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Don Vappie

Musicians / Band

Music Note
  • Contemporary Jazz
  • R&B
  • Swing
  • Traditional Jazz
  • Banjo
  • Bass
  • Guitar

Don Vappie is perhaps best known as a virtuosic banjo player, but he is also a gifted guitarist, bassist, singer, teacher, and composer. He is fluent in funk, contemporary jazz – indeed, most genres of the day – but his heart lies with the traditional New Orleans music he calls “Creole Jazz.” He is one of the world’s pre-eminent banjoists and a recent inductee into the Banjo Hall of Fame.

Born in 1956 in New Orleans, Vappie played brass instruments in high school, and majored in bass in college. As a teen, he played electric bass in a funk band (Track One) and, at age 17, at the storied Blue Room behind many great musicians who passed through the city. While working at Werlein’s Music Store he took up the banjo, intrigued by its funk possibilities. He soon made the deep dive into the music of his hometown, particularly the jazz that connected with his own Creole heritage.

Vappie has performed extensively with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and with Otis Taylor. In 1995 Vappie formed the Creole Jazz Serenaders, focusing on classic jazz from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, and celebrating the music’s Creole French and Latin heritage.

The Creole Jazz Serenaders have received world-wide attention. Their recording, “Creole Blues” is one of Offbeat Magazine’s 100 Essential Louisiana CDs, and has been featured on NPR’s “American Routes” and on Delta Airlines’ inflight entertainment programming. Another CD, “In Search of King Oliver,” prompted a PRI radio series of the same name, and inclusion in the Glen Pitre film, “The Home Front.”

Don Vappie has performed and recorded with Eric Clapton, Bela Fleck, Peggy Lee, Joel Gray, Carol Channing, Wynton Marsalis, Otis Taylor, Terence Blanchard, Johnny Adams, Cheick Hamala Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate (both of Mali), Demma DIa of Sengal, Bette Midler, Danny Barker, Doc Cheatham, Ellis Marsalis, Diana Krall and many more. He has headlined at festivals and venues worldwide.

As an educator, he has participated in programs at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Tulane University, the Smithsonian, the Historic New Orleans Collection, and many more. He is on faculty at Loyola University of New Orleans and at the and currently serves as jazz guitar instructor at Loyola University and at the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music, sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation.

Vappie is also a prolific composer and orchestral arranger. Major film credits include “Next Friday” (2000), “Eve's Bayou” (1997) and “Lana in Love” (1991).

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