Thomas W. Jacobsen (aka Thomas, Tom, or T. W.) was born, raised and educated in Minnesota. He eventually received a Ph. D. in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Until retirement, Jacobsen spent his career in higher education, including 26 years on the faculty of Indiana University (Bloomington). He devoted his scholarly efforts to the study of prehistoric archaeology in Greece and the Aegean Basin. To that end, he worked in Greece for some 35 years, including 25 years as director of the excavations at the important site of Franchthi Cave. He also served as general editor of the multi-volume series Excavations at Franchthi Cave, Greece, published by the Indiana University Press. During his time in Greece, he wrote the first article in English on jazz in Greece (1987).
Jacobsen has been devoted to jazz music since he was a clarinet- and saxophone-playing teenager. It was at that time that he was introduced to New Orleans jazz by listening to the broadcasts of the New Orleans Jazz Club over the powerful Crescent City radio station WWL.
Upon retirement, Jacobsen moved to New Orleans where he lived for a quarter century--during which time he became deeply involved in the local music scene. He has published extensively on New Orleans jazz, having served as a columnist and New Orleans correspondent for the well-known traditional jazz and ragtime monthly The Mississippi Rag. He also served for more than a decade on the editorial staff and was a columnist and feature writer for The Clarinet magazine as well as contributing to a variety of other jazz periodicals. He is the author of Traditional New Orleans Jazz, Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, LSU Press, 2011, and The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000, A Personal Retrospective, LSU Press, 2014.
Jacobsen and his wife Sharyn moved to St. Louis in September, 2014--to be near their their two youngest grandchildren.
“Passionate, enthusiastic, and thorough accounts such as Jacobsen’s The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today are much needed documents of the social and economic impact of jazz which has been called "America's classical music."--MONIKA HERZIG, jazz pianist, leader of The Whole World in Her Hands, and author of David Baker: A Legacy in Music.
"I've long been an admirer of Thomas Jacobsen's writing, his scholarship, his fair- minded coverage of all jazz styles, and his warm personal regard for New Orleans musicians.” CHARLES SUHOR, author of Jazz in New Orleans, the Postwar Years through 1970.
“Tom Jacobsen...has made use of his time [in New Orleans] by constant presence on the jazz scene and involvement in its community, collecting his impressions and recording his data whenever he came into contact with that community...His outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. All styles played in the city are given their due in this essential book.” W. ROYAL STOKES, author of Swing Era New York, The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson and other books on jazz and fiction.
MAY 1, 2016
164 pages, 5.5" x 8.5"
Nearly 70 photographs taken by author
Paper $20.00 (from author)
Available through Amazon; Bluebird Publishing, St. Louis; local bookstores/record shops in New Orleans and St. Louis. For further information, please contact this website. See Works page for the TABLE OF CONTENTS. It is also available on line at the following: http://www.louisianamusicfactory.com/shop/books/the-new-orleans-jazz-scene-today-a-guide-to-the-musicians-live-jazz-venues-and-more-thomas-w-jacobsen-book/.
* IF YOU SEE A REVIEW OF THIS BOOK, I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR LETTING ME KNOW. MANY THANKS, AND SEE BELOW. (webmaster)
*Ottawa [Ontario] Jazz Scene, May, 2016:
"THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ SCENE TODAY
"The writer THOMAS W. JACOBSEN has an intimate knowledge of the New Orleans musicians and jazz clubs, as he demonstrates in this new book published by Bluebird Publishing of St. Louis, Missouri.
The book has six major chapters:
The Club Scene
The Musicians & Bands
Louis Armstrong Park and Jazz National Historical Park
Jazz Education In New Orleans
Preservation of the Past
followed by Epilogue, Bibliography and Index
I recommend this excellent book to anyone interest in New Orleans jazz and particularly to anyone planning to visit New Orleans." (Ron Sweetman)
*OffBeat, August, 2016:
"As the subtitle of Thomas Jacobsen's latst book on jazz suggests, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today stands as a "guide" offering snapshot views of what's presently going on in the music's birthplace... By the naming of this city's traditional and modern jazz artists and the many clubs and venues that present the music, the intention of the publication was also to indicate just how rich, active, vital and diverse the New Orleans jazz community remains in the post-Katrina era..."
"Jacobsen, the author of two books on New Orleans jazz, was a 25-year resident of the Crescent City and is professor emeritus of Indiana University. His involvement in the jazz world, his familiarity with this unique and sometimes quirky city and his academia all show up within the book's pages. It's difficult to find a jazz musician's name missed, a club or festival forgotten or a footnote ignored. As a retired professor himself, the author wisely includes a chapter on educational institutions that offer jazz studies. These are from where it is hoped that some of the next generation of artists will emerge..."
"A lot of information can be gleaned from the The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today..." (Geraldine Wyckoff)
*Los Angeles Jazz Scene, Jazz Around Town, September, 2016:
"Going to New Orleans in the near future to see some jazz? Be sure to pick up The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today by Thomas W. Jacobsen (available from www. bluebirdpub.com). This compact book includes all of the information one needs about seeing jazz in the Crescent City. Jacobsen discusses the clubs, the festivals, the historic buildings, Louis Armstrong Park and the current musicians who should be seen.
An excellent reference book that is also worth reading from cover to cover, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today lives up to its title and is indispensable for those traveling to jazz's birthplace." (Scott Yanow)
*Newsletter, Jazz Education Network Research Interest Group (JENRing). September, 2016:
The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today “For the past quarter century, Tom Jacobsen has been one of the most astute and dedicated local observers of the New Orleans jazz scene. The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today draws on that expertise, providing the insight needed to fully acquaint intrepid explorers with what New Orleans music has to offer and how it continues to grow." (Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Tulane University). The book is available through both Amazon and local bookstores/record shops in New Orleans and St. Louis. It is also available online here [Louisiana Music Factory]. You could receive a better price than either Amazon or the publisher if you write to the author at: 1800 S. Brentwood Blvd, Apt 1134, St. Louis, MO 63144.
* Doctor Jazz Magazine (Netherlands), September, 2016: The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today, A Guide to the Musicians, Live Jazz Venues, and More.
Author: Thomas W. Jacobsen. Publisher: Bluebird Publishing, St. Louis, MO.
There have been many books written about New Orleans and its music. Especially the older give a rather romantic view of the city and are often full of prejudice, which this book appears to be free of. Jacobsen, originally an archaeologist, lived after his early retirement 25 years in the city. He plunged extensively into the jazz life and was also involved with non-musical matters. The first of the six chapters is about jazz clubs in the different parts of town. In clubs like d.b.a. and the Spotted Cat appear the bands about which I wrote in issue (DJM) 233 under the title, "A New New Orleans Jazz Revival?" Chapter 2 describes musicians in traditional jazz/swing, modern jazz, free jazz and brass bands. Groups from my article are mentioned in traditional jazz. Aurora Nealand is touted as super talented.
New Orleans is a real party town, where there is always a jazz festival underway. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest, and the French Quarter Festival have awesome proportions. Chapter 4 deals with the twenty years it took to get Louis Armstrong Park [and the National Jazz Park] together.
Next comes the many jazz programs in the city. Chapter 6 deals with heritage conservation. This will interest readers wanting to visit New Orleans on 'pilgrimage.'Storyville they will not find, because it is razed. Currently, archaeologists are working to examine the debris and utensils that tell something about the daily life of the women who lived and worked there.
In his closing remarks, Jacobsen gives the resurgent interest in the aforementioned bands and is fairly optimistic about the future of jazz. The book contains much 'jazz wisdom' and is useful for visitors to New Orleans. Also for those at home who prefer to watch jazz movies on the Internet (a possibility which Jacobsen does not mention!). The book is a must because of the large number of names of musicians and bands among which there is much beauty to discover.
