonse Picou, Johnny St. Cyr and the immortal Louis Armstrong when “Satchmo” was just a teenager.

Bob French is only the fourth leader the band has had during it long and illustrious career. Oscar “Papa” Celestin organized the ensemble in 1910 and named it for the Tuxedo Dance Hall where the band played in its early years. After Celestin’s passing in 1954, trombonist Eddie Pierson took over and maintained the band until his death in 1958. Famed banjo player Albert “Papa” French led the band from 1958 until his death in 1977 when the reins passed to his son, drummer and bandleader Bob French.

Bob French grew up steeped in New Orleans jazz at home, but he initially gravitated to popular styles. He was already making a name for himself in rhythm and blues when one night his father asked him to fill in for the regular Original Tuxedo Jazz Band drummer who was ill. Bob French recounts: “He had a hell of a band. By the end of the night, I found out how much I didn’t know about music…. From that day on, I respected traditional jazz. And I’ve been playing it ever since.”

Bob French’s dedication to New Orleans jazz runs deep, just like his love of New Orleans itself. Two months after Hurricane Katrina hit, French returned to the city with trombonist Frederick Lonzo to photograph the devastation on behalf of “Musicians’ Village,” a Habitat for Humanity project building homes for displaced musicians in the Upper Ninth Ward.

Bob French’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Band has performed for presidents and kings and traveled the world. An icon in a city steeped in musical tradition, the group has become something more than just a band; it’s an institution.

(Photo by Erica Goldring)

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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