NPR logo Meet Lionel Ferbos, The Jazz Elder Of New Orleans

Meet Lionel Ferbos, The Jazz Elder Of New Orleans

There's no need explaining
The one remaining is somebody I adore
I'm looking over a four-leaf clover
That I've overlooked before

If you think "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover" is an old number, meet someone who was a teenager when it was written.

Lionel Ferbos, 98, is the oldest active jazz musician in New Orleans. Josh Jackson hide caption

toggle caption Josh Jackson

Lionel Ferbos, 98, is the oldest active jazz musician in New Orleans.

Josh Jackson

Trumpeter Lionel Ferbos will be 99 in July, and he has every intention of reaching the century mark. He still maintains a weekly gig at The Palm Court Jazz Cafe in the French Quarter. He carries his own horn and handwritten sheet music. He dresses sharply.

Ferbos played trumpet with two masters of New Orleans jazz, Walter Pichon and Captain John Handy. When he sings songs like "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" or "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate," he adds a certain gravitas to songs with little currency to a jazz musician.

He can play "The Sheik of Araby" with enough bravura to make an audience spontaneously break into a second line. I know these things because I am a witness to his Sunday performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

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