Site: www.amazon.com/Thomas-W.-Jacobsen. (JK)
[Ed. note: This is a very rough internet translation from the original Dutch. "JK" is writer Jan Kraak.]
*The Syncopated Times, December 2016, p. 24 (Russ Tarby). See below.
*Downbeat, December 2016, p. 81 (David Kunian). See below.
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
N.B. Published reviews of this book have been archived. See Archives page. THIS BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE ON UNIVERSITY PRESS/REDWOOD AUDIOBOOKS.
The opening welcome that had been in this location for some time must have become extremely tedious to see for those of you who are repeat offenders at the site. I will simply say that I am pleased with the visitations to the site, now well into the thousands and from all over the U.S. and about 35 foreign countries on all continents populated by humans. Thanks for your support, and do continue to check us out. I will continue to update all the pages on a regular basis, but it is possible that the latest news may not always appear at the top of the page.
And forgive me. I will continue to make note of my book Traditional New Orleans Jazz... since it is officially just three years old (as of March, 2014). I am also very happy to report that all of the reviews so far have been positive. (In addition to the U. S., they come from media in Canada and a variety of European countries. See the Works page for a list of review citations.) The book can be purchased from many sources, as well as directly from the LSU Press (see link to the right). It is also available from this website for $17.50 plus postage (check or money order). Just hit the contact button to order.
You will see that I editorialize/personalize here more than on other pages. (Just scroll down for earlier entries.) See also the News (updated regularly) and Comings and Goings (updated as needed) pages, and, of course, the Works page keeps you abreast of publications and published reviews. I add that I would love to know if any reader has tried to acquire a copy of my new book and not succeeded. Please contact me.
January 3, 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR, belatedly!
Tomorrow will be a memorable day in New Orleans. The eighth annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference will be in town for a four-day stay, featuring research presentations, panels, workshops, clinics and--not least--countless live performances by some of the world's top jazz talent. The impressive 120-page conference program produced by DOWNBEAT has been out for more than a week now and richly illustrates the wonderful offerings. As a JEN member, I dearly wish that I could be there, but, unfortunately, my declining health prevents that. The conference will be headquartered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Loyola Avenue in the Central Business District. There is still time to catch at least some of the excitement! Check out https:// jazzednet.org for more.
Norwegian Seamen's Church Update. The following is from Jan Mikalsen of the church's parish:
Since publication in June of Norway’s withdrawal of financial support for the church, an informal group has been working to develop a viable plan for keeping our doors open and widening our outreach to the community at large, and especially to all Scandinavians. These efforts have resulted in acceptance of the local proposal of an acquisition and transition plan by the Norwegian Seamen’s Church board in Bergen. Pastor Frank [Skofteland] will remain involved until end of January 2017, but in the meantime, the local group is moving forward with its own transition activities. In short, the plan currently involves:
$ Local assumption of ownership & control of The Norwegian Seamen’s Church of New Orleans, Inc., a Louisiana not-for-profit corporation;
$ Change of name of the not-for-profit corporation to Scandinavian Jazz Church & Cultural Center of New Orleans, Inc,;
$ Continuation of worship services at least weekly under the direction of a full-time, English speaking pastor and Norwegian (and/or other Scandinavian) language services at least monthly;
$ Continuing sponsorship of traditional, and hopeful addition of new, music and other cultural events; and
$ Maintenance and upgrading of existing infrastructure.
While admittedly anxious, these are also exciting times for Jazzkirken ["The Jazz Church"], and the potential for maintenance and enhancement of our traditional mission and purpose is high indeed. Of course, this will require significant commitments from our existing community, and we look forward to hearing that from you, along with your constructive suggestions. In this regard, please feel free to contact:
Pastor Winston Rice
Email: chapwin@maritime pastoral.org
Telephone: (504) 450-7709
Best Regards, on behalf of the local Group
The following only came to my attention recently: article entitled "Jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and the Louisiana mental asylum band," by James Karst in NOLA.com, September 11, 2016. Karst, senior editor and writer at the Times-Picayune updates Don Marquis' excellent Bolden biography with "newly discovered archived newspaper stories" about the rich music program that existed at the Louisiana Insane Asylum in Jackson, LA. Unfortunately, there are no lists of the names of the"inmates"in the large and small bands that performed frequently. The assumption, of course, is that Bolden was one of band members. Bolden was institutionalized there from 1908 to 1931, when he passed away.
A quick note: Marci Schramm announced on Facebook a week ago today that she resigned from her position of Executive Director of French Quarter Festivals, Inc. "A lot of you know that my husband started his own publishing company, River Road Press, about two years ago," she writes. "I am going to help him get through this holiday season. If you know me really well, you also know that I have two very small children, and the incredibly demanding hours at Festival have been a stress on my family." She continues to have the same cell number and email address.
According to a subsequent report in Offbeat FQFI's current Development Officer and Operations Manager, Stephanie Brownlow Loman, will act as Interim Director.
As I have noted earlier, the Jazz Education Network (JEN) will be holding its annual conference in New Orleans January 4-7. It will be the second time that the gathering has been held in the Crescent City. I attended the first IN 2011 (see my current book), and it was a blast!
As before, JEN's 8th Annual Conference will feature world-class performers and presenters. GRAMMY® Award-winning saxophonist/recording artist Kirk Whalum will be keynote speaker.
“We are particularly excited about our 2017 Conference’s wide range of activities, workshops, day and evening performances, and special fundraising events,” says JEN president Caleb Chapman. “There will be engaging and enjoyable activities for everyone, whether you’re a live jazz fan, an educator looking to share research with peers, a student looking to grow as a musician, or a company with great products and educational materials to exhibit.”
In addition, this year marks the inaugural JEN Scholarship Concert, a special evening of friends, music and philanthropy Friday, January 7, 2017. The fundraising event, which requires a separate ticket for entry, will raise funds specifically for new scholarships and education initiatives. It will give promising jazz students the unique opportunity to perform alongside this year’s participants, including The Jeff Coffin & Caleb Chapman “Inside of the Outside Project” (featuring Branford Marsalis, Ramsey Lewis, Randy Brecker, Kirk Whalum, Victor Wooten, Rashawn Ross, Stanton Moore, Johnny Vidacovich, Tony Dagradi, John Beasley, and The Crescent Super Band).
Other highlights include:
Evening Performances: The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Eastman Chamber Jazz with David Paich, Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti Quintet featuring Shelly Berg and the Miami Trio, Kim Nazarian, Ellis Marsalis Quintet, Ed Calle & Mamblue, The Royal Bopsters, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Army Blues “Pershing’s Own,” and many more.
The JENerations Jazz Festival, held in conjunction with the annual JEN Conference, in which more than 800 elementary, middle, junior high, high school, community and college musicians of all ages participate in an exciting weekend of jazz!
The conference will host four days of live performances by professional, student, and community groups; educational clinics; research presentations; jazz industry/music business sessions, an industry exhibition, and networking and outreach opportunities.
To see a full conference lineup and to register for the conference, please visit the Conference Central tab at JazzEdNet.org.
PLEASE NOTE: CONFERENCE PRE-REGISTRATION ENDS DECEMBER 15
In a short piece entitled "Calling on a higher power to save a jazz landmark: Buddy Bolden's home," John McCusker recently asked why nothing was being done to make the historic structure more presentable. He goes on to say:
"The house on First Street  is still there, but there is not even a plaque. It sits abandoned and boarded up, the victim, like so many other historical structures in the birthplace of jazz, of absentee owners. If they give a plug nickel about the building’s role in the history of American music, it is certainly not evident.
