Thomas W. Jacobsen      New Orleans Notes









On a Norwegian fjord near Stavanger, with New Orleanians Lars Edegran and his band

Bio

Thomas W. Jacobsen (aka Thomas, Tom, or T. W.) was born, raised and educated in Minnesota. He eventually received a Ph. D. in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Until retirement, Jacobsen spent his career in higher education, including 26 years on the faculty of Indiana University (Bloomington). He devoted his scholarly efforts to the study of prehistoric archaeology in Greece and the Aegean Basin. To that end, he worked in Greece for some 35 years, including 25 years as director of the excavations at the important site of Franchthi Cave. He also served as general editor of the multi-volume series Excavations at Franchthi Cave, Greece, published by the Indiana University Press. During his time in Greece, he wrote the first article in English on jazz in Greece (1987).

Jacobsen has been devoted to jazz music since he was a clarinet- and saxophone-playing teenager. It was at that time that he was introduced to New Orleans jazz by listening to the broadcasts of the New Orleans Jazz Club over the powerful Crescent City radio station WWL.

Upon retirement, Jacobsen moved to New Orleans where he has lived for more than 20 years--during which time he has become deeply involved in the local music scene. He has published extensively on New Orleans jazz, having served as a columnist and New Orleans correspondent for the well-known traditional jazz and ragtime monthly The Mississippi Rag. He also served for more than a decade on the editorial staff and was a columnist and feature writer for The Clarinet magazine as well as contributing to a variety of other jazz periodicals. He is the author of Traditional New Orleans Jazz, Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, LSU Press, 2011.

Jacobsen and his wife Sharyn moved to St. Louis in September, 2014--to be near their their two youngest grandchildren.

Welcome

The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970–2000

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.

OCTOBER 2014
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 75 halftones
978-0-8071-5698-8
Paper $25.00, ebook available
LSU Press Paperback Original
Music Studies / Louisiana Studies

BOOK REVIEWS

--Paige van Vorst, Jazzology, winter, 2014, p. 12: "....The book is basically organized by decades--there is a prologue covering the 60s, and major chapters devoted to the 70s, 80s and 90s. Each chapter is similarly organized... Jacobsen takes a very even-handed approach, praising those who work behind the scenes to keep things moving, only occasionally expressing frustration over the way things work in New Orleans. His one chief criticism is of the independent fiefdoms that seldom cooperate. The general impression, though, is positive improvement overall... I've been interested in New Orleans and its music my whole life but haven't been there in a long time--this is a tremendous report on what went on during the period covered... A very interesting read and one that should be followed up with a sequel covering the early 21st Century."

--Charles Suhor, Dixieland Jazz Mailing List (online), December 11: "If you haven't yet bought Thomas Jacobsen's new book, 'The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000: A Personal Retrospective' (LSU Press), I highly recommend it...You'll recognize dozens of the OKOM and modern players and landmark clubs and events in the book. A lot of the material was new to me because I left the city in 1977, keeping sporadic contact with the music scene through my brother Don, periodicals, and internet sources. I hope someone is waiting in the wings with notes for a 2000-and-beyond book." [NB. That's precisely what I am working on now!]

--Bob Porter, International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal, December, 2014: "As someone who was a frequent visitor to New Orleans during the period, I recognize the scene and Jacobsen does a fine job of getting it all out there. Lots of photos."

--W. Royal Stokes, Jazz Journalists Association NEWS (roundup of jazz and blues books from 2014), December 29, 2014: " Thomas Jacobsen's [book] not only renders the musical scene of the period covered in its varietal forms, it renders it as part of a broad canvas that includes essential information on its players, both musicians and support network; the venues that have come and gone, some still active today; the political scene; the journalism and radio outlets that have reviewed and supported the jazz idiom over the years; jazz education, both public school and university; and a number of other facets and circumstances. All of these categories are fleshed out with interesting material on the individuals involved. Jacobsen...has made use of his time there by constant presence on the jazz scene and involvement in its community, collecting his impressions and recording his data whenever he came into contact with that community...His outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. All styles played in the city are given their due in this essential book. Photographs, notes, bibliography, index."

--David Kunian, OffBeat, February, 2015: "Thomas Jacobsen is well qualified to assess New Orleans jazz in the last third of the last century. His latest book is a short survey of jazz in the Crescent City divided up by decade. Each chapter is divided up to sections on live music clubs, festivals, education, brass bands and musical luminaries...an informative...means of providing information. Where he excels is the recalling of some histories that have been glossed over such as the early, controversial history of Jazz Fest, the lack of development of Rampart Street, or the saga of Clarence "Buckwater" Washington. He also gives recognition to some of the unsung pieces and people of the New Orleans music puzzle... This is a great reference book..."

--Charles Suhor, American Book Review (Jan.-Feb. 2015) [excerpted]:
"I've long been an admirer of Thomas Jacobsen's writing, the catholicity of his musical tastes, and his warm personal regard for New Orleans musicians. The last was evident in his 2011 work for LSU Press, Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, and his articles for Mississippi Rag and Clarinet. His new volume is a follow-up to my 2001 book, Jazz in New Orleans: The Postwar Years to 1970.... When Jacobsen spoke to me casually about his plans for the book, I frankly wondered how he could get a handle on the task...Jacobsen ably ferrets out and explains the dominant patterns and underlying currents, making it look easy through organizational skill and a readable style... Jacobsen's framework of major events, issues, and evolving trends rescues the book from being a mere catalogue of names and places. Readers who aren't already familiar with the city's innumerable artists and clubs--after all, only Preservation Hall, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Harry Connick, Jr., and the Marsalis family are household names--will find many new names embedded in interpretive contexts... A recurring theme also lends continuity to Jacobsen's narrative--generational factors in the development of New Orleans jazz. The segments touch on many jazz styles and are fraught with irony.
It would be easy to quibble over minor points.... Jacobsen had the thronier task of deciding which musicians night clubs, recording sessions, and events to include from the thirty-year time span. Clearly, he provides an extensive and intensive view of the 1970-2000 jazz scene. The subtitle is "A Personal Retrospective," but Jacobsen's scholarship and fairminded coverage of all jazz style make the book an important report on a slimly researched period in the city's jazz history." [THIS REVIEW ALSO APPEARED IN ITS ENTIRETY IN allaboutjazz.com, May 12.]

I will add more as they become available.

_______________________________________________________


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.

WEBMASTER'S CORNER
You will see that I editorialize/​personalize here more than on other pages. See also the News (updated regularly) and Comings and Goings (updated as needed) pages, and, of course, the Works page keeps you abreast of some of my publications.

