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
"There are few listeners in New Orleans who’ve devoted themselves as fervently to the cause of covering traditional jazz as Thomas Jacobsen."—Tom McDermott, OffBeat
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.
[This and the following are from the fall catalogue of the Louisiana State University Press.]
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 one year old (as of March, 2012). 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 $22.50 plus postage.
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.
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 Andrews and Barbara Morrison. It was recorded live in San Pedro, CA.
*I have always been a sucker for the vibraphone, so I listened with great interest to this brand new album by young vibraphonist Tyler Blanton. It's called Gotham and consists of a half dozen original compositions by Blanton. I have to say that, while Blanton can clearly play, his music left me rather cold. The one exception was the ballad on the closing track, "Breaking Through the Clouds." Tenor saxophonist Danny McCaslin, whom I have enjoyed in other contexts, redeemed himself from a mostly uninteresting performance with a sensitive rendering here.
*Another new CD of largely original compositions is pianist Ellen Rowe's Courage Music. Rowe is a fine jazz pianist who leads a quartet that includes saxophonist and clarinetist Andrew Bishop (who impressed me particularly on the latter instrument). The group is here joined by acclaimed trumpeter and flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen, who demonstrates why she is so highly regarded. And guest trombonist Paul Ferguson distinguishes himself on a lovely ballad, "Gentle Spirit."
*Again, more original compositions by a fine female pianist. Her name is Leslie Pintchik, and her CD is called In the Nature of Things. The album showcases Pintchik and her sextet featuring the horns of Ron Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Steve Wilson (alto and soprano saxophones), plus a more than competent rhythm section. Some pleasing melodies here performed by a group of talented musicians. This was probably my favorite recording of this batch of CDs.
The French Quarter Festival comes to a close today. Apart from giving my talk at the NOIMC yesterday, I attended only parts of the first two days and did not go out to face the crowds today. The weather has been beautiful, the music varied and good, and the turnout probably record setting. But the FQF is not the relatively intimate affair that it once was. It now covers a large part of the French Quarter and attracts huge throngs, much like Jazz Fest. For me, it just ain't the same... See the photos page for some of the acts that I managed to catch.
One of the brightest young stars on the national jazz scene appeared at Tulane University this evening as part of a series honoring women in jazz put together by Tulane's jazz program director, Jesse McBride. That would be alto saxophonist Tia Fuller , who performed with Tulane jazz studies students in the university's Ratskellar club. Ms. Fuller has appeared with many of the leading national jazz groups including that of fellow female star Esperanza Spaulding. See photos page.
French Quarter Festival begins on Thursday, the 10th and will run through Sunday, the 13th. I will be giving a talk about my upcoming book at the New Orleans International Music Colloquium in conjunction with the Fest on Saturday, the 12th.
International Jazz Day Events in New Orleans to Honor Harold Battiste
The New Orleans chapter of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) is pleased to announce the following events to honor Harold Battiste, its recipient of a 2014 JJA Jazz Hero award, in conjunction with International Jazz Day on April 30, a day officially designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.
JJA "Jazz Heroes" are activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities. The "Jazz Hero" awards, made on the basis of nominations from community members, are presented in conjunction with the Jazz Journalists Association's annual Jazz Awards honoring significant achievements in jazz music and journalism. In 2013, the JJA recognized saxophonist and Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp Artistic Director, Kidd Jordan, who headlines the camp’s first 20th anniversary concert series performance on May 1, 2014, at Café Istanbul (2372 St. Claude Ave.) at 9 p.m.
To learn more about the JJA Jazz Hero Award, visit www.jjajazzawards.org/p/2014-jazz-heroes.html. To learn more about International Jazz Day, visit jazzday.com.
International Jazz Day events in New Orleans to honor JJA Jazz Hero Award Recipient Harold Battiste:
1) Jesse McBride presents The Next Generation Tribute Performance in Honor of Harold Battiste
Louisiana Music Factory - 421 Frenchmen St.