Central City is in the throes of gentrification and properties are being snapped up at record prices. But don’t hold your breath waiting to see 2309 First St. restored to glory. The owners for the past eight years have made it clear they have no plans to sell. While the poor who have long occupied this neighborhood are forced out by encroaching “progress,” the Bolden house sits rotting.
No, it’s not a case of a homeowner who couldn’t afford to rebuild after the storm or a working class family forced out by rising property taxes. Rather, these owners are well healed and pay no taxes at all. So why is this landmark in the history of America’s most distinctive and original contribution to world culture dilapidated and unoccupied? To answer that question a trip to church is in order. No, the answer won’t be delivered by divine revelation. It’s on the balance sheet of the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, once the largest congregation in the city.
The megachurch, run by Bishop Paul Morton and his wife, Pastor Debra Morton, bought the building in 2008. It stands on a triangular portion of property which the Greater St. Stephen also owns adjacent to their burned out church at First and Liberty.
And there’s the irony.
People who heard Bolden said he combined the music of the “holy roller” churches of the area, mixed gospel with the sound of a wind band ensemble and, according to bandleader Kid Ory and other contemporaries, created jazz."
See also photos page.
I am happy to report the advent of two lengthy (and positive) reviews of my books, both in just-released December issues of fine jazz periodicals.
The first is David Kunian's review of my current, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today in Downbeat (p.81). Given its length, I will not reprint the whole review. A few quotations should be enough. After noting the challenge of doing surveys of the jazz scenes in any city, he concludes, " Jacobsen is well qualified for the task of capturing a freeze-frame of the present state of affairs in New Orleans jazz...In his new book, he accurately categorizes the different aspects of jazz in the Big Easy, despite the continual metamorphosis of the genre--and the city itself... He's also inclusive, absorbing into his research many of the musicians and genres of music not typically associated with New Orleans, shining an especially bright light on the creative/avant-garde scene that has developed in the last 20 years." He concludes by calling the book "a well-written and informed assertion that jazz in all its incarnations and developments in New Orleans is varied, vital, creative and passionate." I am told that this issue of Downbeat will be given away free at the upcoming annual conference of the Jazz Education Network in New Orleans in January. The conference is expected to bring thousands of jazz authorities to the city, but more about that later.
Second is Russ Tarby's splendid double review of my last two books, the current one and The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000 in The Syncopated Times (p.24). That makes sense since, the two books are basically sequential.
Again, it is too long to repeat here in toto, so I'll give some brief excerpts. Tarby opens with, "Tom Jacobsen has lived many lives. He's an archaeologist, an author, a teacher and one of America's foremost experts on the subject of New Orleans jazz." He goes on to summarize at length the contents of all of my books, noting that these last two are especially deserving of the reader's attention. He concludes by noting the "exciting account of the burgeoning brass band scene... This 'feel-good music,' he writes, now decidedly influenced by Uptown funk and hip-hop, 'is clearly in tune with today's young people--both black and white--and there is little doubt that it will always be an important part of the New Orleans music scene.'"
Finally, I should note that the cover story of the December TST is a piece entitled "A Joyful Rustling among the Reeds" by Richard Simon. It is about hot new clarinetist Chloe Feoranzo, who has recently become a stalwart on the New Orleans music scene and about whom I have written here. Once again, I must give kudos to the Syncopated Times for its excellent coverage of the early jazz scene in our country. I recommend it highly.
Indiana University's David Baker was a giant in jazz and jazz education. As musician, he stood out as a trombonist, cellist, bandleader, and not least as a prolific composer. He was named, among many prestigious awards, an National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master. But he may have been best known as the head of the famed IU jazz studies program, which he led for nearly a half century. He passed away at the age of 84 in March, 2016. (See the tribute volume David Baker, A Legacy in Music by Monika Herzig , with a forward by Quincy Jones). But David was more than all of that; he was a kind and generous human being, and a friend. He and I joined the IU faculty in the same year, 1966.
In 2007 there was released a critically-acclaimed recording of a selection of Baker's big band compositions, Basically Baker, performed by (Mark) Buselli-(Brent) Wallarab Jazz Orchestra. Buselli and Wallarab are two of Baker's former students.
This past June a sequel, Basically Baker 2 was recorded, and just released last month. Once again, the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, composed of more than 20 of Baker's students, proteges, and colleagues presented the music in a double CD on the Patois label. There are 11 tracks of music ranging in length from about 6 minutes to well over 9 minutes each.
The set opens with "The Harlem Pipes," dedicated to Baker's friend pianist Marian McPartland. A high energy piece, it features the playing of trumpeter Pat Harbison, bari saxophonist Ned Boyd, and pianist Luke Gillespie.
The whole program includes a generous supply of solos by the outstanding members of the orchestra: Busselli, Graham Breedlove, and Harbison, trumpets; saxophonist Rich Perry, Tom Walsh, Rob Dixon, and Boyd; trombonists Wayne Wallace, Freddie Mendoza, and Tim Coffman; and, of course, Gillespie, piano. A lovely ballad dedicated to his granddaughter, "Kirsten's First Song," features some sensitive playing by guests Randy Brecker, trumpet, and guitarist Dave Stryker, along with vibraphonist Mitch Shiner and an intro by Gillespie. It concludes with Monika Herzig's celeste solo, which Wallarab describes as "a little kiss on the forehead" before tucking the child away for the night.
This is excellent big band music played by a tight, well-rehearsed ensemble. I recommend it!
Contrary to what had been suggested here and elsewhere, the Norwegian Seamen's Church on Prytania Street in Uptown New Orleans is still open, conducting services and offering live musical programs (including jazz). While Pastor Frank Skofteland still leads the small congregation, it seems that financial support from Norway will be seriously reduced in the near future. The good news, however, is that a group of local Scandinavians (Swedes, Danes, Finns, as well as Norwegians) intend to come to the rescue of the church. Rumor has it that the reorganized congregation will have "Scandinavian" rather than "Norwegian "in its name. We will see, but stay tuned for further developments. The attractive and well-appointed facility has much to offer visitors to the city. For information about possible accommodations there, call (504) 525-3602.
This might be an appropriate moment to mention a new album (released earlier this year) that I have been sitting on for a while. It is called Professor Hot Stuff by a fine Norwegian band, The Louisiana Washboard Five led by reedman Steinar Saetre. Saetre, a member of the faculty at the Grieg Academy of Music--the University of Bergen, has performed many times in New Orleans, not least at the Norwegian Church.
Professor Hot Stuff, a 1930 composition by the great Benny Moten, is the album's title track and represents but one nod to Kansas City, which Saetre considers one of the four cities--along with New Orleans, Chicago, and New York--that constitute the "cradle of jazz." The remainder of the program consists of a variety of tunes ranging from early jazz standards to lesser known numbers from the 1920s and early '30s in large part. Stylistically, it may be characterized as small-group jazz focusing on the transition from the '20s to the early Swing Era.
This is a group of talented professionals: Saetre (cl, alto sax, vocal), Ketil Saetre (tp), Johan Lammers (bjo), Arnule Roekke (tuba, bass), Rolf Seldal (washboard, drums, vocal), with cameo appearances by John Pol Inderberg (barsax) and Aurelie Tropez (cl). The latter collaborated with the leader on several spirited clarinet duets.
The disk appears on the excellent Herman label (Norway), HJCD 1047, and I am happy to recommend it warmly. See also www.louisianawashboard.com.
