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 has lived for more than 20 years--during which time he has become 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.
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
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. states 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. 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.
Quote of the day. After reading Herbie Hancock's new autobiography, Possibilities, jazz pianist Matthew Shipp had some interesting thoughts, among which was the following: "I figured his new memoir...would offer a good look at what went on in jazz and jazz-related cultural movements in the '60s and '70s. I also thought that it might shed some light on why jazz is so fucked up nowadays, and whether icons from the '70s like Hancock and others are actually part of the problem... One thing the book brought home to me was how much of a radical discontinuity the '60s actually were. Whereas in earlier eras a jazz musician would have had just a few directions to choose from, in the '60s, everything--hard bop, post-bop, modal jazz, the beginnings of jazz rock and, of course, the many permutations of free jazz, among other styles--was on the table."
[The Talk House, January 24, 2015.
While Shipp generally praised Hancock and his book, I thought the above insight of "radical discontinuity" in the 1960s was most apropos. I wish I had had that quotation before I wrote my latest book! It was precisely at that time that I was transitioning from graduate school into the real world and leaving behind (at least temporarily) my jazz playing and intense interest in the music. For most of the next decade I was deeply engaged in my professional development and had only very brief moments to enjoy my favorite music. By the time I was able to return to it for longer periods, I had some catching up to do and my tastes were changing. In retrospect, the '60s (and '70s) were a critical time in jazz history...as I tried to demonstrate to some degree in my book.
A great night of music last night as my wife and I took in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Group at St. Louis' Jazz Bistro. The core group--Terell Stafford, tumpet; Victor Goines, reeds; Chris Crenshaw, trombone; Jamal Nichols, bass; Alvin Atkinson, drums--was augmented by local pianist Phil Dunlap, and trombonist/arranger Cody Henry sat in for one number (an original composition by Dunlap). A wonderfully talented and swinging ensemble, as you can well imagine. This was the first time that I heard Crenshaw, and he made a very favorable impression.
Though they had two shows a night on Friday and Saturday, they had been in town for a week working with hundreds of local school children. This is the strategy of the Jazz St. Louis program headquartered in the same complex as the Bistro in downtown St. Louis. Nearly all national performers who appear at the Bistro do these kinds of master classes with students. It's an amazing and very important undertaking.
Finally, it was particularly pleasant for me to hear and talk to old New Orleans friend Victor Goines once again. He's a wonderful musician and very nice man. As you know, I am especially partial to the reeds--and he is one of my favorites.
See the Photos page for a few pics of the performance.
The Danny Barker Guitar and Banjo Festival gets underway today, on what would be Barker's 106th birthday. He passed away in 1994.
Barker's birthday has been celebrated locally since the centennial of his birth, but the present event is the first of its kind. The festival has been organized by guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks, and he is already planning to make it an annual celebration.
The festival kicks off with concerts at Snug Harbor featuring Brooks, Steve Masakowski and many others. On successive days thereafter, there will be a variety of presentations featuring a host of prominent local guitarists and banjoists. The festival, after all, is focusing on the importance of the two instruments in New Orleans jazz. In line with that, Yoshio Toyama's Wonderful World of Jazz Foundation from Japan is donating five banjos to be given away to young students showing a strong interest in learning the instrument. One can google the festival for more details.
As for next year, Brooks promises that it will be "10 times the size" of this year's fest.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced today its schedule for JazzFest 2015. More than 500 bands will be appearing over seven days (April 24-26, April 30-May 3), with >80% of the performers coming from the New Orleans region. Advanced single-day tickets are $58 while the gate price will be $70. For more, google the fest's website.
With the Joan of Arc parade in the French Quarter and the Phunny Phorty Phellows on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, Carnival season officially began yesterday. Mardi Gras follows on Tuesday, February 17 this year.
Let's hope for a fun-filled and non-violent season for our friends in the Crescent City in 2015!
January 1, 2015
BEST WISHES FOR A PEACEFUL AND HEALTHFUL NEW YEAR!!
Unfortunately, New Year's Day finds me recovering from a mild bout of pneumonia. I was just released from the hospital yesterday afternoon and am on a strict advisory to chill out for a while. Which means that I had to cancel my trip to San Diego next week to attend the annual meetings of the Jazz Education Network (JEN). A real drag, but we all know that "things" can happen...
I also regret to report a couple of critical losses sustained by the jazz world while I was under the weather. Number one, the wonderful New Orleans saxophonist and bandleader Al Belletto passed away on Friday night December 26. Al was a major figure in establishing the modern jazz scene in the Crescent City after World War II. He was 86 and will be dearly missed. On the national scene, a pioneer modern jazz clarinetist (and one of my favorite clarinet players of all time)--Buddy DeFranco--died two days earlier. He was 91.
I will check out these details further and get back to you as soon as I'm little less wobbly... For more on Belletto, see the comings and goings and photos pages.
"Our Times: The Louis Armstrong childhood arrest that no one knew about" screams the headline in this morning's Times-Picayune/nola.com. The lengthy piece by James Karst recounts the story based on documents from the old Colored Waifs Home rescued by one Allen Kimble Jr.
In short, the documents testify to the arrest of Armstrong and six other boys on October 21, 1910 for being "dangerous and suspicious characters." For which Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waifs Home for the first time. You will remember that he was committed to the Home again in 2013 for the famous shooting incident. This then becomes the first indication of a prior arrest and prior residence at the Home. Armstrong scholar Ricky Riccardi of the Louis Armstrong House in NYC, calls the discovery "mind-blowing." He goes on to say, "I've been spending half my life researching Armstrong, and this is a breakthrough."
Mr. Kimble, an African American and New Orleans native, returned to the city in 2008 after considerable travels. He says he hopes to create a foundation to honor Armstrong and his influential mentors at the Colored Waifs Home and "to research, record and preserve our endangered history and culture."
For more details, check out Karst's story in today's nola.com. It includes photographs of some of the relevant documents.
It was just announced yesterday that young trumpeter John Michael Bradford, 18 and a senior at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, was named a 2015 Young Arts finalist in jazz and trumpet. He is one of just 170 young artists chosen out of more than 11,000 contestants from across the country to participate in Young Arts Week in Miami January 4-11.
