Thomas W. Jacobsen (aka Thomas, Tom, or T. W.) was born, raised and educated in Minnesota. He eventually received a Ph. D. in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Until retirement, Jacobsen spent his career in higher education, including 26 years on the faculty of Indiana University (Bloomington). He devoted his scholarly efforts to the study of prehistoric archaeology in Greece and the Aegean Basin. To that end, he worked in Greece for some 35 years, including 25 years as director of the excavations at the important site of Franchthi Cave. He also served as general editor of the multi-volume series Excavations at Franchthi Cave, Greece, published by the Indiana University Press. During his time in Greece, he wrote the first article in English on jazz in Greece (1987).
Jacobsen has been devoted to jazz music since he was a clarinet- and saxophone-playing teenager. It was at that time that he was introduced to New Orleans jazz by listening to the broadcasts of the New Orleans Jazz Club over the powerful Crescent City radio station WWL.
Upon retirement, Jacobsen moved to New Orleans where he lived for a quarter century--during which time he became deeply involved in the local music scene. He has published extensively on New Orleans jazz, having served as a columnist and New Orleans correspondent for the well-known traditional jazz and ragtime monthly The Mississippi Rag. He also served for more than a decade on the editorial staff and was a columnist and feature writer for The Clarinet magazine as well as contributing to a variety of other jazz periodicals. He is the author of Traditional New Orleans Jazz, Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, LSU Press, 2011.
Jacobsen and his wife Sharyn moved to St. Louis in September, 2014--to be near their their two youngest grandchildren.
A Personal Retrospective
THOMAS W. JACOBSEN
Lovers of New Orleans music tend to cleave into two groups: those who love the golden era of Satchmo, Jelly Roll, and Bechet (and their revivalists), and those who love the post-World War II world of R&B, funk, and modern jazz. Tom Jacobsen is one of the enlightened fans who loves it all, and he covers the pan-stylistic contemporary New Orleans scene splendidly in this book.--TOM McDERMOTT, New Orleans pianist and composer
Thomas Jacobsen knows and loves all of jazz and writes about it with wit and enthusiasm. But he has also written an exhaustive history of the players and venues in his adopted home, New Orleans. This is a thoroughly researched, generously illustrated reference book and, at the same time, it is delight to read.--KRIN GABBARD, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture
In 1966, journalist Charles Suhor wrote that New Orleans jazz was "ready for its new Golden Age." Thomas W. Jacobsen’s The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970–2000 chronicles the resurgence of jazz music in the Crescent City in the years following Suhor’s prophetic claim. Jacobsen, a New Orleans resident and longtime jazz aficionado, offers a wide-ranging history of the New Orleans jazz renaissance in the last three decades of the twentieth century, weaving local musical developments into the larger context of the national jazz scene.
Jacobsen vividly evokes the changing face of the New Orleans jazz world at the close of the twentieth century. Drawing from an array of personal experiences and his own exhaustive research, he discusses leading musicians and bands, both traditionalists and modernists, as well as major performance venues and festivals. The city’s musical infrastructure does not go overlooked, as Jacobsen delves into New Orleans’s music business, its jazz media, and the evolution of jazz education at public schools and universities. With a trove of more than seventy photographs of key players and performances, The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970–2000 offers a vibrant and fascinating portrait of the musical genre that defines New Orleans.
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 75 halftones
Paper $25.00, ebook available
LSU Press Paperback Original
Music Studies / Louisiana Studies
--Paige van Vorst, Jazzology, winter, 2014, p. 12: "....The book is basically organized by decades--there is a prologue covering the 60s, and major chapters devoted to the 70s, 80s and 90s. Each chapter is similarly organized... Jacobsen takes a very even-handed approach, praising those who work behind the scenes to keep things moving, only occasionally expressing frustration over the way things work in New Orleans. His one chief criticism is of the independent fiefdoms that seldom cooperate. The general impression, though, is positive improvement overall... I've been interested in New Orleans and its music my whole life but haven't been there in a long time--this is a tremendous report on what went on during the period covered... A very interesting read and one that should be followed up with a sequel covering the early 21st Century."
--Charles Suhor, Dixieland Jazz Mailing List (online), December 11: "If you haven't yet bought Thomas Jacobsen's new book, 'The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000: A Personal Retrospective' (LSU Press), I highly recommend it...You'll recognize dozens of the OKOM and modern players and landmark clubs and events in the book. A lot of the material was new to me because I left the city in 1977, keeping sporadic contact with the music scene through my brother Don, periodicals, and internet sources. I hope someone is waiting in the wings with notes for a 2000-and-beyond book." [NB. That's precisely what I am working on now!]
--Bob Porter, International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal, December, 2014: "As someone who was a frequent visitor to New Orleans during the period, I recognize the scene and Jacobsen does a fine job of getting it all out there. Lots of photos."
--W. Royal Stokes, Jazz Journalists Association NEWS (roundup of jazz and blues books from 2014), December 29, 2014: " Thomas Jacobsen's [book] not only renders the musical scene of the period covered in its varietal forms, it renders it as part of a broad canvas that includes essential information on its players, both musicians and support network; the venues that have come and gone, some still active today; the political scene; the journalism and radio outlets that have reviewed and supported the jazz idiom over the years; jazz education, both public school and university; and a number of other facets and circumstances. All of these categories are fleshed out with interesting material on the individuals involved. Jacobsen...has made use of his time there by constant presence on the jazz scene and involvement in its community, collecting his impressions and recording his data whenever he came into contact with that community...His outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. All styles played in the city are given their due in this essential book. Photographs, notes, bibliography, index."
--David Kunian, OffBeat, February, 2015: "Thomas Jacobsen is well qualified to assess New Orleans jazz in the last third of the last century. His latest book is a short survey of jazz in the Crescent City divided up by decade. Each chapter is divided up to sections on live music clubs, festivals, education, brass bands and musical luminaries...an informative...means of providing information. Where he excels is the recalling of some histories that have been glossed over such as the early, controversial history of Jazz Fest, the lack of development of Rampart Street, or the saga of Clarence "Buckwater" Washington. He also gives recognition to some of the unsung pieces and people of the New Orleans music puzzle... This is a great reference book..."
--Charles Suhor, American Book Review (Jan.-Feb. 2015) [excerpted]:
"I've long been an admirer of Thomas Jacobsen's writing, the catholicity of his musical tastes, and his warm personal regard for New Orleans musicians. The last was evident in his 2011 work for LSU Press, Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, and his articles for Mississippi Rag and Clarinet. His new volume is a follow-up to my 2001 book, Jazz in New Orleans: The Postwar Years to 1970.... When Jacobsen spoke to me casually about his plans for the book, I frankly wondered how he could get a handle on the task...Jacobsen ably ferrets out and explains the dominant patterns and underlying currents, making it look easy through organizational skill and a readable style... Jacobsen's framework of major events, issues, and evolving trends rescues the book from being a mere catalogue of names and places. Readers who aren't already familiar with the city's innumerable artists and clubs--after all, only Preservation Hall, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Harry Connick, Jr., and the Marsalis family are household names--will find many new names embedded in interpretive contexts... A recurring theme also lends continuity to Jacobsen's narrative--generational factors in the development of New Orleans jazz. The segments touch on many jazz styles and are fraught with irony.
It would be easy to quibble over minor points.... Jacobsen had the thronier task of deciding which musicians night clubs, recording sessions, and events to include from the thirty-year time span. Clearly, he provides an extensive and intensive view of the 1970-2000 jazz scene. The subtitle is "A Personal Retrospective," but Jacobsen's scholarship and fairminded coverage of all jazz style make the book an important report on a slimly researched period in the city's jazz history." [THIS REVIEW ALSO APPEARED IN ITS ENTIRETY IN allaboutjazz.com, May 12.]
--Charles Suhor has yet another review--perhaps his most detailed and thorough of all--in the September issue of the IAJRC Journal (pp. 28-29).
--Monika Herzig, Journal of Folklore Research Reviews, November, 2015:
Thomas Jacobsen fell in love with the music and lifestyle of New
Orleans during a year as visiting professor at Tulane University.
