Learn More about Our Next Master Practitioners - Second Annual Legacy Awards
In honor of our Second Annual Legacy Awards Ceremony next month, we want to share with you the biographies of the artists we will be inducting as Master Practitioners into our Legacy Program.
Biographies by Holly Hobbs
Trombonist Lester Caliste was born and raised in the 7th Ward of New Orleans. His father was a postman and his mother was a school teacher. Although they themselves were not musicians, his family was a musical one that included Jean Knight, his father’s sister, who had a major charting hit in 1971 with “Mr. Big Stuff.” The radio at home was turned to the standards of the day, including the early 1950s sounds of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Stan Kenton. Lester recalls being greatly inspired by the trombone section of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and describes his early love of the trombone this way: “it’s just the sound, it has a pure sound. The trombone is actually like a big trumpet, but it has a huge range. It’s pure.”
Lester Caliste grew up a short distance from St. Augustine high school, and was also deeply influenced by the school’s legendary marching band. He began on trombone at Rivers Frederick school in New Orleans at age 11. Lester later applied at St. Augustine high school and was accepted there, where he played in both concert and marching band. A number of music teachers assisted in the development of his musical career and playing style, including Mr. Winchester and Mr. Hampton, an oboist who played in a band called the Royal Dukes of Rhythm, a popular band that played pop and rhythm-n-blues standards of the era. Mr. Hampton would often suggest Lester for gigs when other musicians needed a trombonist to fill in, and in this way Lester Caliste began to develop a life-long love of performing.
Lester graduated in 1965 from St. Aug and began at Xavier University as a liberal arts major with a concentration in history and political science. He soon switched to a music degree curriculum in late 1966, however, and began to study with Chicago-born trombone player James Lewis, as well as Johnny Fernandez, a trumpet player. Well-known local New Orleans trombonists like Louis Nelson, Big Jim Robinson, and Frog Joseph were also influential to Mr. Caliste as he continued to define and develop his own unique sound.
Through his relationships with his many teachers, most notably Mr. Hampton and James Lewis, Lester began to be recommended as a trombone player to established musicians and producers like Wardell Quezergue, Allen Toussaint, Ellis Marsalis, James Black, June Gardner and others. Thus, throughout the mid-to-late ’60s, Lester was featured on a string of successful recordings, beginning with the album 99 Plus One by June Gardner, followed by Robert Parker’s “Barefootin.”
In 1966, Mr. Caliste began playing with Harold Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band, which had been increasingly influenced over the years by Milton Batiste. The band was looking for young, gifted trombone players that could also do the physically taxing work required of parading brass bands, and Caliste was eager to join. Over the years that Caliste performed with the group, Milton Batiste––informed by the many years that he had spent as a touring musician––led the group to gradually incorporate more rhythm-n-blues aesthetics and repertoire into their playing. Lester asserts that much of his playing style today was influenced and informed through his time with Harold Dejan and Milton Batiste in the Olympia. The mixture of physically difficult and musically intricate work was both extremely challenging, Lester recalls, and deeply therapeutic.
The first time Mr. Caliste recalls performing at Preservation Hall was with Olympia Brass Band on Mardi Gras Day in 1968 after they played Zulu. After their performance at the Hall, Allan Jaffe led them in an informal performance processional thru the Quarter, which Lester remembers vividly. Over the years he would go on to play countless shows at Preservation Hall, alongside Kid Sheik and many other legends of the era. “My favorite repertoire is traditional New Orleans music because traditional New Orleans music is happy music,” Caliste asserts. “Everybody is so happy to hear you on the street. Especially at the Preservation Hall, you appreciate the audience and they appreciate you.”
In 1969, Lester Caliste got called for active duty, and served in the Navy from 1969 to 1971. When he returned to New Orleans in 1971, he began playing with a number of local stage bands, including Clyde Kerr, Sr.’s band, which performed Top 10 pop standards, and Wardell Quezergue’s big band. Lester’s connection via his teacher James Lewis to Allen Toussaint proved particularly fruitful, and he signed on as a regular studio musician for Toussaint. They recorded first at Cosimo Matassa’s studio as well as a studio space in Bogalusa, Louisiana before Toussaint and Marshall Seahorn joined forces to form the famed SeaSaint Studios in New Orleans.
Mr. Caliste began a job at the postal service in 1973, where he would continue to work throughout his adult life. When the postal service switched his work to evening hours, it became increasingly difficult to play nightly gigs, but it also freed up daytime hours to do more studio work. During this time he recorded some of the biggest hits of his career, including Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” (1974) and other hits off her album Night Birds, followed by another LaBelle album the following year, Phoenix. In 1977, he played on Glen Campbell’s massive Allen Toussaint hit, “Southern Nights,” as well as Earl King’s local hit, “Trick Bag.”