Another new recording by New Orleans artists that is being given considerable attention for a 2017 Grammy Award is Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra Presents MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! Just released September 30, Marsalis and colleagues take a somewhat tarnished slogan from a current presidential campaign and offer a program of great American music with special homage to blues, swing and groove. Their tongue-in-cheek appropriation of the Trump mantra clearly hints at both the social and political consciousness of the album. The very important socio-political message is clear enough, but the music itself is varied and exciting.
Let me begin with the music. Wow! Great variety, fully representative of the New Orleans spirit: from Marsalis originals to the brass band music of the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth. This band really swings! Reviving the spirit of the best of the big bands was probably what impressed me most: the Dozen's rousing "Snowball" (think BG), Ellington's "Second Line," Benny Carter's "Symphony in Riffs," and the Basie-influenced "All of Me" featuring brilliant young New Orleans pianist Kyle Roussel. Add to that so many great soloists, e.g. clarinetist Greg Agid, trumpeter Andrew Baham, Delfeayo himself (most notably on Hoagie's "Skylark"), drummers Herlin Riley, Pete Varnado and Alexey Marti, and of course brother Branford on tenor for two numbers.
But there is more. It all begins with Delfeayo's novel arrangement of the "Star Spangled Banner" and concludes with his version of Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man"--thus bookending more Marsalis inspirational music featuring a monologue by New Orleans native (and Treme star) Wendell Pierce and contributions by the excellent UMT female choir. Finally, a bonus track orchestrated by Kris Berg, "Dream On Robben," is yet another wonderful instrumental dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela.
I have to admit that Delfeayo has probably become my favorite among the illustrious Marsalis brothers. A fine trombonist, composer and arranger, he leads one of the top bands to have come out of New Orleans in years. Bravo!
Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, 75, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this month. He is the first songwriter (there probably should have been others earlier) to receive the award, which was given for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."
Dylan, a Minnesotan by birth, had a special fondness for New Orleans. "There are a lot of places I like," he has written, " but I like New Orleans better." That's from his 2004 memoir Chronicles, Volume One. Here are a few more: "New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don't have the magic anymore, still has got it... The city is one long poem. Gardens full of pansies, pink petunias, opiates. Flower-bedecked shrines, white myrtles, bougainvillea and purple oleander stimulate your senses, make you fell cool and clear inside. Everything in New Orleans is a good idea...New Orleans. Exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously. Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt, a great place to really hit on things. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. Great place to be intimate or do nothing. A place to come and hope you'll get smart--to feed pigeons looking for handouts."
Get the idea? For more, see Sam D'Arcangelo's piece in the Offbeat, October 13, "Bob Dylan Won The Nobel Prize in Literature. Here's What He Wrote About New Orleans."
I am pleased to report that a fine New Orleans band, Mitchell Player's Ella and Louie Tribute Band, has passed the first hurdle towards nomination for a Grammy as this year's best jazz vocal album. The band consists of Player, bass; Leslie Martin, piano; Todd Duke, guitar; Gerald French, drums; and features Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown, trumpet, vocals; and the wonderful Eileina Dennis, vocals.
I first heard this group nearly three years ago and was immediately impressed by the singing of Ms. Dennis, who has only been in New Orleans for five or six years. She is originally from Birmingham, England and soon made a reputation in London. Later she moved to Italy, where she lived and toured Europe for some five years. Two of the records she made there made the Italian Top Ten. While she started out as a gospel singer in her father's church, she has adopted jazz singing and is clearly the "Ella" half of the band's feature. She's outstanding, the whole package, in my opinion.
Brown is of course a well-respected trumpeter around town, having worked with most of the city's top bands. And his singing serves as a nice complement to that of Dennis.
This is a fine ensemble of solid New Orleans musicians with an appealing "hook" to become known. What could be better than the music of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald? Their current CD, Timeless, was released in April.
See photos page for a few pics of the group at Maison in New Orleans in March, 2014.
Although I'm way behind, it's time for another CD review.
As I've noted many times in the past, pianist Fred Hersch, now 60, has been one of favorite jazz pianists since I first heard him live in NYC in the '80s. (I also liked his gentle but agile touch on recordings with clarinetist Eddie Daniels in that decade.) Hersch has always struck me as being in the mold of the great Bill Evans: lyrical, sensitive, inventive, and a talented composer. He is most at home in small groups, especially trios with bass and drums which he has been leading for decades.
Hersch's latest, Sunday Night at the Vanguard, was recorded before a live audience at the Village Vanguard in NYC in March of this year and released at the Vanguard--considered his "second home"--on August 12. He performs with his current trio, New Orleans native John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. They are an eminently simpatico group.
The music is a tasteful and balanced collection of five Hersch originals and five standards by the likes of Monk, Richard Rodgers, Jimmy Rowles and Paul McCartney. While he considers his present trio the best ever, he concludes the set with Monk's "We See" followed by his own lovely "Valentine." "I always end with Monk, " he says, "and always play 'Valentine' as an encore, which leaves the audience feeling groovy and happy."
As always, this Hersch recording left me feeling groovy and happy... I am happy to recommend it warmly.
Incidentally, The Ballad of Fred Hersch, a documentary film of his life and music debuted this month to enthusiastic reviews. And his memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, from Crown/Random House is due for release next spring.
Just a couple more items as a follow-up to the last communication:
--Clarinetist Tim Laughlin has announced that two of his original songs are featured in the recently released film Mr. Church starring Eddie Murphy. The drama is set in the 1970s about a jazz-inspired cook. The songs are "Blues for Faz" and "Gentilly Strut"--two of my personal favorites--both from Laughlin's well-received album The Isle of Orleans.
I look forward to checking this movie out.
--Celebrated pianist and composer Courtney Bryan, a New Orleans native and graduate of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), has joined the Tulane School of Liberal Arts this fall as an assistant professor of music.
Bryan has a bachelor's degree from Oberlin Conservatory, a master's in jazz performance from Rutgers University, and Doctor of Musical Arts in music composition from Columbia University. She had been doing postdoctoral research at Princeton University. She was featured along with Irvin Mayfied and Jason Marsalis in the documentary film Jazz Dreams II.
Bryan can be seen in a photo from a tribute to Kidd Jordan and the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, August 2014. She is seated in the foreground at the right end of the table on stage. See photos page.
I've been offline for a while, for which I apologize, and a good bit of New Orleans musical news has accumulated in the meantime. Let me begin to recount some of it with the following:
--Banu Gibson, the "First Lady of the Bayou" (as she is called in the article) is featured on the front page of the September issue of The Syncopated Times. It is detailed profile by Lew Shaw of her career in show biz and may well be new to some of her fans.
I might also take this opportunity to note the appearance of the TST, which is in its first year. Founded by Andy Senior last February and headquartered in Utica, NY, the Times claims to "explore the world of hot jazz, ragtime, and swing" in a format similar to that of the old Mississippi Rag. Indeed, it looks to me like a worthy successor for the late, great "Rag." For those interested in subscribing, I would urge you contact Mr. Senior at 1809 Whitesboro Street, Utica, NY 13502-3719.
--NOLA.com is reporting that trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's residency at "Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse" in the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street will be coming to an end at the end of this month (Oct 31). We have followed the scandals associated with the controversial Mayfield on this site for some time, but this announcement comes as something of a surprise to me. The details of the move are still uncertain, as are the future of the Playhouse and Mayfield's active involvement at his other major local undertaking, the Jazz Market on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. I will do my best to keep up with further developments.
Stay tuned for more news.
It's been a long time since I have mentioned new record releases. The new disks have been piling up in my inbox, so I'll begin by going through them as time permits.