Just a few years later he took early retirement from Indiana
University and moved to New Orleans, where he immersed himself in the
music scene. The inspiration for the current book was Charles Suhor's
volume, Jazz in New Orleans: The Postwar Years through 1970,
published through the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies in 2001. In
order to continue Suhor's account of the city's rich jazz traditions,
Jacobsen researched musical trends, musicians, and venues throughout
the decades 1970 to 2000.
The first two chapters, a short prologue on the 1960s and an extended
account of the 1970s entitled "Jazz Is Back," are compiled from
historical records and interviews. Most notably, Jacobsen chronicles
continued friction between the commercialization of the French
Quarter and the preservation of jazz as a living art form. The two
chapters on the 1980s and 1990s, entitled "New Orleans Exposed to the
World" and "A Golden Age for Traditional Jazz," are very personal
accounts by the author. As he immersed himself in the musical life of
New Orleans, Jacobsen kept detailed records of the various clubs,
musicians, and groups, as well as surrounding media that appeared and
disappeared over the years. Each chapter closes with several pages of
photos that provide us with a glimpse into the daily life of the
Even beyond the chronological accounts of musicians and in-depth
discussions of clubs, festivals, and leading family empires, Jacobsen
shares his insights and concerns about racial debates and dwindling
audiences for jazz. Although New Orleans is arguably the birthplace
of jazz, the city was never able to brand itself, as did Nashville
(Music City) and Austin (Live Music Capital), with a slogan that
includes jazz. Furthermore, tourists expect the traditional
repertoire and brass bands in public venues and as a result progress
of the art form has been somewhat stifled. Jacobsen blames ignorance
by many city officials and citizens alike about jazz and its history
for the lack of branding and missed opportunities. Fortunately the
musicians have found alternatives for developing their unique voices
outside of the tourist-driven venues. Many have documented their new
directions on recordings and have traveled beyond the city, for
example Los Hombres Calientes, Astral Project, and Dr. Michael White,
to name just a few.
Overall, Jacobsen has created a very important and most detailed
historical account of the players and venues over the past four
decades in the cradle of jazz. Especially during times of dwindling
audiences and little media recognition, this fundamental cultural
product of the American melting pot needs to be documented and
recognized. The collection is very personal and focused on Jacobsen's
preferred style of mainstream jazz, and hence its musical accounting
is not quite comprehensive and there is little analysis of the
musical products and styles. Personally, I would have been interested
in a deeper look at some of the issues mentioned in the prologue,
e.g., the fact that musicians who work seven nights a week barely
make minimum wage with no health insurance. Jazz is the trademark of
New Orleans and jazz is the essence of attracting tourists; such
negligence of the main cultural goods speaks volumes about America's
continued culture wars. Passionate, enthusiastic, and thorough
accounts such as Jacobsen's The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000 are
much-needed documents of the social and economic impact of jazz,
which has been called "America's classical music."
I will add more as they become available. [Ed.]
The opening welcome that had been in this location for some time must have become extremely tedious to see for those of you who are repeat offenders at the site. I will simply say that I am pleased with the visitations to the site, now well into the thousands and from all over the U.S. and about 35 foreign countries on all continents populated by humans. Thanks for your support, and do continue to check us out. I will continue to update all the pages on a regular basis, but it is possible that the latest news may not always appear at the top of the page.
And forgive me. I will continue to make note of my book Traditional New Orleans Jazz... since it is officially just three years old (as of March, 2014). I am also very happy to report that all of the reviews so far have been positive. (In addition to the U. S., they come from media in Canada and a variety of European countries. See the Works page for a list of review citations.) The book can be purchased from many sources, as well as directly from the LSU Press (see link to the right). It is also available from this website for $17.50 plus postage (check or money order). Just hit the contact button to order.
You will see that I editorialize/personalize here more than on other pages. (Just scroll down for earlier entries.) See also the News (updated regularly) and Comings and Goings (updated as needed) pages, and, of course, the Works page keeps you abreast of some of my publications.
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!
BREAKING NEWS !!!
I am pleased to announce that my new book--THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ SCENE TODAY, A Guide to the Musicians, Live Jazz Venues, and More--is now in production. A tight production schedule has been set by the crack team at Bluebird Publishing in St. Louis, and I will share developments with you all as we move forward. For now, the publication date is set for April 15. The aim is to make it available by the beginning of Jazz Fest in New Orleans (April 22). Let's hope there will be no snafoos between now and then...
WWL-TV, NOLA.com, and OffBeat are reporting that Irvin Mayfield and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra organization are refusing to repay the >1 million dollars that they "borrowed" from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation last year. (You may remember my reports last year of the incident as exposed by WWL 's David Hammer.) This now happens after the NOJO board had agreed to raise funds to pay the money back! The NOJO decision is based upon their own investigation of the original deal. The NOPLF also conducted an investigation, but its findings have not been revealed. The federal government is also investigating. Bob Brown, the new NOPLF president, says he is working on an agreement with NOJO. So, in short, I'm sure this is not the end of it. Stay tuned.
It's bitterly cold in St. Louis these days. I hate cold weather. Nevertheless, it's our wedding anniversary, so I took my wife out for dinner and music last night at the Jazz Bistro. The featured act was vibraphonist Warren Wolf and his quartet (the
Wolfpack). The music was excellent, and it made facing the ugly elements all worthwhile.
I had heard the 31-year-old Wolf on record many times, but this was my first exposure to him live. He is a marvelous and super talented player. Clearly, at the top of today's list of jazz vibes players. (I've long been a fan of the vibes and even once considered studying the instrument.) He also plays piano, keyboards, and drums though he confined himself last night to vibes and a bit of synthesizer.
The program consisted of a fair amount of original music by Wolf, who seems to be a gifted and lyrical composer. He feels the blues. But there were a few standards as well. One in particular was interesting: a medley of "Stardust" combined with a Chopin waltz. Unusual , but carried off beautifully.
His group was impressive as well. The veteran Aaron Goldberg was on piano, young Vincente Archer on bass (both acoustic and electric) and, if I caught the name correctly, Sidney Castillo on drums. They worked very well together. Wolf, a personable young man, seemed to really enjoy working with his bandmates.
Then it was back out into the cold.... Brrrrr. [See also photos page.]
Coincidentally, the Barker fest is under way and I just received a copy of a wonderful new double-CD package entitled DANNY BARKER, New Orleans Jazz Man and Raconteur. It's brand new on the GHB label (BCD-535/536).
The recordings consist of 32 tracks of music showing him in a variety of musical contexts and styles. They are arranged chronologically from 1944 to 1991, nearly a half century of his recorded music. In addition to Danny, a host of other jazz luminaries are heard on these tracks. They include Jonah Jones, Albert Nicholas, George Brunies, James P. Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Wild Bill Davison, and, not least, distinctive vocals by Danny's longtime partner, Louise "Blue Lu" Barker. Moreover, the second disk also features a great many New Orleans jazz legends who are longer with us.
In addition, there are two tracks of priceless interviews, one relating how he became a musician and the other his discussing very incisively the difference between black and white jazz and New Orleans jazz and dixieland. These were recorded in 1965 (when Barker was assistant curator at the old jazz museum) and released for the first time. They make this collection particularly valuable.
Finally, mention must be made of the attractive booklet that accompanies the disks. It includes an excellent and well-illustrated 16-page mini-bio of Barker by Trevor Richards.
In short, the total package is well done and is an important historical document for all interested in New Orleans jazz. It represents a fine tribute to the talented Barker. I recommend it highly.
Tomorrow is a big day in New Orleans. Number one, the City Council voted last week to officially designate January 14 as Allen Toussaint Day in the city, It would have been his 78th birthday. There is hope that some form of more permanent recognition of his life will be available in the future.