I have been aware of Bradford's prodigious talents for three or four years now and have been impressed with him since the very first time I heard him. He has performed widely in the city (and abroad) with a variety of groups ranging from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to his own quintet. He plays all styles from trad to mod...and plays them well! Among the music programs that he is considering upon graduation are Juilliard, the New School and Berklee, all major training grounds for jazz prospects. I consider Bradford the next great trumpeter to come out of New Orleans and would be very surprised if he did not win top honors in Miami next month. (For a recent photo of Bradford, scroll down on the photos page to his June performance at Snug Harbor.)
I have started reading the new book--DESIRE & DISASTER IN NEW ORLEANS, Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory(Duke University Press, 2014) by Lynnell L. Thomas--and find it most informative and stimulating. Thomas, a native New Orleanian, is on the faculty of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
As we all know, New Orleans is dominated by the tourism industry. Thomas investigates the relationship between tourism, cultural production and racial politics by showing how the tourism industry portrays race and culture in the city. Since the city is one of the leading tourist destinations, the book should be required reading for all tourists--to say nothing of those of us who love the city and its music.
It has been some time in coming, but the New Orleans J&H Foundation will be celebrating the grand opening of the new George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N. Rampart Street, with a concert this evening. Starting at 8 pm there will be a performance by students and faculty of the Heritage School of Music. That will be followed by a 90-minute concert by the founding director of the Heritage School of Music, saxophonist Kidd Jordan and his distinguished children, Kent (flute), Marlon (trumpet), Rachel (violin), and vocalist Stephanie. It should be quite a show!
The new facility will be an education and community center, serving as the permanent home of the Heritage School of Music as well as the locale for programs and events produced by the J&HF--not to mention also being available for activities of other community arts organizations.
Congratulations to David Sager, Library of Congress-man, trombonist and sometime New Orleanian, for the Grammy nomination for his liner notes to the album "Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides" on the Archaeophone label. May he be a winner!
Just a quick note to alert you to a new recording that has come across my desk. It is called "Sugar Blues" and is performed by a group known as the Crescent City Quartet. While one might expect a band made up of New Orleanians, that is not exactly the case. The band members have all travelled to the Crescent City, but none can claim residency there. Indeed, we are told that the leader, guitarist Alex Belhaj, was "inspired" by a visit (his first?) to New Orleans just four years ago. Probably the closest to a native Orleanian is clarinetist Ray Heitger who, as many of you will know, has been a frequent visitor to the city over the years--not least because of the presence of his son, the outstanding trumpeter Duke Heitger. Ray is a well-known bandleader in Toledo, OH, as is his longtime colleague cornetist Dave Kosmyna. Belhaj and bassist Jordan Schug are from the Detroit area. This foursome has been playing together at least since 2011, when some of the tracks on this CD were recorded. (Others were laid down two years later, and the whole was just released last month.)
The program consists of a dozen well-known trad numbers that feature some fine playing by both Heitger and Kosmyna along with vocals by Heitger and Belhaj. It is good traditional jazz by a seasoned group of players. You may wish to check it out.
November 26 There was more destructive behavior last night in Ferguson. Less than the previous night, but still bad with >40 more arrests. I can understand that behavior; it is a result of deep anger. But the perpetrators must come to realize that it is counterproductive and cannot be tolerated. I do not see this struggle--both locally and nationally--coming to a quick solution. Time will require patience and understanding among all of us.
Despite being a relative newcomer to St. Louis, I cannot help but comment briefly upon last night's Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown case. I have been following closely the developments in this case for the last two months (or slightly more) and have come to the preliminary conclusion that the legal process conducted by the prosecutor Mr. McCulloch has been a total charade. The Grand Jury was conducted, in my opinion, like a court trial without the benefit of cross-examination of witnesses. Under the circumstances, there was no chance that the police officer would be indicted. That is unfair. The nature of the case was such, in my opinion, that it deserved to be heard in a standard jury trial. While I would be hesitant to suggest that the prosecutor's motivation was racially based, it is abundantly clear that racial issues lay at the heart of this case. Accordingly (and I think correctly) it has become a national cause celebre. (Did anyone see the account of the demonstrations in New Orleans in today's nola.com?) My hope is that enough attention will be drawn to all the implications of this case to lead this country to right those many wrongs. I have to admit, however, that I am not any more optimistic that anything positive will come of this than with the gun debate in our country. In my opinion, guns lie at the heart of our problems as much as racism. The two combine to create a truly sad situation.
I've said enough for now. I may choose to revise the above later. Your reactions would be welcome.
New Orleans trumpeter (and St. Louis native) Jeremy Davenport will be at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis for a two-night engagement next weekend. It is said to be his 15th Thanksgiving weekend performance in St. Louis since settling in the Crescent City in the early '90s.
The Jacobs School of Music has changed a good bit since I retired from Indiana University (Bloomington) in 1992. Not to mention the name of school itself, a new component has recently been added to the wonderful jazz studies program headed until recently by David Baker. It is a Latin jazz group that seems to have been inaugurated with the appointment of acclaimed percussionist Michael Spiro to the faculty three years ago. Soon thereafter, as I have noted in this column earlier, Latin-oriented trombonist Wayne Wallace was appointed to a full professor's position in the School.
One of the results of this has been the creation of a group called Ritmos Unidos whose name implies--correctly--that it is inspired by rhythms and melodies from various corners of the Caribbean. Spiro, an eight-time Grammy nominee, leads the ensemble, which consists of other IU faculty members and students/alumni including Wallace (trombone), Pat Harbison (trumpet), Joe Galvin (percussion), Nate Johnson (tenor saxophone) and Jamaal Baptiste (piano). This is a spirited group that deserves watching, adding a bit of hot sauce to the Midwestern jazz scene.
Both Spiro and Wallace have close associations with the well-established San Francisco Bay Area Latin music scene. A second (double) album (also on the Patois label and also released earlier this year) is Salsa De La Bahia, vol. 2, Hoy y Ayer an historical collection of Bay Area bands and artists ranging from the likes of Pete Escovedo and the Orquesta Batachanga to contemporary groups such as Wayne Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet. A lot of vocals on this one.
With these two offerings we have more spirited Latin rhythms which, with the help of Spiro and Wallace, are bringing the lively Bay Area music scene to the Midwest.
This is to urge lovers of classic jazz to consider attending the second annual Steamboat Stomp on the steamboat Natchez this weekend, November 14-16. With people like Duke Heitger, Evan Christopher, Tim Laughlin, Banu Gibson and Topsy Chapman--among others--it promises to be another entertaining event. For more, see www.steamboatstompneworleans.com. Enjoy.