First off is a mid-June release by a brilliant young guitarist (vocalist) by the name of Michael Blum (and his quartet). A Dartmouth grad, Blum was recently named a "rising star guitarist" by Downbeat magazine.
The album is called Chasin' Oscar: a tribute to Oscar Peterson. Peterson was, of course, a brilliant pianist and an all-time favorite of mine. Blum says, "I wanted to learn to play the guitar like Oscar Peterson played the piano." A very tall order, needless to say! As Blum observes, Oscar was capable of doing anything on the piano. "He could play fast or slow, hard or soft, pretty or nasty, bebop or blues...He's sorrowful and sometimes joyous, invigorating and sometimes solemn... I wanted to emulate his emotional range in my musical homage."
And that's what we hear here. Blum has selected seven of his favorite tunes associated with Peterson. I was pleased that he chose three from Peterson's wonderful 1970 Tristeza album, which I remember buying in Greece on a cassette (because a small cassette player was all I had to listen to music when I was working in that country). Blum's CD opens with the fascinating "Nightingale," a Peterson original, and follows that up with "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Tristeza" from the same album. Good stuff, but there's much more of it from other Peterson recordings.
There a couple of bonuses here as well. The album also includes two lovely original compositions by bassist Jim Stinnett, Blum's mentor. Incidentally, in addition to Stinnett, this fine quartet also includes Brad Smith, piano, and Dom Moio, drums. And not least, two examples of Blum's vocal talents (sort of Chet Baker lite) on "East of the Sun" and "Tenderly."
But it's Blum's guitarism that stands out here. He's a winner.
A quick note to say that New Orleans' most popular brass band, The Rebirth Brass Band, is currently on tour through much of the West. They made a stop in St. Louis last weekend for an outdoor performance at the Atomic Cowboy...and my daughter and son-in-law were there to dance and take pictures. There was a big crowd, and they had a great time. See photos page.
Wynton Marsalis will receive a National Humanities Medal during a ceremony at the White House today. National Humanities Medals are awarded each year by the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities. There have been 175 honorees since the medals were first given out in 1996. Do you think he'll play for the The Prez today??
Take Heed! The JAZZ EDUCATION NETWORK (JEN) will be holding its next annual conference in New Orleans January 4-7. It will bring to the city thousands of jazz educators and musicians from all over the country (world?) in what should be a blast. I attended the last one held in New Orleans (January, 2011) and was extremely impressed with all the live music events. If you're interested, discounted earlybird registration is currently available (until September 30). For more, see jazzednet.org/registrartion.
It's been a while... Unfortunately, I spent a good bit of time in the last two weeks in doctors' offices (I'll be going again this afternoon) and hospitals. It's a helluva way to spend one's retirement.
On a more cheerful note, the recently released movie, Mr. Church starring Eddie Murphy, features the music of none other than clarinetist Tim Laughlin. Two of Tim's own compositions from his The Isle of Orleans album, "Blues for Faz" and "Gentilly Strut," can be heard in the film. Check it out!
James Karst recently wrote at NOLA.com ("Reporter surprised to find jazz 'dignified' in 1920") that, surprisingly, "jazz" was already regarded as "dignified" music in 1920 New Orleans! In a May, 1920 article in the New Orleans Item, reporter Wilson Callender wrote about hearing Fate Marable's band (with Armstrong) on the steamboat Sidney. While sceptical, he wrote, "Everybody was having a good time, an honest to goodness good time. But the rough stuff my mind had connected with the Sidney was notoriously missing. The jazz--as near as jass can be--was dignified." Quite a revelation for the time (given some other public observations about the music)!!
A couple of interesting recent reads:
--"Louis Armstrong and Cannabis: Celebrating the Jazz Legend's Lifelong Love of 'the Gage'" (Lisa Rough, Leafly 2016)
--Drummer Daniel Glass offers five ways by which to introduce someone to jazz in "Learning to Love Jazz--What's Your Gateway?" (JazzEd summer 2016)
David Kunian, the new music curator at the Louisiana State Museum, reports in connection with the projected opening of the New Orleans Jazz Museum, "Visitors will be able to trace the history of jazz in New Orleans from its roots in ragtime, opera and Creole music up through Louis Armstrog, King Oliver and its revival." The new and revised exhibition will be located on the second floor of the Old Mint and is planned to open during the city's Tricentennial in 2018. (Tulane new wave, August 18)
I regret to report that famed New Orleans clarinetist and bandleader Pete Fountain died this morning shortly after 5 am. He was 86. (For more, see Comings and Goings page.) See also Photos page.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, POPS!! Satchmo Summerfest begins tomorrow and lasts through Sunday.
And St. Louis will be honoring Armstrong with a two-night series of concerts led my local trumpeter Randy Holmes at the historic Ozark Theatre on August 12-13.
I've been slow to report St. Louis native and longtime New Orleans resident, Charlie Halloran, returned to his birthplace for a series of gigs last week with the popular New Orleans Jazz Vipers led by veteran saxophonist Joe Braun. They played four well-received gigs at four different venues in St. Louis between July 20 and July 23.
My family and I (including our two youngest grandchildren) caught them at their last performance, an afternoon session at Blues City Deli on Saturday the 23rd. A packed house, and everyone there loved the music (which brought dancers to the tiny dancefloor in front of the bandstand).
The band consisted of Braun (playing lead alto, no trumpet), Halloran (trombone), Earl Bonie (tenor sax, clarinet), Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet), Molly Reeves (guitar), and Josh Gouzy (bass). (See photos page.) Pretty much all of them shared in lending their vocal talents to the music. A fine group, Halloran is a superb trombonist, and Bonie sounded great on tenor. I was impressed by the rhythm guitar and singing of Reeves, a recent transplant to NOLA from the West Coast. Feoranzo is another Californian who told me she's been living in NOLA for only a month and a half, having moved there from the West Coast--via St. Louis, where she had been playing with a popular local band.
A very pleasant afternoon for all of us. The band was energized and swinging hard and represented New Orleans well. Kudos to all of them.
This is becoming a bit tiresome, but the Irvin Mayfield Scandal has now reached the national media. A lengthy piece in the Washington Post by Mark Guarino earlier this month drew attention once again to the incidents, along with adding some additional details to the story. While there is plenty of reason to blame Mayfield, the piece also criticizes the board members of both the Library Foundation and NOJO for letting him get away with his misdeeds. Not surprisingly, Mayfield declined to be interviewed for the article.
The New Orleans library system experienced considerable damage as a result of the hurricanes of 2005. But the scandal has caused further "irrefutable" damage. The new board chairman has said, "We are tainted." The endowment is now less than $2 million, and many philanthropists have stopped their annual giving. As one person observed, "There's a special place in hell for people who steal from libraries."
If you want to get an idea of sequence of the events, the article is a must read. Check it out on the July 16 online version of the Post: "In New Orleans, scandal tarnishes a jazz star and the libraries he was asked to help."
We all know that New Orleans is widely accepted as the "birthplace of jazz." Well, LA Congressman Cedric Richmond (D) has recently joined with Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D) in sponsoring a bill in the House to designate Kansas City as the "home of jazz." In fact, the bill's resolution would officially recognize the above designations for each city.
While I readily acknowledge the great importance of Kansas City--the adopted home of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Benny Moten, and countless others--as an early jazz center, I wonder if a better title could be devised for that city. I say that because jazz is still very much "at home" in New Orleans, probably even more so than K. C. (Though the latter has a wonderful jazz museum, better than anything in NOLA, and an active local jazz scene.)