In the 1980s, while still working full-time for the postal service, Mr. Caliste joined the Original Crescent City Jazz Band, a group that played mainly for Garden District and Uptown parties and on the riverboats. In the 1990s, he changed focus and began to perform on a number of jazz recordings, including Sammy Rimington, with whom he recorded two albums, and the New Orleans trumpeter Lionel Ferbos. He toured internationally with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the mid-’90s as well, touring Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Caliste left with his wife for McKinney, Texas, where he remained for 5 years before returning to New Orleans in 2009 to take care of his aging mother. Caliste was forced to take a hiatus from performing, and wouldn’t return to performing at the Hall until the mid-2010s.
Over the five decades of Lester Caliste’s storied career, he has maintained a musical tone that is clear, consistent and strong, with a solid rhythmic framework and adept musical slides. He describes the New Orleans sound this way:
New Orleans music is happy music. And very soulful in the sense that it embodies the spirit of the New Orleans people. You can hear New Orleans when you hear New Orleans music, people want to tap their foot. New Orleans music is an American music. That’s one thing that we have that we can say that we started.
Lester Caliste retired from the post service in 2004 and went on to tour Thailand and Portugal with Preservation Hall. He returned to performing in the mid-2010s, to the joy of his many fans. In 2018, he was inducted as a Master Practitioner into the Preservation Hall Legacy Program, a program that honors veteran musicians recognized for their immense cultural impact in the jazz community who continue to serve as cultural and musical beacons within the Greater New Orleans area and throughout the world. The Preservation Hall Legacy Program provides a critical lifeline to elder musicians in the New Orleans community with direct financial stipends and ongoing support.
Clarinetist Örjan Kellin, better known as “Orange” Kellin, was born in Sweden in 1944 and grew up in Stockholm. His father was a businessman and his mother was a housewife. While both played piano informally, they discouraged him from playing. When he asked why, Orange recalls with a laugh that his father said, “because I’m afraid you are going to become a musician.”
Although he never learned to play piano, Orange Kellin remembers that it was seeing the film The Benny Goodman Story (1956) that first inspired his love of the clarinet. At age 13, he received a clarinet as a Christmas present. Orange describes his relationship with the clarinet as one that felt as though it was meant to be from the start. And as a rebellious teenager, his parents’ dislike of his musical dedication only added to his commitment to his art.
Orange Kellin had a series of music teachers who were influential to his musical development, as well as the experience of playing in his school band. He also discovered pre-war jazz on the radio and through records, particularly a recording by Bill Russell featuring Wooden Joe Nicholas from New Orleans. He sought out more information about this record, and became increasingly fascinated by the New Orleans sound. Along with fellow Swedish musician, Lars Edegran, Orange co-founded a local jazz band when he was 17. He made three EP recordings in Sweden (the first one in 1962), which was a highly unusual thing to do in those days as an amateur local musician. Their band amassed a local following and a fan club, and did a series of regional performance tours by train.
It was while studying at university in Stockholm that Orange Kellin first decided to travel to New Orleans. He began saving and working extra jobs, and eventually had enough to buy a ticket. The day before his departure, he hitchhiked to Gothenburg to play at a jazz club where the scheduled headliner was the New Orleans clarinetist Albert Nicholas. Kellin ended up meeting and playing with Nicholas, which was an auspicious start to Kellin’s travels to New Orleans. The next morning, along with his friend Per (they would be referred to in America, he recalls with a laugh, as “Pear” and “Orange”), he took a boat from Gothenburg to England, then to Scotland, and then on to an Icelandic Airlines flight to New York City in October of 1966.
Prior to the trip, Orange had been corresponding with Leonard Bracket, a record producer based in North Carolina who knew of Orange from his Swedish recordings. From New York, they traveled to North Carolina to meet Bracket, and then Leonard drove them the rest of the way to New Orleans. Their first stop, Orange recalls, was at a place called Buster’s Bar, located at Orleans and Burgundy, a local musicians’ hotspot. Kellin recalls that everyone was incredibly welcoming, and that there was an immediate sense of belonging. He and Per would end up renting a place to stay from British musician, Clive Wilson, in the Marigny. Originally, the two had only planned to stay for a few months, but Leonard Bracket set him up with a few recording opportunities, and Orange joined the Black Musician’s Union. From there, he started getting gigs and recording sessions and everything, he recalls, “just fell into place.”