Secondly, the second annual Danny Barker Banjo and Guitar Festival will get under way with "Danny's Birthday Bash" at Snug Harbor. (Actually, Danny was born on this day--Jan 13--in 1909.) That inaugurates four days celebrating Barker's music and musical instruments featuring some of the top string players in the city along with many musicians who were influenced by him. Detroit Brooks is orchestrating the events, as he did for the first one last year.
The New Black Eagle Jazz Band is probably the best (and best known) New Orleans-style trad band in this country (outside of New Orleans itself). It has been around for nearly a half century, having been started by Brit-born cornetist Tony Pringle (who just turned 79 last month) in 1971. The band is headquartered in New England but has travelled extensively and appeared in festivals and concerts world-wide.
The band recently issued a three-CD set titled New Black Eagle Jazz Band 1971-2011, Celebrating the Big 40. (I just received my copy in yesterday's mail.) The set is a compilation of 32 never before released tracks dating from 1971 to 2011 and recorded at performances all over this country as well as Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands. The band's core personnel--Pringle; Bill Novick or Stan McDonald, reeds; Stan Vincent, trombone; Eli Newberger, tuba; Bob Pillsbury, piano; Peter Bullis, banjo; and "Pam" Pameijer, drums--is heard on most if not all tracks. It has been a remarkably stable band for the length of time it has flourished.
Yet New Orleans fans will appreciate the appearance of a number of their favorites in the set as well. For example, trumpeter Doc Cheatham is heard on a single track recorded in Lexington, MA in 1986. Clarinetist Tom Sancton (who led a band called the Black Eagle before the formation of the New Black Eagle) can be heard on a track recorded in the UK in 1998. And one of my all-tme favorites, the late Brian Ogilvie, was recorded with the band on two occasions--one of which was in his hometown of Vancouver, BC in 1981. The inclusion of these talented cats makes the recordings even more appealing to New Orleans fans.
The program includes a many well-known trad standards along with a host of perhaps slightly less familiar evergreens. I am happy to recommend this historic collection. To get your copy, write the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, 111 Caldwell Farm Road, Byfield, MA 01922. Or check their website www.blackeagles.com, or call (978)462-6210.
Some of you may have already seen this, but I just stumbled on the following piece in the December 27 issue of the Times-Picayune. Entitled "Story reveals early Louis Amrstrong playlist," it was written by James Karst, who is unknown to me.
The article is based on contemporaneous reports in the old Times-Democrat, a forerunner of the T-P, and the rival newspaper, Daily Picayune. The crux of the article is the report of the Colored Waifs Home band playing two Christmas concerts for poor children at two sites in the city in 1913: the Pythian Temple and the Masonic and Odd Fellows Hall on the corner of Perdido and S. Rampart.
Band members are listed in one of the accounts, calling Armstrong (still only 12) the band's leader and cornet player. (His mentor, cornetist Peter Davis, also played in the band.) They are said to have played a wide variety of tunes from "hymns" to contemporary numbers such as "Little Bunch of Shamrocks," "Maryland, My Maryland," "Dixie," and "America." Armstrong scholar Ricky Riccardi termed the discovery of the new details of Armstrong's repertoire "sensational."
The band was clearly a hit on that Christmas day, and the newspapers reported that the musicians were "showered" with tips after their performance.
The Louisiana Weekly of December 28 reported the recent death of veteran New Orleans drummer Tony "Oulaboula" Bazley. See Comings and Goings.
January 2, 2016
HAPPY NEW YEAR!! May 2016 bring us better health, more peace throughout the world, and far less gun violence in this country.
The latest issue of The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly has an interesting piece (pp. 25-26) by clarinetist Michael White about the HNOC's acquisition of a Sidney Bechet clarinet and jacket. The latter is a rather unsubtle "leopard-print" jacket that only a star like Bechet could wear. The clarinet, on the other hand, is interesting because Bechet may not have played it much, if at all. It is a rare B-flat Couesnon Albert-system "plateau" instrument, which, according to White, was usually made for persons who had difficulty covering the tone holes with their fingers (the holes were covered like those on a soprano sax). Since it seems to have been acquired in the mid-fifties, shortly before Bechet died, White wonders if it might have been bought for Bechet's son Daniel who was born in 1954, just five years before Sidney died. Bechet was never photographed with the instrument.
OffBeat is reporting that the New Orleans City Council voted on December 17 to remove four major Confederate monuments in the city: the statues of General P.G.T. Bueauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the anti-Reconstruction monument known as the Battle of Liberty Place, and--not least--the monument honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee (in Lee Circle).
The Lee monument had led to a large public outcry, not to mention an impassioned letter to the Council by Wynton Marsalis just two days before the decision.
This is a bold and courageous decision by the city, and clearly not every New Orleanian will agree with it. Mayor Mitch Landrieu originally suggested the move following the murder of nine people at an African American church in Charleston, S. C. Personally, I believe it is high time that we erase the racist shadow of the Confederacy.
No decisions have been made about the monuments to replace those being removed. That will be open to public voting eventually. For the time being it seems that Lee Circle will revert to its original name, Tivoli Circle.
My copy of the annual "newsletter" of Tulane's William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive arrived in yesterday's mail. The Jazz Archivist, as it's called, is much more than a newsletter. In fact, this year's bound hard-copy edition is just under 70 pages of text and pictures.
The JA is a wonderful source of information about all aspects of New Orleans jazz. This year's edition includes articles by Bjorn Barnheim, "Did Louis Armstrong 'Flee' from Chicago in 1931?"; Shane Lief, "Singing, Shaking, and Parading at the Birth of New Orleans"; Colin Hancock, "The Bolden Cylinder Project"; CarolineVezina, "Jazz a la Creole"; Jerry Brock, "Baby Doll Addendum and Mardi Gras '49"; Wayne D. Shirley, "Transcribing Bessie Smith"; and "Who Was Benny Clement?" by the Archive staff. Finally, Bruce Raeburn's "Curator's Commentary" contains several bits of news about the Archive, most notably, The new Louis Prima Room adjacent to the Jazz Archive is expected to be open by 2017. It includes the Louis Prima Collection donated by the Gia Prima Foundation in September. (See also the Comings and Goings page for a brief obit of Alma Freeman.)
I have been a subscriber to the JA for many years (the current issue in Volume XXVIII) and have referred to it often in my publications. Back issues are available free as pdf files, but hard copy issues cost $25 with annual membership in the Friends of the Hogan Jazz Archive. I encourage it for all interested in New Orleans jazz.
Hometown hero Branford Marsalis will embark on an unprecedented four-night gig at Snug Harbor tonight (through Sunday, the 13th). He will be joined by his regular rhythm section--Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; and Justin Faulkner, drums--as well as recording star Kurt Elling on vocals. There will be two shows each night, and we should expect a full house for each of them.
This is Branford's first gig at Snug since 1984, and the length of the stay is due to the fact the group is in town to make a recording.
Just a tidbit for your thoughts: Jazz ed Magazine has been running a series for the last two issues (most recently, the November-December issue) on the subject of "Jazz in the Context of Chamber Music." It's a subject that I have thought about over the years and find interesting. If one follows the definition by Chamber Music America (CMA), chamber music is "music for ensembles between two and ten musicians, with one to a part, generally[my italics] without a conductor." That certainly leaves the possibility of several jazz combos to meet the definition. (Incidentally, the CMA includes jazz as well as other musical genres under its umbrella.) As examples, I immediately think of the MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet) from my younger days, along with contemporary New Orleans groups like Astral Project and Quintology--communal groups, so to speak, with no one in particular in charge. But, if one were to remove the above qualifier "generally," then I would add a host of others, e.g. Benny Goodman's or Artie Shaw's small groups, the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, George Shearing's Quintet, etc., etc. Would some of the small Dixieland or Trad jazz groups then qualify as well? Would the association with chamber music elevate the status of jazz music? I have my thoughts on the subject, but I would be interested to hear yours. I'll be happy to print any that I receive by email.
The latest review of my current book was by Dr. Monika Herzig, pianist and professor at Indiana University. See above.
Wishing you a great Turkey Day, and be thankful...
