Infectious Grooves of New Orleans Jazz: Cian Boylan from Toot Sweet

Bayou funk and New Orleans style jazz from Toot Sweet and the Shadow Man; a sensational live outfit, with swampy hammond grooves, deep-in-the-pocket guitar, a take-no-prisoners horns, and an enviable rhythm section.

Ahead of their performance at our Hotter Than July festival on Sunday 29th July, we spoke to bandleader Cian Boylan about the history and tradition of New Orlean's style jazz. 


Q: Tell us a bit about the history of the New Orlean’s jazz style?

New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz. It was originally a port town owned by the French where the slaves were brought from the Caribbean and was the only town where slaves were allowed to own drums.

Every Sunday they would congregate on Congo Square and sing, dance and play drums where they would integrate with local musicians playing brass, wind and string instruments from Europe. Over a period of time, the syncopated rhythms of the African drums combined with the sophisticated harmony and melody of the European music developed into the music we know as jazz. It was a melting pot, a meeting of many different cultures, techniques, and emotions.

Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong were all pioneers of this music around the turn of the century and the tradition still continues today with musicians like Wynton Marsalis.


Q: How did you get into this tradition? What about it appealed to you specifically?

I got into jazz early on listening to Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, then pianists like Earl Hines, Art Tatum, and later Oscar Peterson and gradually working my way chronologically through the decades and the changing styles of jazz. I was really fascinated with and read as much as I could of the history of the music, trying to understand where it all came from and how it had developed. Like the way the alto sax legend Charlie Parker couldn’t have played the way he played without having listened to the great sax player Lester Young first.

Later in my mid teens, I started listening to New Orleans musicians like Fats Domino, Dr John, Harry Connick Jr, and through this I got fascinated with musicians like Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and James Booker.

It’s a very honest, exciting and muscular style of playing and still retains that infectious groove and joy that it originated from. I feel it allows the audience to connect to the music and musicians in a very visceral and immediate way.


Q: What do you think about the tradition now, and how to carry it forward into the future?

I think it’s in a very healthy state at the moment with a new breed of musicians like Trombone Shorty, Jon Batiste, and Jon Cleary leading the way. We also have a resurgence with the huge popularity of brass bands like The Rebirth Brass Band, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The New Breed Brass Band, and Hot 8 Brass Band amongst many others.

Just as before, the tradition is now being fused with many other styles of music like rap, funk, rock, hip-hop, soul, pop, modern jazz, gospel and r&b and this is creating something new, exciting and relevant.

With Toot Sweet & The Shadow Man, the music I compose draws deeply from the New Orleans tradition but is also heavily influenced from many other styles of music that have shaped me as a musician/composer. I think if the balance is right and it’s as much fun for the audience to listen to as it is for the musicians to play, there’s no reason that the tradition can’t continue to thrive.

Thanks, Cian!

Catch Toot Sweet & The Shadow Man's performance at Hotter Than July festival on Sunday 29th July in Smithfield Square. More information HERE.

Listen to Toot Sweet & The Shadow Man's music on Soundcloud HERE

– posted