See the photos page for a few pics from my New Orleans trip. They were taken by Linda Abbott, Eddie Bayard and Mary Saltarelli, all of whom I thank kindly.
N.B. There will be another memorial tribute for Lionel Ferbos tomorrow, November 9, at Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue in the Lower Garden District from 5-6:00 pm. His former band, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, will provide the music for the event.
Finally, let me report briefly on my first jazz encounter since moving to St. Louis. Last Thursday night (Nov. 6), I had the pleasure of visiting the newly renovated Jazz Bistro (Ferring Jazz Bistro), 3536 Washington Avenue. The club is the performance venue of Jazz St. Louis's new home, The Harold & Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz. which also includes the Centene Jazz Education Center.The club is an elegant venue seating some 220 on the main floor and another 50 or so in a surrounding balcony. The acoustics and sight-lines for the music are excellent. It's an extraordinary jazz club, probably the best I've ever been in. The pricing and other attributes remind me more of New York City than New Orleans. But more about those comparisons at another time.
The evening's music was provided by the fine saxophonist (tenor and soprano)
Joshua Redman whom I have followed since the early '90s. His trio included Gregory Hutchinson, drums, and Reuben Rogers on bass. Redman's playing can be gorgeous on standard ballads, but, more often, it can be "a bit of an adventure," as he puts it. By that I mean somewhat more "outside" for my tastes. In any case, it was an interesting evening, and the full house loved it. I look forward to more evenings at the Bistro. In fact, a couple of New Orleanians, trumpeter Jeremy Davenport, a St. Louis native, and reedman Victor Goines, have upcoming dates scheduled for the club. And, don't forget, ace pianist Peter Martin, a St. Louis native who spent many years in New Orleans, is back in town here. I am told that he plays monthly gigs at another significant local jazz venue (the Sheldon Concert Hall)--so I must check that out.
As the above suggests, St. Louis has an active jazz scene, and I intend to explore it more as time passes. I might add that it has a full-time jazz radio outlet at FM 88.7.
So, I'm happy...
Just a few odds and ends left over from my New Orleans trip. First off, I would remind you of the annual Scandinavian Festival at the Norwegian Seamen's Church (1772 Prytania St.) this coming weekend, November 7-9. While I was in town, everyone in the church community was busily preparing the wonderful Scandinavian foods and gifts that will be available at the event. And, of course, there will be plenty of music every day with bands headed by Lars Edegran, Sid Snow, Paul Longstreth and MJ and the Redeemers featured. Activities begin at 10 am daily. The full program can be seen online at www.sjomannskirken.co/neworleans.
I would like to recommend a site for those wishing an insider's view of the New Orleans music scene. It's a column written by fine local tenor saxophonist John Doheny, who has been living in NOLA for more than a decade. He studied jazz in Vancouver, B. C., where he was a close friend of the wonderful reedman, the late Brian Ogilvie, and later did graduate work and served on the music faculty at Tulane. Doheny's column, "Our Man in New Orleans," can be found on the website www.vancouverjazz.com. Check it out.
Finally, I picked up a new CD while in NOLA by a group of top local musicians. It's called "Swing Stories from New Orleans" by the Larry Scala Band. As many of you probably know, Scala is an excellent guitarist who has worked with a number of local bands since moving to New Orleans a few years ago. Here he is joined by Tom Fischer, clarinet (and tenor on one track); Ray Moore, tenor saxophone; Richard Moten, bass; and Charlie Kohlmeyer, drums. (Trombonist Rick Trolsen and drummer Cori Walters sit in on a couple of tracks as well.) A first-class group of musicians who collectively and individually contribute to a wonderfully swinging album. I recommend it warmly.
Well, I'm back in the saddle in "The Lou" (as some around here call St. Louis) after a whirlwind trip to New Orleans (October 22-28, including travel time on the road).
All went well, and I had an opportunity to see many old friends in the music community.
My book signings at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe on the 23rd, the Louisiana Music Factory on the 25th and the Norwegian Seamen's Church on the 26th pretty much came off as expected. I appreciate those who turned out and bought my new book, and I really appreciated that each occasion was accompanied by live music. Ace reedman Otis Bazoon led the fine Thursday night band at the Palm Court. A hot new steel guitar band ("Steelisms") from Nashville performed while I was signing at the Music Factory. And a special treat was pianist Tom McDermott put together a fine trio that included Tim Laughlin on clarinet and James Singleton on bass at the church--a truly class group of instrumentalists (and composers). Pictures were taken at each occasion, and I'll add them to the site as they become available.
I concluded my stay by catching the last Nickel-A-Dance soiree of the season at the Maison on Sunday evening. The Palm Court Jazz Band led by Jamie Wight and Brian O'Connell performed a tribute to the legendary Lionel Ferbos who died last July at the age of 103 (and to whom my last book was dedicated).
It was nice to get back to NOLA, even if I'd only been away for a little over a month. But I can assure y'all that I'll be going back again and again. After living there for a quarter of a century, it's not easy to get the city and its unique culture out of one's blood.
Yet another new CD worthy of note is by the distinguished New Orleans father-and-son tandem of Delfeayo and Ellis Marsalis, their first complete album together. It's called "The Last Southern Gentlemen" and features a quartet that includes the great John Clayton on bass and Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums.
Every time I've listened to Delfeayo play--especially those times with his fine Uptown Jazz Orchestra--I've been taken with the trombonist's rendering of ballads. Here, we have an opportunity to hear him play a number of them, with the incomparable and tasteful help of his father on piano and a first-rate rhythm section. The list includes the lovely evergreens "Autumn Leaves," "She's Funny that Way," "But Beautiful," "Speak Low," "My Romance," "I Cover the Waterfront," and his own original "The Secret Love Affair." But there are some spirited pieces as well--including one ("Sesame Street") with a funky backbeat provided by guest percussionist Herlin Riley on tambourine and bass drum.
As Delfeayo puts it, "Throughout this recording our aim was to communicate a feeling of graciousness and sincerity, relaxation and gentility. The early jazzmen believed that the social and emotional aspects of the music defined great jazz performance much more than the techniques or academic analysis. Jazz should offer a direct communication between the artist and the audience."
All in all, this is an excellent CD by a fine group of musicians. I like Delfeayo's playing the more I hear it. I recommend it highly.
Another of the recent batch of new recordings that has come across my desk is one of the best. It is by a group new to me with the somewhat alarming name of "Mostly Other People Do the Killing" (hereafter MOPDK). But don't let that turn you off. They're an outstanding group of young musicians founded by bassist/composer Moppa Elliott in 2003. They have since won a number of awards, including a DownBeat's Critics' poll winner as Rising Star Ensemble.
