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Paulin Brothers' Brass Band

New Orleans brass band
New Orleans, Louisiana

Paulin Brothers Brass Band

“I made history because I had so many sons in my band—especially playing this kind of music,” the late, great Doc Paulin once said. “That’s a wonderful thing.”

Ernest “Doc” Paulin was born in rural Wallace, Louisiana, in 1907, and passed away a century later downriver in New Orleans. In the 100-year interim, he built a venerable jazz legacy that his sons carry on today. Doc’s father was an accordionist, but Paulin was introduced to jazz music by his uncle, trombonist Edgar Peters, who gave him his first coronet and brought him to gigs in the Big Easy. Paulin moved to New Orleans in 1928. Doc Paulin’s Dixieland Jazz Band was a beloved fixture in the city for seven decades, playing Preservation Hall, regular gigs at the Corner Club, and leading joyful parades throughout the city’s wards.

Traditional New Orleans jazz embodies the creolized culture of that proud city, combining African, European, and Caribbean musical aesthetics into a distinctly American sound. Traditional New Orleans jazz had two birthplaces: one was the club setting, whether that meant an upscale jazz hall, neighborhood joint, or raucous house party; the other was the street parade, whether a “second line” funeral procession or a Social Aide and Pleasure Club outing. Whatever the setting, Paulin and his band came correct in the suits, ties, and white caps of the traditional parade band, approaching the music with a discipline and verve that made them a touchstone of New Orleans jazz.

Doc Paulin was also noted for his mentorship of younger musicians, including greats like National Heritage Fellow Dr. Michael White. “His band was like a school, in a sense, for traditional New Orleans jazz,” White recalls, "He embodied the spirit of the New Orleans jazz tradition in his manners and his trumpet playing and leadership.” Among those whom he taught were his own sons, who carry on his memory and musical legacy as the Paulin Brothers' Brass Band.

Between them, the five Paulin brothers appearing in Richmond nearly fill out the band’s seven-man roster, with Philip on trumpet, Dwayne on trombone, Roderick on tenor sax, Rickey on clarinet, and Aaron on bass drum. That’s no accident: as Doc Paulin once said, “It’s called simple economics.… The way I look at it, you don’t want a house full of trumpet players.” As New Orleans rebuilds with its vibrant musical traditions at the center, the Paulin Brothers' Brass Band leads the parade as champions of the jazz band tradition, playing to show the world that, as Philip Paulin notes, through all of life’s challenges and celebrations, “you can still enjoy what the good Lord has given you.”