Salon Series: A Tribute to the Olympia Serenaders with Lester Caliste

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  • Tags: Salon Series
  • Restrictions: All Ages
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Join us for a very special tribute to the Olympia Serenaders with Mr Lester Caliste at 5 and 6 PM.

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.”

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.”

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.

The Salon Series at 726 St. Peter is an expansion of Preservation Hall’s mission to Protect, Preserve, and Perpetuate through explorations of music, visual art, film, dance, digital content, and collaboration featuring Artists from both our resident musical collective as well as regional and visiting artists from all genres and disciplines.  As a venue and platform for sustaining traditions and fostering community from its inception, #Salon726 presentations offer a unique environment for Creators to celebrate the past, present, and future with new presentations that that cross discipline, geography, and perspective.