About The Band
Hal Smith - drums, leader
A full-time musician since 1978, Hal has played in nearly every Classic jazz band of note: the Dukes of Dixieland, Jim Cullum Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, New Black Eagles, Fat Babies, Banu Gibson and led bands such as the Roadrunners, with Bobby Gordon and Rebecca Kilgore. He lives in Central Arkansas and travels across the U.S. to work with bands including his own “Swing Central” and “Pretty Wild.” In addition to his musical activities, Hal writes for America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society’s JAZZ RAMBLER. He is a longtime fan of Kid Ory’s drummer Minor Hall.
Clint Baker -
A lifetime student of New Orleans Jazz, Clint has mastered all the instruments that are commonly found in a traditional jazz band. He has performed around the world on cornet, trombone, clarinet, banjo, guitar, bass, tuba and drums. His resumé includes appearances with the New Orleans Rascals (Osaka, Japan); Jim Cullum Jazz Band, Barbara Dane, and his own group, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band. Currently he tours with the Grand Dominion Jazz Band and the Yerba Buena Stompers and maintains a busy schedule in the Bay Area as bandleader, sideman and teacher.
Ben Polcer - trumpet
Ben Polcer grew up at listening to jazz greats at his father’s famous New York music club, The Eddie Condon Jazz Club. After finishing his music degree at Michigan, he performed a variety of genres in New York before moving to New Orleans to play the early jazz music he loves in its birthplace. He has toured with the Loose Marbles, Meschiya Lake and has led bands at swing dance events across the U.S. Currently he leads the New Orleans Six. Ben brings to every performance his passion for the collective ensemble style that makes the New Orleans jazz sound so distinct.
Joe Goldberg - clarinet
Joe, a native Floridian, is an accomplished reedman. He admires the classic sounds of Omer Simeon, Johnny Dodds and Sidney Bechet as well as modern Jazzmen. In addition to clarinet, he plays saxophone and flute and has performed Swing, Blues and Funk music. Joe has played a wide variety of Jazz styles with Jason Marsalis and with Marcus Roberts’ Modern Jazz Generation. He can also be heard at a number of venues in and around New Orleans with the Smoking Time Jazz Club and several other modern and Traditional groups.
Kris Tokarski - piano
Originally from New Jersey, Kris is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music. He also studied with legendary Bebop pianist Barry Harris and holds a Master’s Degree in Music from the University of New Orleans. Since relocating to New Orleans in 2011 Kris has become one of the busiest pianists in the city, performing at the Bombay Club, NOSH, Allways Lounge, Steamboat Natchez and Kingfish among others. His favorite pianists run the gamut from Jelly Roll Morton to Bud Powell, and he is especially fond of the keyboard style of Kid Ory’s pianist Don Ewell.
Alex Belhaj - guitar
Alex is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he led his own Crescent City Quartet in addition to playing folk music, and with Blues and Klezmer groups. He also played with the James Dapogny Quartet and the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band before moving to New Orleans. In the Crescent City he works frequently with Tim Laughlin, Duke Heitger, the Riverside Jazz Collective, and the Messy Cookers Jazz Band, to name a few. Alex is an outstanding interpreter of vintage Jazz guitar stylists like Johnny St. Cyr and Kid Ory’s longtime sideman Bud Scott.
Joshua Gouzy - upright bass
Josh grew up in New Orleans and absorbed the traditions of the city’s great bassists: Pops Foster, Wellman Braud, Steve Brown, Al Morgan — and Ed “Montudie” Garland, the linchpin of Kid Ory’s rhythm sections of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Joshua holds music degrees from Loyola University of New Orleans as well as the University of New Orleans. He is the proprietor of Magnolia Entertainment and also plays with a wide variety of bands including the Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band, Russell Welch Hot Quintet, Aurora Nealand, the World’s Finest Apples, The Fritzels All-Star Jazz Band, and his own band, the Catahoulas. Joshua also performed with and managed the New Orleans Jazz Vipers for over seven years.