August 2
Now that August is upon us and SatchFest due to conclude today, it is probably not too soon to note the 23rd annual Cutting Edge Music Business Conference, which will begin August 27 and run through August 29. It has become the city's top gathering for educating musicians and "music professionals"(other than musicians) about the latest trends in the music industry. Its schedule is always packed full of lectures, workshops and seminars devoted to various aspects of the industry. Its Roots Music panel this year will highlight the post-Katrina fundraising efforts of Wynton Marsalis for producing the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert (and CD) held on September 17, 2005. Following Katrina, the Higher Ground Fund assisted over 200 musicians displaced by the Hurricanes as well as numerous music service organizations. There is much else on the program, including more than 110 bands that will be performing at a variety of clubs throughout the city. Unfortunately, it is not a free event. For more, check out www.cuttingedgenola.com.

July 28
Just a reminder. The 15th annual Satchmo SummerFest opens on Friday, July 31, and will go through Sunday, August 2. A highlight of this year's event will be the Armstrong exhibit in the Old Mint (LA State Museum). Called "Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans," the exhibit features two of the great man's horns: his cornet from his days in the Colored Waifs' Home, a part of the local museum's permanent collection, and a golden trumpet, the last instrument he owned before his death in 1971 (now part of the collection of the Louis Armstrong House in NYC). The two horns will be displayed in opposite rooms in the Mint and will serve as something of bookends to the exhibit.

The exhibit will be open from 10 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays, until January 15. It is free except during SatchFest, when people must buy a $5 fest ticket. (The latter is new this year.)

PS As many of you know, Armstrong had a baseball team called Armstrong's Secret Nine. A 1931 poster which is part of the exhibit announces a game with the N. O. Black Pelicans in the old ballpark at the corner of S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. You will remember that "Pelicans" was the old name of the city's professional baseball teams (both white and black) long before it became the handle of the current NBA franchise in the city.

July 23
I had the distinct pleasure of attending a free lecture-concert this evening at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. The lecturer was Dr. John Edward Hasse, jazz curator at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and his topic was "Swingin' for the Fences: Big Bands and Baseball." I have been an ardent fan of baseball and jazz for about the same length of time. (Actually, I first became fascinated with the sport during the 1944 World Series between the [then] two teams from St. Louis. But soon thereafter I became a diehard phan of the Philadelphia Phillies and have continued to be so ever since.) But during my many decades of passionately following the two entertainment media, I found that they had much in common--especially among the practitioners of both. I was always struck by the number of top jazz musicians who loved baseball...and vice versa. Well, Mr. Hasse, an old friend from my days at Indiana University (not to mention in New Orleans), captured beautifully (in text and pictures) the symbiosis between the two. An excellent presentation.

I told him afterwards that he had the makings of a wonderful book, but he modestly insisted that he didn't know enough about baseball to do it. Nevertheless, he did say that he would send me an article he wrote on the subject. I look forward to reading that and will duly cite it here in due course.

Baseball, regrettably, is no longer the national pastime as it had been for so long. In talking with John, we agreed that the NFL and the NBA have now replaced MLB as the sports of choice for jazz musicians (as for most Americans--but not me). I noted the love of so many musicians whom I know in New Orleans who ardently follow the Saints, and he he added that, when once interviewing Wynton Marsalis, Wynton brought out a basketball and asked him if he wanted to shoot some hoops with him. And so it is...

Baseball may be dying--slowly--as a popular sport, and one wonders if the same may be said for jazz these days... I hope not, in either case.

The evening concluded with a concert by the fine 16-piece "Jazz St. Louis Big Band," led by pianist and jazz educator Phil Dunlap. It's an excellent, well-rehearsed ensemble of able musicians and wonderful soloists. This was my first hearing of them, but I look forward to many more.

See photos page.

July 19
Much more on the Mayfield NOPL scandal can be found on the editorial pages of the current (July) issue of OffBeat magazine. Particularly noteworthy is a long missive by New Orleans musician Chris Edmunds, who chastizes Mayfield as well a others from the local music establishment for not speaking out on the issue.

July 18
Another new CD, just released last month, recently appeared in my mailbox. It's called Brotherly Love, Celebrating Lee Morgan and features trumpeter Terell Stafford (on the Capri label). The title implies a connection with Philadelphia, and there is...

Stafford, director of jazz studies at Temple University in Philly, has become one of the top jazz trumpeters working today. He has been closely associated with Wynton and JALC (among others); I had the pleasure of hearing him recently with a JALC group at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. Here he is performing with his quintet, an outstanding group consisting of pianist Bruce Barth, saxophonist Tim Warfield, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall.

As you will probably remember, trumpeter Lee Morgan was a Philadelphian who made a name for himself at a young age with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. Unfortunately, he was lost to the jazz world from a tragic shooting in 1972 at the age of 33. Stafford calls Morgan "a total genius," and this album is an homage to him. The disk's nine tracks include seven of Morgan's original compositions, plus a bluesy original by Stafford himself ("Favor") and the lovely old standard "Candy" by Alex Kremer. Stafford calls the recreation of Morgan's music "intimidating," but he succeeds admirably with the challenge.

While this is a celebration of the trumpet, don't overlook the fine work of Barth and Warfield as well. The album is in the best tradition of small-group jazz.

July 15
Those of you who go back a few years will surely remember the name Mezz Mezzrow, the well-known (but not great) clarinetist who flourished in the '30s and '40s and moved to Paris in the '50s before passing in 1972. Born a Jew, he was best known as a white man who identified himself as a black and was married to a black woman, thus preceding Rachel Dolezal by many decades. I mention him now since a recent article in the New York Times reported about a new jazz club in the Village called "Mezzrow." It preserves the memory of the clarinetist by displaying numerous memorabilia of his life, including his colorful autobiography Really the Blues ( I have an original copy bought when I was in high school) mounted on a candlelit Buddhist altar in the club (the club owner, Spike Wilner, is a Buddhist). The article also interviews Mezz's only son, Milton Mesirow (the clarinetist's real name), 79, who says, "I'd have to look into the the legality of the [club's] name, because remember, Mezzrow was technically his pen name." I'd love to visit the club one day.

July 6
The latest in the Irvin Mayfield-NO Public Library dust-up is this missive from Jan Ramsey, publisher of OffBeat magazine:

"Jan Ramsey
July 3 at 2:19pm ·
Shocking: Because OffBeat published letters and a commentary
on the Irvin Mayfield/​Ronald Markham library scandal, we were told by Markham and Mayfield that the Royal Sonesta executive team is furious and would never advertise Irvin's Playhouse at the Sonesta in the magazine. A pity for the musicians who play there. A pity for NOJO.
Did we do the wrong thing?"

