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 is also on the editorial staff and writes a column 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.
You will see that I editorialize/personalize here more than on other pages. See also the News and Comings and Goings pages.
It's time to make note a few new recordings that have come across my desk. All are 2013 releases:
--Clarence Johnson III, Watch Him Work. Johnson is one of the top contemporary saxophonists in New Orleans. In this recording, however, he's heard in a different stylistic groove: jazz fusion and what is often called "smooth" jazz. He plays mostly original compositions on both soprano and tenor saxophones.
--Rick Trolsen, Rick Trolsen's New Orleans Po'Boys. An outstanding trombonist, Trolsen is also heard here singing and playing piano on a half dozen of his original compositions, plus a number of traditional evergreens. This is Dixieland jazz at its best played by a group of guys who know what they're doing.
--Frank Wess, The Flute Mastery of Frank Wess. Wess is arguably one of the top jazz flutists of the 20th century. Here, the late New Orleans producer Gus Statiras has reissued a collection of 1981 recordings by the great flutist and his fine quintet. It includes several jazz standards as well as a couple of Wess originals.
--The Bill McBirnie Trio, Find Your Place. While there is no New Orleans connection here, the Canadian McBirnie is another wonderful flutist. Some lovely playing here in the interesting context of flute, Hammond B3 organ and drums. I enjoyed listening to it.
Copy-editing of book now complete, index and page proofs remain to be done. It looks like the title of the book will be The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000: An Insider's Retrospective. It should be out sometime next year. I'll keep you advised.
The Palm Court Jazz Café hosted a memorial tribute for ace clarinetist Jack Maheu who passed away in August at the age of 83. Tim Laughlin served as emcee and had some nice words to say about his longtime relationship with Jack. Others who spoke in remembrance of Maheu were Tom McDermott, Deano Assunto, Jack's half brother from California Jim Hargraves and myself. Bruce O'Neill sang one of Maheu's novelty compositions, "There's Something in the Water." Music was provided by a band made up of Laughlin, clarinet; Eddie Bayard, trumpet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Tim Paco, bass; and Herman Lebeaux, drums. A large crowd gathered for the occasion. (See photos page.
Starting the copy-editing process for the new book. Ugh.
The Palm Court Jazz Café opens once again after its annual summer hiatus. Clarinetist Tim Laughlin is scheduled to provide the music on opening night.
I have never done this here before, but I have heard so many good new recordings that I want to share a few of them in this column. All have been released this year, and all have made a most favorable impression upon me:
--Harold Battiste Presents: The Next Generation Big Band, AFO Foundation recording. If you like big band jazz, you'll love this one. It's an awesome assemblage of some of New Orleans' best young talent playing original music by Battiste (mostly), Ellis Marsalis and James Black--the old AFO crowd.
--Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, Foolers' Gold, self-produced. Lake is one of the city's top female vocalists, who has begun to gain a formidable international reputation as well. This CD reveals her stylistic versatility, with some very nice instrumental accompaniment by her own fine band and several distinguished guest artists. See the pic of her and her band on the Photos page.
--Christian Winther and Richard D. Johnson, Two People, The Music of Billy Strayhorn, twopeopleproductions. Danish-born New Orleans resident Winther is perhaps my favorite all-around local reedman. He is here joined by pianist Johnson, a native of Pittsburgh (the home of legendary pianists Earl Hines and Errol Garner). Winther is heard on both tenor sax and clarinet. He and Johnson make a most symbiotic duo performing the wonderful music of the great Billy Strayhorn.
--Ken Peplowski, Maybe September, Capri Records. This is the latest by Peplowski, who is arguably the top jazz clarinetist in the country. He's also a fine tenor saxophonist, and he is heard in a quartet context on both instruments in this recording. Ken is the only non-New Orleanian in this group of CDs, but he has appeared here many times. My 2003 interview with Peplowski can found in the Archive page.
Just back from Baton Rouge today, where I learned that my current book is on schedule to be published by the Louisiana State University Press by fall, 2014. The (tentative) title is An Illustrated Survey of the New Orleans Jazz Scene from 1970 to the Present, Volume 1. (It is not a coffee table book.) I have already started working on volume 2.
The big news this month was, clearly, the celebration of the 102nd birthday of trumpeter/vocalist Lionel Ferbos. There was a splendid birthday party at the Palm Court Jazz Café that evening attended by a packed/SRO house. Lionel was in great shape and sat in with the house band as both instrumentalist and vocalist. He is truly unique! See Photos Page for a few pics of the event.
June 1, 2013
Today is the official first day of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and Mayor Landrieu advises that it is time to get ready for it. It is expected to be an active season, hopefully not as serious as the worst in 2005 (which included Katrina and Rita and 24 other named storms) or even last year (the third worst, with 19). Indeed, four of the last five years have been in the top five in numbers of named hurricanes. (Given that, coupled with the dreadful May tornado activity in the Midwest, can anyone seriously doubt the evidence for climate change?) Yet Landrieu and other metropolitan area officials say that we are better prepared this year than ever before. Let's hope so. The hurricane season lasts through November with the worst usually taking place in August and September.
SORRY ABOUT THE HIATUS. I HAVE BEEN WORKING FEVERISHLY ON MY NEW BOOK(S), TENTATIVELY TITLED "MY YEARS IN THE CRESCENT CITY: AN ILLUSTRATED SURVEY OF THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ SCENE FROM 1970 TO THE PRESENT." IT WILL APPEAR IN TWO VOLUMES: I (1970-2000) II (2000-PRESENT. VOLUME I IS PRESENTLY IN PRESS (LSU), AND I AM WORKING ON VOL. II. BE PATIENT. I'LL BE BACK SOON. IN THE MEANTIME, ALL THE BEST FROM THE BIG EASY.
