Gerald French’s musical family lineage is almost as old as New Orleans itself. His grandfather Albert “Papa” French was the third leader of The Tuxedo Band, originated by “Papa” Celestin in 1909. His uncle, Bob French, is a talented drummer in his own right who succeeded “Papa” French as the leader of the Tuxedo Band. Gerald’s father, George French, is one of New Orleans’ premiere rhythm and blues singers and guitarists.
Gerald started playing the drums at the age of 5. He is the current drummer for Ms. Charmaine Neville and is the co-founder and drummer of the rhythm and blues band Abstract.
Gerald has performed with Leroy Jones, Harry Connick, Jr., Dr. John, Dr. Michael White, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, just to name a few. He also appeared on several recordings and television shows including Undercover Blues with Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quad and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Gerald has traveled around the world playing all types of music. He has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival, Pori Jazz Festival, and Montroux Jazz Festival.
Hal Smith took up the drums in 1963, and became a full-time professional musician in 1978. He has played with many of the best Traditional Jazz and Swing bands including the Dukes of Dixieland, Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Yerba Buena Stompers, the Fat Babies and many others. Hal has also played Western Swing (Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition; Jason Roberts Band); Rockabilly (Memphis Speed Kings, the Hayriders, Gino and the Lone Gunmen, Cash Kings, Big Rig Deluxe) and Blues (James Harman, Junior Watson, Nathan James/Ben Hernandez, Blue Largo, Johnny Rover, Billy Watson).
Hal was influenced by hearing Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Wayne Jones and Fred Higuera in live performance. He has also studied the recordings of drummers Sid Catlett, Dave Tough, Zutty Singleton, Jo Jones, Minor Hall, George Wettling, Morey Feld, Gene Krupa, Harry Dial, Johnny Wells, Vic Berton, Stan King, Ray Bauduc, Bill Dart, Monte Mountjoy and more. When Hal Smith plays, the spirits of George Wettling, Zutty Singleton and Dave Tough smile. Whether it’s small group swing, San Francisco Jazz, 1920s classics or freewheeling Eddie Condon jazz, his playing lifts up the music with taste, class and subtle ideas.
He is the leader of the Kid Ory style On The Levee Band, Pretty Wild, Swing Central and co-leader of the Rock Island Roustabouts. He is a frequent performer with groups led by Kris Tokarski, Tim Laughlin, Banu Gibson (New Orleans); Brooks Prumo Orchestra, Floyd Domino's All-Stars, Dan Walton and the Jump Cats, Thrift Set Orchestra (Austin); Cash In Hand Band (Winchester, CA); Memphis Speed Kings (Reunion Band). Jazz researcher and writer. Alex's and Mittens' daddy.
Hal has performed on Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” Texas Public Radio’s “Riverwalk – Live From The Landing,” numerous television programs and on over 200 recordings.
Currently Hal lives in Searcy, Arkansas. He works frequently with New Orleans-based bands led by Kris Tokarski, Tim Laughlin and Banu Gibson; with Jeff Barnhart’s Fats Waller Legacy Band (Mystic, CT) and with Grammy Award-winning pianist Floyd Domino’s All-Stars (Austin, TX).