And how does St. Louis fit into this scheme? There is no doubt that it played a very significant role in the origins and development of jazz--not to mention its own jazz scene today. One need only recall, for example, pioneers like Charlie Creath, Zutty Singleton, Pops Foster and modernists like Clark Terry and Miles Davis. Incidentally, remember the old "Mound City Blue Blowers"?
For the moment, I am happy to retain the "birthplace" designation for NOLA and not worry too much about the many possible "homes" such as K. C., St. L., Memphis or Chicago...
What do you think?
Another recent piece about Irvin Mayfield is "Discordant Tones, Who is Irvin Mayfield?" by Jason Berry in the July issue of New Orleans Magazine.
Based largely on recent personal interaction with Mayfield, Berry's account concludes with the following: "The Jazz Market is both his [Mayfield's] liability and defense. If he takes a legal hit, will it thrive? Meanwhile, the merry narcissist prances like Gatsby, blind to ethics, with an eye for the next deep pocket."
One of the swingingest disks to cross my desk in some time is a brand new one by the Mike Jones Trio. It's called Roaring (officially due for release by CAPRI Records on July 15) in deference to the music of the Jazz Age.
While Jones is new to me, he is not a newcomer on the scene. Indeed, the versatile pianist is a highly respected practitioner of mainstream jazz. For the last 15 years he has been the music director for the Penn & Teller show at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Vegas.
Here, Jones and his colleagues--the talented Katie Thiroux on bass and Matt Witek on drums--present a program of evergreens from the earlier 20th century: "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "If I Had You," "Home," "Mean to Me," "I Found A New Baby," "Me and My Shadow," "Am I Blue," etc.--get the idea? But he does not perform them in the piano styles of that era, choosing to display his significant technique and varied influences in bringing them to life once again. As liner notes author Neil Gaiman puts it, "Hearing [Jonesy] take apart Twenties songs and play them as if they belonged now is a pure delight."
It's all done very tastefully and, best of all, it swings.
The 16th anniversary of Satchmo SummerFest is just a month away (August 5-7) and its lineup of performers is now available. But the big news is that it will no longer be held on the grounds of the Old Mint. According to FQF exec Marci Schramm, it will be held for the first time in Jackson Square. "We are thrilled to move into New Orleans' most beautiful, iconic park. Like Louis Armstrong, Jackson Square is beloved and integral to New Orleans history and culture." It will be interesting to see how the new venue will suit the old festival.
More on the never-ending Irvin Mayfield saga! WWL-TV's dogged David Hammer recently revealed more unauthorized expenditures by the trumpeter, this time for $18,000 covering a five-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park in NYC in July 2012. The discovery was made by the Public Library Foundation's new accountants.
"'There is no evidence--no evidence--that the visit was in any way tied to the New Orleans Public Library Foundation," said current Library Foundation President Bob Brown. "And therefore, that money, in our view, is collectible.'"
To which Mayfield responded by resigning his position as Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, "effective immediately." His statement was released today on WBOK (1230 AM), an urban talk radio station geared to the African American community in New Orleans. He went on to add, "I do not believe that I have violated any law. If I played a role in creating a distraction from NOJO's mission, I sincerely apologize. I respect all those who may not agree with my past direction or personal judgment, as I recognize their passion as well. We did not anticipate the misunderstandings and resulting opposition that has been wrought upon ourselves and those who have supported us..."
I have to say that his entire statement strikes me as so utterly typical of those made by wrongdoers in our society today.
The fine clarinetist Jack Maheu, an old friend, passed away in Ithaca, NY three years ago next month a the age of 83. But his memory remains strong, as I was reminded recently by writer Russ Tarby of the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse.
Maheu gave his Buffet R13 clarinet to "devoted disciple" and friend Ron Joseph just a couple of months before he died. The clarinet had been recommended to Jack by classical clarinetist David Hite, who"told me it would be best clarinet I ever played, and it was," Jack told Ron. And Ron echoes the sentiment, saying, "It's the best clarinet I'll ever play... That clarinet was a part of Jack. Jack gave it to me for a reason, a sacred reason that he and I both understood."
Ron Joseph is the leader of the West 52nd Street Jazz Band and continues to perform on the Maheu clarinet. (Thanks to Russ Tarby for sending his article "Passing the Torch" in JAZFAX, from which the above quotations were copped.)
And still more on the Mayfield scandal! WWL-TV reports that a group calling itself Make NOJO Pay erected a billboard yesterday just a block from The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market founded by Mayfield and built in part by money from the NOPL Foundation. (See photos page.)
The group consists of (largely anonymous) supporters of the New Orleans Public Library.Spokesperson for the group, retired librarian Carol Billings, called the agreed-upon payback (before the revelation of the additional $150 K) from Mayfield a "joke" and "completely unacceptable." Needless to say, Mayfield was not pleased with the billboard.
Thanks to friend Mary Saltarelli for the photographs.
You may recall my post last month regarding the Irvin Mayfield-NOPL Scandal (see below). Well, earlier this week a report on WWLTV.com by David Hammer revealed that the saga continues. In an article entitled "Irvin Mayfield sent even more library money to Jazz Orchestra, records show," shows that another $150,000 from the Library Foundation was funneled by Mayfield through a third organization on whose board he also sat to the NOJO.
The situation is under investigation by the Metropolitan Crime Commission headed by Rafael Goyeneche, who said, “I don’t see how the Library Foundation can look a donor in the eye and ask them to give money for the New Orleans libraries. I don’t see how people being solicited to give money to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra could give them another nickel until this investigation is concluded.”
And so it goes. Stay tuned. The article at WWLTV.com is dated June 14.
I am a big fan of pianist-composer Leslie Pintchik! I reviewed her 2013 recording In the Nature of Things a couple of years ago (can't remember whether it was here or elsewhere). In any case, her latest is just out. It is called True North, and she is joined by the same group of collaborators as in the earlier disk.
Pintchik is a multi-talented individual, with an M.A. in 17th century English literature from Columbia University before launching her career in jazz. The present album is her fifth CD. The 10 tracks include six originals by her.
The pianist is at her best, in my opinion, when writing or performing ballads. As noted jazz author Marc Myers writes in his liner notes here, "As you listen to True North, what's evident is the gentle, melodic quality of [her] playing that's evocative of past masters. Remarkably beautiful kitty-cat keyboardists who come to mind include Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ramsey Lewis, Ahmad Jamal and Ralph Burns. Like those pianists, Leslie's attack is bright, pretty and seductive..." I agree with Evans in particular. My kind of pianist and my kind of music!
In addition to Leslie on piano, her group consists of Steve Wilson (alto and soprano saxes), Ron Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn), Scott Hardy (bass), Michael Sarin (drums), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion). The horns appear on only five tracks.
The music is, in general, mellow and laid back, with many gorgeous passages. It swings, and there are even a few somewhat frenzied moments when the horns are in play. All in all, this is fine album and I recommend it heartily.
It is with great sadness that I must report the imminent demise of the "Jazz Church" in New Orleans, The Norwegian Seamen's Church, 1772 Prytania Street.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion, given a March decision by the Norwegian Seamen's Mission in Bergen, Norway, that the church will close down. Pastor Frank Skofteland and his family have already returned to Norway. Nevertheless, there has been a movement among certain local church members to save the perish and its handsome building. So far, however, there is no evidence that that will happen. But I will keep you informed of developments.