The name of the album is simply Blue, but what makes it most interesting is that it is a note-for-note recreation of Miles Davis's classic 1959 album, Kind of Blue considered by many as the top jazz album of all time. It certainly is in my own top five.
As a literal recreation of a jazz classic it is not unique. We know of many that have done the same with earlier jazz recordings. But, to my knowlege, this is the longest and first to address a more modern recording. Be that as it may, it explores the relationship between "classical" music and jazz as "America's classical music" (as some have called it). In a sense, as one observer has put it, "it is a classical approach to a legendary jazz work."
The album challenges the listener to examine jazz education today. "In its push to become a legitimized art form, the academic jazz education system has had to create a concrete way to study jazz that conforms to previous academic models, "Elliott says. "Over the course of many years of teaching students to improvise the idea of transcription has become central. While transcribing other musicians' improvisations has always been at the core of how people learn jazz, in the academic setting it can distort the essence of improvised music. If emulating and imitating the master musicians of history is a desired goal, however, then Blue is an apotheosis."
While it will be interesting to see the reactions of musicians and musical scholars to the album, I for one found it wonderful listening because, as I've said, it has always been one of my favorites. I strongly recommend it. Incidentally, Peter Evans is the young trumpeter who brings back the spirit of Miles here.
I have received a number of new recordings in the time between my departure from New Orleans and now. I will be mentioning several of them here as we move forward, but I begin with one of the most recent.
I have mentioned the wonderful pianist/composer Fred Hersch here in the past. One of his latest projects is a DVD of his "jazz theater" composition My Coma Dreams done in collaboration with writer/director Herschel Garfein. The DVD is a live performance of the production starring talented actor/singer Michael Winther at the Miller Theatre of Columbia University last year.
As many of you know, Hersch suffered a near fatal attack of HIV/AIDS in 2008. He was in a coma for two months, and this composition is the result of eight dreams he recalled after being in that state. The music is gorgeous and performed by an 11-piece instrumental ensemble that includes Hersch on piano. Winther does a splendid job of portraying both Hersch and his significant other Scott Morgan in Garfein's moving libretto.
The DVD is slated for release on November 25 in honor of World AIDS Day. This is a truly outstanding performance. I cannot recommend it too enthusiastically.
I would urge you to check out the following link: http://www.treatmentactiongroup.org/mcd.
October 1, 2014
I am now--at long last--nearly settled in my new digs in St. Louis. It was an eventful move (as perhaps most are) from New Orleans to here, but at least we made it in one piece (if not all of our belongings experienced a similar fate).
The good news is that my new book from LSU Press--The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000-- came out during the interval between our leaving the Crescent City and now. I have already begun to receive favorable reactions to it. Accordingly, I will be returning to New Orleans in about three weeks for a series of book signings. They are scheduled for the Palm Court Jazz Cafe at 7:00 pm on October 23, the Louisiana Music Factory at 2:00 pm on October 25, and the Norwegian Seamen's Church at 11:00 am on October 26. Tom McDermott will lead a small group at the latter, but there will be live music at all of the events. I hope to see you on one of these occasions or elsewhere during my brief stay in the city.
For details, do not hestitate to contact me via the above link.
The Norwegian Seamen's Church, the "Jazz Church in New Orleans," today celebrated the 150th anniversary of its patron, the international Norwegian Seamen's Mission, which supports all Seamen's Churches throughout the world. The local church was founded more than 100 years ago.
To celebrate the occasion, trumpeter (and old friend of the church) Gregg Stafford put together an excellent six-piece band, which performed at today's service. The band included Michael White, clarinet; Lucien Barbarin, trombone; Detroit Brooks, banjo; Sidney Snow, bass; and Herman Lebeaux, drums. Needless to say, their inspired performance represented the best of traditional New Orleans jazz. See photos page.
I cannot let this day go by without making note of yesterday's ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Much has happened to all of us survivors, the city and its environs since that fateful day and the ensuing days and weeks that included further damage caused by the oft-overlooked Hurricane Rita. The result has been a much smaller city (ca. 80% of its 2000 population) and metropolitan area (ca. 7% decline from 2000). Yet the economy is improving (tourism, of course, remains at its base), and entrepreneurship is expanding. At the same time, the poverty rate, despite some volatility, remains at the level that it was in 1999. And adult educational attainment continues to lag the national averages. There is, in short, considerable room for improvement across the board. It is important to remember the >1,800 lives that were lost in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. As the editorial board of NOLA. com noted, these deaths "will always make [August 29, 2014] a hallowed day."
Personally, it is ironic that my wife and I will soon be returning to St. Louis, where we spent two months in evacuation from Katrina nearly a decade ago. This time, however, our traveling party will not include my mother-in-law and one cat who are no longer with us...
Since I announced our plans to move to St. Louis nearly two months ago (see below), I have been almost completely immersed in packing and piling up boxes--to the detriment of my aching back--for the movers to pick up in less than three weeks. Our expected departure date is Monday, September 15. For those interested, you can contact me for our mailing address in St. Louis. I think my contact link is finally working once again...
Meanwhile, many of you will recall the plans for a film about Buddy Bolden produced by wealthy Chicagoan Dan Pritzger. After a good deal of initial preparations, the project was put on hold by Pritzger for alleged quality control reasons. The biopic now seems to be back into production and actor/singer Gary Carr has been named to play the lead in the film. (Incidentally, Carr is starring in the TV hit "Downton Abbey," a favorite of my wife.) Others in the film cast besides Carr/Bolden are Ian McShane, who will portray Bolden's nemesis Judge Perry, and Nelson Ellis, the wily manager of Bolden's band. Music for the film will be composed and performed by Wynton Marsalis. Now that it seems on its way again, we look forward to the film's premiere in the near future.
My interview with veteran guitarist Warren Battiste is just out in the current (August) issue of Offbeat magazine (page 16). See the Works page for the text of the article.