The first time Orange Kellin came to Preservation Hall, he saw Kid Sheik perform along with Captain John Handy, Chester Jones on drums and Sing Miller on piano. He recalls being instantly captivated by the quality of the sound. It was only two short months later that year that he himself would be called to perform at Preservation Hall. Allan Jaffe gave him a key to the Hall, telling him he could come in whenever he wanted to practice. Kellin delayed his trip back to Sweden for the first time that Christmas, but as one thing led to another, he recalls, “I just never went back. For many years I didn’t realize I lived here,” he says, laughingly. “Every year I thought, next year I’m going back. While on tour in Sweden in the ’70s, I realized, I don’t actually live here anymore. I live in New Orleans.”
In March of 1967, Orange moved in to his own apartment next to Preservation Hall, which he rented from Larry Borenstein, the original owner of the art gallery where Preservation Hall first came to be. In 1970, he moved into an apartment in the French Quarter. He later bought the building, and he has lived there ever since.
In the late 1960s, along with his friend and colleague, Lars Edegran, Orange helped to found the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, a group that played the traditional repertoire of the pre-war days. In the beginning, the group included Allan Jaffe on tuba, Josiah “Cie” Frazier on drums, Paul Crawford on trombone, Bill Russell on violin, Lars Edegran on piano, Andrew Anderson from Olympia brass band on trumpet, and others. Together, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra performed at the very first Newport Jazz Festival, where Orange met Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson. The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra would go on to play at Newport nearly every year that followed.
In the early 1970s, Orange Kellin toured Europe and the States with a band he co-founded called the New Orleans Joymakers, whose 1972 album, Percy Humphrey and the New Orleans Joymakers, remains a memorable recording. Over the many years of his career, Kellin would go on to record with many of the classic New Orleans talents of the era, including Cie Frazier, Preston Jackson, Jim Robinson, Jabbo Smith, Zutty Singleton and Kid Thomas Valentine.
In the late 1970s, Orange Kellin performed on the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s 1978 film, Pretty Baby, soon followed by the Grammy-nominated New Orleans vaudevillian theatre revue, One Mo’ Time, which was another highpoint in his career. Kellin served as musical director and co-arranger for One Mo’ Time, alongside Lars Edegran, who he enlisted to help with the arrangements for the production. The first local performance of One Mo’ Time was held at the Toulouse Theater (later renamed and re-opened as One Eyed Jacks), and became a near-immediate hit. By 1979, the production had moved to off Broadway in New York. One Mo’ Time remains the second longest running off Broadway show to date. In the 1980s, Kellin appeared with the show during its long and successful run in London’s West End. In 2002, the production was revived and restaged on Broadway.
In 1992, Orange Kellin made his first solo tour of the UK. A gifted and multi-faceted player, Kellin’s dedication to New Orleans music has made him an ambassador of New Orleans music to the world. His playing has a sweet, melodic tone, with a beautiful timbre and intricate runs and trills. Kellin also excels as an ensemble musician with an ability to blend his sound seamlessly with that of other players.
In 2018, he was inducted as a Master Practitioner into the Preservation Hall Legacy Program, a program that honors veteran musicians recognized for their immense cultural impact in the jazz community who continue to serve as cultural and musical beacons within the Greater New Orleans area and throughout the world. The Preservation Hall Legacy Program provides a critical lifeline to elder musicians in the New Orleans community with direct financial stipends and ongoing support.
Multi-instrumentalist Lars Edegran was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1944. His father, a postmaster, played guitar and banjo informally, as did Edegran’s elder brother, who played piano. Lars was exposed to music in the home from an early age, particularly American blues and jazz records, and began taking piano lessons at age 7. As a teenager, his elder brother began playing in a jazz band, and band practice was often held at the Edegran family home. Lars, too, would form his own jazz band in a few short years, which included fellow Swedish musician, “Orange” Kellin, with whom he would go on to develop a life-long friendship and working relationship. As teenagers, their band gained a local following and a fan club, and they traveled to play regional gigs via train.
While at university in Stockholm, Lars began traveling around Europe. He knew of America––and particularly, New Orleans––through music, books and film, and when, by chance, he met the owner of the Jazz Record Mart music store in Chicago and the owner offered him a job, Lars jumped at the chance. Edegran traveled to Chicago in March of 1965 and began working at the music store, laughingly recalling his surprise that Chicago was even colder than Sweden. During that time, Lars saw some of the brightest blues talents of the day perform, including Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and Lightnin’ Hopkins.
