Born July 17, 1956, New Orleans, Louisiana
Played with: Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Doc Cheatham, Lionel Hampton
For five generations the Barbarin family has contributed immeasurably to the music of New Orleans. Their story begins with Isidore Barbarin, who mentored the young Louis Armstrong nearly a century ago; after achieving unprecedented worldwide fame as a trumpeter, Armstrong recruited Isidore's son Paul to play drums with his band. Today, the torch rests in the hands of Lucien Barbarin, whose command of the trombone and love for performing establish him as one of the city's premier musical ambassadors. Raised in the Seventh Ward, he made his debut at age six, playing drums with his Uncle Paul's Onward Brass Band. By high school he was playing trombone and co-leading the Fairview Baptist Christian Church Band with his cousin Danny Barker. Lucien's tastes embraced from jazz to funk; he drew inspiration from J. J. Johnson's bop virtuosity and played R&B gigs around New Orleans with the groups Stone Mountain and Joy. But an invitation to work six nights a week with drummer Albert "June" Gardner at the Famous Door, in the heart of the French Quarter, drew him toward traditional jazz. Lucien's calendar filled quickly as he picked up jobs with various outfits. One, the Tuxedo Brass Band, began appearing regularly at Preservation Hall in the early eighties; when he started getting calls to play with Willie and Percy Humphrey in the Preservation Hall Band as well, the enduring relationship between the venue and one of its most engaging artists began. Today, Lucien tours internationally, from the North Sea to the White House, with both the Preservation Hall Band and with Harry Connick, Jr. While in New Orleans he performs locally and helps raise his five children, in whom signs of musical talent are -- not surprisingly -- stirring.
"I grew a few blocks from the Treme neighborhood. I used to hear the second line [marching band rhythm sections] come up the street; you could hear that bass drum from two blocks away. I'd say, 'Mama! Mama! Second line's coming!' I'd run down the block, catch up with the second line, and join that parade."
"My Uncle Paul used to get on the drums and show my brother and me how to play with the New Orleans rhythm. He took us in parades with him; he'd lay out and let me play the snare drum with the band. And when we were done we'd go out on the streets and beat on pots and pans. All the kids in the neighborhood knew that my brother and I were into music."
"Musicians in New Orleans are born to entertain. There's nothing wrong with that, because I'm happy when I play. I love what I do. Hey, this is it: 'Come on, join with me! Have fun with me, people!' That's what it's about."
> Next Biography
< Back to the "Roster"