Preservation Hall’s First Musical Director in History Announced
NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Preservation Hall announced trumpeter, vocalist and bandleader Wendell Brunious has been named Musical Director. In his new role, Brunious will work closely with Creative Director Ben Jaffe to oversee the musical repertoire performed at the internationally renowned French Quarter venue. Brunious will also serve as the musical ambassador for the Preservation Hall Foundation, assisting in educational programming and community engagement efforts. As Musical Director, he will maintain his fruitful relationships with the more than 60-member musical collective and act as both the venue and foundation’s ambassador to the music world. Brunious has a longstanding mutual respect with his musical peers and will continue to serve as a mentor to the younger members of the Preservation Hall community.
“It is with great respect and passion that I accept this important position. Preservation Hall is the most important venue in the world for Traditional Jazz and I feel very privileged to have been asked to be its first Musical Director,” Brunious stated. “I look forward to working closely with Ben Jaffe and the Preservation Hall Foundation, making sure that the integrity and highest quality of this art form is around for many generations to come.”
While Preservation Hall refrains from holding auditions for new musicians, it preserves and perpetuates the Traditional New Orleans Jazz music performed within its walls by selecting only the most skilled musicians with generational talent and deep relationships with the musical collective. Brunious and Jaffe will work hand in hand to identify new talent to play regularly at Preservation Hall and subsequently guide them. In addition to serving as a bridge from the roots of Preservation Hall to the newest members of the collective, Brunious will simultaneously continue his decades-long tenure as a stalwart bandleader at the Saint Peter Street site.
Brunious boasts a towering musical family tree primarily flowered with trumpets. He is the son of trumpet master John “Picket” (or “Picky”) Brunious Sr., the Juilliard-educated pianist and trumpeter, gifted composer and arranger for artists such as Billy Eckstein and Cab Calloway and Nazimova “Chinee” Santiago, the niece of guitarist and banjoist Willie Santiago. Hailing from
New Orleans’ 7th ward, Brunious first picked up a trumpet at 11 years old, began playing at Preservation Hall at 23 and was only 28 when he took over as a bandleader for 91-year-old Kid Thomas Valentine. He was the youngest musician to ever lead a Preservation Hall band and his older brother, John, also held the role of bandleader.
”Mr. Brunious reflects an incredibly valuable family history and possesses both tangible and intangible qualities that make him entirely unique as a musician and elder statesperson. His dedication and lifetime commitment to his craft, in addition to his personal story, are both beautiful and singular. I have the highest regard and respect for Mr. Brunious as a musician’s musician,” said Jaffe,
the son of the famed venue’s co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe. “He is a son of this sacred tradition and a library of information and knowledge. We are all fortunate to have Mr. Brunious fulfilling such an important role.”
Brunious credits some of his early development to having worked with the Olympia Brass Band under the direction of his cousin, bandleader and saxophonist Harold Dejan. He crossed paths with the famed banjoist Danny Barker while in college at Southern University and apprenticed alongside many great New Orleans musicians, including guitarist Justin Adams, with whom he launched the first jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace restaurant in the mid-1970s. Extremely knowledgeable in the music’s tradition and history, Brunious enjoys sprinkling his conversation with advisory quotes from his father and other artists who have crossed his musical path through his extensive career.
In addition to traveling the world to play Traditional New Orleans Jazz with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, recording seven albums under his own name and countless features on other recordings, over the years Brunious has worked with a long list of esteemed artists including the Tuxedo Brass Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Wynton Marsalis, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Bob Haggard, Harry Connick, Jr., Sammy Rimington, Gladys Knight & and the Pips, Louis Nelson and more.