In August of 1965, along with a wave of other European musicians traveling to New Orleans, Lars hitchhiked from Chicago to New Orleans and arrived just before Hurricane Betsy hit. On his first day in New Orleans, he came to Preservation Hall. He remembers it this way:
I came by [Preservation Hall] in the afternoon and they were having a rehearsal for a recording session. Allan Jaffe, the founder of Preservation Hall, was here, and I got invited by him, which I thought was amazing. I was standing right by the gate here, and he was inside, and I hear the music and I'm peeping in––because I didn't even know what this place looked like or anything. So he asked me if I was interested in music and I said yes; I'm a musician. I played in Sweden before I came over here. I told him a little bit about my story, and that's when he invited me in. And then he let me sit in and play a song with the band––which I thought was really amazingly friendly for somebody to talk to a new person in town, who had no credits whatsoever. But anyway, that was my first experience in Preservation Hall.
Lars quickly began to meet other local musicians, including Johnny Wiggs, who helped him find work painting houses and other odd jobs. Edegran had long been influenced by the New Orleans sound, particularly the work of banjoist Father Al Lewis and pianist Tuts Washington. Over time, Lars would go on to become a true multi-instrumentalist, working in piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin and clarinet. He began playing in a number of local brass bands, and eventually became a clarinetist for the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, led by Andrew Morgan.
Lars Edegran made his first recording within a year of being in New Orleans, and had found his first steady music gig by 1968 playing at the famed Luthjen’s Dance Hall in the Marigny, where he would play for two years. He joined the Black Musician’s Union, which led to other steady gigs and strong relationships with his fellow New Orleanian musicians. During his time performing at Preservation Hall and throughout the city in the late 1960s, he met and performed with many of the classic talents of New Orleans jazz, including Kid Sheik, “Sweet” Emma Barrett, Earl Humphrey, Harold Dejan, Dave Oxley, Emanuel Sayles, Billie and Dee Dee Pierce, and countless others.
Mr. Edegran had also begun working part-time at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University in the sheet music department, where he became inspired by much of the pre-war written music that surrounded him. He founded the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, alongside Orange Kellin, in order to perform ragtime repertoire and learn more about the tradition, and the group quickly found a following. In the beginning, Allan Jaffe played tuba with them (although there were, of course, no tuba parts in traditional ragtime so Lars had to rewrite the arrangements to include the instrument), along with Josiah “Cie” Frazier on drums, Paul Crawford on trombone, Bill Russell on violin, Orange Kellin on clarinet, Andrew Anderson from the Olympia Brass Band on trumpet, and others. Together, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, where Edegran met Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong. Although Louis Armstrong was in failing health by this time and sang instead of performing on his trumpet, Edegran remembers Armstrong saying that the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra sounded just like the Joe Robichaux music that inspired him as a child.
The first time Lars returned to his home country of Sweden was in 1972 as a touring musician. Over the years he would tour Europe extensively with a number of New Orleans performance ensembles. While in the States, he spent much of the ’70s gigging heavily on Bourbon Street. In the latter part of that decade, he was hired on to do the musical arrangements for the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s 1978 film, Pretty Baby, shot on location in New Orleans, and appeared as a musician in a scene in the film. The soundtrack for Pretty Baby would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award.
One of Edegran’s most memorable successes was with the New Orleans 1920s vaudevillian revue theatre production, One Mo’ Time, which was first performed in New Orleans followed by a 1979 off Broadway opening in New York. Edegran co-wrote and/or arranged much of the music for the production, and formally moved to New York with the revue for two years. While in New York, he took classes at Juilliard in music theory and counterpoint. He also studied with Cab Calloway’s arranger, a saxophonist, to learn more about arranging for jazz.
Over the last five decades of his lengthy career, Lars Edegran has gone from a European admirer of New Orleans music from afar to an ambassador of New Orleans music to the world. In more recent years, he continues to produce for GHB Records for a wide range of musicians and has performed at the White House with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In 2010, he received an award from the New Orleans Preservation Resource Center for outstanding musical contribution to the New Orleans community and jazz heritage. In 2018, he was inducted as a Master Practitioner into the Preservation Hall Legacy Program, a program that honors veteran musicians recognized for their immense cultural impact in the jazz community who continue to serve as cultural and musical beacons within the Greater New Orleans area and beyond. The Preservation Hall Legacy Program provides a critical lifeline to elder musicians in the New Orleans community with direct financial stipends and ongoing support.