The New Orleans Jazz Vipers are a seven-piece swing band playing regularly to enthusiastic audiences in New Orleans and all over the world. The band's repertoire comes from the likes of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Dicky Wells, Benny Carter, and Count Basie, including well-known favorites and more obscure treasures.
Founding members Joe Braun (saxophone), John Rodli (acoustic guitar) and Robert Snow (acoustic bass) first met in 1995 when they were part of the vibrant street music scene in Jackson Square. Gradually the band evolved to its present formation. Trumpeter extraordinaire Charlie Fardella joined in the summer of 2002. Bass saxophonist Tom Saunders, whose extensive knowledge of the traditional jazz repertoire has been honed by years as a DJ at WWOZ, joined the band soon after, followed bu Bruce Brackman. The most recent and very welcome addition to the band is Matt Rhody on violin. Lead vocals are handled by Joe, John, Tom and Charlie, and all the members of the band provide backing vocals.
Their second CD, Live on Frenchmen Street, won Offbeat Magazine's 2004 Best of the Beat Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album, The Vipers new CD "Hope You're Comin' Back", won the 2006 Best of the Beat Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album. The band has also won the 2005 Big Easy Award for Best Traditional Jazz Band as well as the 2004 "Best of the Beat" Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album (for the album "Live on Frenchmen Street"). In 2001 and 2003 they won the "Best of the Beat" Award for Best Emerging Traditional Jazz Band. The band was voted one of the top three jazz bands in the 2004 Readerâ€™s Poll in Where Yâ€™at Magazine.
Part of the unique sound of the Jazz Vipers comes from the fact that they rarely use any amplification, and they are part of a growing number of bands on Frenchmen Street who trust that the audience will eventually quiet down enough to enjoy the music. When necessary, mikes are used and set-up is minimal. The sound of the band is at the same time retro, full of energy, and unpretentious, with both up-tempo dance numbers and well-chosen ballads; it has been aptly described as neo-trad-jazz. The Vipers are popular with swing dancers and the music appeals to audiences of all ages. To quote the review of their latest CD in offBEAT Magazine: "Above all else, these are cool musicians, fully cognizant that less is more and that jazz...is dance music."