Wendell Brunious

  • 3:20pm / August, 4th 2017
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    Red Beans and Ricely Yours

New Orleans music, in its purest form, flows easily and effortlessly. It swings with a spirited strut, infused with an unabashed sense of fun. The music of New Orleans jazz trumpeter and vocalist Wendell Brunious is all that and more. The standard-bearer for a family of musicians with deep roots in the Seventh Ward’s close-knit Creole community, Brunious ranks among the city’s most astute and elegant jazzmen, a trumpet titan in a trumpet town.

His repertoire of more than 1,500 songs, built across a 40-year career, ranges from Louis Armstrong and Clifford Brown to the Beatles and Burt Bacharach. Early Dixieland, the Great American Songbook, gospel hymns, second-line standards, pop melodies, New Orleans rhythm & blues, intimate ballads — all are brought to life via his horn and a warm, expressive voice.

His chops are formidable – he’s equally adept at trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn — but his goal is always the same. “I’m there to please the audience,” he says. “I’m not there to show off. And I’m always paying homage to the guys who came before me.”

His personal lineage includes his father, John “Picket” Brunious Sr., a trumpeter who studied at Julliard and arranged music for Cab Calloway and Billy Eckstine. His uncle Willie Santiago was a renowned early jazz guitarist. His older brother John was a trumpeter who, like Wendell, led the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

During late nights at the Bourbon Street nightclub the Ivanhoe, he played and arranged horn-heavy hits by the likes of Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. He hit the road with Gladys Knight & the Pips and logged a year in New York City with legendary vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. He apprenticed alongside many great New Orleans musicians, including guitarist Justin Adams, with whom Brunious launched the first jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace restaurant in the mid-1970s.