By the way, check out the Photos page for pics from the BAYOU BOOGALOO, which took place at the south end of Bayou St. John in Mid-City on the weekend of May 17-19.
January 1, 2013
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I continue to spend most of my time working on my current book, which I hope to send to the press by the end of the first quarter of this year. It's a slow slog, however, what with preparing the photos (I expect to use many) and writing the text.
My wife and I will be leaving on January 15 for about a 10-day trip to Santo Domingo, D. R., the oldest city in the western hemisphere. It will be interesting historically and, I hope, musically. (The D. R. is the home of the popular merengue.)
It now looks as if my book tentatively called "New Orleans Jazz from 1970 to the Present" (LSU Press) will appear in two volumes rather than one. The first volume would be from 1970 to 2000, and the second would cover the remaining time. At this time I am close to completing a draft of Volume I. I expect it to be well illustrated with pictures from my personal collection. I will attempt to keep you updated on my progress. This will explain in large part why I have not kept up in recent weeks with my promise keep the site updated. I'll do better when I get the book off to the press.
I have been deeply involved over the last month in trying to analyze my collection of >10,000 jazz-related photographs, which I recently had scanned from the negatives. (I've not even begun to deal with the digital photos.) My final selection will be used for the two books I am currently working on for the LSU Press: 1) a history of New Orleans jazz from 1970 to the present and 2) a lighter/more personal
look (in photos) at the last quarter century of New Orleans jazz. I note this to explain, at least in part, why my entries at this site have been so sporadic.
For those of you who are so inclined, this is to advise you of a "Jazz for Obama 2012" concert to be held in NYC on Tuesday, October 9 at 7:30 pm. The performance will consist of a host of superlative jazz artists. For more, see www.jazzforobama2012.com.
Vote for NOMC&AF today!
We are so pleased to announce that The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and Assistance Foundation (NOMC&AF) was nominated to take part in the Chase Community Giving campaign. Chase will be giving 196 chosen charities part of $5 Million in grants. To be one of the 196, we need YOUR help. Voting started September 6, 2012 and ends on September 19th, 2012.
There are several ways to vote:
1. If you bank with Chase you can log onto your account and vote.
2. If you do not have a Chase account, you can vote via Facebook. (Chase account holders can vote via Facebook as well as through their account.) If you share it with your friends on Facebook, you will even receive an extra vote!
3. You can vote only once for NOMC&AF (Chase account holders can give us two votes) so we need to get the word out to as many as possible!
To vote, we are listed as the New Orleans Musicians' Assistance Foundation.
Why should you vote?
Governor Bobby Jindal recently decided to decline Louisiana's participation in the Medicaid expansion per the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and divert Federal Medicaid funding to coastal restoration efforts. This decision will impact the NOMC by cutting its medicaid/GNOCHC funding by 15% and will result in an across-the-board cut in services given to NOMC&AF and its medical partners by the government.
Receiving funds from Chase will help alleviate a portion of this cut funding.
Help us keep the music ALIVE with a SIMPLE CLICK!
Breaking news! The New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp has been so successful that it will have TWO camps starting in 2013: June 9-15 and July 28-August 4. Registration is now open. So, check their website (link at right) for details.
My wife and I sold our Uptown house in late July and moved to an apartment complex in Mid-City. Accordingly, much of July and early August was taken up with packing, moving and unpacking so my recent entries here have been sporadic. I did manage to catch some of the action, however--not least the sad passing of Lionel Batiste, the joyous 101st birthday celebration of Lionel Ferbos and the annual Satchmo SummerFest--among other things. See the photos page for a selection of pics during later July and early August. But the tedious unpacking still continues...
I had the good fortune of sitting in on clarinetist Joe Torregano's recording session at Word of Mouth recording studio in Old Algiers this afternoon. Torregano was joined by his brother Michael, the fine pianist; Tim Paco on bass (and sousaphone); Hurley Blanchard, drums; and, on one track, Anthony Bennett on bass drum. I expect to be doing the liner notes for the eventual CD, but more about all of that later. See Photos page for pics from the session.
I might add that Bennett's Original Royal Players Brass Band most recent CD is called "In their Footsteps." It's a combination of originals and trad standards played by a fine group of local musicians. I am happy to recommend it. It should be available at the Louisiana Music Factory (see thier link at the right).
I'm interested to see that Air France is sponsoring this year's Django Reinhardt NY Festival featuring "the young lions of gypsy jazz." The list of contributors includes the likes of the ubiquitous clarinetist Anat Cohen, but no one from New Orleans--not even Evan Christopher or his colleagues from France (surely Air France could have brought them over), Matt Rhody, Chris Kohl, Tony Green or the MANY other locals who are Django devotees. Just another example of the Big Apple's ethnocentricities and provincialism, in my opinion.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the students at the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp headed up by Banu Gibson, Leslie Cooper, and Nita Hemeter this morning. The title of my talk was "Whither Traditional Jazz? Some Thoughts about 'Exposing Traditional Jazz to a Larger Audience.'" I enjoyed meeting and talking with a number of the camp's adult "students," who come from all over the country and many of whom are gigging musicians themselves.
The 12th annual "Ladies in Red" Gala, sponsored by the Preservation Resource Center (a
worthy organization) will begin a 7 pm on this day. They annually honor local musicians
(again, a most worthy endeavor), and this year's honorees are: clarinetists Charley Gabriel and Tom Sancton, trumpeter Gregg Stafford, pianist/composer Allen Toussaint, and two fine clubs: the Palm Court Jazz Cafe and Sweet Lorraine's Jazz Cafe. The cost of tickets, however, will be prohibitive for all but the affluent (or pretenders). For details, however, check their website prcono.org.