My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the screening of a documentary film, "Jazz Dreams II," at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) last night. The film documented very well jazz education at NOCCA by detailing the education and early careers of three outstanding NOCCA students: Courtney Bryan, Jason Marsalis and Irvin Mayfield. The film was produced by Dr. Geoffrey Poister of Boston University (he was at UL Lafayette at the time) and was a 14-year project that began in 1998. Highlights included the beginning of Los Hombres Calientes; the career of Ms. Bryan, who after graduating from NOCCA in 2000 attended Oberlin, Rutgers and finally received her Ph.D. in composition at Columbia University; and, most notably, a tribute to Clyde Kerr Jr., the stimulating and nurturing mentor of these and other jazz students at NOCCA. Mark Samuels of Basin Street Records introduced the program, which concluded with a panel discussion led by Jonathan Bloom and including Kidd Jordan, Poister, Mayfield and Bryan. It served not only as a tribute to Mr. Kerr but to the wonderful institution of NOCCA itself, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. And the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp is celebrating its 20th year. Look for the film on PBS. (See also photos page.)
The French Quarter Festivals Inc. announced today that Satchmo SummerFest 2014 set an attendance record, nearly doubling numbers from 2012.
I was impressed with the turnout at the Old Mint on Sunday afternoon. I have since learned that SatchFest drew more than 57,000 attendees during the three-day weekend. It has also been reported that hotel occupancy in the city was at 99% for the weekend. That speaks well for the economic infusion to the city, but I have no idea how these numbers compare with the past.
Happy Birthday, Louis!
Satchmo SummerFest drew to a close yesterday, and I managed to catch a couple of hours of it. I particularly enjoyed the hour-long interview of the great Wycliff Gordon by Fred Kasten. A longtime member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Gordon is now deeply involved in jazz education on the university level as well as leading his own band. He has a brand new CD out, entitled "Hello Pops." For some pics of my afternoon at the festival, see the photos page.
Back at the ClarinetFest, first for the excellent hour-long presentation by Michael White on "The Early Clarinet in New Orleans." He talked about most of the early clarinetists and their training and individual styles. He demonstrated his points by playing with his quartet: Gregg Stafford, trumpet; Seva Venet, banjo; and Mitchell Player, bass. As an academic by training, White knows how to give a well-organized and informative lecture. See photos page.
This was immediately followed by a brief recital by Brazilian choro clarinetist, Reinaldo Lima. Clearly a legitimately trained clarinetist, Lima demonstrated outstanding technique as well as sensitive feeling for the choro (a Brazilian music contemporary with--and similar to--ragtime in North America). One of the pieces he played (not a choro) was his arrangement of a Charlie Parker tune--"Donna Lee sambando"--which showed that the clarinetist also has a definite feel for jazz. It seems that he is fluent on flute and the saxophones as well as the clarinet. See photos page.)
That ended ClarinetFest 2014 for me though the programs continued through Sunday, the third. I have attended many of these festivals over the years, and I have to say that this was one of the best. While I had a chance to sample only a fraction of all that was offered, three days of driving back and forth between New Orleans and Baton Rouge (1 1/2 hr. drive each way) was worth it. I missed several other jazz performances, not least of which was a tribute to 84-year-old Pete Fountain. Although his health is not good, Pete made the trip to be on hand for the occasion.
A wake for the late Lionel Ferbos was held this evening at the Charbonnet Funeral on St. Phillip Street. A large throng of family, friends, admirers, and local musicians gathered to pay their respects to one of the city's true gentlemen. A prayer card handed out at the wake included a Ferbos quotation, which so characterizes the man: "I always tip my hat at everybody. It doesn't take much to be kind. Even if they don't smile back, it doesn't matter. I see them, and I smile." Music for the occasion was provided by Michael White, clarinet; Gregg Stafford, trumpet; Clive Wilson, trumpet; Seva Venet, guitar; Lars Edegran, banjo; Sidney Snow, bass; and Joe Lastie, drums. (See photos page.)
The funeral will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, with visitation beginning at 8 a.m. The memory of Lionel Ferbos will remain with me for ever.
A big day at ClarinetFest 2014 today! The highlight was the 2 1/2 hour concert, "A Night of Jazz," that concluded the day.
The program began with New Orleanians Evan Christopher and 26-year-old Gregory Agid demonstrating the New Orleans clarinet style, from the traditional through the contemporary. The program included original compositions by both clarinetists as well as standards by Bechet and Alvin Batiste. An outstanding program that concluded with a four-clarinet jam, with Harry Skoler and Felix Peikli joining Evan and Greg.
Christopher and Agid were followed by veteran Harry Skoler, professor of woodwinds at Berklee in Boston and a wonderful clarinetist in the mainstream swing-bop tradition. He was later joined by his former student, the gifted 24-year old Norwegian, Felix Peikli. Peikli wowed the large audience with his chops, perhaps in part because he was known to so few. Indeed, this was the first time that I heard him live. He was truly impressive and must be considered (along with Agid) as one of the next big names in the jazz clarinet field.
The evening concluded with another jam featuring Peikli, Skoler, Agid and John Cipolla,president of the International Clarinet Association. All in all, it was an awesome evening of music and a very memorable one for me. See photos page.
As a longtime member of the International Clarinet Association, I drove up to Baton Rouge today to attend the first day of the ICA's ClarinetFest, a huge annual gathering held on alternate years in this country and abroad (next year in Spain). It features performances, clinics and master classes by clarinetists of all interests (classical, jazz, folk, etc.). I went today to hear a concert and master class by veteran jazz clarinetist Allan Vache whom I have been listening to for 30-40 years.
Vache performed in concert with a group of local musicians: Troy Davis, drums; John Previti, bass; Tom Mitchell, guitar; and Willis DeLony, piano. Their program consisted of mainstream swing and bop standards, all very well executed by the clarinetist. I was particularly impressed with his lovely rendition of Bob Haggart's "What's New?" I would say that he clearly has been influenced by Goodman (as were so many clarinet players of his generation), but one of his main mentors was Kenny Davern. He plays with a noticeable vibrato (he calls it a "quiver vibrato") and, though not as pronounced as that of Bechet, he admits to being influenced by Bechet as well. (See photos page.)
In his later master class Vache was joined by several other clarinetists from the audience. The latter, as is often the case, displayed a wide range of talent and experience. The "master" talked mostly about improvising, noting, "You can't make anyone improvise. It's what comes from the inside." But he added that one can learn to improvise by paying attention to the melody and chord structure of tunes. He demonstrated by playing (and critiquing) several standard ballads and blues with the class members. (See photos page.)
Finally, I attended a brief lecture, "What's with All This Entrepreneurship Stuff: I Just Want to Play the Clarinet," by Ramon Ricker of Eastman School of Music. He stressed that, with 330,000 music majors in the country, students must learn how to sell themselves and their unique talents to people who may not think they need what the students have to offer. Eastman seems to have developed a series of courses to help students do just that. It sounds interesting.
