Somewhere, there's an attractive educator who has no idea she inspired the band name Naughty Professor.
"Our trumpet player had a hot teacher once," says drummer Sam Shahin, chuckling on the phone from Vermont, "and there's really not much more to it than that."
Cheekiness aside, Shahin says the name also represents the raw sound this New Orleans-based, instrumental jazz/funk sextet, who mostly met while attending the city's Loyola University, creates with their music. It's certainly what attracted Shahin, who's been drumming with them for the past two years. "I had always liked Naughty Professor and been a big fan of their music," he says.
Austin native Shahin, 24, was already in a band with Professor members Noah Young (bass) and Nick Ellman (alto and baritone sax) called Crooked Culture, which Shahin says "has broken up entirely." When Professor's previous drummer left the group to move to upstate Louisiana and work on a farm, Shahin eventually showed up with his sticks. "I kind of came and auditioned for them for a while and played some of their songs," he says. "And we decided to join forces."
Now that guitarist Bill Daniel, trumpeter John Culbreth and tenor sax man Ian Bowman have just graduated from Loyola, the band can now fully concentrate on getting their music out there. Over the four years they've been a band, Professor has released an album and an EP (which can be downloaded on their website, naughtyprofessormusic.com) and has opened up for such artists and groups as Victor Wooten, Fitz and the Tantrums, Snarky Puppy and the Rebirth Brass Band.
"We've been focusing on New Orleans and building up our sound and getting to play with some of the people who are the reason that a lot of us were attracted to New Orleans to begin with," Shahin says. "And that's been a lot of fun."
Much like some of the artists they've opened for, Naughty Professor is out to bring fresh, contemporary pep to some retro music, often mining their influences for riffs and licks they can put a modern-day spin on.
"We're jazz cats in some sense, but we're really making music in the modern era, you know," says Shahin, whose influences range from Count Basie and Max Roach to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. "We all have a lot of different influences that contribute to our sound. So, there's even a lot of polarizing ones. Some guy will like, say, Mingus or other cats really like the free-jazz realm with Sun Ra and stuff like that. So, it's a wide variety that kind of differs individually, player by player. But that's what we hope creates a diverse sound."
Even though this 20-something crew plays with an obvious, youthful vibrancy, Shahin says he and his fellow bandmates are well-aware their music education is far from over.
"I think that we all really, really appreciate that there's a lot that comes from maturity, and we try to approach ourselves with as much maturity as we have and take that everywhere we go," he says. "But we do have a youthful energy and sort of a range to us. But it's all about learning everyday and so, everyday that we do get older and everyday that we do something new or go somewhere new, we try to let that impact everything we write and the way we act in the music industry as much as possible."
Currently on tour (they'll perform at the Pour House Music Hall Friday night), Naughty Professor will start work on a full-length album when they get back to N'awlins in the fall. Until then, they'll be hitting cities all over the country, possibly getting more smoking-hot teachers out on the town all hot-and-bothered with their music.