As I continue my research for my new book for LSU Press, I came across the death notice of the great local pianist Ed Frank (1933-1997). As many fans of New Orleans jazz know, Frank was a talented arranger and pianist in both the trad and modern styles--in spite of the fact that his left arm had been partially paralyzed since he was in his twenties. That further reminded me of an interview I conducted with guitarist Steve Blailock in 2007 at the Ascona Festival in Switzerland, where Frank's memory was being celebrated. I have put that interview on the Works page here.
Wednesday, May 9
The official release of Leroy Jones and the New Orleans-Helsinki Connection's new CD, "Paradise on Earth," will take place at Café Istanbul (in New Orleans Healing Center), 2372 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117. Featured on the album, in addition to Jones (trumpet) and his wife Katja Toivola (trombone), will be guitarist Todd Duke, pianist Paul Longstreth, bassist Nobu Ozaki, drummer Jerry Anderson and special guest vocalist Tricia Boutte (who now lives in Norway).
FYI department. I am presently working on two books, again to be published by the LSU Press. And I just received a Community Partnership Grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation to help me do just that. Needless to say, I am extremely grateful for the NOJ&HF's generous support. The one book will be a history of N. O. jazz (trad and "mod") from 1970 to 2010, something of a sequel to Charlie Suhor's fine book which carried the story from the end of WWII to 1970. I would hope to have it finished by Christmas. The second one will be a picture book based on my personal collection of > 13,000 images that I have taken over the years. The grant will help me get them scanned, then printed according to LSU's publishing standards. It will attempt to cover all aspects of New Orleans jazz during my time as a resident here. It will be called, tentatively, "A Quarter Century of New Orleans Jazz." I won't start that until I've finished the first.
Just out is a new release by Evan Christopher. It is called Clarinet Road Volume III ("In Sidney's Footsteps") and is co-produced by the fine pianist Sandy Hinderlie (also Loyola University music faculty) on his STR Digital Records label (STR-1020). The recording was made in 2006, when Evan was in Paris as a guest of the French government. The clarinetist is surrounded by several familiar talents: Dave Blenkhorn, guitar; Sebastien Girardot, bass; Guillaume Nouaux, drums; and Julien Brunetaud, piano. A wonderful CD, as one might expect. (For more about the label, see www.STRdigital.com.)
Something to look forward to: A compilation CD of some of Tom McDermott's best to appear this summer on the Bananastand label out of Los Angeles. It is being put together by composer, arranger, producer and musician Van Dyke Parks of L.A. I'll help you look out for the recording's appearance.
My review of the new book about the great jazz musician and jazz educator David Baker, David Baker, A Legacy in Music, just appeared yesterday on the website of the Jazz Journalists
Association, www.jazzjournalists.org. (Click on the JJA News section, or see Works here.) Baker, who celebrated his 80th birthday last December, is professor of jazz studies in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington. It's a good book about a remarkable man.
The following from clarinetist Evan Christopher:
"This Sunday's Jazz Brunch at Clever Wine Bar [3700 Orleans Avenue, Mid-city] will feature local legends Steve Masakowski, James Singleton & Herman LeBeaux. Our menu by Mary Dixie of Lionheart Catering looks great and will give the brunch an overdue "woman's touch." Some special cocktails reflecting our early Spring and specials at Cork & Bottle will be featured as well. Also, to honor persistent requests to document these events, the show will be recorded by WWOZ for their new show, 'New Orleans, All the Way Live.'
Don't miss this one, there won't be another until well after Carnival. Hope to see you Sunday"
The Cultural Alliance of the Americas (CAOTA) presents "A Django Reinhardt Birthday Tribute" starting with a Live musical performance followed by a Movie Screening to take place at Fielding Gallery (formerly Studio 525) in downtown Covington, LA. (North Shore) The musicians who will be performing are Don Vappie(banjo, guitar), Raphael Bas (guitar) and Matt Rhody, violin. The program begins at 6:30 pm.
Clarinetist Tim Laughlin will be debuting on a steady Saturday night gig at the Windsor Court Hotel on January 14. He will be joined by ace pianist David Boeddinghaus, which should make for an exciting duo. I look forward to catching them soon. See Tim's website, www.timlaughlin.com, for details.
Media notes for January 2012: Jason Berry has a piece on the effect George Buck has had on the local music scene since moving to town more than 20 years ago (New Orleans magazine). Zachary Young writes in OffBeat about talented guitarist John Rankin of the Classic Jazz Trio, and Tom McDermott reviews my book in the same issue.
Pianist Butch Thompson's "Yulestride" CD has been my favorite Christmas album for many years. Just out is Ellis Marsalis's "A New Christmas Carol" CD, which is certainly worth a listen as well. He's ably abetted by son Jason on percussion and vibes. I am pleased to be able to recommend both recordings highly.
For those who are interested, today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Stan Kenton. The Manhattan School of Music has announced two centennial concerts of Kenton music on January 27 and March 2. (See www.msmnyc.edu.) Jazz at Lincoln Center and the University of North Texas (where the Kenton Archive is located) have also announced concerts. Despite his successes and the wonderful musicians who worked for him, Kenton is far from universally admired. An example of that is the article by David Hajdu in the December 9 issue of The New Republic , where he writes, "Stan Kenton gave pretentiousnes a bad name."