Wednesday, April 30, 4:00p.m.
Pianist and bandleader Jesse McBride, the current director of the Next Generation band that Harold Battiste founded, will perform a set of Battiste compositions with the newest members of The Next Generation. (Free and open to the public.)
2) Harold Battiste Award Presentation, "Harold Battiste Day" Proclamation, and Concert Tribute featuring Jesse McBride presents The Next Generation
The Prime Example Jazz & Blues Club - 1909 N. Broad St.
Wednesday, April 30, 6:30 p.m.
The Jazz Journalists Association of New Orleans will present Harold Battiste with the 2014 Jazz Hero award, and a local city official will declare April 30 as Harold Battiste Day in New Orleans. A tribute concert will follow featuring Jesse McBride presents The Next Generation. (Free and open to the public.)
About Harold Battiste:
The New Orleans Jazz Journalists Association members have chosen to honor Harold Battiste, Jr. for his progressive, innovative and creative contributions to the jazz and R&B scene from the 1950s into the present – a music and cultural timeline of more than 60 years.
After developing a prolific and influential career as a producer, arranger, composer and saxophonist in both California and his native New Orleans, Battiste recognized a major hole in the music industry and, in 1961, founded All for One (AFO) Records, the nation’s first record label owned and operated by African-American musicians. AFO recorded the first wave of contemporary jazz artists in New Orleans, including clarinetist Alvin Batiste, drummers Ed Blackwell and James Black, jazz vocalist Germaine Bazzle, saxophonists Nat Perrilliat and Alvin “Red” Tyler, and pianist Ellis Marsalis. (The label and its concomitant foundation continue to support the efforts of today’s top African-American musicians, particularly those in New Orleans.)
In addition to his work in the jazz industry, Battiste launched the pop careers of Sam Cooke, Sonny & Cher, and Dr. John. He produced and arranged 10 gold records, including hits which defined several music eras, “I Got You, Babe” and “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny & Cher), “You Send Me” (Sam Cooke), “I Know [You Don’t Love Me No More]” (Barbara George) and “You Talk Too Much” (Joe Jones). Battiste also mentored Mac Rebennack, created the persona of “Dr. John, The Nite Tripper,” and produced Dr. John’s critically acclaimed album, Gris Gris. In the late ‘80s, Battiste partnered with Ellis Marsalis to build the renowned Jazz Studies program at the University of New Orleans. He developed an impressive flock of protégés, including many of today’s leading jazz musicians – Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Rex Gregory and Jesse McBride (bandleader of the Next Generation band, another Battiste vision).
Battiste was able to share aspects of his life story that had been overlooked for many years with the 2010 publication of Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man (co-authored with Karen Celestan and published by the Historic New Orleans Collection).
Harold Battiste, Jr. is a true Jazz Hero for his vision in the creation of AFO Records; his large body of work as a composer, arranger and musician, both within and extending beyond the jazz paradigm; and his ongoing commitment to music education in New Orleans. His devotion to the art of music and community has fostered a living legacy in the city of New Orleans through his jazz students and the creation of the Next Generation band.
*For more background on Mr. Battiste’s decade-spanning career and lasting impact on jazz, please check out John Swenson’s piece, “All For Harold,” in the April issue of OffBeat magazine:
Clarinetist Evan Christopher was interviewed this afternoon by Fred Kasten in the monthly "Talkin' Jazz" series at the Old Mint. (See photo page.) Christopher, who travels about six months a year, is probably the hottest clarinetist in town and, indeed, one of the hottest in the country these days. Among his always thoughtful comments was, "At this point in my career [he's now 45], I am not a jazz musician at all." Well, he could have fooled me! But, in this age of terming Dizzy and Bird examples of "classic jazz," maybe I understand. Labels can be misleading. Evan went on to emphasize, "I play New Orleans clarinet"--explaining that it is kind of an ethnic style something like the Greek or Turkish clarinetists. I would have liked to pursue the topic with him, but there was no opportunity for a question/answer session after the interview. In any case, if one listens to him, it is easy to see what he means by his reference to the New Orleans clarinet style. There are abundant allusions to the likes of legendary New Orleanians Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard, Jimmie Noone, Albert Nicholas, etc. This is readily evident in his current CD, just out, Django a la Creole Live, the third in his series of Django a la Creole recordings. It is on the French" lejazzetal" label (LJCD 14) and a wonderful collection of works by Django, Jelly Roll, Ellington and others. But it is difficult for me to call the music anything but an excellent example of classic jazz.
