Smoker’s World

Derrick Freeman

Derrick Freeman is originally from Houston, TX and is on the precipice of a new movement of New Orleans music. He started learning classical piano and percussion at age 8. His music is grounded in southern gospel and jazz. After graduating high school and under the advice of Wynton Marsalis, Derrick accepted a scholarship to study jazz at the University of New Orleans in 1992. At UNO, Derrick refined his skills under the tutelage of Mr. Ellis Marsalis and Mr. Harold Batiste. During that time, Freeman discovered the historical Treme neighborhood where he learned the in’s and out’s of the New Orleans brass band culture. He was inspired by Treme legends Benny Jones Sr., Uncle Lionel Batiste, Tuba Fats, Kermit Ruffins, Corey Henry, and James Andrews. He studied New Orleans jazz drumming under Shannon Powell. Derrick soon became his “understudy”, taking whatever gigs Powell would give him. In 1994 at the age of 20, Freeman began playing and touring worldwide with Kermit Ruffins and The BBQ Swingers.

After three years, Freeman began touring as a drummer for Coolbone, a New Orleans hip-hop brass band. Coolbone toured with groups such as Camp Lo, Spearhead, Wyclef Jean, Ben Harper, and David Byrne. It was on these tours that Freeman’s musical concept changed. He realized music was as much about entertainment as it was about self-fulfillment. After leaving Coolbone in 1998, Freeman returned to New Orleans with a new attitude. He completed his degree in Jazz Studies at UNO. Soon after Freeman hooked up with Steve Tegel (The Vacation) and began writing songs. Along with DJ Droo, Freeman and Tegel, started the short-lived but popular group called Mass Hysteria. Later, Freeman and Tegel joined forces with Davis Rogan in the ever popular New Orleans group All That.

In 2000, Freeman and Doug Miller left All That to start the band Crönk. Crönk quickly became one of the most popular groups in New Orleans. From 2000 to 2002, Crönk toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada and played several festivals in Colorado and California. In addition, they played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2001 and 2002 and headlined at the French Quarter Festival in 2002.

After the break-up of Crönk, Freeman briefly toured with Carlos Washington and Giant People. He then went back to basics, playing freelance gigs, studying music, and composing original material. Freeman played with several New Orleans based groups such as Idletime and Dimorphadon. In 2002 he also rekindled his relationship with DJ Droo and started Wasted Nation, a freaked out Drum n’ Bass group. In 2004 Freeman rejoined Kermit Ruffins and The BBQ Swingers and still performs with them today. In addition, he currently plays with Sir Funk-a-Lot, Corey Henry, Jimbo Mathus, and Jonathan Freilich. Freeman is currently releasing his first solo record, “It Is What It Is” with his group “Smoker’s World”.

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