BREAKING NEWS: It is now time to advise all readers that my wife and I will be moving to St. Louis, Mo. in the middle of September. The effect of that on this site has yet to be determined, but, in the meantime, there is much to do musically in this area.
First, the annual Clarinet Festival of the International Clarinet Association begins tomorrow in nearby Baton Rouge and runs through the weekend. Among notable jazz clarinetists on the program are Evan Christopher, Greg Agid, Harry Skoler and Allan Vache. There will also be salute to Pete Fountain.
Secondly, of course, the annual Satchmo SummerFest, begins on August 1 and runs through Satch's official birthday on August 4.
I expect to be at both of these events and will be reporting about them here. More to come.
Lionel Ferbos passed away today at the age of 103. He may well have been overly taxed by his appearance at the Palm Court two days earlier. He had wanted to satisfy his many friends and admirers by appearing at that party, but it was probably an unwise decision by his caregivers to allow that to happen.
Please consult the comings and goings page for details regarding funeral arrangements.
Lionel Ferbos celebrated his 103rd birthday at the Palm Court Jazz Café this evening with a house full of friends and well wishers. Unfortunately, the incomparable Mr. Ferbos was unable to perform because of his seriously fragile health.
Trumpeter Connie Jones and wife Elaine celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the Windsor Court Hotel Saturday evening, July 12. They were joined by a host of friends from the local music community that included live music provided by clarinetist Tim Laughlin, pianist David Boeddinghaus and drummer Bryan Barberot. The photos on the photos page are courtesy of Eddie Bayard.
I had the pleasure of checking out the National Park Service's weekly "Piano Hour" at the Old U.S. Mint yesterday afternoon. The featured pianist was the talented you pianist-vocalist Meghan Swartz."
Ms. Swartz, 29, is a native of Seattle and has been in town for 11 years while completing an undergraduate degree at Loyola University and a master's degree in jazz studies at the University of New Orleans. While at UNO she won a prize for her original composition(s). Since coming to the city, she has been heard in a variety of jazz contexts, from big bands (John Mahoney and Delfeayo Marsalis) to small groups (Leroy Jones, Gerald French et al.)--in both traditional and more contemporary styles.
I've enjoyed her piano playing for several years, but this was the first time I heard her singing. I was reminded of Diana Krall, who also hails from the Pacific Northwest. While she admits to having been inspired by Krall, she added that the latter was but one of "too many influences to mention."
Swartz's program consisted mostly of mainstream standards, plus a Brazilian samba (sung in Portuguese) and two of her original compositions: "So Long" and "When I Get Blue, I Get on Facebook." Pianist, singer and composer, Swartz is a charming, modest and attractive young lady with a very promising musical future. See photos page.
And it happened as expected. The 20th annual Essence Fest broke its previous attendance record with crowds of 550,000 over the four day event. The festival's contract with the city expires this year, but the local hope is that it will be renewed for another long stay beginning next year.
Happy Holiday! May it be a pleasant and safe experience for you.
The big happening in the city this weekend is the 20th annual Essence Festival. Called "the largest live event in the United States," the festival drew an estimated 543,000 visitors to the city last year, totaling an estimated boost to the local economy of $231 million.
As always, the festival boasts a star-studded lineup of performers appearing in concert at the Superdome and the Convention Center. Unfortunately, as always, there is little in the way of jazz represented on the very full program schedule. But it is not a total blank. Indeed, one of the big names on the docket is singer-pianist Robert Glasper, Blue Note recording artist and one of the hottest talents on the scene these days. In addition, local acts include Big Sam Williams and the all-girl Pinettes brass band. Hotel bookings were expected to reach 100% today, so last year's attendance record should be broken again.
I stopped by the Maison on Frenchmen St. this evening to check out Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses only to find that Nealand was on "vacation" until August. But the Royal Roses were on hand nevertheless, led by Dave Boswell (trumpet and vocals). He was joined by Earl Bonie (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Davy Mooney (guitar), Josh Gouzy (bass), and Simon Lott (drums). A fine group that played a program of trad and swing standards. Boswell, 34, from Plainfield, N. J., has only been in New Orleans for a few years, but he has already established himself as a top-notch local trumpeter. See photos page.
Tulane University has been celebrating Orientation Week for incoming freshmen this week. As part of the program ace string player John Parker was invited to put together a band (as he has in the past) to help introduce the newcomers to New Orleans culture yesterday. Accordingly, he assembled some of the top traditionalists in the city to put on a one hour concert followed by a second-line parade. In addition to Parker (banjo), the band consisted of Eddie Bayard, trumpet; Tom Fischer, clarinet; Rick Trolsen, trombone; and Tom Saunders, sousaphone. A fine group that seems to have gotten the young people into the spirit of the city. See photos page.
The New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp completed its (fifth) annual week of instruction on June 14. It seems to have had its largest enrollment ever. The camp is run by the triumvirate of Banu Gibson, Leslie Cooper and Nita Hemeter and includes a teaching staff of top local musicians.
Last night, there was a performance at Buffa's by a band composed of young scholarship students from this year's camp. All are college-age kids, many of whom I have watched mature musically over the years. The band consisted of: Doyle Cooper, trumpet, vocals; Catie Rodgers, trumpet, vocals; Miles Lyons, trombone; Ryan Batiste, drums; Shawn Nedeau, bass; and Heather Pierson, piano. Cooper, a music ed major at Loyola University, is the son of Leslie Cooper, while Batiste, a student at Dillard University, is the brother of hot young pianist Jon Batiste. Ellen McCusker, a high school senior bound for Loyola and daughter of jazz author John McCusker, sang one number with the group.
All of these young people are more than competent improvisers. They promise to keep traditional jazz very much alive. See photos page.
I promised to say more about the new (double) CD by Lisa Kelly and J. B. Scott, Renditions, The Summer Sessions. I have now had an opportunity to listen to all 21 tracks of the compilation, and I have to say that I found it most impressive!
The choice of material is very tasteful, being largely familiar standards with a handful of Scott originals thrown it. All are most ably performed by a group featuring Scott on trumpet and flugelhorn, the veteran trombonist Dave Steinmeyer and a talented rhythm section of piano, bass and drums (plus guitar on a couple of tracks). Kelly is heard on vocals on at least half of the tracks (I didn't count precisely). I had not heard her before, but it has become clear to me why she has won five Downbeat awards as a singer and composer. As I wrote, after hearing her live, her scatting--a difficult challenge often muffed by amateurs--is most noteworthy. This is, in short, my kind of music--and I am happy to recommend it warmly to you.
