Trombonist Charlie Halloran of St. Louis has some new bragging rights that are pretty impressive.
Halloran, now based in New Orleans, played on fellow New Orleans musician Jon Cleary’s 2015 album, “Go Go Juice,” which recently won a Grammy Award for best regional roots music album.
Halloran, as part of the album’s horn section, is featured on the majority of its tracks.
“It was insane,” says Halloran, considering how his playing on the album came out of nowhere. “This is a first for me. I’m fortunate to have won some local awards like the OffBeat Awards and Big Easy Awards, but a Grammy? Are you kidding me?”
Halloran doesn’t get an actual trophy, but he does receive a certificate saying he played on the album.
The gig with Cleary came about after he’d met Eric Bloom, trumpet player with Lettuce, while playing a gig in New Orleans. They exchanged information, and Halloran thought nothing of it. A year later, Halloran got a call asking if he could do a recording session the next day with Cleary. The gig was at Cleary’s home, around the corner from Halloran’s home; he never knew they were neighbors.
“We put it together really quick over Thanksgiving 2013,” Halloran says. “It took two days. He had the band already tracked. It was just the horn section.”
He says Cleary took his time mixing and mastering the project and shoring up label support, so it sat for a couple of years before being released in 2015.
Halloran is going straight from that project to touring with one of his favorite bands, Squirrel Nut Zippers, as part of its 20th anniversary trek. The dates are being worked out, but he says St. Louis will definitely be on the tour.
He met James “Jimbo” Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers in 2009 while performing in the Mardi Gras parade. Halloran spotted Mathus in the crowd and approached him. He had seen Squirrel Nut Zippers perform at Mississippi Nights back in the day and was always a fan.
“I ran over and say, ‘Hey, I play trombone and we have friends in common.’ He recognized me from gigs in New Orleans and he took my number,” says Halloran, who got a call a month later.
“Squirrel Nut Zippers were it for me when I was a kid,” he says. “They were the band I liked the most.”
Though he has been a frequent touring member of Squirrel Nut Zippers, he never got to record with them. He fell in during the recording of the band’s live album “Lost at Sea.”
Meanwhile, Halloran is also out promoting his debut album under his own name, “Charlie Halloran and the Quality 6,” which was released in November.
The album mostly features his renditions of jazz songs from the ’20s and ’30s — “songs I wasn’t getting the chance to play as often as I would like. It’s ragtime songs, songs that didn’t quite stick with the bands I was playing with.”
His cover versions of songs by Louis Armstrong and WC Handy are included. James “Jimbo” Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers is featured on two songs.
Halloran says he first got interested in the trombone in grade school. His older brothers Tommy and John Halloran were both into music, guitar and drums respectively. “I wanted to be like my brothers,” he says.
His father had a trombone because he liked the instrument, though he never really played it.
“My dad was really into New Orleans music,” Halloran says. “My mom was really into big band music. So I was hearing that music every day growing up and the trombone plays such a big role in that music.”
Also, he gravitated to the trombone because “it’s not as specific as the trumpet. The mechanics of the instrument are a little more lax. You can feel like you’re getting into it more easily than the trumpet or clarinet.”
Halloran performed trombone at Westminster Christian Academy and studied music at Webster University while performing at venues such as Cicero’s, Frederick’s Music Lounge, Off Broadway and the Way Out Club. He played with ska act Secret Cajun Band as well as the Ambiguous They, his band with his brothers.
After graduating from Webster in 2006, he furthered his studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, then relocated to New Orleans.
“I always had my sights on New Orleans,” Halloran says. “That was the music I was listening to.”
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