Speaking of which, I would mention here another good recent CD (also recorded in Europe) by a group led by veteran New Orleans drummer, Trevor Richards. (The International Trio is a group that Christopher also recorded with some years ago.) In any case, I refer you to my brief review of the CD in the current (April) issue of Offbeat magazine. (See works page.)
Superb clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera is in town this weekend for a concert with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre tonight. Last night he gave a master class for clarinet students at Loyola University. The students performed individually and in groups and Paquito critiqued their playing. Needless to say, a number of local clarinetists were in the audience, e.g., Evan Christopher, Greg Agid, and Michael White. The evening concluded with the Cuban-born clarinetist and his pianist Alex Brown doing a Brazilian choro. They were then joined by White, Christopher and Agid in an improvisational blues. Splendid! It was a wonderful session of music. D'Rivera is not only a world-class clarinetist/composer (and alto saxophonist), but he is a fine human being with a zany sense of humor as well. See photos page.
My daughter and her family are visiting. They had hoped to catch Super Sunday yesterday, but it was called off because of the threat of rain. Nevertheless, with the help of friend Cherice Harrison Nelson, we were able to experience several Mardi Gras Indian activities over the weekend. On Saturday, we attended the funeral of Chief Derrick Magee at the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in the Upper Ninth Ward. There was also a reception for the Guardians of the Flame at the McKenna Gallery that day. On Sunday, we visited for the first time the impressive new Donald Harrison Sr. Museum in the Upper Nine, where Cherice and her mother shared their thoughts about Mardi Gras Indian traditions. A wonderful experience for all of us. See photos page.
Wrapping up some old business here are a couple of CDs from last year (2013) that deserve attention:
The first one has been around for a while. It is the latest by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and is entitled "That's It." As the liner notes and promotional materials emphasize, this recording represents a dramatic change of course for the PHJB. For one thing, apart from two "bonus tracks," the other 11 numbers are all original compositions by band members (mostly by leader Ben Jaffe) and all include vocals by most of the band. The presence of Ronnell Johnson on tuba gives several pieces a brass band feel, also something new for the band. Notable instrumental contributions come from ace trumpeter Mark Braud and veteran clarinetist Charlie Gabriel. There's much to like about this recording, and I am happy to recommend it.
Another worthy offering by a local band is the latest by Tuba Skinny , an outstanding young group (as I have indicated elsewhere in these pages). Called "Pyramid Strut," it is a collection of wonderful--but not often heard--tunes from the Classic Jazz era. The group has a real feel for the traditional blues, and that is most evident in the Bessie Smith-like voicings of vocalist Erika Lewis. She is heard to great advantage on most tracks. Instrumentally, I would draw attention to the cornet of Shaye Cohn and trombonist Barnabus Jones. For fans of Classic Jazz, this band deserves your serious attention.
The first Nickel-A-Dance session of the season got off to a most auspicious start this afternoon with a wonderful performance by Mitchell Player's Ella and Louis Tribute Band doing the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The band consisted of Player on bass, along with Leon Brown (trumpet and vocals), Todd Duke (guitar), Leslie Martin (piano) and Gerald French (drums)--a fine group. But the highlight had to be the voice of U. K. native Eileina Dennis, now a New Orleans resident. She was outstanding and had the large crowd in the palm of her hand. She's clearly here to stay! See photos page.