July 3
The New York Times has reported that nearly 30 years of recordings made at Jazz at Lincoln Center will be made available to the public through an agreement with Sony Music. The collection will have its own label, Blue Engine Records, and the performances will be released on CDs, vinyl, digital downloads and streaming over a period of 15 years (about 6 releases annually). The first release will be on August 21--"Live in Cuba"--featuring Wynton Marsalis and the JALC Orchestra from a 3-night engagement in 2010. Exciting news, I think.

Advance notice: Satchmo SummerFest will take place July 31-August 2.The full lineup and schedule was announced on June 30. For details, see fqfi.org/​satchmo.

June 28
The Dukes of Dixieland have a new CD just out. It's called LIVE at 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and is available at JazzFestLive.com.

The current band--Kevin Clark, trumpet, leader; David Phy, trombone; Ryan Burrage, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Alan Broome, bass; John Mahoney, drums; and Joe Kennedy, piano--includes a couple of members that are new to me: trombonist Phy and drummer Mahoney. Phy has a DMA and has been a jazz educator, while I am assuming that Mahoney is the son of Loyola University professor emeritus John Mahoney (and former head of the jazz program there). There is plenty of singing, too, as Clark, Phy, Broome and Kennedy all contribute vocals.

The music is varied, ranging from Ellington standards to Al Hirt's "Java" and a "New Orleans R&B Medley." That's pretty much how the Dukes have been doing it for years. Their instrumentation is trad/​Dixieland, but their music is usually more eclectic.

If you're a Dukes fan, you will want to check this one out.

June 22
It was recently announced that the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York City and the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans have partnered on an exhibit: Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans to tell the story of Louis Armstrong’s complex relationship with his hometown. The exhibit will coincide with the 100th anniversary of his first professional gig at Henry Ponce’s in New Orleans in 1915.

According to Armstrong’s autobiography, the young cornetist was offered the job by his friend “Cocaine” Buddy Martin, who asked, “You play the cornet don’t you?” Armstrong responded, “Yes, I play the cornet, Buddy. But I don’t know if I am good enough to play in a regular band.” Martin assured him, “All you have to do is put on long pants at night, play the blues for the whores that hustle all night until ‘fo’ day in the morning.” That was good enough for Armstrong, who fronted a trio of cornet, piano and drums and ended up playing the blues nightly for the next six months in 1915 (while hauling loads of coal from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the daytime). Armstrong’s career as a professional musician was underway.

The 100th anniversary of this historic engagement will be celebrated in this new exhibit, opening in New Orleans at the Old U.S. Mint on July 29, 2015 as part of the annual Satchmo Summerfest presented by Chevron and will remain on exhibit through January 2017. Check it out, if you get a chance.

June 20
I have recently received a wonderful new CD that was just released earlier this month. It is called The Thompson Fields by distinguished composer-arranger Maria Schneider and her exciting 18-piece jazz orchestra.

I have deep respect and admiration for Schneider's music since I first encountered it some 20 years ago. In fact, I feel something of kinship for her since we were born (many years apart, I hasten to add) about 60 miles distant in two towns on the prairies of southern Minnesota. She and her great band have been annual jazz poll winners for years, and the Grammy she received for last year's Winter Morning Walks makes her one of the few musicians to win Grammys in both the jazz and classical categories.

Maria Schneider is known as a composer of autobiographical music. The present album clearly fits that pattern since she has been inspired by the natural environment near her home in Windom, MN. Since the music is original, the titles of the compositions may mean nothing to you. But they do give an indication of the focus of the album: "The Thompson Fields" refers to a farm near her home where she played as a child; "Home" says it all; "Walking by Flashlight" describes an early morning walk in the countryside; "The Monarch and the Milkweed" describes the close symbiosis of those two examples of her childhood environment; and so on. Schneider has a deep appreciation and understanding of the natural world in which she grew up.

The mighty ensemble that she directs consists of an impressive group of musicians, with a host of outstanding soloists that include reedmen Scott Robinson, Donnie McCaslin and Steve Wilson; trombonists Marshall Gilkes and Ryan Keberle, pianist Frank Kimbrough and Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund. The music they produce is powerful. The overall effect of this musical organization reminds me a lot of the Stan Kenton orchestras of the '60s and '70s and that of Toshiko Akiyoshi in the '70s and '80s, both among my alltime favorites. If you like the real big bands, you'll probably love this!

June 11
Terence Blanchard is in town (i.e., St. Louis) these days for a three-night series of two shows per night at the classy Jazz Bistro June 10-12. My wife and I were there for opening night last night. Blanchard brought with him his brand-new quintet known as E-Collective, a group of talented young "electrical engineers:" Cuban Fabian Almazan (keyboard, piano), Charles Altura (guitar), the dynamic Chicagoan Oscar Seaton (drums), and fellow New Orleanian Don Ramsey (bass). Ramsey, a high school buddy of Blanchard (at NOCCA?), has worked with Dr. John and Irma Thomas, among others, in the Crescent City.

I can't easily describe the music, which was all originals by Blanchard or Almazan.
It certainly was funky at times, almost New Age at other times, maybe some R&B, and Blanchard blew some (but not enough, in my opinion) jazz choruses. Seaton is a talented drummer clearly, but his powerful back-beat dominated the performance for the most part. (Too loudly from where we were sitting.) I guess one could call it jazz-rock fusion.

Electricity was in the air...literally. All instruments were plugged in. Since I am an acoustic kind of guy and find little virtue in those electronic gadgets, it was not an entirely satisfying evening for me. Yet it was definitely interesting. Indeed, I predict this band will achieve considerable success in today's "jazz " world. It's so 21st century... Incidentally, the group has a CD out on the Blue Note label called "Breathless." See photos page as well.

June 10
For fans of the original Dukes of Dixieland, Deano Assunto, son of Dukes trumpeter Frank Assunto, has just announced that he has a website devoted to the band: www.thedukesofdixieland.com. A lot of good pics of that historic band.

Another new CD to have reached my desk recently is pianist-composer Ran Blake's Ghost Tones, an album devoted to the memory of the great advant-garde composer George Russell. It is due to be released next week by A-Side Records.

Blake, himself a legendary figure who just turned 80 in April, is still on the faculty of the prestigious New England Conservatory, where he has been teaching since 1967. He has been called the mentor of a "who's who in today's most venturesome jazz artists." Blake is joined on several tracks by a diverse ensemble of NEC alumni and former students of George Russell.

The music here is an amalgam of compositions by Russell, Blake's own compositions, and a handful of standards. The latter includes the always lovely "Autumn in New York," which serves as both the opening and final track of the recording--and, of all things, Louisiana's own "You Are My Sunshine" (which may seem a bit alien to our country music friends).

For me, this was a charming and most appealing recording in a non-traditional vein. I recommend it.

