Perhaps it’s the spontaneous conversations and improvisations for which it’s best known, but there must be something about jazz that brings out brotherly love. The history of jazz is full of famous brothers: The Dorsey Brothers from Pennsylvania, Nat and Cannonball Adderley from Tampa, the Mangione Brothers from upstate New York, the Heath Brothers from Philadelphia, the Montgomery Brothers from Indianapolis, and so on.
For identical twins Dwayne and Dwight Bosman, born and raised in St. Louis, jazz has always been a Bosman family affair. At age ten, they began studying music with their father, Lloyd Smith, lead alto saxophonist and flautist with Earl “Fatha” Hines’ Orchestra and occasional sideman with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, who counted John Coltrane among his other students. By age fourteen, Dwayne and Dwight were performing as The Bosman Twins.
While attending Florida A&M University (FAMU) on music scholarships, the brothers earned woodwind positions in FAMU’s highly-acclaimed “Marching 100 Band.” Soon thereafter, they formed their own group. Collectively commanding piccolo, C flute, alto flute, bass flute, baritone sax, tenor sax, alto sax, soprano sax, and clarinet, Dwayne and Dwight Bosman have since shared the concert stage with such legends as Hugh Masekela, Freddie Cole, Branford Marsalis, Danny Mixon, Roy Ayers, and Lester Bowie, and held an engagement at one of St. Louis’ most popular jazz venues (The Moose Lounge) which lasted more than fifteen years.
“When you think about it, there should be nobody tighter than us, because we’re out of the same bag,” Dwight told St. Louis Magazine. “But I think Dwayne and I play totally differently, even though we play well together.”
In 1997, they joined the band behind soul-gospel vocalist Fontella Bass (“Rescue Me”), The Voices of St. Louis. (They later discovered that all three had grown up – at different times – in the same block of Euclid Avenue.) The twins remained in The Voices of St. Louis until 2005, and appeared on two of Bass’ last recordings before her 2012 passing. Their contributions to Travellin’ (2001, Justin Time Records), Bass’ acclaimed return from a five-year hiatus, include their trademark original “DB Blues”; Dwayne played saxophone and flute on her European release Live in Italy (2003, II Manifesto), which never came out in the US. “She had perfect pitch and she had her own thing,” Dwayne told The St. Louis Beacon. “I was infatuated with the sound of her voice and the quality of her musicianship; her gift as a musician was phenomenal.”
In 2010, the Bosman Twins received the “Commitment to the Arts” Legend Award from the St. Louis Argus Foundation and the “100 Most Aspiring St. Louisians” Award from the St. Louis Chapter of the NAACP. That same year, they traveled with the delegation led by St. Louis Mayor Frances Slay to open The American Days Festival in Stuggart, Germany. The Bosman Twins have also performed at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference in Washington, DC, the 18th and Vine Heritage Jazz Festival in Kansas City, the St. Louis Blues Festival, the Soho Jazz Festival (London), the Lavallette Jazz Festival (Paris), and the Vienna Jazz Festival.
In 2011, Better Family Life, Inc., presented them with the “Excellence in Performing Arts” Award. In November 2015, the Bosman Twins received the George Smith Diversity Award from the Musicians’ Association of St. Louis Local 2-197, and were inducted into the St. Louis Jazz Hall of Fame. In January 2016, The Bosman Twins received the prestigious Excellence in the Arts award from the St. Louis Arts & Education Council.
Dwayne is former Music Director at Crossroads College Preparatory School in St. Louis, while Dwight served as music instructor and Band Director in the St. Louis Public School District for more than 30 years. “The Bosman Twins’ sound is definitely a St. Louis sound,” Dwight explained to St. Louis Magazine.
In 2004, Dwayne and Dwight independently released The Bosman Twins Play Standards, introducing a larger audience to their talents in the context of familiar, classic tunes penned by Erroll Garner (“Misty”), Gigi Gryce (“Minority”), and Luiz Bonfa (“Black Orpheus”), plus one of Coltrane’s most famous compositions, “Moment’s Notice.”
They returned in 2015 with their self-produced When Lions Roar. Smoldering and crackling like a classic Blue Note or Prestige Records hard-bop session, Roar features “DB Blues (Remix),” which bumps and grinds like a Cannonball Adderley prime mover, and “My Daddy was a Horn Playa” with spoken word lyrics by poetess (and the twins’ sister) Cheryl D. S. Walker.
“I hope that people see When Lions Roar as reflective of what St. Louis jazz is all about – because we try to represent St. Louis jazz everywhere we go,” Dwight told The St. Louis American. “We worked with local musicians, as well as with people from out of town, but we hope we have delivered the altruistic St. Louis sound, because that’s what The Bosman Twins are.”
“When you play, also do it with class and finesse – like Ellington, Basie and Earl Hines,” Dwayne explained to In Performing Arts. “Be ambassadors for the music.”