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A dive bar in Berlin is a hot spot for New Orleans jazz

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you are planning a trip to Germany, we have something to add to your itinerary. On a trip to Berlin, WWNO's Halle Parker met an honorary New Orlean who's been playing Crescent City jazz at the same bar for the last two decades.

HALLE PARKER, BYLINE: From the outside, Zosch looks like any dive bar. The building is plastered with graffiti, the paint is peeling, and the front door is scratched up and covered with stickers. It's not much, but when I pass through the unassuming exterior and walk down a narrow staircase, I'm excited to hear a familiar sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: New Orleans-style jazz warms every nook and cranny of the small, dark brick basement with its distinctive brass sound and group improvisations. The bar is packed. I sit shoulder to shoulder on a wooden bench with people of many nationalities. On stage, the band is clearly led by a trio of German men in their 80s, and they do not miss a beat. They're called La Foot Creole.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: I'm surprised and delighted to hear the sound of home played so proudly more than 5,000 miles away. So I walk up to its leader, Raimer Losch, between sets. Turns out he fell in love with jazz in New Orleans more than 50 years ago.

RAIMER LOSCH: No one in New Orleans could pronounce my name. I had hundreds of different names. In the end, they called me Wolfgang (laughter).

PARKER: Raimer is the type to laugh deeply with his whole body. He plays the trumpet for Le Foote Creole.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: And he's been doing this for a while. In the '60s, the Frankfurt native moved to Berlin to join his first New Orleans-style jazz band. They were inspired by recordings of New Orleans musicians released after the Great Depression.

LOSCH: We listened to this music and got very excited about it. It's different to all other music, very different. It's very emotional.

PARKER: And from Berlin, they moved to Louisiana in 1969, not only to play, but to learn jazz from the people they considered the masters, Black New Orleanians.

LOSCH: The Black people learned it theirselves by themselves - a little bit of music, and then their feeling came out, and they created original tones on their instruments.

PARKER: So Raimer and his band of five other white German men copied their style. For four years, they played at historic French Quarter venues before returning to Berlin, where he's now training younger musicians in jazz as old band members have left. He knows many in his audience may have never heard of New Orleans jazz, but he doesn't care.

LOSCH: For us, it's not important. We play our stuff, and we know that the people don't know anything about the music.

PARKER: Though for a crowd that doesn't know much, La Foot Creole has played a full house at the same Berlin bar for the past 20 years.

LOSCH: They wonder what we're doing, but we love our music, and we have a chance to show people that this music has something different to it. You know?

PARKER: Oh, yes, Raimer. Us New Orleanians - we know.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: For NPR News, I'm Halle Parker in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Halle Parker