Filmmaker James Demaria (Trad) is working on a new film-its working title: Trumpet Black: You Gonna Fall-about the late and beloved Travis Hill, known as Trumpet Black.
Hill, 28, died on May 4 in Tokyo from an infection caught from a minor dental procedure. He had been planning to play a string of summer shows in Japan before heading to Australia.
“He had such a bright future,” says Demaria. “When I first met Travis I saw a look in his eyes and assumed it was from having spent his youth in prison.” (Arrested for armed robbery at 17, Hill spent almost 10 years in prison.) “But it wasn’t. It was a fire burning with a message and a man trying to catch up for those lost years. Travis’ message was for the young black men of his city, New Orleans. It was to not make the same mistakes that he did. I watched him tell some pretty tough kids, ‘You think you’re someone on those streets but when you go away [to prison], you ain’t shit. And you’ll be reminded of that every single day.'”
The film is being co-produced by Leroy Hill, Trumpet Black’s brother. When asked about the project, Hill says, “We are trying to get that positive message out in this documentary. My brother came out of prison a different man-a man with a message-and that message is summed up in his song ‘Trumpets Not Guns.’ It’s all there, man. Crime is on an upswing here in New Orleans and young people need to hear Travis’ message. It’s a crazy world out there, but my brother could get through to the kids. He looked like them; he spoke like them. They listened to him. Through his music and this film, my brother’s message will still be heard.”
According to Demaria, while in prison Hill decided to “give his life to God” and to use his gift of music to “influence the children of New Orleans to live a life with options other than crime.”
A burning, passionate player, Trumpet Black had worked on seven tracks for an album with producer Eric Heigle in late 2014. That album, which includes Hill’s own powerful song, “Trumpets Not Guns,” will be released, according to Heigle. Trumpets Not Guns is also the name of a nonprofit organization that strives to put musical instruments into the hands of New Orleans’ children. Travis Hill volunteered and performed benefit shows for this righteous organization. “He was so charismatic,” says Demaria. “Travis didn’t drink or do drugs-and he cared so much about the youth of his city.”
Jerry Pashin, a New Jersey trumpet player who moved to New Orleans in 2014, had this to say about Trumpet Black: “He was an amazing person always filled with life. Music was his life and he put his all into it at every performance. Travis loved people and people loved him. I first met him at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar owned by his family. He always invited me to play with him. He was on his way to becoming one of the very best talents of all time. Trumpet Black leaves behind a legacy of music and love. His song, ‘Trumpet Not Guns’ is an anthem for peace and nonviolence.”
Hill was born into a renowned musical New Orleans family. His grandfather Jessie Hill (1932-1996) was a popular R&B singer and his cousins include musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, James Andrews and Glen David Andrews.
Demaria-whose Trad is filled with passionate love for New Orleans, its music, and its musicians-will bring the same mojo to Trumpet Black: You Gonna Fall. “I met Travis about a year after he was released. The passion I saw in his eyes was evident, and I heard his message loud and clear-so we started filming.”
The filmmaker is using GoFundMe as a way to finance the film. “Any profits from the sale of the film will go directly to the Hill family,” says Demaria.