June 8
Young trumpeter Mark Rapp is returning "home" after 15 years for performances at Snug Harbor later this week. Mark was a student in the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans in the late '90s and played in a number of local groups (e.g., Quintology with Brian Seeger) while in town. He received his master's degree in jazz studies from UNO in 2000 and immediately headed for New York where he worked with a variety of groups and did a good bit of touring as well. He recorded four CDs and was named one of the top 25 rising trumpeters by DownBeat magazine.

Rapp will be joined by another New Orleanian, alto saxophonist Wess "Warm Daddy" Anderson, playing the music of the great Lou Donaldson. There will be two shows each night, at 8:00 and 11:00 as usual. I hope that at least some of you will be there to welcome Rapp back.

I asked Mark if his return to New Orleans means that he may be moving back to town, and he responded, "I’m back in town just for these two gigs, but who knows what the future will hold." So, let's see what happens.

June 6
The city will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, as many of you will painfully remember. A number of anniversary events are already announced and some even underway. One of the first is Brothers from the Bottom, a play that opened at the Lupin Theater at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts last night. The play debuted in Brooklyn and was produced by Wendell Pierce, a NOCCA alum and star of the hit HBO series Treme. In the play, a real estate project threatens the fabric of a New Orleans neighborhood and unravels the bond between brothers. Pierce stars in the play, which runs through June 28 at NOCCA.

Starting today, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Warehouse District) presents an exhibition celebrating the renewal and rebirth of New Orleans 10 years after the levee failures following Katrina. The exhibit features the photography of several local artists and will run through September 20.

And there is much more to come.

June 4
A reader has contacted me saying that he is aware of the bibliography in my current book, but he wants more. So, he asks if I would put "a NOLA music bibliography" on the site with my "priorities/​annotations." Now that's a very tall order! Especially when one considers all the music styles that are at home in New Orleans (beyond just jazz). I would appreciate feedback from others on this. It would take some time, which is rather precious to me since I'm working on another book at the moment. Nevertheless I would be willing to work up a bibliography (leaning heavily on jazz) if there were enough interest.

May 29
A CD that I recently received features the music of a talented new (to me, at least) jazz composer, Ms. Ayn Inserto. A native of Singapore, she grew up on the West Coast, was trained at the New England Conservatory and is now on the faculty at Berklee College of Music. The recording in question is called Home Away from Home, and it presents five of her compositions and an arrangement of a Joe Henderson tune as well as one other number by one of her colleagues.

The CD was recorded in Italy, and the music was performed by a giant (18-piece) Italian big band, the Colours Jazz Orchestra led by trombonist Massimo Morganti (a onetime Berklee student). An excellent aggregation, a very good example of a 21st century big band. The music ranged from a lovely ballad to the Latin tinge and a groovy backbeat number.

Ms. Inserto is clearly a "comer"--the next Toshiko Akiyoshi (another Asian-born pianist-composer and bandleader), perhaps. In any case, someone to be aware of and look out for. Incidentally, the CD is due out early next month.

May 28
The prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston has announced that our own Terence Blanchard has been appointed visiting scholar in the Jazz Composition department beginning in the fall of 2015. Blanchard will also work in the Film Scoring and Brass departments, and for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

May 21
The Irvin Mayfield NOPL Scandal has become even more scandalous. Mayfield still has not spoken publicly about the accusations against him, but he has cancelled all of his upcoming engagements for the week. Beyond that, The New Orleans Agenda reported today that he "has not responded to multiple email and in-person requests for interviews from WWL-TV [who originally broke the story]. But the station did interview Mayfield's predecessor as Library Foundation president, Craig Mitchell, who said that on several occasions, he had to block Mayfield from using his position on the Library Foundation to collect extra money for himself." Rafael Goyeneche, head of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, said Mayfield's activities show a pattern. "These documents seem to indicate that for Mr. Mayfield, public service comes at a price. A pretty steep price," Goyeneche said.

Beyond that, the Weekly Beat conducted a poll of its readers last week asking what, in their opinion, Mayfield needs to do to ameliorate that debacle. The responses range among: l) he should cut all ties with the NOPL or 2) pay back all the money given to the NOJO or 3) apologize publicly (among others) OR 4) all of the above (47.6%). Obviously, the public is displeased with him.

I have to say that I have had occasion to work closely with Irvin over the years, most notably in interviewing him in 1996 and preparing that interview for publication in my book in 2011. In the many interviews that I have done with musicians, he is the ONLY ONE who asked to see what I wrote before it was published. Moreover, he suggested alterations in my text to make him look better! My practice had always been (though I gather this is not universally followed by all interviewers) to offer my manuscript to the interviewee before publication. Some looked at it (but made no corrections), others did not bother to do so. The bottom line: While Irvin Mayfield is a bright and talented individual, he has a super ego. As has been pointed out by others, he rarely does anything unless it shows him in a good light. It makes me, for one, dubious about the people with whom he works. We must take all of this into consideration as we evaluate his career in the future. [This section has been modified slightly from the original publication.]

May 18
How many of you have seen the recent award-winning film Whiplash? I saw it a couple of months ago and, while finding it somewhat fascinating, found it quite disgusting. What it did do, however, was lead me to reflect on my own methods as a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students (not in music, of course, but that is irrelevant). My personal philosophy about teaching was developed in or shortly after completing my graduate education (I had no courses in pedagogy), when I was about to embark on a career in higher education. I believed--and still do--that those courses in which I learned most were taught by strict professors with high academic standards and who did not tolerate anything but the best effort from their students. Accordingly, that is the practice I followed in my own teaching. I did not abide lazy students and tried to eliminate them from classes as early as possible. Strict grading helped in that respect. My professors were not abusive or sadistic, as was the protagonist in the film, and I was not--in word or deed--either. 'Nuf said about me, at least for now.

I bring all of this up now because the current (April-May) issue of Jazz ed magazine devotes a good bit of space to the movie, an interview with its protagonist Oscar winner J. K. Simmons and a survey of the magazine's readership (mostly professional jazz educators). I do not have the time or inclination to re-cover that portion of the magazine entirely, but I will say that perhaps a more balanced view of the film emerged than I would have expected. While 70% of the many respondents thought that the movie had a negative impact on jazz education, nearly the same number (63.7%) conceded that the movie "increased awareness of jazz scholarhip, with most (grudgingly, perhaps) acknowledging that this is a good thing." And even some 40% said they "saw elements of the fictional character [in the film] within themselves and their own teaching styles." (That made me think of my old clarinet teacher, a real strict and narrow-minded disciplinarian.)

In short, some positives to take away from the movie--apart from the music and excellent acting--are: it brings attention to jazz music (something that we all know is seldom enough covered in the media these days) and, as one Brit observer noted, "The film might be over-the-top, but I do think there's something to be said for pushing people and not mollycoddling them." I agree, and it certainly holds for any discipline, not just music. As J.K. Simmons, a student of music himself, said, "...that element of Terence Fletcher's philosophy [aiming for technical perfection] I completely agree with. I just think you can accomplish that without human collateral damage."