The recording was made last year and is available through KSM Music, www.KellyScottMusic.com. Check it out.
I enjoyed a wonderful evening of music last night at Buffa's Bar & Restaurant on Esplanade, just off Rampart. I hadn't taken in the regular Thursday night gig of pianist Tom McDermott and saxophonist-clarinetist Aurora Nealand for some time--so, when I heard that this would be their last time together for a couple of months, I decided to check it out once again. It proved to be a very auspicious decision.
McDermott and Nealand were in top form, as usual. It's always a great pleasure for me to hear both of them (who are among my local favorites). But what made the evening special was the guests whom they invited to the stand. First was violinist Neti Vaan, who did not bring her axe, but only her vocal chords... Never heard her sing before, but I was impressed with her rendition of "La Vie en Rose" in French. Then came Florida trumpeter J. B. Scott, who played with McDermott in the Dukes of Dixieland in the early '90s. He's a horn player with bigtime chops who now teaches at the University of North Florida. He and his wife, singer Lisa Kelly, are in town for a gig at Irvin Mayfield's Playhouse on Saturday night. Both performed several numbers with McDermott and Nealand. Kelly impressed with her tasty scatting, as well as her straight ahead vocals. Scott, Kelly and their band have a new CD out, but more about that at another time.
For an illustrated account of the evening, see the photos page.
One of the most pleasant recordings to have passed through my mailbox in a long time is the brand new CD by veteran pianist Fred Hersch and his trio. It's called Floating (the lovely second track on the CD) and is on the Palmetto label (PM 2171).
I first heard Hersch on record when he was recording with the great clarinetist Eddie Daniels in the mid-80s and was duly impressed. I later got a chance to hear him live and had the pleasure of chatting with him in a club in New York. He's a wonderfully creative and sensitive player, and that comes through in spades in this fine recording. It consists of three standards and the rest tasty originals by the pianist.
While Hersch is not a New Orleanian (he was born in Cincinnati in 1955), there is a touch of Louisiana, rhythmically, on this recording. His original "Home Fries" is dedicated to his bassist John Hebert, who hails from Baton Rouge. In short, for those fans of Hersch and jazz piano in general, I highly recommend this recording. He's certainly one of my favorites.
I had occasion to be in Central City yesterday afternoon for a block party celebrating the (imminent) New Orleans Jazz Market at the corner of Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. and Martin Luther King Blvd. As I have reported earlier, it is a project promoted by trumpeterIrvin Mayfield and is expected to be open to the public by April 1, 2015.
Mayfield was on hand, along with his wonderful big band, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) for a performance in the fire station on MLK. The 18-piece unit was outstanding, playing the music of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and the Grateful Dead, arranged by pianist Victor "Red" Atkins, saxophonist Ed "Sweetbread" Peterson and guitarist Steve Masakowski, all of whom were in the band as well. In fact, there was a "guitar section" made of Masakowski and Carl LeBlanc! This was a kick-ass ensemble made up of some of the city's best soloists. A great event. (See photos page.)
While in the neighborhood before the concert, I caught a young duo at a coffee house on OCH Blvd. that made a very good impression. They call themselves String Remedy, consisting of Eric Rodriguez, violin, and Keenan Clayton-Hall, guitar. Shades of Django and Grappelli... (See photos page.)
I had the distinct pleasure of hearing once again one of the classiest European bands around, The Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra led by the outstanding pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen. It was their first visit to the city since 2007, and they made appearances at Snug Harbor and--on this occasion--the Norwegian Seamen's Church on Prytania Street while here. Both before packed houses.
Larsen, who hails from Oslo, is one of the world's leading ragtime (and jazz) pianists. A onetime resident of New Orleans, he has made many trips back to the city over the years with Ophelia and his smaller group, the Odeon Jazz Quartet.
The Ophelia is a 10-piece ensemble made up of very talented professionals. Besides the leader, it includes Georg Michael Reiss, clarinet and alto sax; Morten Brenne, trumpet; Helge Sunde, trombone; Bjarne Magnus Jensen, violin; Mikko Lampila, cello; Birger Mistereggen, percussion (and vocals); and Stole Ytterli, vocalist. Noted California bassist Marty Eggers was a guest in the band for this U. S. tour.
Ophelia has several CDs on the market. If you have a chance, check one of them out. It would be worth your while. See photos page.
I spent another entertaining evening on Frenchmen Street. I stopped first at the Spotted Cat where I heard, for the first time, young singer Jayne Morgan. I don't know much about her other than she already has two CDs out. She's a real belter with a powerful voice and was backed by a very competent group. Generally speaking, I would categorize this as small group swing, but I'd like to hear more before rendering final judgment. See photo of group.
I then went across the street to Snug Harbor, which was my original goal. I wanted to hear teenage trombonist Jeffrey Miller one last time before he heads off to Juilliard next year. Obviously, he's an outstanding talent, having been mentored by Delfeayo Marsalis for the last three years. On this occasion, he was joined by Jesse McBride, piano; Jason Weaver, bass; and Miles Lebatt, drums, a fine young group as well. Miller has chops on uptempo numbers, but he also showed an ability to handle ballads well (thanks to his tutelage from Marsalis, I would guess). Near the end of the first set, he invited his "good friends" from this year's graduating class at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) to join him on stage: trumpeter John Michael Bradford and tenor saxophonist Morgan Garrett. What a lineup of high school jazz talent! Bradford continues to impress me. In fact, I would say that he's a tad ahead of Miller in development at this point. But all three young men are outstanding talents for teenagers. The young jazz musicians these days just keep getting better and better. They are a courageous lot for doing what they are doing. Who says jazz is dead? See photos page.
I interviewed guitarist Warren Battiste Monday afternoon for a piece I'll be doing about him in an upcoming issue of Offbeat. I have to say that the soon-to-be 89-year-old is a real class act. And, by the way, he is not related to Harold Battiste(despite the similarity of their names), but the two have discussed the subject many times. (See Photos page.)
I had the pleasure of catching the "Guitar Extravaganza" before a packed house at Snug Harbor this evening. The featured performers were local guitarists Detroit Brooks, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Warren Battiste.