I have been working very hard for the last couple of months on another book. My plan is to address jazz (both trad and "modern") in New Orleans from 1970 to the present, being something of a sequel to Charles Suhor's fine volume, Jazz in New Orleans, the Postwar Years through 1970, (2001). While I have many months of research remaining before starting to put fingers to the keyboard, the LSU Press has offered to publish it. But I have not yet signed a contract.
The latest news from George Buck's GHB Foundation and Jazzology is that there have been some changes. With George now well into his 80s, the Jazzology group's office is now under the management of Lars Edegran, assisted by Jamie Wight, who can still be reached by telephone at (504) 525-5000 or email (email@example.com). Their regular publication, JazzBeat, will now be published only once a year, but it will be complemented by a revived Jazzology Newsletter, the first issue of which just appeared in my mailbox. For more details about the new operation and becoming a member of the Collectors' Record Club, contact Lars or Jamie. Incidentally, George Buck will be celebrating his 83rd birthday (by my calculation) on the 20th of December. Needless to say, we wish him many, many more.
Note that I have added another item to the Works section. It is an interview that I conducted with Rev. Andrew Darby some years ago in connection with the story about Danny Barker and the Fairview Brass Band. It was not included in Chapter 6 of my book ("Danny's Boys Grow Up"), but it gives an additional perspective on Danny and the formation of the Fairview band.
Kermit Ruffins, well-known as a somewhat less than punctual night owl, is turning over a new leaf. After more than 20 years of his weekly late Thursday night gig at Vaughan's in Bywater, he announced to the Times-Picayune that he will be starting his gigs there "promptly at 7 p.m." effective December 1. "It's crazy to be lying in bed all day," he says, "just to play those late gigs." Well, that should be good news for oldtimers like myself.
The film, "The Girls in the Band," was premiered last month at the Vancouver, B. C. International Film Festival. Directed by Judy Chaikin, it explores and uncovers "the amazing and unheard stories of female jazz musicians and women in big jazz bands." Among those featured are Mary Lou Williams, Clora Bryant, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Melba Liston and many more (including some of the leading contemporary ladies in jazz). To view a clip from the film, see www.thegirlsintheband.com. It looks good.
The latest edition of The Jazz Archivist, the newsletter of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, has just appeared (Vol. XXIV, 2011). Among the several articles included in this issue are "Louis Armstrong and the Waifs' Home" (William D. Buckingham) and "Mapping a Historic Funeral and Second Line" (Keli Rylance) in addition to notes on Lorenzo Tio's birth document and reedman and club owner Sid Davilla. Please note, too, that the Archive has a new website: jazz.tulane.edu.
Clarinetist Evan Christopher embarks on a new Sunday brunch gig at the Clever Wine Bar from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. As for the music, Evan writes, "This won't be a lazy trio lugubriously noodling in the background. I'll be hittin' hard with my friends James Singleton [bass],
Matt Lemmler [piano], and Herman LeBeaux [drums]." For more, check Evan's website www.ClarinetRoad.com.
Reedman Louis Ford and his New Orleans Flairs have a brand new CD on the market. It's called "Vintage Jazz" and features Ford, Al Bernard on bass and Phillip Washington, drums, on all tracks--plus a cast of thousands! There's also Steven Lands, trumpet; Ronell Johnson, trombone; Leslie Martin, piano, Wanda Rouzan and a choir on vocals and many, many more playing mostly a variety of trad standards. It is available at www.FordMusicProductions.com.
Pianist-composer Tom McDermott recently fell and fractured his left wrist. "The cast comes off tomorrow," he says. "I hope to be fully functional in two weeks. I've been doing gigs, with mostly one hand, hiring a bass to replace my left hand." (That's McDermott creativity!) He made his first visit to Cuba this summer, and you can read about the trip on his website, www.mcdermottmusic.com.
Have you heard about Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita? More than 20 local scholars have gathered data to document our collective learnings post-Katrina and pulled all of this knowledge together in a book. Published by Brookings Institution Press, Resilience and Opportunity appeared on book shelves on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in late August. What's in the book? You can get a taste by watching a 3-minute video featuring some of the authors who contributed. Check it out at:www.gnocdc.org/TheNewOrleansIndexAtSix/ResilienceAndOpportunityVideo.html. This book is the product of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC), and I recommend it.
I just received a wonderful CD, Futuristic Rhythm (Stomp Off CD 1398), from Norwegian musician and musical scholar Steinar Saetre, who passed through NOLA on his way to the University of Michigan where he will be doing research this year. Saetre, a reed player, is joined by four fellow Norwegians on this recording by their "Louisiana Washboard Five", along with Brit pianist Keith Nichols and the fine German reedman, Matthias Seuffert. (See my interview of Seuffert in the April 2008 Mississippi Rag by clicking the link at the right of this column.) If you haven't heard it already, I highly recommend this CD. Bandleader Jim Dapogny, writing the album's liner notes, concludes, "Enjoying it just that much, I've wound up listening to this album more than I needed to just to cobble together these notes. And I used it--please don't tell the Copyright Police--as intermission music on a job too. Big mistake: You don't want the intermission music to be better than what's going on onstage."