What do you think?



May 16
I have been holding off commenting on the following until some semblance of resolution had been reached. For the most part, that has now happened. The situation about which I am now writing is the so-called "scandal" with regard to the misappropriation of funds of the New Orleans Public Library.

Very briefly, the problem arose when an investigative journalist discovered that nearly $900,000 had been transferred from the NOPL Foundation to the new New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City. As everyone knows, Irvin Mayfield and Ron Markham were behind the creation of the Jazz Market--and both also serve on the board of the NOPL Foundation (Markham was the president) and apparently approved of the transfer of funds. Fingers were immediately pointed at them.

The upshot came when Markham resigned and a new president was appointed. Mayor Landrieu then stepped in and ordered that all funds not used for library purposes be returned. While that will happen it seems, some problems remain--at least for me. For one, neither Markham nor Mayfield has issued an apology or an explanation of the transfer. In addition, it seems reasonable to expect a thorough housecleaning of the NOPL's board be made and some rules be established regarding its future behavior. Markham has obfuscated in his only public statement, and Mayfield has yet to say a word. That's bad form, in my view. For more, see NOLA.com, WWL.com and the OffBeat.

May 15
It's time for another new CD. This one is LINES OF COLOR: Gil Evans Project Live at Jazz Standard, a big-band recording made live at NYC's Jazz Standard just one year ago. It is part of a project by producer-bandleader Ryan Truesdell, who is one of the country's leading scholars on the music of the legendary Gil Evans.

The 11 tracks are divided up into the work of Evans from the 1940s (when he was the arranger for the great Claude Thornhill band), 1950s and the 1960s. Trad jazz lovers will be surprised to hear Evans' 1959 adaptation of Bix's "Davenport Blues" featuring the trumpet of Mat Jodrell. Quite remarkable when heard today. Other highlights are the lovely ballad "Can't We Talk it Over" from the Thornhill period in the late '40s and the very swinging last track, "How High the Moon."

Many outstanding sidemen are to be heard here, including saxophonists Steve Wilson, Donny McCaslin, and Scott Robinson; guitarist James Chirillo; pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Lewis Nash. There are two--I have to say, rather mediocre--vocals by Wendy Gilles.

This is a well-rehearsed and outstanding big band performance. The CD is on the Blue Note/​Artists Share label.

May 12
I'm happy to bring to your attention another fine new CD that has recently come across my desk. It's called Introducing Katie Thiroux, a swinging debut by a young lady bassist who also sings!

A recent graduate of the prestigious Berklee School of Music (she also teaches for them), Ms. Thiroux was discovered by the bass giant John Clayton, who has this to say about her, "...her playing is something else--it's at another level. I'm talking about the level of playing that allows the groove to feel right, the arrangements well thought out and rehearsed and the performances to be tight."

Katie's singing is also right in the groove. Here she presents eight jazz standards plus three of her own originals. I was particularly taken with the opening track, the old Rogers and Hart "There's a Small Hotel," on which she reveals herself as definitely my kind of "girl" singer, reminding me a bit of Diana Krall.

Thiroux is joined by a talented trio of Roger Neumann, tenor sax; Graham Dechter, guitar; and Matt Vitek, drums. She's not Esperanza Spalding, but she is of comparable talent. This group is a winner.

May 9
Mayor Landrieu has declared Monday, May 11 to be Travis "Trumpet Black" Day in New Orleans. Hill, 28, passed away on May 4. (See Obits page.) To celebrate the life and legacy of Hill, the Hill and Andrews families will host "Trumpet Black Fest" at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar in Treme. More than 20 bands and bandleaders have volunteered their services for the occasion. They include Trombone Shorty, James and Glen David Andrews, Kid Merv Campbell, Corey Henry, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, the Rebirth Brass Band, the Hot 8 Brass Band, the New Breed Brass Band, and many others. There will be second-line parades as well.

May 6
Despite the rainy first weekend, Jazz Fest attendance this year surpassed that of last year and achieved the highest total (460,000) since Katrina. The overall record of ca. 650,000 (2001) remains in tact.

Next year the festival will be as early as it's ever been: April 22-May 1.

May 5
I have just received a copy of another review--extremely detailed--by the noted jazz historian Charles Suhor in the prestigious American Book Review (January-February issue). Given its length, I have chosen to include only excerpts from it. See above.

May 4
I have listened to Ravel's Bolero hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing it live for the first time. It was performed by the St. Louis Symphony (one of the top orchestras in the country) along with works by other 19th century composers (Bizet, Debussy). A wonderful program, but it was Bolero (for me, probably the most emotional piece of music ever composed) that was the absolute highlight. The StLS played it beautifully, maybe the best I've ever heard. It was reading about Bix's reaction to hearing it that first turned me on the piece in high school, and I have to say that it still turns me on every time I hear it.

April 27
Clarinetist Evan Christopher will be opening a series of three nightly performances tonight at Luthjen's Dance Hall in Marigny. He will be joined by pianist Joe Ashlar this evening. Tomorrow he will be working with pianist David Torkanowsky and Wednesday he will be playing with a trio that includes guitarist Brian Seeger and bassist Roland Guerin. It should be exciting---not to mention the fact that all three performances will be recorded live! Clearly something that many of us will be looking forward to hearing.

April 24
OffBeat's Jazz Fest Bible is out, and today marks the beginning of Jazz Fest 2015! I gather that the weather for the first weekend is not so promising. So, let's hope that this year's fest is more successful than French Quarter Festival. (See the News page.)

April 22
It is an historic day in New Orleans today. That is because last night at 12:01 am the new smoking ban in bars went into effect. Hence, from now on, all bars in the city--with or without music--will be smoke free! I never thought I'd see it happen.

April 19
A new (to me) recording by New Orleans musicians has just now come across my desk. It was recorded in the spring of last year and only now released. The CD--IN for the OUT is by group that has been around for some time called Plunge. Maybe you've heard (or heard of) them. I hadn't.

In any case, you will know the names of many of the musicians: trombonist and leader Mark McGrain, organist Robert Walter, percussionist Simon Lott, saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick, saxophonist Tim Green, bassist James Singleton, and sousaphonist Kirk Joseph. McGrain's brother Tim and Green died last year (they were in their 50s and left us far too soon), as you may know. The album is dedicated to them, and its release and the 20th anniversary of Plunge will be celebrated this coming Wednesday (April 22) at Chicky Wah Wah on Canal Street in Mid-City. That's probably why I received the recording just now.