I have written about the Jazz Church in each of my last two books, praising it for its many contributions in New Orleans jazz community. The church in New Orleans was founded in 1906 and, under the pastorate of Paul Daasvand and with the help of musician Narvin Kimball, began hosting performances of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band along with other local and European bands in the 1970s. The musical offerings grew steadily into this century and reached a "golden age," as I have called it, just before and after the disasters caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Eventually, however, funding for the church's activities and services was reduced by Bergen due to declining membership in the congregation. What appears to have been the last monthly jazz service took place on Sunday, June 5. Fittingly, music was provided by a quartet consisting of Gregg Stafford, Dr. Michael White, Sidney Snow and Detroit Brooks--all veteran performers at the church over the years.
I can only hope that this wonderful edifice on Prytania Street, built in 1968, can be spared the wrecking ball and perhaps, through some wondrous deus ex machina, this fine church will come to life again.
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 11, a Musical Tribute in Memory of Lula Lowe Lewis will be held at the Old US Mint starting at 2 pm.
Ms. Lewis is well known as a co-founder (with Charlie Bering) of Lu and Charlie's Jazz Club on N. Rampart Street in 1972. The club came to be recognized as the headquarters for modern jazz in New Orleans. It closed on New Year's Day, 1978.
Ms. Lewis moved to New Orleans from St. Louis, where she had received a master's degree in education from the University of Missouri--St. Louis. While in St. Louis, she promoted avant-garde music and was a active supporter of the Black Arts Group.
She later married John Lewis II and moved to Pensacola, Florida in 1981. In 1998 they founded the Lu and Charlie's Preservation Society, with plans to create a museum documenting the significance of the club.
Lulu Lewis became a cultural leader during her time in New Orleans. She is survived by her husband and three children.
I am presently recovering from nasal surgery that I had a week ago today and am still somewhat out of it. Yet it is time to play catch up, at least a little bit. So, here goes with some recent miscellany that has been accumulating.
--Unlike this year's Jazz Fest, French Quarter Festival set an attendance record of an estimated 760,000 in 2016. The 33rd annual event seems to have benefited from lovely weekend weather, which was contrary to Jazz Fest and to last year's FQF (which had less than 400K in attendance).
--Several reports refer to the May 12 revelation by WWL TV that Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) has agreed to pay back over $1 million that it received from the New Orleans Public Library--which resulted in a large public outcry and scandal last year (as reported here). It is important to recognize that slightly less than half the total will be repaid in installments over a five-year period. The remainder (more than $500K) would come from "in-kind" contributions from benefit concerts and the like. Are you satisfied with the result?
--It's interesting that a couple of items covered in the last chapter of my new book have recently hit the headlines. #1 is the January news reported by OffBeat that a television series on Storyville is currently in the works. It is said that a group called Mission Control Entertainment has optioned the rights to Gary Krist's bestselling book Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for New Orleans as source material for the series. Though I know nothing of his work, Krist seems to be a writer of some stature. He has been a keynote speaker on the subject at Louisiana State Museum conference on the subject. We'll see what comes of all of this. Keep your eyes and ears open. Sex and violence certainly sell...
Finally, #2 is that a group calling itself The Bring Back Eagle Saloon Initiative announced a couple of weeks ago that it has raised enough money to begin stabilizing the legendary Eagle Saloon at 401 S. Rampart Street. It seems that the group is joining the non-profit New Orleans Music Hall of Fame on the project. If anything actually comes of this, it is long over-due! Talk about restoring this pioneer jazz district in New Orleans has been going on for decades--without anything of significance happening. As I wrote in my book, I would not be surprised if the prosperity of the new South Market neighborhood might have stimulated the current interest. Let's just hope that it doesn't turn out to be some kind of Walt Disney production...
An impressive recording of a new (at least for me) big band out of NYC recently came across my desk. It is called Musings and features the BIG band of talented young pianist/composer/arranger Christopher Zuar, who directs the 19-member orchestra.
With one exception, all the music consists of original compositions by Zuar. It is powerful, dynamic stuff, in the tradition of the great big band composers/arrangers(e.g. Gill Evans, Bill Holman, Toshiko Akioshi)--not to mention Zuar's mentor the distinguished Mike Holober. Of the eight tracks, five of the pieces are over seven minutes in length, complicated to perform but impeccably executed. They feature a number of outstanding soloists, including Jason Rigby (tenor sax), Dave Pietro and Ben Kono (alto saxes), Mat Jodrell (trumpet), and Frank Carlberg (piano). Of interest to me was the employment of a female voice (Jo Lawry) as an instrument on four tracks. She is especially notable on the final track--by the great Egberto Gismonti's "7 Aneis," the only non-original on the program.
The music on this CD is exciting, fresh, lyrical, powerful, and provocative. For lovers of original big band music, the Christopher Zuar Orchestra is a must hear!
Given the nasty weather of the last weekend, Jazz Fest attendance was down from 2015, 425,000 to 460,000. It was the lowest number since 2013.
I AM PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT MY NEW BOOK HAS FINALLY APPEARED!! (See above.) It seems to have made it to New Orleans for the last day or two of Jazz Fest, which, incidentally, concluded badly on Sunday by being cancelled due to rainy weather.
(Actually, I was misinformed. There were some performances on both Saturday and Sunday despite torrential rainstorms.
It is still early, but the book should now be available at several local outlets including the Louisiana Music Factory, Euclid Records (Bywater), and Maple Street Bookstore (Uptown). More outlets should be coming on line shortly.
I'll try to keep you advised of further developments on that front, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
My wife and I attended two fine performances at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis this week. The first, on the 24th, was by the excellent Dave Dickey Big Band, a local 17-piece outfit made up jazz educators and other professional musicians from around the area. Trombonist Dickey is a product of the University of Illinois and is now an assistant professor at St. Charles Community College in suburban St. Louis.
The band played a selection of interesting arrangements of jazz standards. Later, the fine jazz ensemble from the University of Missouri-St Louis performed as well as a group of public school students.
Last night (27th) we were anxious to hear the hot new tenor saxophone star Melissa Aldana from Santiago, Chile. Aldana, 24 and a graduate of Berklee in Boston, won the Thelonious Monk competition in 2013, which propelled her into the jazz spotlight in this country. She and her trio--Pablo Menares, bass, also from Chile; Jochem Reukert, drums, from Germany--are in St. Louis for a four-night gig at the Bistro.
The program was largely made of originals which amounted to "conversations" among the trio, in something of a free call and response fashion. It became clear from that that the group was totally sympatico, working very well together. Bassist Menares became a critical member of the rhythm section. While interesting, I have to say that Aldana's playing lacked the lyricism that I find most appealing in jazz. That was somewhat compensated for in the final two numbers of the set by two jazz standards, the 1939 ballad "I Thought About You" and Monk's "I Mean You." I thought the saxophonist was at her most impressive on the last number.
It has been, in short, a week of first-rate jazz. See photos page.
An interesting tidbit from Tulane: On April 23 the town of Stratford-on-Avon (UK) will be commemorating the 400th anniversary of its native son William Shakespeare's death. The associated festivities, we are told, will include a jazz funeral New Orleans style! To make it all authentic, the celebration will include the band of distinguished New Orleans trumpeter Wendell Brunious.
This is all made possible by the Tulane School of Liberal Arts and "Tulane parent and New Orleans native Stuart Rose."
"The parade is going to move through the town of Stratford, Shakespeare's birthplace, and to Trinity Church, then into the church where a wreath will be laid at the site of Shakespeare's burial," announced Mike Kucynski, chair of Tulane's English Department and organizer of the trip.
Who would have thunk it?
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival begins a week from today and lasts through Sunday, May 1. Meanwhile, OffBeat mag reported a couple of days ago that the 33rd French Quarter Festival set an attendance record this year. The total of 760,000 under "perfect weather" nearly doubled last year's 386,000, which had been reduced by heavy rainfall.