The Louisiana Music Factory had its grand re-opening at 421 Frenchmen Street today. It is a sparkling new venue, and owner Barry Smith hosted a series of bands to celebrate the occasion. First on the agenda was the talented young group Tuba Skinny headed by the gifted multi-instrumentalist Shaye Cohn. (In case you haven't heard, Cohn is the daughter of guitarist Joe Cohn and granddaughter of the great saxophonist Al Cohn. Shaye moved to New Orleans from the East Coast shortly after Katrina and has been a prominent contributor to the local music scene ever since.) Cornetist Cohn was joined by Craig Flory on clarinet, Barnabus Jones (trombone), Greg Sherman (guitar, vocals), Todd Burdick (tuba), Robin Rapuzzi (washboard) and Erika Lewis (vocals and bass drum). I can only guess that the group's name is a spinoff of the late bassist Tuba Fats Lacen, but they are a collection of young professionals who have a truly authentic grasp of traditional jazz. See also photos page.
Yesterday morning, I joined a large gathering at the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in Central City to celebrate the groundbreaking of the New Orleans Jazz Market. The brainchild of Irvin Mayfield and Ron Markham of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), along with the financial support of many others, the Market will be a community jazz center whose 14,000 square feet will be devoted to both performance and exhibition space.
In addition to Mayfield and Markham, the ceremony featured remarks by a host of local dignitaries and included the induction of pianist Ellis Marsalis and trumpeter Lionel Ferbos as the first members of the Market's Walk of Fame. Famed singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, honorary chairperson of the NOJO board, was also on hand. She, Marsalis and Mayfield concluded the program with a lovely rendition of "On the Sunny Side of the Street."
The grand opening is expected to be early next year. The site promises to be a major venue for the New Orleans jazz scene. (See photos page.)
Carnival is in full swing, with parades (and never-ending street repairs) clogging city thoroughfares and thus making circulation difficult --depending on where one lives in the city. (In my case, we live in Mid-City, near Bayou St. John.) Starting on Wednesday, the 26th, there will be multiple parades every day/night right through Mardi Gras on March 4. Yet daily live musical events don't cease for the season. It's just difficult to access them unless you live downtown.
So, how did you find "The Whole Gritty City"? It was sobering, to be sure, but maybe that group of youngsters will produce another Trombone Shorty or two. At the very least, their lives will be infinitely enriched by devoting themselves to music rather than the other less wholesome distractions available to them. God bless Derrick Tabb and school band instructors like Wilbert Rawlins for their dedication to the task. What do you think?
Something good to look forward to:
Saturday, February 15, 9pm Eastern and Pacific, 8pm Central and Mountain, CBS 48 Hours Presents “The Whole Gritty City”
It’s an unusual, amazing opportunity to bring to people across the country the voices of struggling, vibrant, aspiring kids, to show them the sights and sounds of New Orleans and to introduce them to the band directors who are true American heroes.
What could be more appropriate as the Carnival parades are about to start? For more, check out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is about time, once again, to note some of the better (but by no means all) CDs that have recently come across my desk. The first three were released last year, while the last two just came out last month. None of them, I hasten to add, are by New Orleans musicians. Yet all are worthy of your consideration.
*Rotem Sivan Trio, Enchanted Sun(Steeple Chase). Foreign-born guitarist Sivan now lives in New York City and has achieved quite a following since this debut recording. In addition to a couple of standards, the program here includes some interesting Asian sounds.
*Enrico Granafei, Alone (and) Together (CAP). If you dig jazz harmonica (and there have been some good ones over the years), you'll like this. Another musician from abroad who has settled in the States, Granafei has been well-received in this country. Here he is joined by several outstanding jazz artists, including trumpeter Wallace Roney, pianist Amina Figarova and guitarists Dave Stryker and Vic Juris. They perform a tasteful selection of standards and originals including Body and Soul, 'Round Midnight, Cherokee, and Giant Steps.
*Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, Latin Jazz, Jazz Latin (Patois). Five-time Grammy nominee trombonist/composer Wallace is heard here with his quintet and special guests that include 17-year-old flutist Elena Pinderhughes. The program includes jazz standards as well as Latin favorites featuring percussionists Pete Escovedo and Michael Spiro. Wallace has recently been appointed professor of jazz at Indiana University's prestigious music school.
*Another Latin recording is Beautiful Love (Shrinktunes) featuring Brazilian guitarist and vocalist Paulinho Garcia. It is collection of jazz standards, works by Brazilian composers (including Jobim) and a Garcia original. This is easy listening.
*The last CD is Tribute (Miles High Records) featuring the fine New York tenor saxophonist Tim Hegarty. (The tribute is to Monk and host of tenor saxophone icons.) Hegarty is joined by a star-studded supporting cast including pianist Kenny Barron, vibraphonist Mark Sherman, bassist Rufus Reid, and Carl Allen on drums. They play nine jazz standards plus a Hegarty original. This is an excellent recording and my favorite among this batch of CDs.
I checked out an excellent master class by ace drummer Herlin Riley at the Old Mint this afternoon. The class was moderated by Matthew Schilling of the New Orleans Youth Sound Exchange for his students ranging in age from 11 to 18. (See photos page.)
Later in the evening I attended the first show of the Christian Scott Quartet at Snug Harbor. Scott, now 30, is a native New Orleanian (NOCCA grad) whom I vividly remember as an extremely talented teenager. He has been recording since he was 16. Since then, he went on to graduate from Berklee in Boston and sign a recording contract with Concord Records. He has become one of the hottest young trumpeters in the jazz world today.
Scott's current touring group consists of outstanding young musicians: pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Kris Funn and drummer Corey Fonville (just 23). In addition, he had with him his wife, singer Isidora Mendez Scott (who did her version of the Gershwin classic "Summertime") and guitarist Cliff Castle, a newcomer to the group. The rest of the program consisted of original compositions by the trumpeter that reveal him as gifted composer as well as high energy soloist. Both the 8:00 and 10:oo pm sets were sold out, and the crowds loved him. He's another in the long line of marvelous trumpet players from our city. (See photos page.)
The Norwegian Seamen's Church on Prytania Street welcomed back an old friend for its monthly jazz service this morning. Trumpeter/vocalist Gregg Stafford and his quartet--Daniel Farrow, tenor sax; Detroit Brooks, banjo; Sidney Snow, bass--played a spirited program of traditional hymns that had the congregation clapping in time with the music. Stafford has been a longtime contributor to the music at the church, and a good friend of Norway as well. See photos page.
I witnessed an exciting musical performance last night before a full house at Snug Harbor. The featured group was the excellent Richard Johnson-Christian Winther Quartet. You may recall that I recently reviewed with pleasure the duo CD of Johnson and Winther (see below). The latter is very familiar to me and one of my local favorites. But this was my first opportunity to hear Johnson live, and I was duly impressed. First-class chops! As I said in my review, he and Winther interact very well, always aware of what the other is doing. And they were joined by a talented rhythm section composed of Stephen Gordon, drums, and Jason Weaver, bass. All in all, a wonderful combination, and the large crowd truly appreciated it. I look forward to their next CD together. (See photos page for pic of Johnson.)
The so-called "noise ordinance" followup meeting was held on January 27, as promised. (See below.) The highlight of the lengthy session in which both musicians and club owners took part, was probably the brief comments of Deacon John Moore, president of the local musicians' union. He opened his prepared remarks by saying, "Only with cooler heads and informed sources will we prevail." While he "resented" music being referred to as "noise," he admitted that "sometimes it gets so loud that you have to call it noise." Yet he put the blame on the clubs, whom he called "the real culprits." He said that the club owners are telling the bands to play louder. Accordingly, he suggested that more soundproofing is needed in the clubs, outdoor speakers need to be removed and speaker placement within the clubs needs to be reorganized to produce more the effect of surround sound. But he said his "primary" and "paramount" concern was the health of the musicians themselves. "I know musicians who can't hear," he said. That point was echoed by clarinetist Tim Laughlin later on, and I can testify that I have known many musicians with hearing impairment. We all know that the success of a band/combo is determined by each player listening to his fellow players. As Deacon John noted, the common law among musicians is "if you can't hear me, you're playing too loud." In short, the meeting was much more restrained than the earlier one. The council seems to have heard enough testimony, but its resolution to the issue has yet to be announced. Stay tuned.
