‘Play it! Play it!’ Trumpet-carrying teen joins impromptu jam with Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Arts / Article

By Jodi Farrell, Adrienne Arsht Center Miami Carol City High School senior Lorenzo Jones played with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band before 1,500 people in the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall on March 14.

Wherever Miami Carol City High senior Lorenzo Jones goes, so does his trumpet.

The habit paid off Friday night, when members of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band spotted the young horn player and invited him on stage to jam with them at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

Jones, 19, impressed the Dirty Dozen so much with his skillful playing of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” during rehearsal that they asked him to play that evening in the New Orleans-themed show featuring Aaron Neville. The Miami teen was participating in Jazz Roots Sound Check, an education program at the Arsht Center that gives public high school music students a behind-the-scenes experience at Jazz Roots concerts, a Larry Rosen jazz series presented by the Arsht Center with support from Wells Fargo.

Until Friday, Jones had played for his school bands, his church and Wright & Young Funeral Home. Now he can add playing before a rowdy crowd of 1,500 in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall.

“I was so nervous, but then I closed my eyes and got into the zone,” he said.

Wearing a bright-yellow American Eagle sweatshirt and dark-blue jeans rolled up at the ankles, Jones strode out on the Swanee and Paul DiMare Stage and effortlessly blended into “When the Saints Go Marching In,” swinging into his own solo groove near the end as the audience cheered wildly. He had never played the song before.

Lorenzo with Dirty Dozen Brass Band 3.14.14

“I improvised,” he said. “I just rolled with the bass line and played the melody over it. I couldn’t see any of the faces in the audience or tell who was who. I remember a lady was tapping the stage by my foot and yelling, ‘Play it, play it!’ The band was so cool and humble. They told me to have fun, so I did.”

It wasn’t until the next morning, when Jones started receiving calls and text messages, that it sunk in and he realized, “Oh my God, I played in front of all those people!” His most memorable moment: Receiving a standing ovation from the entire third tier when he returned his seat and his bandmates.

Jones, who started playing trumpet in sixth grade at Carol City Middle School, says he looks up to jazz greats Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis and Chris Botti. But he says it’s his best friends – trombone player Sheldon Collier, 18, and trumpet player Samuel Maxwell, 18, – who influence him the most, along with Carol City Band Director Hank Hankerson. Raised by a single mom, he practices two to three hours a day and is the only one among his four brothers and four sisters who plays music.

He’s been offered band scholarships at Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Florida Memorial, Florida International University and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He’s not sure which one he’ll choose, but one thing is certain. He’ll keep carrying his trumpet.

Lorenzo in Green Room