The Washington Post was awfully excited (I refuse to copy the headline and say they were jazzed) about the Louisville Leopard Percussionists performance this past weekend at the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. Of course they’re absolutely right to be excited because these supremely talented musicians, who seriously rock are all between the ages of 7 and 12 and they learn all their music by ear.
The Leopard Percussionists, 60 children between age 7 and 12 hailing from Louisville, will be the youngest performers of the day. But, says founder and Artistic Director Diane Downs, “just because they’re little people doesn’t mean they’re not capable of accomplishing amazing things.” Indeed, to hear these kids play “Take 5″ entirely on percussion is pretty stunning. (HBO Family has made a special about the group, founded in 1993, and the percussionists once even opened for alt-country band My Morning Jacket.) Did we mention they’ve learned songs by Santana and Duke Ellington by ear?
The kids learn jazz because “that’s what I like,” admits Downs, a music teacher. But she says that because so much of jazz is improvisational, it also lends itself to young performers: “Part of it is written down, but most of it isn’t. You have a few rules, and you only have to keep the groove. It’s the perfect thing to start teaching kids when they’re little.”
While I love the praise the Post is heaping on the Louisville Leopards I do have one qualm with the article which is the description of My Morning Jacket as an alt-country band. Seriously? Um, no.
Dear Washington Post writer Lavanya Ramanathan,
I offer to give you lessons on both alt-country and My Morning Jacket cause they are two distinctly different things. Have your people call my people.