A quick note fyi: I have just learned about plans for a new Bix Beiderbecke Museum in, of course, Davenport, Iowa. It sounds like it will be a great place to visit for those (like me) who loved Bix's playing--and it may be possible on a new Mississippi River cruise line! It is scheduled for opening in 2017.
Hot off the press for your holiday listening is a fine new CD by the current Count Basie Band, directed by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart. I'm normally not too enthusiastic about such, but A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas! makes its way into my (small) group of Christmas favorites.
What makes the CD worthwhile, apart from the generally tasteful choice of tunes, is the space given to the band's excellent soloists. That group includes, first off, our own Ellis Marsalis* on piano in the opening and closing tracks ("Let It Snow" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas"). On the latter, he is joined by New Orleans native Plas Johnson on saxophone. Other soloists include trumpeters Bruce Harris, Kris Johnson, Endre Rice and Barnhart; and saxophonists Marshall McDonald, Doug Lawrence, and Jay Brandford, among others. And there are three vocal tracks featuring Johnny Mathis (yes!), Carmen Bradford, and the talented young Ledisi (a New Orleans native).
All in all, it should add pleasure to your holidays...with a touch of New Orleans.
*Also on my Christmas music list is the Marsalis (and family) CD of a few years ago, A New Orleans Christmas Carol. To complete that list, as I've noted many times in the past is Butch Thompson's Yulestride CD. And an old LP that I used to love to listen to this time of year was Nate Cole's Christmas album, great tunes sung beautifully.
It was announced today that Allen Toussaint's funeral will be held on Friday, November 20. Beginning at 8:00 a.m. there will be a visitation at the recently renovated Orpheum Theater in the CBD, followed at 11:00 a.m. by a musical tribute orchestrated by Quint Davis. A private burial will take place thereafter.
I had the distinct pleasure this afternoon of attending a clinic/master class by one of the country's top contemporary tenor saxophonists, Chicago-based Frank Catalano. The two-hour session was held at Saxquest, a wonderful music store in St. Louis that specializes in woodwind instruments (saxophones in particular) and equipment. Catalano plays a Yamaha tenor and is a Yamaha clinician. Today he was joined by a fine local rhythm section (piano, bass and drums).
As in many such clinics, the saxophonist spent perhaps half of the time interacting with the audience: asking questions and responding to questions from a group that clearly included many saxophonists. He discussed a wide variety of topics, most interestingly hints about improvisation and preparing to become a professional jazz saxophonist. He is a graduate in music from DePaul University in Chicago, where he majored in composition.
And, of course, there was time for a half dozen tunes by him and the group. The numbers included one original and a several tunes associated with some of the players who influenced him: Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Eddie Harris, Stan Getz and Von Freeman. He blows what I would call a very full tenor style, using the full range of the instrument, and admits to a predilection for fast tunes. Yet I found his treatment of "Night and Day" (which he noted was influenced by the Getz version) to be especially appealing.
In a sense, I stumbled upon this gig (it was not well advertised locally)--and I am very happy that I did. See also the photos page.
A note from Eddie Bayard today reports that veteran New Orleans pianist Ronnie Dupont was found dead in his apartment in Dallas, TX last night. For further details, as they become available, see the Comings and Goings page.
Yet another New Orleans musician in St. Louis! Well, to be precise, it was the return of another native--in this case, like Tom McDermott, trombonist Charlie Halloran relocated to the Crescent City from his up-river hometown. Charlie arrived in New Orleans in 2008 and became an immediate success on Frenchmen Street.
[Sometime I'm going to put together a list of all native St. Louisans who have made it big in New Orleans. There are real close ties--not surprisingly--between the two old river towns.]
Halloran appeared this evening, like McDermott a few weeks ago, before a packed house at Joe's Cafe with his older brother's upbeat quintet, "Gorilla Swing." Tommy Halloran is a popular singing guitarist in St. Louis. The band played a variety of trad, swing and original numbers. Charlie, as always was impressive with his effortless command of his horn. Also making a good impression was alto saxophonist Kristian Baarsvik, a talented Massachusetts native from a nearby Air Force base (and lead alto for the Air Force's big band). All in all, it was a swinging evening much appreciated by the throng in attendance. Incidentally, Joe's is the one jazz venue in St. Louis that I would consider worthy of the New Orleans music scene.
Charlie Halloran, 31, deserves our attention. A graduate of the fine music program at Webster University in St. Louis and the prestigious Eastman School in Rochester, NY, he was one of several very talented young musicians who relocated to New Orleans after Katrina. These folks are the core upon which the future of the New Orleans jazz scene will be based.
Halloran has a new CD out--"Charlie Halloran & the Quality 6"--which includes Crescent City standouts Charlie Fardella, Tim Laughlin, Steve Pistorius, Tom Saunders and Walter Harris. Check it out.
See photos page.
I've always held a special place in my heart for Latin jazz pianists--Danilo Perez, Hilton Ruiz, Carli Munoz, Michel Camilo, just off the top--and I've just discovered another. His name is Oscar Perez, an American of Cuban heritage whose latest CD just came across my desk.
The album is entitled Prepare A Place for Me and was just released two weeks ago on the Myna label. It is the young pianist's third album.
Perez is a protege of the great Danilo Perez (no relation) and considers himself "a composer as much as a player." Indeed, seven of the nine tracks on the CD are his original compositions. They range from the gospel-inspired title track to the lovely opener, "Just Everything." He's clearly a gifted composer. Beyond that, the other two tracks are wonderfully original renditions of jazz standards, "'Round Midnight" and "The Nearness of You." Perez has chops as well as good taste!
He is joined on this recording by a rhythm section of Thomson Kneeland, bass, and Alvester Garnett, drums. In addition, alto saxophonist Bruce Williams joins the group on five tracks. The ensemble is talented and works well together.
Oscar Perez is a well-schooled musician, having studied with classical teachers at the LaGuardia School for Performing Arts in NYC, the University of North Florida, the New England Conservatory (where worked with Danilo Perez) and finally earning a master's degree at the Aaron Copland Scho0ol of Music at Queens College, where studied with Sir Roland Hanna. He's a formidable young presence on the jazz scene, and I am happy to recommend him to you.
More New Orleanians in St. Louis! Banu Gibson headlined a performance at the prestigious Sheldon Concert Hall this afternoon. Joined by native St. Louisan Tom McDermott on piano, singer Debbie Davis and her husband Matt Perrine on sousaphone, the group performed the sometimes quirky, sometimes thoughtful and pretty music of Randy Newman.
This is the first time that I had heard this somewhat unusual ensemble performing together. I must say that Banu and Debbie were a wonderful pairing. Both revealed talent that smacked of the Broadway stage. And, of course, Tom and Matt provided some tasty improv in addition to solid rhythm. My wife and I spent the evening with McDermott Saturday, but we were unable to get backstage to say hi to Banu, who celebrated her 68th birthday (you'd never believe it!) also on Saturday.
This was the ninth time that Gibson has performed at the storied Sheldon (also the home of the famed St. Louis Symphony). The crowd loved her--not surprisingly since she is a longtime favorite of music lovers in this city. Good show!
See photos page for a pic.
I had a chance to hear a fine New Orleans style swing clarinetist yesterday afternoon at a St. Louis Jazz Club-sponsored concert. The man is young Dave Bennett, 31, who lives in Michigan. He had been something of a child prodigy since being invited to play with Doc Cheatham at Sweet Basil in NYC at the age of 12! He now tours widely with his group(s) and is a highly skilled and polished performer.
Bennett is a premier swing player first of all, and maybe the only one to rival the great Ken Peplowski in that respect these days, in may opinion. His influences are clearly Goodman, Shaw and Pete Fountain, and he played tunes associated with all of them in his concert. I was struck by his ability to replicate the sound (the distinctive light vibrato) and licks of Fountain while displaying prodigious technique on the instrument. He played only a handful of New Orleans melodies, but he employed the Fountain vibrato in all. In other swing standards that was less obvious to me. I also heard echoes of Acker Bilk (again with vibrato) in one number, a slow version of the 1955 hit "Earth Angel." While I was also reminded by his soft, light attack on some ballads of Tony Scott, he told me that he listened to Scott but considered him somewhat out of his ken.
