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New Orleans jazz comes to town: A conversation with Dave Jellema, Mike Sizer & Jim Shearer

Leora Zeitlin

For clarinetist Mike Sizer and cornetist Dave Jellema, jazz grabbed them early in life. “I knew at age 14 that’s all I ever wanted to do. Especially when I found they would actually pay you to play an instrument,” Sizer said in this interview with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin. Jellema agreed: “It chooses you. You wake up one day and say, ‘I’ve got to do this.”

And they have. Sizer played for years with the Dukes of Dixieland, on a Mississippi riverboat, in studio work, on public television, and now with the N’Awlins Gumbo Kings. Jellema has played with numerous jazz artists and bands in Tennessee, San Antonio, Austin and elsewhere. They will join tuba player Jim Shearer and several other musicians in the “Second Line Survivors Band” tonight in a benefit concert for KRWG that will combine traditional Dixieland numbers with some holiday favorites.

In this conversation, they and Shearer discuss how they got into jazz, share anecdotes from their careers, and talk about the meaning of “Second Line Jazz” and the “collective improvisation” that they play in their concerts. “We all agree on a tune and a key, and off we go,” explained Shearer. “We do collective improvisation, where you have to listen to one another, play together, but not musically step on one another’s toes. And of course, we’re more modern so we open it up so everyone gets to play a solo improvisation, too. But it’s a mix like no other style of jazz.”

You can hear what he means tonight at the Rio Grande Theatre at 7 p.m.

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