2013-01-23 19:52:04 - Once again, Jimmy Maxwell leads the music of the New Orleans Mardi Gras. However this year, he is turning over the conducting responsibilities to his son, Robert Maxwell
In 1981, Jimmy Maxwell decided to give himself six months to make it--or break it--as an orchestra leader. Although Maxwell's father, Ed, was one of New Orleans' best known drummers, 23-year-old Jimmy had taken what he considered to be a safe route: selling insurance and real estate. However, the pull of music wouldn't fade, so Maxwell, a pianist, decided that if he finished out 180 days with less money than when he went in, he would hang up his piano keys and hang out his real estate license--forever.
Today, he presides over a half million per year business, and that baton is still in his hand. "I must have made the right decision," he says, "because we keep getting calls."
Anyone who has ever heard Jimmy's music can understand why. His continually-expanding repertoire ranges from Broadway hits and big band swing to '50s, '60s, and rock tunes. But the real key is the very special stamp that he puts on his music: the Maxwell tempo. It literally had them dancing in the aisles as he played at the 1989 Republican Convention. And when Douglas Wilder recently made history as the nation's first black governor, thousands of Virginians at the Richmond Coliseum danced hours into the inaugural night with the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra.
Maxwell doesn't confine himself to the political arena. His 125 to 150 engagements each year take him across the country and throughout the world as he entertains for charity events, debutante balls, corporate events, and private parties.
However, don't plan on finding him out of town during New Orleans' famed Carnival season. Cited by New Orleans' Times Picayune as "the man responsible for the traditional sounds of Mardi Gras," he played his first Mardi Gras ball in 1981. This year the band will provide the music for two dozen parties and balls, including the prestigious meeting of the courts of Rex and Comus.
Today, millions of miles and thousands of engagements later, Maxwell is still taking it six months at a time. "I'm superstitious," he laughs. Apparently not too much so, though, since two years ago he handed over his baton to his son, Robert Maxwell, an award winning percussionist who recently graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Music.
"I let Robert tell me the latest pop and rock songs," he says, "while I concentrate on the jazz and swing standards of the Great American Songbook."
And there's power in that concentration-just try to stay in your seat when Jimmy and Robert Maxwell are leading the band.