These are some of the most forward-leaning musicians in New Orleans. I would characterize their music as a fusion of free jazz and funk, which is not all that uncommon in the city these days. It is all original and the work of McGrain (who is also an audio engineer) and is presented in a polyphonic/​collective improvisational style. Joseph's sousaphone provides a sturdy backbone for most of the music and clearly gives it the funky, neo-brass band sound that is so popular in the Crescent City today. There are some very pleasing moments--particularly some melodic passages by the trombonist--but, for the most part, I found the style rather too outside for my taste. You may find it more appealing, however. Check it out.

On another front, pianist/​bandleader Matt Lemmler has been named a "Steinway Artist" and celebrated the honor with performances at Esplanade Studios this afternoon at 3 and 5 pm. Special guests included saxophonist Rick Margitza, guitarist Steve Masakowski and his illustrious kids vocalist Sasha and bassist Martin. The performances were recorded for two CDs to become available in the future. For more about "Matt Lemmler Live at the Esplanade Studios," contact Emily McWilliams at emilym@​hallpiano.com.

April 17
Congratulations to clarinetist and educator Michael White for being honored by the New Orleans chapter of the Jazz Journalists' Association as "2015 Jazz Hero." The award will be presented to Dr. White by the JJA at Cafe Istanbul at 6 pm on April 22. Held in collaboration with grassroots efforts in 21 U.S. cities and Toronto, Canada, the Jazz Hero Awards are announced and presented each year during the national Jazz Appreciation Month, which culminates in International Jazz Day on April 30. To learn more about International Jazz Day, check out jazzday.com.

[Incidentally, I'm still a member of JJA but obviously no longer a member of the NOLA chapter. Unfortunately, St. Louis does not have a local chapter.]

April 11
Well, the French Quarter Festival is well underway. Reports, however, are that the weather is not totally hospitable this weekend. Too bad.

But moving right along...

Many CDs come across my desk from various sources. I can't mention them all here, unfortunately. But one of the most recent ones (released in January) is by a group known as Five Plus Six, an 11-piece big-ish band out of Knoxville, TN. Led by arranger-trumpeter Vance Thompson, founder of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, the group's new CD is called Such Sweet Thunder.

As the title implies, Ellington-Strayhorn compositions are featured here. But no less than those of Monk. And there's even a Dolly Parton number ("Little Sparrow") along with a traditional Appalachian folk song! A nice and interesting mix.

The group is a tight aggregation with competent musicians and interesting arrangements of the nine tunes (including 3 Monks, 4 Ellingtonia). The soloists were, on the whole, good. It's nice music with a straight-ahead appeal to old dudes like me. Check it out, if you get a chance.

April 1
This is not an April Fool's joke! I just read in the Darmstadt Jazz Institute's newsletter that a long lost recording has been found. The recording? Elvis Sings Monk, on the prestigious Blue Note label (BN 1553)! A few notes from the British report of the find:

"Grasping tunes that had all but defeated many of the great horn players, Elvis quickly mastered Monk’s quirky melodies with ease, vocalising wordlessly the melodic twists and turns of tunes such as Epistrophy and Straight, No Chaser, even finding opportunities to curling his lip and synchronise his novel hip-swivelling technique at crucial points in the tunes. Recorded by master engineer Rudy Van Gelder, the tapes of the Elvis Sessions were mastered, and a first pressing run delivered to Alfred Lion [head of Blue Note]. Ever cautious, Lion concluded that the young and relatively unknown singer Elvis was too great a risk, unlikely to ever achieve commercial recognition, and decided to discontinue the project.

The tapes of the Elvis Sessions remained in the Blue Note vaults undiscovered over five decades, even overlooked by Blue Note archivist Michael Cuscuna, who mistakenly concluded the description on the tape box was a practical joke. The existence of the first pressing run of Elvis Sings Monk has only just come to light.

Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 1553 Van Gelder, mono, deep groove, no INC or Registered Trademark below E of “Note”

A crate of original mint sealed copies of BN1553 was recently discovered by the US Postal Service’s Misdirected and Lost Internal Freight Service (US-MILFS) who , as a public service, alerted Blue Note collectors of the existence of the find through internet on-line journalists and blogs."

It would be kind of fun to hear these recordings. If you want to pursue it, I would suggest writing Blue Note records. Given his rock background, the current president of the label, Don Was, may even consider a re-issue... (See photos page.)


March 31
It's been a while...for which I apologize. I have been working on Chapter Six ("Jazz Education in New Orleans") of my sequel to the current book (tentatively, "The New Orleans Jazz Scene in the Twenty-First Century") and just completed the preliminary draft. I press on...

Incidentally, my review of the Nick Sanders Trio's latest CD, "You Are a Creature," just appeared in the April issue of OffBeat. You can read it on the Works page.

March 19
My birthday yesterday (#80), and it was great to have the kids and grandkids with us over the past weekend. A particularly pleasant birthday wish from John Hasse of the Smithsonian via Facebook yesterday. It included a video of famed jazz harmonica player Toots Thielmans, a personal favorite, playing "Happy Birthday." It made my day!

A few notices worthy of attention: The ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market, 1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, will be on Thursday, April 2. This is something that Irvin Mayfield and others have been working for several years. It promises to be a splendid new jazz venue in the city. The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra's annual "Big Beat Gala" will take place the following evening (by subscription only) featuring NOJO and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Then, the first public, ticketed concert at the PHNOJM will be on Saturday, April 25 with Mayfield and NOJO providing the music. Wish I could be there...

March 12
It's that time of year again. Super Sunday, always the last Sunday before St. Patty's Day, will take place this coming Sunday (3/​15). The Indians will be out in force, always a very colorful occasion. It will be my first one away from the Big Easy...

March 7
A hot new pianist on the national jazz scene is New Orleans native Nick Sanders. His name may be new to you--it was to me until I sat down recently to listen to his latest (second) CD for an OffBeat review (watch for it here in a month or so).

Nick comes from a musical family in Metairie and got his training at NOCCA, where he started out fully committed to classical piano. Eventually he got into jazz and then went on to the the New England Conservatory for his undergraduate and master's degrees. He is now in his mid-twenties. Since then he has been based in New York, where he has come under the influence of master jazz pianists Danilo Perez and Fred Hersch. The latter has been particularly influential. In fact, he has produced both of Nick's recordings. Sanders has this to say about Hersch: "When you know that Fred Hersch is watching and listening to everything you're doing, you have a tendency to deliver at your utmost capabilities. But the best thing about it is just having someone so knowledgeable, who has been in the game for so long, there to give you feedback. It's huge, to know that there's someone with great ears who has my back." Hersch responds, "In these days of cookie-cutter pianists, Nick Sanders is a true original. He is already a world-class pianist--and an intriguing and quirky composer as well." Clearly a mutual admiration relationship.

