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NEW ORLEANS All-Star Swing featuring DUKE Heitger, TIM Laughlin, HAL Smith & KRIS Tokarski

May 25, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm

Trumpeter Duke Heitger came to New Orleans in 1991 to join Jacques Gauthe’s Creole Rice Jazz Band and since that time he has become one of the most sought after players on the international scene, performing and recording around the world with a diverse roster of musicians.
Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, Heitger carries on a family tradition in the music business. As a youngster he became fascinated with the sounds embedded in the grooves of his dad’s record collection, discs by Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berrigan, Roy Eldridge, Red Allen, Bobby Hackett, and Bix Beiderbecke. Rather than rebel against that music, he would sit in with his father’s Cake Walkin’ Jass Band, a Toledo institution that had played a weekly engagement at Tony Packo’s Restaurant from 1968 to March 2001. Duke started playing professional jobs at age twelve and was touring while still in his teens. His travels broadened as he played jazz festivals across the country with his father’s band.
Since arriving in New Orleans, Heitger has received international exposure leading to work with bands led by such classic jazz stalwarts as Dan Barrett, Engelbert Wrobel (Germany), Marty Gros, Dick Hyman, John Gill and Banu Gibson. He has made a number of guest appearances on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” with Butch Thompson, and has been featured numerous times on broadcasts by the Jim Cullum Jazz Band live from the riverwalk in San Antonio, TX.
Heitger has been featured at the Hollywood Bowl, at New York’s 92nd St. Y, Lincoln Center’s “Midsummer’s Night Swing” series, and Orchestra Hall in Mineapolis, MN. Internationally, he has toured Europe extensively either as a bandleader or as a guest soloist with regular appearances at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Nairn International Jazz Festival, and the Ascona Jazz Festival. This summer he played the Caesarea Jazz Festival in Israel as a member of the Statesmen of Jazz which also included Warren Vache, John Allred, Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski.
While not on the road, Heitger maintains a busy schedule in New Orleans, leading his own Steamboat Stompers aboard the Natchez Paddlewheeler, a weekly appearance at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, as well as a heavy dose of spot work…
A native of New Orleans, Tim Laughlin fell in love with the sound of the clarinet before he ever held one after hearing a childhood friend practicing his clarinet. He was nine when he received his first horn and shortly after became hooked on jazz after hearing it on the radio.His first job was on a Mardi Gras float when he was only fifteen. After finishing high school he began working around town and eventually joined the musicians union where he would meet and perform with some of his most influential mentors.He has recorded a dozen solo CDs among which “The Isle of Orleans” (2003) is an award-winning collection of Laughlin originals. With this, he was the first New Orleans clarinetist to ever write and record an entire album of originals. The success of this CD caught the attention of “Music Minus One” and prompted Laughlin to license the master for the 2004 issue, along with “New Orleans Classics.” The CDs in the two publications include hand-picked musicians with whom students of all ages can play along.As Hurricane Katrina brought her devastation on the Gulf Coast, Laughlin and his band drove overnight to catch their flight and perform at a festival in South America. From there, they watched the aftermath of what was to become the worst natural disaster in US history. Just a week after, the US State Department asked Tim to perform a one month goodwill “thank you” tour in Peru, Mexico and Canada. All had given aid to Katrina evacuees.
The October 2005 tour included public concerts, benefits and master classes to elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students. With the students, the band performed and discussed the relevance and importance of their instruments and New Orleans Jazz, Benefits included one in Merida, Mexico, raising over $30,000 to help replace instruments and equipment for the New Orleans Center For the Creative Arts. Recently in 2009, Laughlin along with his good friend Pete Fountain opened the legendary Blue Room at the newly renovated Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, quickly selling out both nights.
These days, one can catch Tim performing at some of his favorite clubs in New Orleans like The Palm Court, Bombay Club, Snug Harbor and The Steamboat Natchez. He has been a contributing columnist for Jazztimes and Offbeat magazines.Tim and his wife Juliet live on Royal Street in the French Quarter. They enjoy hosting small parties and jam sessions or salons for friends and visitors, keeping the old New Orleans tradition of “open house.”
Hal Smith took up the drums in 1963, and became a full-time professional musician in 1978. He has played with many of the best Traditional Jazz and Swing bands including the Dukes of Dixieland, Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Yerba Buena Stompers, the Fat Babies and many others. Hal has also played Western Swing (Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition; Jason Roberts Band); Rockabilly (Memphis Speed Kings, the Hayriders, Gino and the Lone Gunmen, Cash Kings, Big Rig Deluxe) and Blues (James Harman, Junior Watson, Nathan James/Ben Hernandez, Blue Largo, Johnny Rover, Billy Watson).
Hal has performed on Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” Texas Public Radio’s “Riverwalk – Live From The Landing,” numerous television programs and on over 200 recordings.
Currently Hal lives in Searcy, Arkansas. He leads the On The Levee Jazz Band (https://www.ontheleveejazz.com/) and Swing Central. He also works frequently as a sideman with Kris Tokarski, Tim Laughlin, Banu Gibson, Dan Walton, Jeff Barnhart and with Grammy Award-winning pianist Floyd Domino. Hal is also on the faculty of the New Orleans Trad Jazz Camp.
Hal was influenced by hearing Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Wayne Jones and Fred Higuera in live performance. He has also studied the recordings of drummers Sid Catlett, Dave Tough, Zutty Singleton, Jo Jones, Minor Hall, George Wettling, Morey Feld, Gene Krupa, Harry Dial, Johnny Wells, Vic Berton, Stan King, Ray Bauduc, Bill Dart, Monte Mountjoy and more.
When Hal Smith plays, the spirits of George Wettling, Zutty Singleton and Dave Tough smile. Whether it’s small group swing, San Francisco Jazz, 1920s classics or freewheeling Eddie Condon jazz, his playing lifts up the music with taste, class and subtle ideas.
Born and raised just outside of New York City, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Kris Tokarski was lucky enough to be exposed to classical music, jazz, and traditional Hungarian music from his family as a young child.
Kris attended and completed his bachelor’s degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. While attending Berklee, he would make regular pilgrimages back to New York to study with bebop master, Barry Harris.
In 2011, Tokarski moved to New Orleans to complete a master’s degree at the University of New Orleans. Shortly after moving to the “Cradle of Jazz” he embraced the early piano traditions of the city as well as those of the early New York and Chicago masters. A keen interest in the music of Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson; combined with his bebop roots allowed Tokarski to develop an all encompassing voice of his own, deeply rooted in the jazz piano tradition.
When in town, Tokarski enjoys a busy playing schedule in New Orleans’ vibrant music scene. Most notably he is the music director and resident pianist at the Bombay Club located in the French Quarter inside the Prince Conti Hotel.
Tokarski also manages a busy schedule outside of New Orleans. He has performed at a number of major national and international festivals including the Umbria Winter Jazz Festival, The Montreal Jazz Fest, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the French Quarter Fest, San Diego Jazz Fest, etc. He’s performed at world class venues such as Snug Harbor, Preservation Hall, The Green Mill, and The Jazz Corner. Kris has shared the stage and performed with Jason Marsalis, Duke Heitger, Evan Christopher, Tim Laughlin, Andy Schumm, Connie Jones, Hal Smith, and many others.
He has recorded on a number of records as a sideman and as a leader. While he is recognized largely by traditional jazz lovers, he has also recorded and toured in the realm of popular music with the “Squirrel Nut Zippers”.