New York City and Washington, DC were well-prepared, according to media accounts, for possible terrorist activities yesterday. Fortunately, those threats did not materialize. Nevertheless, I would like to share a 9/11/11 email message from a longtime New York resident, professor, author and trumpeter Krin Gabbard, whose most recent book is "Hotter Than That, The Trumpet, Jazz and American Culture." Krin was a student in one of my classes at Indiana University many years ago (his wife, Paula, is also an IU grad), and his message reads as follows:
"Dear Friends and Family,
Paula is in Queens today with a co-worker who is very ill. She went out there with another co-worker, Kitty. Ordinarily, when we go to Queens, we take the 1 train down the West Side of Manhattan to Times Square, where we change to the eastbound 7 train. Today, however, Kitty wanted nothing to do with the subway and especially not with Times Square. So, Paula agreed that they should go out to Queens in a taxi. Both Paula and I would have been fine with the subway today. You always put yourself a little bit at risk when you step onto one of those cars!
The weather today was cloudy and a bit on the cool side, entirely unlike the perfect late-summer weather we had on this date 10 years ago. So, I thought I’d take a stroll and run some errands. Walking up and down Broadway in the 80s and 90s, I felt that there were more people on the street than usual. I guess other people had the same idea I did. The people I saw on Broadway came in all shapes and sizes, but I saw several couples who fit a very familiar pattern--young women wearing lipstick, dangly earrings, and pretty dresses, inevitably in the company of young guys in tacky baseball caps and zhlubby T-shirts. Nothing has changed. You can throw a lot at New York, and it goes right on being the same city it has been for at least as long as Paula and I have been living here. (Paula does in fact wear lipstick, dangly earrings, and pretty dresses, but I dress like an old guy.)
Love to you all,
The September issue of OffBEAT magazine has a cover feature on popular vocalist Meschiya Lake. While she may have a somewhat unconventional background, she's one of the swingingest singers in this town right now, as I've noted before on this site. Her band, the Little Big Horns, also has some of the top young players in the city. I urge you to check her out. You might start with www.meschiyalake.com.
Another first-rate vocal talent in the city is Sasha Masakowski, whose latest recording--Wishes--is her second. (Her debut CD was called Musical Playground, which is also the name of her band on the current CD.) Wishes reveal's Sasha's versatility, with tunes ranging from trad standard "St. James Infirmary" to bossa nova and her own originals. On one of the latter, "Theme for Falling Leaves," she is joined by her father, ace guitarist Steve Masakowski, who is the head of the jazz studies program at UNO (from which she graduated two years ago). I recommend her highly.
Media reports that I have seen relating to the wide-spread destruction in the East caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene have set me to thinking, especially in view of the present observances in commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. Just a couple of my thoughts here: 1) It seems that most governors along the East Coast--Democrats and Republicans alike--are more than satisfied with the response they have received from FEMA and the Obama administration. How striking that is in comparison to our experience with “Brownie” and the Bush administration six years ago! FEMA and the present administration seem to have learned a great deal about preparedness from the Katrina debacle. Unfortunately, we were the losers. 2) More shocking, however, are the proposals by some conservative lawmakers that federal spending on emergencies such as these should be balanced by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Even if we were to adopt such proposals, can you imagine where those cuts would take place, and how long do you think it would take Congress to arrive at those decisions? How absurd!
Andrea Duplessis has worked tirelessly for the sake of jazz in New Orleans for many years. Apart from her legendary annual Mardi Gras block parties (always with live music), she has gained a reputation for locally representing the likes of the late, great trumpeter Doc Cheatham and pianist Henry Butler. For the last decade or more, she has been working closely with Brooklyn-based drummer Wade Barnes (both a fine musician and a man seriously committed to jazz education for young people).
Andrea brought Barnes and his band, Unit Structures, to town for a performance for local youngsters from the Roots of Music program at the Cabildo on August 4. In addition to the drummer, the group consisted of Bertha Hope, piano; Saadi Zain, bass; Yoshiki Miura, guitar; Bill Ware III, vibes, and Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch, vocals. They offered an excellent program of straight ahead jazz, with an emphasis on illustrating the African Diaspora through music. They had the kids, all dressed in yellow T-shirts, in the palms of their hands. It was a great educational experience for them because, after the concert, they divided up into groups with the musicians for more detailed musical learning. Kudos to Barnes--and especially to Andrea--for putting it all together. For more, visit www.brooklyn4thearts.org. (See pics on the Photos page.)
It is with considerable sadness that I report that clarinetist Joe Torregano has had a relapse in his fight against cancer. He is being treated on a periodic basis at the well-known W. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and he says he couldn't be more pleased with his treatments there. An email from Joe dated July 13 reads as follows: "Please be advised that I will be in M.D. Anderson for the first phase of treatment for 3 wks. starting tomorrow. At this time I'm requesting that e-mails containing jokes (even though I love them), political opinions, you tube videos, etc. be kept to a minimum. I will be updating my condition at least once/week. Please remember your prayers and thoughts on my recovery are greatly appreciated." He adds on July 23 that cards and other communiques can be sent to him at Room G1270, P.O. Box 300206, Houston, TX 77230 and "silk flowers or plants are acceptable." As of August 20, he says that he expects to be home soon, and he is already planning to do a CD early in the new year!
I regret that I have neglected to mention reedman Sammy Rimington's new book, A Pictorial History of Sammy's Life in Jazz. Rimington, who appeared in the city recently, says that it is expected to be published next year. For more info, you can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check out his website, www.sammyrimington.com.
I have spent much of the last two weeks on the road--first in Florida for my wonderful granddaughter's high school graduation and secondly on a trip to the Northeast to attend the annual Burlington (VT) Discover Jazz Festival and to visit old friend clarinetist Jack Maheu who now lives in a nursing home in Ithaca, NY, near his two sons John and Michael. I will discuss each in a bit more detail on the Comings and Goings page. (See also the Photos page.)