The guitarists were accompanied by a fine local rhythm section comprised of Paul Longstreth, piano; Kanako Fuwa, keyboards, vocal; Chris Severin, bass; and Ricky Sebastian, drums.
A wonderful evening of good jazz and blues. See photos page.
The ninth annual Bayou Boogaloo completed another successful weekend of music, food and crafts yesterday. The festival, which takes place on lovely Bayou St. John in Mid-City, represents the last of the spring festival season in New Orleans. See the photos page for some of the acts I caught over the weekend.
I spent a most pleasant evening on Frenchmen Street last night. It seemed very crowded for a Wednesday evening. The large number of tourists who have "discovered" the street suggests that it is beginning to approximate Bourbon Street, traditionally its definite antithesis. My first stop, after dinner at the Praline Connection, was at the Spotted Cat, where the Orleans Five--the regular Wednesday night band--was performing. A fine group composed of John Royen, piano; Will Smith, trumpet; James Evans, clarinet and alto sax; James Singleton, bass; and Benjy Bohannon, drums. They play all the trad standards well, and, as always at the Cat, there is group of young people who enjoy dancing to the music.
My main stop was at Snug Harbor to catch the first show of Delfeayo Marsalis and the 14-piece Uptown Jazz Orchestra. In addition to Marsalis on trombone, they feature a mixture of some of city's top veteran and young musicians, including the likes
of reedmen Khari Lee, Miles Berry, Roderick Paulin, Greg Agid and Roger Lewis; pianist Megan Swartz; bassist David Pulphus and drummer Stanton Moore--just to name a few. They are a well-rehearsed ensemble with outstanding soloists playing many original compositions by Marsalis as well as other big jazz band standards. In my opinion they deserve wider national recognition.
Finally, on the way to my car, I noted the infamous Young Fellaz Brass Band in their usual location on the corner in front of the old Café Brasil as they were winding down for the evening. It seems that they have come to terms with local businesses in agreeing to stop playing by about 10:30 every night and to not play so loudly as before. As I noted here some weeks ago, they had become the focus of a big flap among business owners and residents about noise and general unruliness on Frenchmen Street. Maybe that is now settled to everyone's satisfaction. We'll see.
Eighty-eight-year-old guitarist Warren Batistte celebrated the release of his fourth CD as featured artist, "Street Jazz, with a performance at the Louisiana Music factory this afternoon. Battiste, a New Orleans native, spent much of his professional life on the East Coast, and has therefore received less attention than he's due in his hometown. He was the first guitarist to play with Fats Domino on a regular basis. Later, he moved to New York where he played with legendary saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. Despite his advanced age, he is still playing the jazz standards beautifully and with soul. See photos page.
Today is International Jazz Day, and there was a good bit going on around town. First off, the historic Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Avenue at the fringe of Faubourg Treme, celebrated its grand opening. Originally built in 1950 (named after George Washington Carver) to serve African Americans, the structure received disastrous damage as a result of Katrina flooding in 2005. Accordingly, an $8 million restoration project was initiated soon thereafter designed as a live (music and drama) performance center. The grand opening celebration featured free live music performances by a host of local musicians from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. (See photos page.) In the evening, there was an opening night concert featuring Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. This impressive venue promises to be an important economic stimulant for the neighborhood and a significant entertainment center for the whole city.
In the afternoon, the recognition of Harold Battiste as a "Jazz Hero" by the Jazz Journalists' Association began with a performance by Battiste protégé Jesse McBride and his band (the Next Generation) at the Louisiana Music Factory on Frenchmen Street. (See photos page.)
The Jazz Hero celebration continued in the evening at the Prime Example Jazz & Blues Club on North Broad Street. McBride and a slightly different combination of fine young musicians provided the music for a ceremony that included the presentation of the Jazz Hero award to Mr. Battiste. The club was packed with friends and fans to honor him. (See photos page.)
The first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is now history, but there is one more weekend yet to come. I attended the performances on Saturday, the 26th, and that will be my one and only visit to the fest this year. I have to say that, as a jazz fan, my interest in the festival has been declining for years. The number of true jazz headliners has been decreasing annually, while the number of pop stars seems to be increasing proportionately. Clearly, the focus is on attracting a rather different audience from years past. Since AEG Live became involved in producing the festival a decade ago, the trend has been to attract the biggest names in the pop field--rather than in jazz--which, of course, has solidified the NOJ&HF's (all important) bottom line. The festival draws people to the city and thereby helps the local economy enormously, and its foundation does many wonderful things for the local music business. But, as a "jazz festival," it has long since lost its luster. Unfortunately, I don't see this as a unique phenomenon. It seems to be happening to jazz festivals in Europe as well.
In any case, see the photos page for pics of some of the acts I caught yesterday. I must say that that best ones, IMO, were locals. Speaking of which, Jazzfest staple, Pete Fountain, was missing this year for the first time in decades. At 83, he has decided to retire from the music business after a long and illustrious career. He will be truly missed--and not just at Jazz Fest. Thanks for the good memories, Pete!
Ace trumpeter Lew Soloff was a guest performer at UNO and was joined on stage (at the Sandbar) with some of the university's top jazz studies students. Known particularly for his command of the upper register of his horn, he demonstrated his stratospheric chops impressively with members of Steve Masakowski's Thelonious Monk Ensemble that included the fine young tenor saxophonist Miles Berry. Also making very good impressions were pianist Kris Tokarski and drummer Peter Varnado. See photos page.
Veteran pianist and bandleader Steve Pistorius was interviewed this afternoon by Fred Kasten in his "Talkin' Jazz" series at the Old Mint. Pistorius, 59, made his first recording at the age of 19 and has been a leader on the traditional jazz scene in New Orleans ever since. See Photos page.
It's time to note some recent recordings that have crossed my desk. In this case, none have New Orleans connections. But they are of considerable interest nevertheless.
*The first was released late last year. It's called Chakra and features the amazing new big band of Ted Nash. The music is Nash's original compositions in a jazz version of traditional Indian "chakras." The recording showcases a number of outstanding soloists including Nash himself on alto sax and flute, Anat Cohen on clarinet and tenor sax, and trumpeter Tim Hagens, among others. I had the pleasure of hearing this band debut the music at Dizzy's in Lincoln Center last November.
*A more recent big band CD worthy of note is The L.A. Treasures Project by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. This wonderful band led by bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (who were students at Indiana University when I taught there) plays a series of standards and features (on 8 of the 13 tracks) the vocals of L. A. veterans Ernie Andrew