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Joe Robichaux

Joseph Robichaux, who had a lengthy career, is most notable for leading his New Orleans Rhythm Boys during five recording sessions (Aug. 22-26, 1933), which resulted in 22 selections plus two alternate takes. The three-horn, four-rhythm band was explosive and completely out of character for the typical soothing music of the era. The nephew of early New Orleans bandleader John Robichaux, he began playing piano when he was quite young, and he attended New Orleans University. Robichaux worked for nine months with the O.J. Beatty Carnival. He first went to Chicago with trumpeter Tig Chambers' band in 1918, although he did not stay long. Back in New Orleans, Robichaux worked with Oscar Celestin, Earl Humphrey, Lee Collins, the Black Eagles (1922-23) and recorded with (and arranged for) the Jones-Collins Astoria Eight in 1929. Robichaux, who backed singer Christina Gray on several titles in a 1929 recording session, formed his own band in 1931. Discovered by a talent scout in 1933, the group (which also included trumpeter Eugene Ware, Alfred Guichard on clarinet and alto, Gene Porter on tenor and the driving drumming of Ward Crosby) ventured to New York for the marathon recording sessions. Due to problems with the local union (which prevented them from working in clubs), Robichaux and his band returned home soon after the recordings. The group expanded to 14 pieces during the 1930s (one of their sidemen was the young altoist Earl Bostic, who contributed an arrangement for "Let Me Off Uptown" that he would later duplicate for Gene Krupa) and they toured Cuba. The orchestra recorded for Decca in 1936 but the four selections were never issued. The big band dissolved in 1939 and then Robichaux became a solo pianist, mostly playing in New Orleans. He had many opportunities to be a sideman on R&B recording sessions in the early '50s and he accompanied Lizzie Miles in California. Robichaux's last years were spent as the pianist for George Lewis' Orchestra (1957-64) and in New Orleans, where he recorded with Peter Bocage (1962) and played at Preservation Hall. He died of a heart attack at age 64.
© Scott Yanow /TiVo


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