I have reviewed at least one of his CDs in the past and was very impressed then. I guess I am even more impressed now! Do check him out on line, when you get a chance. See photos page for a couple of pics.
The following from Gregg Stafford regarding Joe Torregano's funeral:
"Joe's services will be held this coming Tuesday at Watson Memorial on St. Charles and Napoleon. Viewing of the remains will start at 8:00 in the morning. Funeral services will begin promptly afterwards at 10:00 am. All musicians participating as members of the several Brass Bands that are scheduled to play are asked to wear black suits and black band caps. Joe was a very dedicated musician and soldier to the culture and heritage of his music. Let us send him home in the manner in which I know he would have preferred. He will be sadly missed but always remembered."
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH DEPARTMENT: I read an extremely interesting article just yesterday in the August issue of the Journal of the Society for American Music, pp. 259-292 (which shows how far behind I am on my personal reading list), entitled "Who Plays the Tune in 'Body and Soul'? A Performance History Using Recorded Sources." It was written by the distinguished musician, jazz scholar and educator (President of Goucher College), Jose' Antonio Bowen.
The piece analyzes the more than 200 recorded versions of the great song and reveals that that standard was recorded in a wide variety of tempos and keys until it became "canonized" with the famously authoritative version by Coleman Hawkins in 1939--key of Db and 90 beats per minute--which, of course was the model for countless later recordings of the tune. (The Hawkins recording, incidentally, was one of my earliest acquisitions as a budding teenage tenor player, and it has been indelibly etched into my memory bank since that time.) The author observes, "Given the jazz aesthetic of spontaneity, we would hardly expect a canonic performance practice, and yet most players can identify the 'usual' keys, tempos, introductions, and the like, for most 'standards.' These traditions are less formalized in jazz education, but as in opera programs, this sort of 'insider' information is passed along to students before auditions and first gigs." (Just think, in trad terms, of Alphonse Picou's legendary solo on "High Society.")
Bowen goes on: Yet in what he calls the "hybrid music of jazz" (European + African), "we care more about the performer than the tune...notation and lead sheets in jazz are convenient but hardly authoritative. Jazz tunes are less fixed than Western musical works." And he concludes, "If we want our students to 'know' 'Body and Soul,' then we must present the tune in its wide variety of innovative and influential performances. Using sound recordings as the primary sources in jazz can help us understand why we play what we play, but it can also help us recover its deeper history."
A very worthy read for beginning to understand the essence of jazz. You can check it out on line at
Take note of the Comings and Goings page for two recent important passings in the New Orleans music community. It is with sadness that I have to report this, but I begin with drummer Smokey Johnson. It has been a tragic week of losses, so please forgive my chronological glitches in the initial report. A brain cramp...
I am pleased to report on a wonderful new CD due for release on October 20. It brings together one of my favorite tenor sax players, the great Scott Hamilton, and the equally illustrious drummer Jeff Hamilton (who attended Indiana University while I was on the faculty there). The recording is entitled "Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio, Live in Bern " (on the Capri label).
It was recorded in Bern, Switzerland, a week after the group performed at an international jazz festival there.
I'll never forget the splash that Scott made on the jazz world in the later '70s, when the twenty-something debuted on the New York jazz scene. It was a very intense time in my own life, and I needed a player like him to provide some moments of quiet enjoyment for myself. I bought every LP he made in those years and even managed to catch him on a business trip to the Big Apple. Both he and Jeff are now in their early 60s, but they are still at the top of their games and highly respected in the music biz.
That's perfectly evident in this excellent album, where they are joined by Tamir Hendelman at the piano and Christof Luty, bass. A fine quartet, indeed.
Unlike so much in jazz today, the group plays a program of jazz standards. (Okay, there's one original number--Jeff's unremarkable riff, "Sybille's Day.") The tunes range from the Tin Pan Alley composers to the likes of Mal Waldron, Benny Carter, Dizzy, Billy Strayhorn, and Sweets Edison. There are wonderful ballads, where Scott is at his best, along with real swingers, where Jeff shines. All together this is a five-star effort. I recommend it highly.
By the way, Scott and Jeff are not related by blood. But they play as if they're been together for years.
My wife and I, along with our daughter and 6-year-old grandson, took in a great event at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis last night. It was a program especially designed to introduce elementary school children to jazz. The jazz style du jour was bop, most notably the music of Bird and Diz. It was played by an excellent group from New York City (actually, Brooklyn) called The Metta Quintet, which consisted of tenor sax, alto sax, piano, bass and drums. I got the names of some of the guys--Hans Schuman, drums; Adam Birnbaum, piano; Mark Gross, alto; Wayne------, tenor; and Alexander------, bass. Unfortunately, it seems that the group rotates is personnel often. (I checked out the band on line, and I could only recognize the drummer, who may be the leader--he did a fair bit of talking during the performance--, and the two saxophonists.) In any case, all band members were outstanding musicians, and they played a good sample of music from the early bop era.
It was a great program, and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the music. I was particularly proud of our young man, who really loved it. I see him as a future member of some jazz band's rhythm section...
The program was narrated by emcee Daniel Walton (seated in front in accompanying photo), who also gave useful info about the relationship between jazz and art by using the works of the late graffiti-style painter John-Michel B. See photos page.
Some minor health issues and working on my current book (tentatively, "The New Orleans Jazz Scene in the 21st Century") have delayed my entries on this site--for which I apologize. But I must return to acknowledge the receipt of an absolutely wonderful recording by one of my favorite jazz pianists, Fred Hersch.
The album is called Solo and was released on the Palmetto label just this month. It features live performance by Hersch at Windham Civic Center Concert Hall, Windham, NY in August, 2014. It celebrates the pianist's 60th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his enrolling at the New England Conservatory of Music (as well as his 35th year on the NEC faculty).
Fred Hersch is widely admired as a solo pianist. This is, in fact, his 10th solo album. The program here reflects some of favorite solo music: Jobim, Ellingtonia, Monk, Kern and, of course, his own originals. Among the latter, his gorgeous "Pastorale,"an homage to Robert Schumann, evokes for me a "legit" concert pianist. And his treatment of Jerome Kern's "The Song is You" is an elegantly sensitive rendition of that classic standard. Indeed, all seven tracks on this CD reveal the creativity and sensitivity that I have long associated with Hersch's playing.
In 2008, the pianist was struck by AIDS. It was a serious battle, but he obviously has survived. "When I consider where I was in terms of the precarious state of my health in 2008 this [recording] feels like such a strong and focused statement," he says. "Everything has come together going into my 60th year." Since that time he has been a champion for the HIV/AIDS movement nationally and bringing the jazz community together in fighting against the disease. At the present time he is working on a memoir for Random House(tentatively "Good Things Happen Slowly") due out in Spring 2017.
I highly recommend this album.
Miles Davis was born in Alton, Illinois, on the Mississippi about a half-hour's drive north of St. Louis. On this day, the community recognized its native son with a celebration focused on the unveiling of a bronze statue in the musician's honor. The impressive work of art was created by distinguished Chicago Art Institute professor and sculptor Preston Jackson (not the well-known Ellington trombonist). It is the only publicly displayed sculpture of him in this country.
The Davis statue is situated prominently on W. 3rd Street in downtown Alton, the very street where Davis's father practiced dentistry. A huge crowd gathered for the ceremony (making it difficult to get a good photo of the statue), which included about an hour's worth of speeches by various community leaders, politicians, the sculptor Mr. Jackson, and trumpeter Bobby Shew, representing the jazz world. That was followed by performances by Shew and a half dozen top groups from the St. Louis region. All good players.
If you are ever in this part of the world, Alton and the Davis statue would be worth a visit. See also photos page.
I had the pleasure of attending my first Gateway Jazz Festival in St. Louis over the Labor Day weekend. It is the third annual event presented by the St. Louis Jazz Club.
