Broussard will play just about any instrument you hand him. In addition to accordion and fiddle he plays bass, drums, and guitar. So it's no surprise there are many musically inclined youth in Broussard’s hometown of Opelousas LA who have approached him for lessons. Like a lot of kids before them their first instinct is to infuse a contemporary feel into otherwise customary music forms like blues and bluegrass. When aspiring musicians arrive at the doorstep of Jeffery Broussard he often has to break it to them that he prefers the more time-honored method of instruction.
“When they first show up I have to ask them, what is it you want to learn?” Broussard said during a recent interview. “I tell them if they’re looking for the hip-hop style of zydeco you’re in the wrong place. They have to know up front that I teach to keep the traditional style of zydeco going.”
Get an early start on the Mardi Gras carnival season on January 26 when Jeffery Broussard brings his band, the Creole Cowboys, to Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids.
You can say Broussard came by the tradition honestly. He was born into a zydeco family. His father Delton Broussard was a noted zydeco accordion player who fronted his own group, the Lawtell Playboys. Jeffery was eight when he began playing drums with the family band. Back then Delton Broussard & the Lawtell Playboys were known as innovators in Cajun country by how they melded modern R & B and funk with the well-established roots sounds of people like Clifton Chenier. Later on Jeffery’s first band, Zydeco Force, also became part of this nouveau zydeco movement.
But Broussard ultimately preferred the more standard approach to music. He often plays the single note accordion, frequently used for the time-honored two-step social dance. He’ll also break out the fiddle once or twice during the night if someone calls out a waltz.
Broussard doesn’t read music; he is self taught and plays everything by ear. This can pose a challenge when it comes to teaching.
“I advise my students to bring a camera or cell phone to record their lessons,” Broussard said. “I’ll play the song at normal speed then I’ll break it down slower and slower until I’m playing just one note at a time. Then they can watch the recording at home when they practice.”
Broussard is not the only multi-instrumentalist in the Creole Cowboys. Jeffery says that he and his bass player, who also plays fiddle, will switch axes on certain songs to further the dynamic of the performance.
There must be something about playing zydeco music at this time of year that makes Jeffery Broussard want load up the van again and drive all the way up north in the snow.
“I grew up around it,” he said of the zydeco tradition. “It’s about our culture. After my father passed I felt like I wanted to do something to keep his legacy going. This is one way I can do that.”
Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, 8:30 pm, Jan 26 at Founders Brewery. Free.
More info about the band: jefferybroussard.com