Travis Hill better known as Trumpet Black Passed Away on May 4th In Japan

Travis Hill better known as Trumpet Black Passed Away on May 4th In Japan Black and second line posterBy: Allison Fensterstock/ Re: published The Times Picayune

Trumpet Black the fiery young trumpeter who played with the New Birth Brass Band, Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet and his own Heart Attacks band, died Monday (May 4) in Tokyo, according to a brief statement from the musician’s publicist. He was 28.

Hill had just arrived in Japan, where he was scheduled to play a string of summer concerts, when he was rushed to the hospital. An infection that had set in after a minor dental procedure the previous week had spread quickly. According to the press release, Hill died at 2:15 p.m. Tokyo time on May 4.

Travis Hill, like his cousins Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, James Andrews and Glen David Andrews, was a grandson of the New Orleans R&B great Jessie Hill, a member of a sprawling dynasty of musicians. The same age as Trombone Shorty, Hill and his cousin grew up musically side-by-side, attending the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp together; as a child and teenager, along with Glen David Andrews, Hill played in his cousin’s first project, the Trombone Shorty Brass Band, as well as with groups like the New Birth and Lil Rascals Brass Bands.

His path diverged from his cousin’s when, still in his teens, Trumpet Black was arrested for armed robbery. He spent nearly nine years in prison. After his release in 2011, Hill threw himself back into music with resolve and racked up successes quickly. He toured for two years as a member of Glen David Andrews’ band and played with the Hot 8 Brass Band. More recently, he performed with Corey Henry and his Treme Funktet and picked up steam with his own band Trumpet Black and the Heart Attacks, with regular gigs at Vaughan’s Lounge and the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar, his family’s new lounge named for Jessie Hill’s 1961 hit. He played the 2015 Jazz Fest with the New Breed Brass Band, as well as a heavy schedule of festival-week shows around New Orleans.

“Today my heart is heavy with the loss of my little cousin, more like my little brother,” Glen David Andrews said Monday. “I love him, I will always love him and never let his memory fade away.”

In late 2014, Hill had begun work on a new album with producer Eric Heigle. The seven tracks were nearly complete, Heigle said Monday afternoon; in fact, he and Hill had plans to work on final mixes remotely while the trumpeter was in Japan.

“Whatever it takes, I’ve cleared my schedule to finish it,” Heigle said.

“It’s a really great record,” he said. “Everyone knows how great he was on the trumpet, but he was a really great singer as well.”

The centerpiece of the project, Heigle said, was an original soul song whose title switched between “Trumpet Is My Life” and “Trumpets Not Guns,” the latter being the name of the nonprofit with which Hill volunteered, playing benefit concerts and working with at-risk children.

“He used his past as a springboard,” Heigle said, squeezing the energy of the time he’d lost in prison into electrifying music. Heigle recited some of the lyrics to “Trumpet Is My Life/ Trumpets Not Guns” into the phone Monday:

“This trumpet is my life, it’s bout the only thing I do right, it’s my ticket to the world,” he said. “Spend time blowing my horn, you need it – it keeps me out the storm,” he said.

Trombone Shorty and members of his Orleans Avenue band appear on the album, Heigle said, as well as June Yamagishi and James Andrews. It includes mostly Travis Hill originals, plus a cover of Earl King’s “Street Parade.”

“The band sounded great. The material is really strong,” he said. “He was shining bright, and everyone around him felt it.”

Lisa Grillot, the co-founder of Trumpets Not Guns, said that she thought of Hill as if he were one of her own eight children.

“He talked to the kids, straight from the hip,” she said. “Like Glen David, they were guys who had been there. ‘I did this, don’t be so stupid.’ He was able to speak from experience, and they listened to him. He was a voice of reason. ”

“He was so proud that he was Jessie Hill’s grandson,” she said. “He was beyond proud of who he was. But at the same time he didn’t define himself by who he was – Trombone Shorty’s cousin, James’ cousin, Jessie’s grandson.

“He was the kid coming back from it all, who was going to take the world by storm.”

Arrangements for Hill have not yet been announced.