The festival features traditional jazz bands from the St. Louis area as well as guest performers. Seven groups were featured in all. There were several fine instrumentalists whom I was introduced to. Among them, I would name clarinetist Scott Alberici (who is clearly more than just a traditionalist), cornetist Steve Lilley, pianist Dave Majchrzak (pronounced "Mayzak"), and pianist Pat Joyce. There clearly are a number of first-rated musicians in this area.
But I was most impressed by the featured act, the piano duo of Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi. Yes, they play the same piano simultaneously, as well as individually. Both are classically trained musicians: Trick, mid 20s and a St. Louis native (University of Chicago degree), and Alderighi, mid-30s and a native of Milan, Italy (Verdi Conservatory, Milan). And both are very versatile: Trick specializing in ragtime, stride and boogie; Alderighi also does those as well as swing (think Teddy Wilson) and even modern jazz. Between the two of them, chops galore! They have two recent CDs out, which I can warmly recommend: "Double Trio Live 2015" (recorded in Walnut Creek, California in May with Marty Eggers, bass, and Danny Coots, drums) and "Sentimental Journey" (2014).
Trick and Alderighi met in Switzerland in 2008 at a stride piano summit and were married in 2013. They now live in Milan and travel widely in Europe and the States. Please note once again that they will also be performing at the upcoming STEAMBOAT STOMP in New Orleans, September, 17-20 on the Steamboat Natchez.
See also photos page.
See Works page for my review of the recent Steve Masakowski biography in the current issue of OffBeat magazine.
August 29, 2005 is a day that my family and I--and all New Orleanians--will never forget! The city has experienced an impressive recovery since then, but much remains to be done to see that a large percentage of the today's population achieves a parity that does not presently exist.
Tomorrow New Orleans will officially "celebrate" Hurricane Katrina or, better, the recovery from the disasters of Katrina and her slightly younger sibling Rita. (Personally, as I have written elsewhere, I believe Rita deserves more "credit" for the destruction wrought by the hurricanes than she is given.)
The observance of August 29, 2005 has been going on in the city for weeks, maybe even months. And recent days have been taken up with a variety of speeches, memorials, parades and the like. One that seemed interesting to me (though, of course, I was not there in person) was the open meeting of a group calling itself the "Crescent City Cultural Continuity Conservancy " (or "C5"). The meeting, which took place at Basin Street Station before a packed house on August 24, attempted to address the state of music and culture in New Orleans at this time ("10 years later"). As reported in the Weekly Beat, there was much dissatisfaction among the African Americans in attendance who stressed that much remains to be done in the recovery.
One of the group's panelists was outspoken clarinetist Evan Christopher, who was reported to have described musicians "as coming back [after the hurricanes] hat in hand to a city where jazz is an empty slogan hung from street signs." He also noted the inflated cost of living that has made working musicians (especially from the inner city) "an endangered species." Right on, Evan!
Indeed, much remains to be done in New Orleans...as, I am afraid, is the case in the country as a whole.
Regular readers of this site will know how much I like the music of the big bands, contemporary as well as more traditional. Well, last night (Aug 21) my wife and I had an opportunity once again to hear the fine 17-piece Jazz St. Louis Big Band in a concert at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. The band was celebrating the birthday of the great Count Basie, who was born on August 21, 1904, with a concert entitled "Basie's Birthday Bash."
Count Basie's bands, both his so-called "Old Testament" (pre-World War II) and "New Testament" (post-WWII) bands, were among my all-time favorites. The JSLBG played two sets of well-chosen Basie favorites from "One "O'Clock Jump" to "April in Paris" as well many less well known numbers. And they played them with perfection. It is a tight, well-rehearsed band with very able soloists in all sections. I was particularly taken by the driving percussion of drummer Kevin Gianino and, of course, the steady Basie signature rhythm of guitarist Travis Madison. They were able to capture the distinctive Basie sound extremely well. These guys should record.
See photos page.
Congrats to Harris Rea, head of Louisiana Red Hot Records, for being honored at the upcoming Cutting Edge Conference in NOLA. Rea has helped launch the recording careers of numerous New Orleans musicians, like Trombone Shorty, the Rebirth Brass Band, and Glen David Andrews, not to mention issuing such listenable disks as that of the Al Belletto Big Band. Keep up the good work, Harris.
An excellent new big-band CD has recently come across my desk. It is called "Like It Is" on the MAMA label. The band is led by ace trombonist/arranger/composer, one time Woody Herman sideman/arranger and noted jazz educator, John Fedchock, and is known as his New York Big Band.
This is an impressive 16-piece ensemble that has been together for more than two decades (this is their fifth album). It consists of (in addition to Fedchock himself) some of the Big Apple's top sidemen/soloists, including saxophonists Mark Vinci, Rich Perry, Charles Pillow, Gary Smulyan, Walt Weiskopf and Scott Robinson; trumpeters Barry Ries and Scott Wendholt; pianist Allen Farnham and drummer Dave Ratajczak. All are featured on the recording.
The program consists of several jazz evergreens along with a half dozen or so Fedchcock originals. They range from lovely ballads such as trombonist Fedchock's beautiful rendering of Evans/Livington's "Never Let Me Go" to swinging numbers like the band's updated take on the opening track, "You and the Night and the Music." There's some Latin excitement, too, generated by the work of percussionist Bobby Sanabria. I especially liked Fedchock's playing on his own composition, "Havana."
Herman called John Fedchock "my right hand man" and "a major talent." He is certainly one of the top jazz trombonists around. And his band has been called the standard for "modern, post-swing large ensembles." It deserves your attention.
It's interesting to see the attendance figures from this year's Satchmo SummerFest, given the fact that a $5 admission fee (for adults) was instituted for the first time. The final number was 36,602, down from last year's estimated attendance of about 57,000 (when there was no admission fee). The fee may well have been a factor in the drop, but FQF officials say that the unusually hot weather (this has been one of hottest seasons on record) may have contributed as well. "The convention and business people told us our tourism numbers were really strong over the weekend," said Marci Schramm, FQF exec director. "Our dip was probably among locals."
It will be equally interesting to see how the new admission fee will affect French Quarter Festival next fall.
Ace pianist Tom McDermott has been in town for the last few days and made several local appearances. As you may know, he originally hails from St. Louis and moved to New Orleans in 1983 for the World's Fair...and never left--except for his many tours throughout the world and "hundreds" of trips back to his home town. His mother passed away last February, and he is now engaged in dealing with the family home in suburban Kirkwood and his mother's effects.
We caught Tom in two live performances at local venues that were new to us. On the evening of the 6th he played at Joe's Cafe, a funky (but cool) club that is only open on a limited basis. He played two sets before a full house. On the 7th he appeared at the Tavern of the Fine Arts, a gallery/restaurant/performance space.(Considerably less appealing than Joe's...) Again, two sets before a full house. His program was similar both evenings: diverse offerings that included some pieces by Chopin (a favorite of his since childhood), Joplin rags (needless to say), Jelly Roll Morton numbers (needless to say), and French musettes and Brazilian choros (both of which including his own original compositions). As most of you know, he is a wonderfully talented pianist, and he complemented each performance with informative commentary and amusing banter. I've heard him many times performing duos with the likes of Meschiya Lake and Aurora Nealand, but I'm not sure that I have ever seen him precisely in this kind of solo context. He does it well, and we look forward to his next visit to the Gateway City. See also the photos page.
It's probably not too soon to alert you to the advent of the third annual Steamboat Stomp on the steamboat Natchez in New Orleans from September 18 to 20. The program focuses on traditional New Orleans jazz and features Duke Heitger and his Steamboat Stompers, John Gill and his Yerba Buena Stompers, Banu Gibson and her Hot Jazz, the Tim Laughlin Trio, Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, and the Four Hands Jazz Piano Duo of Paolo Alderighi and Stephanie Trick, among others. Definitely worth checking out. For more info, see their website, www.steamboatstompneworleans.com.