There's a very heartening piece in the May 31 issue of Forbes magazine, entitled "The Katrina Effect: Renaissance on the Mississippi." It concludes, "Once the poster child for urban despair, New Orleans may develop a blueprint for turning a devastated region into a role model not only for other American cities but for struggling urban regions around the world." Check it out, if you have a chance.
I simply have to say this. As we observed the first anniversary (April 20) of the BP Oil Catastrophe--it was a disaster, not simply a "spill"--oil remains in the waters and surrounding vegetation of the Gulf of Mexico. And the experts still have no clear ideas about the future of the Gulf. BRITISH PETROLEUM CANNOT BE LEFT OFF THE HOOK UNTIL THIS HORRENDOUS SITUATION HAS BEEN FULLY RESOLVED!
We all know about the tsunami and attendant disasters in JAPAN. When I first heard about it, I immediately thought of trumpeter Yoshio Toyama and his wife Keiko and sent them an email. I received no response until April 16. The Toyamas were not harmed physically, but their home was damaged. As many will know, they have done so much over the years for New Orleans with their gifts of musical instruments for our school children. Well, they are now in need of help! Organizations in our city have already begun to help with monetary donations. Yoshio reports that they have received donations from the Tipitina Foundation and the New Orleans Jazz Centennial Celebration (NOJC). But more is needed, so you too can contribute by contacting either Tips or the NOJC. You can donate on line at www.nojc.org or tipitinasfoundation.org. Please consider doing so.
While out of town I received an email (dated June 14) from Yoshio Toyama saying that US television network NBC reported about a Japanese children's jazz band from a community struck by the tsunami and instruments given to them by the Tipitina's Foundation of New Orleans. The article, "Back in the Swing: Tsunami Kids' Jazz Band Again Making Joyful Noise" by Miranda Leitsinger can be found on line at www.worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011. Yoshio concludes by saying that he and his wife "are very glad we became bridge persons for this present. For 17 years [our] Wonderful World Jazz Foundation, with help from a leading cargo company in Japan--Nippon Express--sent musical instruments to children in New Orleans who live surrounded by guns and drugs, hoping they remember Louis Armstong's life..."
My wife and I recently returned from a very pleasant trip--our first--to Puerto Rico (January 17-23). The weather was gorgeous and the food delicious. One of my objectives on the trip, of course, was to hear as much good local music as possible...and I succeeded to a certain degree. We heard a few interesting folk string players, but, in our one-day visit to Ponce on the south coast we were very disappointed to find the much publicized Museo de la Musica Puertorriquena closed. A bummer.
But our spirits were lifted considerably on the following evening when, by chance, we were told about a jazz club called Carli’s Café Concierto near the harbor in Old San Juan. The restaurant’s food is excellent and its owner, pianist Carlos “Carli” Munoz, is an outstanding player. On the night we were there he and his Costa Rican drummer, Felipe Fournier, were performing. They complemented one another beautifully, the pianist working with the grace and beauty of one-time Louisianian Bill Evans. Later, they were joined by young bassist Alex Gasser and alto saxophonist Carl Freedman. The latter is from Los Angeles but visits Puerto Rico frequently. Interestingly, he is the brother of David Freedman, the local GM of public radio station WWOZ in New Orleans. Even more coincidental was the fact that Carl attended high school in Bloomington, IN when I was on the faculty at Indiana University. What a small world!
But Munoz was The Man, and I recommend him warmly. I acquired a couple of his CDs--one was a duo with him and famed bassist Eddie Gomez (joined by drummer Joe Chambers and flautist Jeremy Steig)--and his playing on both is first-rate. Now in his early 60s, he has recorded another with Gomez, along with drummer Jack DeJohnette, clarinetist Don Byron and David Sanchez on tenor sax. I recently received a copy of that one as well, and it too is a winner. While in the U.S. Carli worked with many well-known jazz figures. If you don’t know of him, check out his Wikipedia entry on the internet or his website at www.carlimunoz.com. His fine music put a wonderful cap on our visit to the island.
I have added a few pictures of the trip to the Photos page.
The City Council of New Orleans has officially proclaimed that December 22 be Helen Arlt Day in recognition of her many contributions to the jazz comunity of New Orleans.
If you have attended a traditional jazz performance in our city--be it Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest, Nickel-A-Dance or whatever--you have seen Helen Arlt doing her thing. She is known to all trad jazz fans in the city (and well beyond, for that matter) and could arguably be dubbed "Ms. Second Line" in New Orleans. Her passion for dancing and music goes back to her childhood, when she would listen to the big bands late at night in her New Orleans home via powerful Chicago radio station WGN.
But Arlt is more than just a fan of music and dance. She has been a longtime mover and shaker in the nation's oldest jazz society, the New Orleans Jazz Club, which was founded in 1948. Soon after that she was elected secretary of the club and later became the organization's first female president. She has also served a lengthy stint on the club's board of directors. She has, in fact, done just about everything there is to do in the NOJC. As she has put it, "the New Orleans Jazz Club has been my heart and my life. If something needed to be done, I would swallow crow to get it done." One of the many highlights in Arlt's NOJC career took place during her presidency in 1965. She was instrumental in arranging for a visit and concert by the city's legendary native son, Louis Armstrong (in what was to become his penultimate performance in his hometown.) Armstrong had often said that he would not re-appear in New Orleans because of its segregation laws, but by 1965 those laws were gone. Nevertheless, there was a good deal of apprehension about how the City Fathers would receive the great musician. Thanks to Arlt and other members of the NOJC, the trumpeter's reception has been termed "a triumph." Armstrong was accorded all sorts of honors from both the city and the state during his visit, so it was a triumph indeed. Helen Arlt's recollection: "It was heavenly."