To continue to follow the situation, turn to the website MaCCNO.com.
I had the distinct pleasure last night of hearing a wonderful concert billed as "The Kremlin Meets the Crescent City" at Lupin Memorial Hall, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA). It featured the internationally acclaimed Igor Butman Jazz Orchestra from Moscow, Russia. They were paired with our own fine Uptown Jazz Orchestra led by trombonist/composer Delfeayo Marsalis. It was my first opportunity to hear the famed Russian tenor saxophonist, who has been called "maybe the greatest living jazz saxophonist" by none other than President Bill Clinton. He is clearly a world-class tenor player (he performed on alto and soprano as well), and his excellent band was a well-oiled machine that totally understands the meaning of jazz. Butman had with him an amazing multilingual female vocalist, Fantine (Pritoula), who also knows the meaning of swing. They are an outstanding musical organization.
On the New Orleans side of things, Delfeayo assembled a ensemble of some of the best young talent in the city. They proved to be a ferociously swinging group as well. Among the featured performers were pianist Ellis Marsalis, the father of the bandleader, and pianist/singer Davell Crawford.
The two bands alternated with one another in presenting five different numbers, concluding with a combined jam that rocked the house and had the audience on its feet.
The Russian aggregation ended their U. S. tour (by no means their first) with this performance in New Orleans. They also appeared at Snug Harbor on the 22nd and at a high school on the suburban North Shore on the 23rd.
Finally, I should mention the CD that skyrocketed Butman to international fame in 1997. It is called "Nostalgie," and I recommend it highly. It was recorded in New York City and includes several American musicians.
For more about Mr. Butman, check out his website www.igorbutman.com. (See the photos page.)
We are now back from Florida, and it is finally time to draw attention to a serious issue that has been brewing in this city for some time. It concerns public musical performances--characterized as "noise" by those with tin ears who oppose it--and it came to a head in late December with a somewhat clandestine move to get the City Council to approve an ordinance to curtail it.
The Council was to hold a hearing on the proposed "noise ordinance" at City Hall at noon on Friday, January 17. An hour before the scheduled meeting, a rally of hundreds of protesters (as many as 700 according to one report) was held in Duncan Plaza in front of City Hall. The rally included countless musicians as well as other sympathizers and had been organized by the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO), a group that has concerned itself with many cultural issues of this kind.
As it turned out, the Council cancelled the proposed noon meeting. But that did not keep several hundred from the rally from entering the Council chamber and expressing their concern (to the one Council member, LaToya Cantrell, who was on hand). The group included many musicians, a few club owners and other interested persons. They learned that a new ordinance proposal will soon be made public, with another hearing scheduled for Monday, January 27. While I missed the first open meeting by being out of town, I fully intend to be at the next meeting.
At this point, we have no idea what will eventually come to pass. But it seems pretty clear that the situation has not been resolved by any means. (See Jan Ramsey's commentary in the Weekly Beat on line, January 22: "The noise issue was not ended by last week's rally. The fight is still on.")
In the meantime, you can follow the happenings on the Coalition's website: MaCCNO.com.
January 8, 2014
Warm wishes, indeed! The new year got off to a miserable start with a cold spell that blanketed most of the country, including even the "dear old southland"--with New Orleans experiencing two days of record sub-freezing weather. Things have begun to improve gradually, but my wife and I are taking no chances and will be traveling to Florida (to visit my son and his family) from January 14 to the 21st.