“That last one just about did me in!” he laughed…
The crowd burst into thunderous applause that shook the bar inside the jazz joint where “Lu-Lu” Jones and his band were playing, rattling the liquor bottles on the shelves of the mirrored wall where they were kept like a California earthquake. It felt good… I mean, really good.
It was Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, and after blowing his trumpet for 78 of the 89 years his youthful heart had been beating, Lawrence never grew tired of the warm feeling that washed over him after performing a song. It is a feeling hard to describe to anyone that has never experienced what happens to a man when the intricately twisted mass of brass and nickel called a trumpet is held up to his lips springs to life from the breath created from his lungs, becoming an extension of his very own being and consciousness while the voices of strings, reeds, piano, and drums around him blend into one, almost tantric, musical experience called “Jazz”. It’s a beautiful thing. Something happens in that moment which opens a door in the very heart of one’s soul that leads you to another different, wonderfully indescribable place.
Lawrence “Lu-Lu” Jones received his first horn at the age of 11 from his mother after he expressed interest in the small, shrill instrument. Up until then, Lawrence’s only experience with music was the simple recorder given to him to play by his school music teacher the year before. He excelled in his music studies and quickly learned his scales. Lawrence showed great promise at an early age. His mother decided to purchase the horn for him one Sunday afternoon when the boy became excited after hearing the trumpet played while they both attended a charity fund raiser for disabled war veterans hosted by his church featuring a territory band from the from a nearby town in 1932. His mother, a piecemeal worker at a handkerchief factory, spent countless hours sewing thousands of monograms and other endless designs on those white, cotton squares not only so she could give her son that trumpet, but also something much more valuable: A chance at a better life. A life that would bring nearly a century of inspiration and joy to not only Lawrence, but to jazz itself, and the myriad of people who heard great “Lu-Lu” Jones’s music and whose lives had been touched by it, and the ones that were lucky enough to meet him.
“Lu-Lu” Jones developed into one of jazz music’s most innovative and diverse trumpeters, and one of the most influential composers of his time. In his own famous words, he was still “Living the dream!” at 89 years of age. Still gigging on Fat Tuesday, always looking forward to what the future held in store for him.
The stage lights were hot and bright, and the music and sounds flowing through and spilling out of that little jazz bar and into the streets of New Orleans were jumping. The band was tight. “Lu-Lu” put the punctuation on the final song of the second set.
“That last one just about did me in!” he laughed as the crowd applauded with a deafening roar.
Then… they gasped, and then… they fell silent.
Lawrence “Lu-Lu” Jones had collapsed onto the stage floor with the sound of a thousand kettle drums being struck at once. In his lifeless hands, cradled in his chest against his now, non-beating heart, he held the trumpet his mother had given to him so many, many decades ago. The smile that he had earned, never leaving his face.