That her 89th birthday celebration took place in the Norwegian Seamen's Church (sometimes known as "the Jazz Church") is no accident. As a neighbor, she first came to the church for a jazz performance and remembers, "It was wonderful." Thereafter she became a regular attender at jazz performances at the church and eventually came to know the pastors and others of the Norwegian staff. She made friends with them and even visited Norway a number of times. She can't remember how many times exactly--at least three or four, she says.
One of her most memorable trips to Norway was in 1994, when she was invited there to open the Sildajazz festival in Haugesund (sometimes called "the New Orleans of Norway"). "It was wonderful," she recalls,"I was at the front of the parade."
When asked about special memories in her long association with the NSC, she immediately cited the visit of King Olav V in 1982, when she was one of the very few non-Norwegians invited to honor him. Another memorable occasion was a concert at the church by acclaimed Norwegian pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen and his Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra. Helen happened to be sitting in the front row of the audience, next to a man she did not know who was a devoted fan of ragtime music. About midway through the concert, Larsen announced that the orchestra was about to play a piece by noted ragtime composer David Thomas Roberts, a good friend of Helen's. Larsen introduced Arlt to the audience, saying that the title of the composition was "Impressions of Helen" and it had been dedicated to her by the composer. "Well, this guy next to me almost throws a conniption," she laughed. "It was an outstanding moment, I guess, because I was touched that somebody wrote a song for me, and the reaction of this man!"
Though a devout Roman Catholic, Helen Arlt has been a faithful supporter of the Norwegian Seamen's Church in New Orleans. She has helped and supported the church's activities in endless ways. "I have promoted this place," she says. "More people ought to know about it. This is heaven on earth right here."
We agree, Helen, and we thank you for your help in making it that way.
[The above was excerpted from a piece I wrote about Ms. Arlt in the NSC's quarterly, Gulfposten, some years ago."
New Orleans continues to produce young musicians committed to traditional jazz (if there was ever any doubt about that). Yet another indication of that was the appearance of the Red Hot Brass Band on National Public Radio's weekly "From the Top" program on December 16. The program showcases the best young musicians from all over our country. The RHBB is made up of trumpeter Doyle "Red" Cooper; alto saxophonist Gregory Morrow; trombonist Colin Frishbery; tubist Paul Robertson; and drummers Jose Bemmelman and Peter Varnado, all between the ages of 17 and 20. These young guys closed out a program that featured young instrumentalists and vocalists, all from Louisiana, performing in the classical idiom. All these kids clearly have a bright future in music! I'll be watching out for the RHBB in particular.
Mighty clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, now 87, was honored earlier this year by the International Clarinet Association. In a recent interview with the ICA's John Cipolla, DeFranco advises young students of the instrument to "begin with the beginning. Start by learning what early players did in the late 1920s, how they evolved and then brought things one step forward.... Listen to everything you possibly can." He suggests that one starts by listening to the likes of Frank Teschemacher, Jimmie Noone, Barney Bigard, Buster Bailey and Johnny Mince. Incidentally, he considers himself among the four most influential jazz clarinet players, along with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Eddie Daniels. That's pretty much how I see it as well.
I can't resist reporting parts of a story about the great jazz singer Cassandra Wilson (a Mississippi native who lived in New Orleans early in her career) that appeared in The Telegraph (U.K.) of November 17. I quote from the first two paragraphs of the article by Peter Culshaw:
"The woman who for many people--including me--is the pre-eminent jazz singer of our time, is telling me she thinks she is related to Henry VIII. Cassandra Wilson is worried that people might think she is 'out of her mind' for making the claim, but a family member has done the research and even had DNA tests and is convinced they are very distant cousins.
"She has spent time since her discovery researching the Tudors, and also thinks the New Orleans standard St. James Infirmary--a version of which is on her new album, Silver Pony [part of which, incidentally, was recorded in New Orleans]--refers to the old St. James's Hospital for lepers in London. 'St. James's is now on that site--built by Henry VIII. So a song everyone thought was a New Orleans traditional standard is based on an old English folk song.'"
So, what do you jazz historians think about that?
The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico last spring that was termed an oil "spill" (a gross misnomer, in my opinion) is discussed in a new book by an oil industry veteran. The book is Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout by Bob Cavnar (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010; paperback, $14.95). It is the first comprehensive investigation of the worst oil well disaster in American history. If you have any interest in New Orleans and the Gulf region, this book should be required reading.
In case you have not heard, Evan Christopher's Django a la Creole released a new CD this spring. It's called Finesse and follows up on their fine debut release of two years ago on the same French label (lejazzetal). Same personnel along with the clarinetist as well: David Blenkhorn (solo guitar); Dave Kelbie (rhythm guitar); and Sebastien Girardot (bass). I recommend it heartily. Details at www.fremeaux.com. NOTE THAT THIS CD WAS SELECTED AS "JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR" BY THE TIMES OF LONDON (December 5) Congratulations to Evan and his talented colleagues.
My wife and I were recently visited by old friends from Norway, so, among the various local sights we shared with our visitors, was a cruise on the Steamer Natchez. It also presented me with a great opportunity to hear the new generation of the Dukes of Dixieland, the band that continues to play for the nightly cruises. That was the first chance I had to hear the band now headed by trumpeter Kevin Clark, who replaced drummer Richard Taylor (because of the latter's ill health) on August 1. Clark has assembled a fine group of sidemen for the current band, headed by holdovers Ben Smith on trombone and pianist/arranger Richard Scott (Obenschain). In addition, he has added Ryan Burrage (clarinet and saxes), Alan Broome (bass) and J.J. Juliano (drums). All, with the possible exception of Broome, are familiar faces on the local music scene. Though raised in suburban Kenner, the 30-year-old bassist headed to Las Vegas after graduating from Loyola University in music education and only returned to the city about a year ago.