"Quirky" is a good descriptor for Nick's current CD (You Are a Creature), which is a collection of 13 original compositions by the pianist. There is not one standard to be found in the program. And the album cover design further emphasizes that quirkiness. Sanders is joined by two of his NEC classmates--drummer Connor Baker and bassist Henry Fraser--who have been on both of his CDs. Naturally, the three work very well together. The music may be described as avant-garde, with the composer aiming to represent the full range of human emotional variability, often shifting abruptly and unexpectedly from melodic to dissonant. Yet it swings. However, there is little here--to my ears at least--that suggests his Crescent City pedigree--except perhaps his debt to one of his teachers, avant-garde clarinetist Alvin Batiste. You listen to the album and see what you think. I'd be interested to know.

In the meantime, he and his colleagues will be appearing at Snug Harbor on March 27. Sanders comes to town periodically and doubtless will be back again in the not too distant future. Remember his name...

February 25
The Louisiana Music Factory is celebrating its first anniversary at its Frenchmen Street location on Saturday, February 28, with an afternoon of live music. If you are anywhere in the neighborhood, check it out. And you might still find some of the hundreds of LPs that I left at the store on consignment--some real winners there...

February 17
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!! It's celebrated in St. Louis, too. But it seems to be rather tamer than in the Crescent city. (I don't know if that's good or bad...)
See also Photos page.

February 15
As you probably know, my book came out in October. A handful of reviews--all positive--have now appeared, so I decided to post some excerpts from them:

--Charles Suhor, Dixieland Jazz Mailing List (online), December 11: "If you haven't yet bought Thomas Jacobsen's new book, 'The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000: A Personal Retrospective' (LSU Press), I highly recommend it...You'll recognize dozens of the OKOM and modern players and landmark clubs and events in the book. A lot of the material was new to me because I left the city in 1977, keeping sporadic contact with the music scene through my brother Don, periodicals, and internet sources. I hope someone is waiting in the wings with notes for a 2000-and-beyond book." [NB. That's precisely what I am working on now!]

--Bob Porter, International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal, December, 2014: "As someone who was a frequent visitor to New Orleans during the period, I recognize the scene and Jacobsen does a fine job of getting it all out there. Lots of photos."

--W. Royal Stokes, Jazz Journalists Association NEWS (roundup of jazz and blues books from 2014), December 29, 2014: " Thomas Jacobsen's [book] not only renders the musical scene of the period covered in its varietal forms, it renders it as part of a broad canvas that includes essential information on its players, both musicians and support network; the venues that have come and gone, some still active today; the political scene; the journalism and radio outlets that have reviewed and supported the jazz idiom over the years; jazz education, both public school and university; and a number of other facets and circumstances. All of these categories are fleshed out with interesting material on the individuals involved. Jacobsen...has made use of his time there by constant presence on the jazz scene and involvement in its community, collecting his impressions and recording his data whenever he came into contact with that community...His outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. All styles played in the city are given their due in this essential book. Photographs, notes, bibliography, index."

--David Kunian, OffBeat, February, 2015: "Thomas Jacobsen is well qualified to assess New Orleans jazz in the last third of the last century. His latest book is a short survey of jazz in the Crescent City divided up by decade. Each chapter is divided up to sections on live music clubs, festivals, education, brass bands and musical luminaries...an informative...means of providing information. Where he excels is the recalling of some histories that have been glossed over such as the early, controversial history of Jazz Fest, the lack of development of Rampart Street, or the saga of Clarence "Buckwater" Washington. He also gives recognition to some of the unsung pieces and people of the New Orleans music puzzle... This is a great reference book..."

I will add more as they become available.

February 5
See the Works page for my review of Duke Heitger's latest CD in the February issue of OffBeat.

February 2
A note from young trumpeter Gordon Au, formerly of New Orleans, tells of his current activities in his current home, New York City. Among other things, he leads the Grand St. Stompers, "a New Orleans-style hot jazz band" (in his words). The band has been playing at such distinguished venues as the Cafe Carlyle and Dizzy's Club in Jazz at Lincoln Center...and has received some impressive reviews. For example, Nate Chinen of the NY Times writes, "Led by Gordon Au, an impeccably trained trumpeter with an antiquarian ear, the Grand St. Stompers have become a pillar of New York's hot jazz scene." To which critic Will Friedwald adds (in the Wall Street Journal), "The young trumpeter Gordon Au's...music is the living embodiment of the great New Orleans revival..." He also plays, "semi-regularly," with Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, one of the most popular bands in the Big Apple. Au, now in his mid-thirties, is a graduate of the Monk Institute while it was headquartered in NOLA. He's clearly one of fine young trumpet players (in both the trad and mod styles) on the scene today.

January 25
Quote of the day. After reading Herbie Hancock's new autobiography, Possibilities, jazz pianist Matthew Shipp had some interesting thoughts, among which was the following: "I figured his new memoir...would offer a good look at what went on in jazz and jazz-related cultural movements in the '60s and '70s. I also thought that it might shed some light on why jazz is so fucked up nowadays, and whether icons from the '70s like Hancock and others are actually part of the problem... One thing the book brought home to me was how much of a radical discontinuity the '60s actually were. Whereas in earlier eras a jazz musician would have had just a few directions to choose from, in the '60s, everything--hard bop, post-bop, modal jazz, the beginnings of jazz rock and, of course, the many permutations of free jazz, among other styles--was on the table."[The Talk House, January 24, 2015].

While Shipp generally praised Hancock and his book, I thought the above insight of "radical discontinuity" in the 1960s was most apropos. I wish I had had that quotation before I wrote my latest book! It was precisely at that time that I was transitioning from graduate school into the real world and leaving behind (at least temporarily) my jazz playing and intense interest in the music. For most of the next decade I was deeply engaged in my professional development and had only very brief moments to enjoy my favorite music. By the time I was able to return to it for longer periods, I had some catching up to do and my tastes were changing. In retrospect, the '60s (and '70s) were a critical time in jazz history...as I tried to demonstrate to some degree in my book.


January 18
A great night of music last night as my wife and I took in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Group at St. Louis' Jazz Bistro. The core group--Terell Stafford, tumpet; Victor Goines, reeds; Chris Crenshaw, trombone; Jamal Nichols, bass; Alvin Atkinson, drums--was augmented by local pianist Phil Dunlap, and trombonist/​arranger Cody Henry sat in for one number (an original composition by Dunlap). A wonderfully talented and swinging ensemble, as you can well imagine. This was the first time that I heard Crenshaw, and he made a very favorable impression.

Though they had two shows a night on Friday and Saturday, they had been in town for a week working with hundreds of local school children. This is the strategy of the Jazz St. Louis program headquartered in the same complex as the Bistro in downtown St. Louis. Nearly all national performers who appear at the Bistro do these kinds of master classes with students. It's an amazing and very important undertaking.