Coincidentally, in connection with the Terry mural (see below), I recently received a copy of the latest CD by talented young pianist-vocalist Champion Fulton, who performed at that ceremony (but whom my wife and I regrettably missed because of the inclement weather).
I have known about (and appreciated) Ms. Fulton's music since first hearing her 2010 release, The Breeze and I, her third recording. She has recorded several since then, the last being the current After Dark (Gut String Records 022). She is heard here in what has become her normal trio format--Lewis Nash, drums; David Williams, bass--with the added bonus of her noted father, Stephen Fulton, trumpet and flugelhorn on four tracks.
The senior Fulton's appearance reminds us of the significance of the connection with Clark Terry for the two were close friends for years. Indeed, Terry served as an inspiration for young Champion's turning to jazz. He later acted as her coach and mentor, which inspired her later involvement in jazz education. So, it is no accident that she was on hand for the Terry mural ceremony.
The program here consists of ten mainstream standards and a Fulton original ("Midnight Stroll," a tasty, down-home style, vocal-less blues). Apart from the last, all are fine examples of Champion's singing style, heavily influenced by that of Dinah Washington, an early idol. "The sound of her voice was everything I wanted to be: strong and sassy...," she recalls. So, the album becomes a tribute to the music of Washington. At the same time her piano playing is solid, swinging mainstream reflecting a variety of influences, not least that of Errol Garner. Recommended.
We like to think of New Orleans as the home of top jazz trumpeters, but St. Louis ranks right up there in that category as well. Indeed, two of the top horn players of our era are from the Gateway City--and both have recently received local honors. You may recall my reporting the dedication of a statue in honor of Miles Davis just last year.
More recently, the world-renowned Clark Terry, who died last February at the age of 95, was recognized with a splendid mural in his childhood neighborhood of Carondelet in S. St. Louis. Created by New Haven artist Ray Harvey, the art work is located at 7714 S. Broadway and is part of St. Louis' Murals on Broadway Public Art Program. It was dedicated at 4 pm today with a ceremony at the site. Mr. Harvey spoke at the dedication.
Every jazz fan of the last half century knows of the inimitable playing, scatting and good humor of Clark Terry. He played with the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras and was the mentor of countless budding trumpeters of the past and present centuries. It has been said that he has sold more jazz records than any other musician. He was, in short, a first-rate musician and a wonderful human being.
For a look at the mural see the photos page.
With the French Quarter Festival just around the corner (April 7-10), yet another new event has been added to the spring festival season. It is the New Orleans Ragtime Festival, which will be held at the Old Mint on Saturday(April 2).
It all begins at 11 am with Tom McDermott playing the rags of Scott Joplin.
At noon, Ingrid Lucia and Charlie Miller present turn of the last century songs in 3/4 time.
At 1 pm The Silver Swan Ragtime Quartet (with Mackey on banjo and Ray Moore on clarinet) will perform classic ragtime music.
The Opera Creole directed Givonna Joseph will present selections from Joplin's Treemonisha at 2 pm.
And at 3 pm the nine-piece New John Robichaux Society Orchestra made up a top-notch group of local musicians will present what promises to be an exciting program.
The day concludes at 8 pm at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe with a three-hour performance of music for dancing and listening by Lars Edegran's well-known New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra.
This should be an auspicious beginning for a festival that expects to be around for some time since Mackey notes that many events are already lined up for 1917.
You will note that I have added some details about the nature and cost of my forthcoming book, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today, in the above section. I would like to make the book available to readers via this website, but, given my entrepreneurial shortcomings, I have not figured out how to do so yet. I will be working on it. If you wish to contact me about that, please do!
Today is my birthday! Just another day on the long journey to....where? I'm going to celebrate it by making brief note of one of my favorite new recordings--in fact, it is scheduled for release today!
I am referring to the newly minted CD by the Danny Green Trio called Altered Narratives. It features Green, piano; Justin Grinnell, bass; and Julien Cantelm, drums--a lovely combination that is augmented mid-record on three numbers with the addition of a string quartet composed of Antoine Silverman and Max Moston, violins; Chris Cardona, viola; and Anja Wood, cello.
Green is a wonderfully lyrical pianist and composer--all the music here is his originals--and, unlike much of today's original jazz, this music is melodic and eminently listenable while managing to swing. It reveals him as a musician of varied tastes/influences, from the blues ("Chatter from All Sides") to Brazilian ("6 A.M.") to the classical (I was particularly taken by the slightly unsettling darkness of "Katabasis")--not to mention his major gift for balladry ("October Ballad" being the most striking, in my opinion).
All in all, I was truly taken by this CD. It came as something new to me, but it does not seem to be the thirty-something pianist's first. I recommend it without qualification.
I am pleased to report that I have recently received two CDs from Charles Suhor that are recordings made by his older brother Don Suhor, the wonderful clarinetist and alto saxophonist who died 13 years ago. As many fans of New Orleans jazz will know, the senior Suhor moved gracefully in the traditional and modern jazz realms and appeared at home in both. He was always one of my local favorites.
Unfortunately, Don did not do a lot of recording. The tracks on these CDs were culled from some of his recordings but mostly from tapes of live gigs. They show clearly his talents as well as his versatility. These CDs are not available commercially, but Charles is negotiating with record companies for their release in a more appropriate format. Watch out for them!
In the meantime, watch for Charles' excellent bio of Don in the next issue of Tulane's The Jazz Archivist.
Celebrated Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Perez and his quartet were in town for a performance last Friday night at the Sheldon Concert Hall. He was joined by Israeli harmonica player Roni Eytan, bassist Jared Henderson, and his longtime partner on drums, Adam Cruz.
Mr. Perez is devoted to the music of his homeland and the promotion of that music along with an emerging Panamanian jazz sound. Accordingly, his performance focused on his latest, acclaimed recording "Panama 500." It is a blending of contemporary jazz, European classical music and Panamanian folk music, excitingly presented with a driving Latin beat provided by Mr. Cruz.
Now 50, Danilo Perez has been a major player on the contemporary jazz scene for decades, performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D'Rivera, and Wayne Shorter. In fact, I'll not forget his appearance with the famed Shorter Quartet at Jazz Fest in New Orleans in 2007.
See also photos page.
It's been a while...for which I apologize. The new book is keeping me busy, but it will be going to press in less than two months. So, stay tuned! In the meantime, the following CD just came across my desk recently:
Ken Peplowski, ENRAPTURE (Capri Records, 74141-2) rec. 9/18/15.
As most of you already know, the versatile Mr. Peplowski is one of my favorite jazz clainetists. This is his latest recording, and it features him on both clarinet and tenor in a quartet context along with Ehud Asherie, piano; Martin Wind, bass; and Matt Wilson, drums, percussion. A fine ensemble, needless to say.
The music is diverse, ranging from John Lennon's "Oh, My Love" to "Madeleine (Love Music from 'Vertigo')". There are no real standards to be found here. The CD opens with Ellington's rarely heard "The Flaming Sword" and closes with Fats Waller's "Willow Tree." The title track ("Enrapture") is a Herbie Nichols composition that Peps says he stumbled upon on a "bored afternoon." "Twelve" is, according to the clarinetist, "a twelve-tone row based on the standard 'Easy to Love' that Peter Erskine introduced me to on a gig we did together"...and Erskine "kindly agreed" to let him record it. And so it goes, a total of 10 tracks that most will find somewhat surprising.
I can't say this it is my favorite Peplowski recording, but it reveals a master at work on both of his favorite