Now that August is upon us and SatchFest due to conclude today, it is probably not too soon to note the 23rd annual Cutting Edge Music Business Conference, which will begin August 27 and run through August 29. It has become the city's top gathering for educating musicians and "music professionals"(other than musicians) about the latest trends in the music industry. Its schedule is always packed full of lectures, workshops and seminars devoted to various aspects of the industry. Its Roots Music panel this year will highlight the post-Katrina fundraising efforts of Wynton Marsalis for producing the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert (and CD) held on September 17, 2005. Following Katrina, the Higher Ground Fund assisted over 200 musicians displaced by the Hurricanes as well as numerous music service organizations. There is much else on the program, including more than 110 bands that will be performing at a variety of clubs throughout the city. Unfortunately, it is not a free event. For more, check out www.cuttingedgenola.com.
Just a reminder. The 15th annual Satchmo SummerFest opens on Friday, July 31, and will go through Sunday, August 2. A highlight of this year's event will be the Armstrong exhibit in the Old Mint (LA State Museum). Called "Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans," the exhibit features two of the great man's horns: his cornet from his days in the Colored Waifs' Home, a part of the local museum's permanent collection, and a golden trumpet, the last instrument he owned before his death in 1971 (now part of the collection of the Louis Armstrong House in NYC). The two horns will be displayed in opposite rooms in the Mint and will serve as something of bookends to the exhibit.
The exhibit will be open from 10 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays, until January 15. It is free except during SatchFest, when people must buy a $5 fest ticket. (The latter is new this year.)
PS As many of you know, Armstrong had a baseball team called Armstrong's Secret Nine. A 1931 poster which is part of the exhibit announces a game with the N. O. Black Pelicans in the old ballpark at the corner of S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. You will remember that "Pelicans" was the old name of the city's professional baseball teams (both white and black) long before it became the handle of the current NBA franchise in the city.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending a free lecture-concert this evening at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. The lecturer was Dr. John Edward Hasse, jazz curator at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and his topic was "Swingin' for the Fences: Big Bands and Baseball." I have been an ardent fan of baseball and jazz for about the same length of time. (Actually, I first became fascinated with the sport during the 1944 World Series between the [then] two teams from St. Louis. But soon thereafter I became a diehard phan of the Philadelphia Phillies and have continued to be so ever since.) But during my many decades of passionately following the two entertainment media, I found that they had much in common--especially among the practitioners of both. I was always struck by the number of top jazz musicians who loved baseball...and vice versa. Well, Mr. Hasse, an old friend from my days at Indiana University (not to mention in New Orleans), captured beautifully (in text and pictures) the symbiosis between the two. An excellent presentation.
I told him afterwards that he had the makings of a wonderful book, but he modestly insisted that he didn't know enough about baseball to do it. Nevertheless, he did say that he would send me an article he wrote on the subject. I look forward to reading that and will duly cite it here in due course.
Baseball, regrettably, is no longer the national pastime as it had been for so long. In talking with John, we agreed that the NFL and the NBA have now replaced MLB as the sports of choice for jazz musicians (as for most Americans--but not me). I noted the love of so many musicians whom I know in New Orleans who ardently follow the Saints, and he he added that, when once interviewing Wynton Marsalis, Wynton brought out a basketball and asked him if he wanted to shoot some hoops with him. And so it is...
Baseball may be dying--slowly--as a popular sport, and one wonders if the same may be said for jazz these days... I hope not, in either case.
The evening concluded with a concert by the fine 16-piece "Jazz St. Louis Big Band," led by pianist and jazz educator Phil Dunlap. It's an excellent, well-rehearsed ensemble of able musicians and wonderful soloists. This was my first hearing of them, but I look forward to many more.
See photos page.
Much more on the Mayfield NOPL scandal can be found on the editorial pages of the current (July) issue of OffBeat magazine. Particularly noteworthy is a long missive by New Orleans musician Chris Edmunds, who chastizes Mayfield as well a others from the local music establishment for not speaking out on the issue.
Another new CD, just released last month, recently appeared in my mailbox. It's called Brotherly Love, Celebrating Lee Morgan and features trumpeter Terell Stafford (on the Capri label). The title implies a connection with Philadelphia, and there is...
Stafford, director of jazz studies at Temple University in Philly, has become one of the top jazz trumpeters working today. He has been closely associated with Wynton and JALC (among others); I had the pleasure of hearing him recently with a JALC group at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. Here he is performing with his quintet, an outstanding group consisting of pianist Bruce Barth, saxophonist Tim Warfield, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall.
As you will probably remember, trumpeter Lee Morgan was a Philadelphian who made a name for himself at a young age with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. Unfortunately, he was lost to the jazz world from a tragic shooting in 1972 at the age of 33. Stafford calls Morgan "a total genius," and this album is an homage to him. The disk's nine tracks include seven of Morgan's original compositions, plus a bluesy original by Stafford himself ("Favor") and the lovely old standard "Candy" by Alex Kremer. Stafford calls the recreation of Morgan's music "intimidating," but he succeeds admirably with the challenge.
While this is a celebration of the trumpet, don't overlook the fine work of Barth and Warfield as well. The album is in the best tradition of small-group jazz.
Those of you who go back a few years will surely remember the name Mezz Mezzrow, the well-known (but not great) clarinetist who flourished in the '30s and '40s and moved to Paris in the '50s before passing in 1972. Born a Jew, he was best known as a white man who identified himself as a black and was married to a black woman, thus preceding Rachel Dolezal by many decades. I mention him now since a recent article in the New York Times reported about a new jazz club in the Village called "Mezzrow." It preserves the memory of the clarinetist by displaying numerous memorabilia of his life, including his colorful autobiography Really the Blues ( I have an original copy bought when I was in high school) mounted on a candlelit Buddhist altar in the club (the club owner, Spike Wilner, is a Buddhist). The article also interviews Mezz's only son, Milton Mesirow (the clarinetist's real name), 79, who says, "I'd have to look into the the legality of the [club's] name, because remember, Mezzrow was technically his pen name." I'd love to visit the club one day.
The latest in the Irvin Mayfield-NO Public Library dust-up is this missive from Jan Ramsey, publisher of OffBeat magazine:
July 3 at 2:19pm ·
Shocking: Because OffBeat published letters and a commentary
on the Irvin Mayfield/Ronald Markham library scandal, we were told by Markham and Mayfield that the Royal Sonesta executive team is furious and would never advertise Irvin's Playhouse at the Sonesta in the magazine. A pity for the musicians who play there. A pity for NOJO.
Did we do the wrong thing?"
The New York Times has reported that nearly 30 years of recordings made at Jazz at Lincoln Center will be made available to the public through an agreement with Sony Music. The collection will have its own label, Blue Engine Records, and the performances will be released on CDs, vinyl, digital downloads and streaming over a period of 15 years (about 6 releases annually). The first release will be on August 21--"Live in Cuba"--featuring Wynton Marsalis and the JALC Orchestra from a 3-night engagement in 2010. Exciting news, I think.
Advance notice: Satchmo SummerFest will take place July 31-August 2.The full lineup and schedule was announced on June 30. For details, see fqfi.org/satchmo.
The Dukes of Dixieland have a new CD just out. It's called LIVE at 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and is available at JazzFestLive.com.
The current band--Kevin Clark, trumpet, leader; David Phy, trombone; Ryan Burrage, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Alan Broome, bass; John Mahoney, drums; and Joe Kennedy, piano--includes a couple of members that are new to me: trombonist Phy and drummer Mahoney. Phy has a DMA and has been a jazz educator, while I am assuming that Mahoney is the son of Loyola University professor emeritus John Mahoney (and former head of the jazz program there). There is plenty of singing, too, as Clark, Phy, Broome and Kennedy all contribute vocals.
The music is varied, ranging from Ellington standards to Al Hirt's "Java" and a "New Orleans R&B Medley." That's pretty much how the Dukes have been doing it for years. Their instrumentation is trad/Dixieland, but their music is usually more eclectic.
If you're a Dukes fan, you will want to check this one out.
It was recently announced that the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York City and the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans have partnered on an exhibit: Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans to tell the story of Louis Armstrong’s complex relationship with his hometown. The exhibit will coincide with the 100th anniversary of his first professional gig at Henry Ponce’s in New Orleans in 1915.