The present edition of the Dukes, like most of their predecessors, is a group of talented musicians who play a high-energy form of dixieland jazz. Clark, who is very excited about the future of this band, mixes into their performances their versions of tunes from some unexpected sources (like Fats Domino or the New Orleans Nightcrawlers). Plans for the group include more recording and touring. I'll try to keep you advised of all of that. See the Photos page for a band pic.
You may recall my mentioning the imminence of a new CD by clarinetist Jack Maheu. Well, as of October 11, it became available from Jazzology Records (www.jazzology.com). The name of the CD is "My Inspiration," after the wonderful tune made famous by Irving Fazola and track #9 on the Maheu recording. The CD features Jack in the context of an outstanding quartet of New Orleans musicians: Jim Hession, piano; Mark Brooks, bass; and Richard Taylor, drums. All are in excellent form for this performance. It was recorded at Jack's former home on Esplanade Avenue in April 2004, about a year before Katrina and the clarinetist's subsequent stroke. I was honored to have been asked to provide the text and photos for the CD and am pleased to give the recording my warmest recommendation here. (For a pic of Maheu and Hession at a rehearsal prior to the recording session, see Photos page.)
An email received on October 5 from reedman (and educator) Joe Torregano included the following: "The long and winding journey in my personal battle of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma came to an end today. My 4th PET Scan results were received today. I am absolutely, positively, 100% cancer free!!!" That's terrific news, Joe, for all of your many friends and relatives who have been pulling (and praying) for you over the last six months or so. We look forward to seeing you on the bandstand again soon.
And, indeed, Joe was on the bandstand on Saturday, October 30, in Baton Rouge. He and his quartet--brother Michael on piano, Bob French on drums and Oliver "Stick" Felix, bass--played a free benefit session for patients of Baton Rouge General Hospital and its Pennington Cancer Center, where he spent a good deal of time over the last months. "When I was diagnosed," he says, "I made a promise to my oncologist, Dr. Georgia Reine, that if I were cured, I would bring my jazz quartet to Baton Rouge General for a free concert." He not only kept his promise, but he announced after the concert, "I will be back next year in October and every October until I can't do this anymore." And, we now know, he will be leading his band at Jazzfest on May 6!
Drummer David Hansen reports that his Garden District Trio, with Jeff Lashway on piano and Chris Sharkey on bass, can be heard nightly starting at 6:30 pm at Houston's Restaurant, 1755 St. Charles Avenue (Uptown). He adds that the group has two new digital download albums just released in July. Check out www.cdbaby.com/Artist/GardenDistrictTrio.
Young New Orleans clarinetist Gregory Agid, 23, has just made a demo recording, samples of which can be heard on his website,
http://gregoryagid.com/music.html. Listening to these samples, one can clearly hear Agid's stylistic versatility. A graduate of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp, the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) and Loyola University, Agid has studied with Alvin Batiste and Eddie Daniels. He has appeared at a number of local clubs as well as the Jazz & Heritage Festival with a variety of prominent local musicians, including Ellis Marsalis, Evan Christopher, and Tim Laughlin. He's definitely someone to keep an eye on.
New Orleans lost most of its big chain record outlets after Katrina (no real loss, in my opinion), but it recently added a shop whose base is in St. Louis. Euclid Records, whose specialty is vinyl recordings, is located at the corner of Chartres and Desire in the Bywater neighborhood. Their grand opening took place over the Labor Day weekend and featured food, drinks and music. St. Louis native and longtime New Orleans resident, pianist Tom McDermott, opened the music program on September 4. Just to indicate the extent of the store's inventory, they had Tom's first recording, an LP titled "New Rags" on the Stomp Off label. I did not hear it, but Tom says that he was 22 when it was recorded and it included all original compositions by him. In case you're interested, the record is available for purchase at Euclid for $49.99. It seems that there is a big vinyl revival these days, clearly reflected by the number of young people looking over the shop's huge inventory when I was there. Euclid New Orleans can be accessed on line at www.euclidnola.com.
I expect that most lovers of traditional New Orleans Jazz have already read Song for My Fathers, A New Orleans Story in Black and White (2006) by clarinetist, author and educator Tom Sancton. If not, I urge you to do so. It has been extremely well received by reviewers. But now the book has been issued in paperback form (Other Press, 2010), and Sancton has added a touching and beautifully-written epilogue. I reviewed the original in The Mississippi Rag, and I can say that this expanded edition is even better. It is a must read for anyone seriously interested in New Orleans jazz.
While I'm at it, I must also mention a new CD issued earlier this year. It is called The Classic Jazz Trio and features the excellent clarinet work of Sancton and Tom Fischer joined by John Rankin on guitar(s) and vocals. The music is "pure New Orleans," as Rankin puts it. It is a most pleasant listening experience, and I heartily recommend the CD. You can contact Rankin at email@example.com for more details and ordering information.
Threadhead Records Foundation (THR) is a non-profit organization based in Santa Monica, California. Its predecessor and affiliate, volunteer-run and fan-funded Threadhead Records, started in 2007 to help musicians struggling with the aftermath of the 2005 Katrina levee failures. The group has helped more than 24 individual New Orleans artists/groups complete over 33 recording projects. For some of their current/recent projects, see their website www.threadheadrecords.com.
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. At some point I may well list them for your information.) 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.