Queen Clarinet. Lady Louis. Jazz clarinetist and music educator Doreen Ketchens is famous for her performances on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She tells Ben Redwine for Clarinet.org:
It’s been 30-35 years, 4 days a week. Early on, 12 hours a day. We’d start at 9 in the morning and play until 9 or sometimes even until 11 at night! As we got older, we realized how to make more money in less time, so now, we play for about 5 hours a day. When it’s really busy, sometimes we’ll still play for 8 hours. It’s crazy, but it’s what you do!
But Ketchens’ performances go far beyond the French Quarter. She has performed around the globe, “at concert halls and music festivals, at U.S. Embassies,” and in television shows. She’s played “for four U.S. Presidents: Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter…” as well as with fellow performers like Trombone Shorty, Dorothy Donegan, The Black Crows, and the late great Ellis Marsalis, to name a few.
Her ability to hold long high notes is legendary, as demonstrated in the video above. Captured by Brazil-based filmmaker Carol Caffe in 2014, Doreen’s Jazz Band—including her husband Lawrence Ketchens II on the tuba—performed The House of The Rising Sun. Caffe wrote:
I’m making a documentary about New Orleans and could not include this scene. But it was the most inspiring moments of my experience in the city. This phenomenon woman made me buy an instrument as soon as I came home.
She did NOT lose her breath in that one, but made everyone lose their own, making very lively street art in New Orleans.
Watch more jazz performances on TKSST:
• Jazz Fundamentals: What Is Improvisation? What Are the Blues?
• “Jazz is the mother of hip hop.”
• Jubilee Stomp performed by Tuba Skinny
• Louis Armstrong sings ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’
• What happened that time Ella Fitzgerald forgot the lyrics?