According to Armstrong’s autobiography, the young cornetist was offered the job by his friend “Cocaine” Buddy Martin, who asked, “You play the cornet don’t you?” Armstrong responded, “Yes, I play the cornet, Buddy. But I don’t know if I am good enough to play in a regular band.” Martin assured him, “All you have to do is put on long pants at night, play the blues for the whores that hustle all night until ‘fo’ day in the morning.” That was good enough for Armstrong, who fronted a trio of cornet, piano and drums and ended up playing the blues nightly for the next six months in 1915 (while hauling loads of coal from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the daytime). Armstrong’s career as a professional musician was underway.
The 100th anniversary of this historic engagement will be celebrated in this new exhibit, opening in New Orleans at the Old U.S. Mint on July 29, 2015 as part of the annual Satchmo Summerfest presented by Chevron and will remain on exhibit through January 2017. Check it out, if you get a chance.
I have recently received a wonderful new CD that was just released earlier this month. It is called The Thompson Fields by distinguished composer-arranger Maria Schneider and her exciting 18-piece jazz orchestra.
I have deep respect and admiration for Schneider's music since I first encountered it some 20 years ago. In fact, I feel something of kinship for her since we were born (many years apart, I hasten to add) about 60 miles distant in two towns on the prairies of southern Minnesota. She and her great band have been annual jazz poll winners for years, and the Grammy she received for last year's Winter Morning Walks makes her one of the few musicians to win Grammys in both the jazz and classical categories.
Maria Schneider is known as a composer of autobiographical music. The present album clearly fits that pattern since she has been inspired by the natural environment near her home in Windom, MN. Since the music is original, the titles of the compositions may mean nothing to you. But they do give an indication of the focus of the album: "The Thompson Fields" refers to a farm near her home where she played as a child; "Home" says it all; "Walking by Flashlight" describes an early morning walk in the countryside; "The Monarch and the Milkweed" describes the close symbiosis of those two examples of her childhood environment; and so on. Schneider has a deep appreciation and understanding of the natural world in which she grew up.
The mighty ensemble that she directs consists of an impressive group of musicians, with a host of outstanding soloists that include reedmen Scott Robinson, Donnie McCaslin and Steve Wilson; trombonists Marshall Gilkes and Ryan Keberle, pianist Frank Kimbrough and Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund. The music they produce is powerful. The overall effect of this musical organization reminds me a lot of the Stan Kenton orchestras of the '60s and '70s and that of Toshiko Akiyoshi in the '70s and '80s, both among my alltime favorites. If you like the real big bands, you'll probably love this!
Terence Blanchard is in town (i.e., St. Louis) these days for a three-night series of two shows per night at the classy Jazz Bistro June 10-12. My wife and I were there for opening night last night. Blanchard brought with him his brand-new quintet known as E-Collective, a group of talented young "electrical engineers:" Cuban Fabian Almazan (keyboard, piano), Charles Altura (guitar), the dynamic Chicagoan Oscar Seaton (drums), and fellow New Orleanian Don Ramsey (bass). Ramsey, a high school buddy of Blanchard (at NOCCA?), has worked with Dr. John and Irma Thomas, among others, in the Crescent City.
I can't easily describe the music, which was all originals by Blanchard or Almazan.
It certainly was funky at times, almost New Age at other times, maybe some R&B, and Blanchard blew some (but not enough, in my opinion) jazz choruses. Seaton is a talented drummer clearly, but his powerful back-beat dominated the performance for the most part. (Too loudly from where we were sitting.) I guess one could call it jazz-rock fusion.
Electricity was in the air...literally. All instruments were plugged in. Since I am an acoustic kind of guy and find little virtue in those electronic gadgets, it was not an entirely satisfying evening for me. Yet it was definitely interesting. Indeed, I predict this band will achieve considerable success in today's "jazz " world. It's so 21st century... Incidentally, the group has a CD out on the Blue Note label called "Breathless." See photos page as well.
For fans of the original Dukes of Dixieland, Deano Assunto, son of Dukes trumpeter Frank Assunto, has just announced that he has a website devoted to the band: www.thedukesofdixieland.com. A lot of good pics of that historic band.
Another new CD to have reached my desk recently is pianist-composer Ran Blake's Ghost Tones, an album devoted to the memory of the great advant-garde composer George Russell. It is due to be released next week by A-Side Records.
Blake, himself a legendary figure who just turned 80 in April, is still on the faculty of the prestigious New England Conservatory, where he has been teaching since 1967. He has been called the mentor of a "who's who in today's most venturesome jazz artists." Blake is joined on several tracks by a diverse ensemble of NEC alumni and former students of George Russell.
The music here is an amalgam of compositions by Russell, Blake's own compositions, and a handful of standards. The latter includes the always lovely "Autumn in New York," which serves as both the opening and final track of the recording--and, of all things, Louisiana's own "You Are My Sunshine" (which may seem a bit alien to our country music friends).
For me, this was a charming and most appealing recording in a non-traditional vein. I recommend it.
Young trumpeter Mark Rapp is returning "home" after 15 years for performances at Snug Harbor later this week. Mark was a student in the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans in the late '90s and played in a number of local groups (e.g., Quintology with Brian Seeger) while in town. He received his master's degree in jazz studies from UNO in 2000 and immediately headed for New York where he worked with a variety of groups and did a good bit of touring as well. He recorded four CDs and was named one of the top 25 rising trumpeters by DownBeat magazine.
Rapp will be joined by another New Orleanian, alto saxophonist Wess "Warm Daddy" Anderson, playing the music of the great Lou Donaldson. There will be two shows each night, at 8:00 and 11:00 as usual. I hope that at least some of you will be there to welcome Rapp back.
I asked Mark if his return to New Orleans means that he may be moving back to town, and he responded, "I’m back in town just for these two gigs, but who knows what the future will hold." So, let's see what happens.
The city will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, as many of you will painfully remember. A number of anniversary events are already announced and some even underway. One of the first is Brothers from the Bottom, a play that opened at the Lupin Theater at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts last night. The play debuted in Brooklyn and was produced by Wendell Pierce, a NOCCA alum and star of the hit HBO series Treme. In the play, a real estate project threatens the fabric of a New Orleans neighborhood and unravels the bond between brothers. Pierce stars in the play, which runs through June 28 at NOCCA.
Starting today, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Warehouse District) presents an exhibition celebrating the renewal and rebirth of New Orleans 10 years after the levee failures following Katrina. The exhibit features the photography of several local artists and will run through September 20.
And there is much more to come.
A reader has contacted me saying that he is aware of the bibliography in my current book, but he wants more. So, he asks if I would put "a NOLA music bibliography" on the site with my "priorities/annotations." Now that's a very tall order! Especially when one considers all the music styles that are at home in New Orleans (beyond just jazz). I would appreciate feedback from others on this. It would take some time, which is rather precious to me since I'm working on another book at the moment. Nevertheless I would be willing to work up a bibliography (leaning heavily on jazz) if there were enough interest.
A CD that I recently received features the music of a talented new (to me, at least) jazz composer, Ms. Ayn Inserto. A native of Singapore, she grew up on the West Coast, was trained at the New England Conservatory and is now on the faculty at Berklee College of Music. The recording in question is called Home Away from Home, and it presents five of her compositions and an arrangement of a Joe Henderson tune as well as one other number by one of her colleagues.
The CD was recorded in Italy, and the music was performed by a giant (18-piece) Italian big band, the Colours Jazz Orchestra led by trombonist Massimo Morganti (a onetime Berklee student). An excellent aggregation, a very good example of a 21st century big band. The music ranged from a lovely ballad to the Latin tinge and a groovy backbeat number.
Ms. Inserto is clearly a "comer"--the next Toshiko Akiyoshi (another Asian-born pianist-composer and bandleader), perhaps. In any case, someone to be aware of and look out for. Incidentally, the CD is due out early next month.
The prestigious Berklee College