Finally, it was particularly pleasant for me to hear and talk to old New Orleans friend Victor Goines once again. He's a wonderful musician and very nice man. As you know, I am especially partial to the reeds--and he is one of my favorites.

See the Photos page for a few pics of the performance.

January 14
The Danny Barker Guitar and Banjo Festival gets underway today, on what would be Barker's 106th birthday. He passed away in 1994.

Barker's birthday has been celebrated locally since the centennial of his birth, but the present event is the first of its kind. The festival has been organized by guitarist/​banjoist Detroit Brooks, and he is already planning to make it an annual celebration.

The festival kicks off with concerts at Snug Harbor featuring Brooks, Steve Masakowski and many others. On successive days thereafter, there will be a variety of presentations featuring a host of prominent local guitarists and banjoists. The festival, after all, is focusing on the importance of the two instruments in New Orleans jazz. In line with that, Yoshio Toyama's Wonderful World of Jazz Foundation from Japan is donating five banjos to be given away to young students showing a strong interest in learning the instrument. One can google the festival for more details.

As for next year, Brooks promises that it will be "10 times the size" of this year's fest.

January 12
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced today its schedule for JazzFest 2015. More than 500 bands will be appearing over seven days (April 24-26, April 30-May 3), with >80% of the performers coming from the New Orleans region. Advanced single-day tickets are $58 while the gate price will be $70. For more, google the fest's website.

January 7
With the Joan of Arc parade in the French Quarter and the Phunny Phorty Phellows on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, Carnival season officially began yesterday. Mardi Gras follows on Tuesday, February 17 this year.

Let's hope for a fun-filled and non-violent season for our friends in the Crescent City in 2015!

January 1, 2015

BEST WISHES FOR A PEACEFUL AND HEALTHFUL NEW YEAR!!

Unfortunately, New Year's Day finds me recovering from a mild bout of pneumonia. I was just released from the hospital yesterday afternoon and am on a strict advisory to chill out for a while. Which means that I had to cancel my trip to San Diego next week to attend the annual meetings of the Jazz Education Network (JEN). A real drag, but we all know that "things" can happen...

I also regret to report a couple of critical losses sustained by the jazz world while I was under the weather. Number one, the wonderful New Orleans saxophonist and bandleader Al Belletto passed away on Friday night December 26. Al was a major figure in establishing the modern jazz scene in the Crescent City after World War II. He was 86 and will be dearly missed. On the national scene, a pioneer modern jazz clarinetist (and one of my favorite clarinet players of all time)--Buddy DeFranco--died two days earlier. He was 91.

I will check out these details further and get back to you as soon as I'm little less wobbly... For more on Belletto, see the comings and goings and photos pages.



December 25

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

December 22
"Our Times: The Louis Armstrong childhood arrest that no one knew about" screams the headline in this morning's Times-Picayune/​nola.com. The lengthy piece by James Karst recounts the story based on documents from the old Colored Waifs Home rescued by one Allen Kimble Jr.

In short, the documents testify to the arrest of Armstrong and six other boys on October 21, 1910 for being "dangerous and suspicious characters." For which Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waifs Home for the first time. You will remember that he was committed to the Home again in 2013 for the famous shooting incident. This then becomes the first indication of a prior arrest and prior residence at the Home. Armstrong scholar Ricky Riccardi of the Louis Armstrong House in NYC, calls the discovery "mind-blowing." He goes on to say, "I've been spending half my life researching Armstrong, and this is a breakthrough."

Mr. Kimble, an African American and New Orleans native, returned to the city in 2008 after considerable travels. He says he hopes to create a foundation to honor Armstrong and his influential mentors at the Colored Waifs Home and "to research, record and preserve our endangered history and culture."

For more details, check out Karst's story in today's nola.com. It includes photographs of some of the relevant documents.

December 16
It was just announced yesterday that young trumpeter John Michael Bradford, 18 and a senior at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, was named a 2015 Young Arts finalist in jazz and trumpet. He is one of just 170 young artists chosen out of more than 11,000 contestants from across the country to participate in Young Arts Week in Miami January 4-11.

I have been aware of Bradford's prodigious talents for three or four years now and have been impressed with him since the very first time I heard him. He has performed widely in the city (and abroad) with a variety of groups ranging from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to his own quintet. He plays all styles from trad to mod...and plays them well! Among the music programs that he is considering upon graduation are Juilliard, the New School and Berklee, all major training grounds for jazz prospects. I consider Bradford the next great trumpeter to come out of New Orleans and would be very surprised if he did not win top honors in Miami next month. (For a recent photo of Bradford, scroll down on the photos page to his June performance at Snug Harbor.)

December 15
I have started reading the new book--DESIRE & DISASTER IN NEW ORLEANS, Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory(Duke University Press, 2014) by Lynnell L. Thomas--and find it most informative and stimulating. Thomas, a native New Orleanian, is on the faculty of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

As we all know, New Orleans is dominated by the tourism industry. Thomas investigates the relationship between tourism, cultural production and racial politics by showing how the tourism industry portrays race and culture in the city. Since the city is one of the leading tourist destinations, the book should be required reading for all tourists--to say nothing of those of us who love the city and its music.

December 12
It has been some time in coming, but the New Orleans J&H Foundation will be celebrating the grand opening of the new George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N. Rampart Street, with a concert this evening. Starting at 8 pm there will be a performance by students and faculty of the Heritage School of Music. That will be followed by a 90-minute concert by the founding director of the Heritage School of Music, saxophonist Kidd Jordan and his distinguished children, Kent (flute), Marlon (trumpet), Rachel (violin), and vocalist Stephanie. It should be quite a show!

The new facility will be an education and community center, serving as the permanent home of the Heritage School of Music as well as the locale for programs and events produced by the J&HF--not to mention also being available for activities of other community arts organizations.

December 6
Congratulations to David Sager, Library of Congress-man, trombonist and sometime New Orleanian, for the Grammy nomination for his liner notes to the album "Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides" on the Archaeophone label. May he be a winner!

December 4
Just a quick note to alert you to a new recording that has come across my desk. It is called "Sugar Blues" and is performed by a group known as the Crescent City Quartet. While one might expect a band made up of New Orleanians, that is not exactly the case. The band members have all travelled to the Crescent City, but none can claim residency there. Indeed, we are told that the leader, guitarist Alex Belhaj, was "inspired" by a visit (his first?) to New Orleans just four years ago. Probably the closest to a native Orleanian is clarinetist Ray Heitger who, as many of you will know, has been a frequent visitor to the city over the years--not least because of the presence of his son, the outstanding trumpeter Duke Heitger. Ray is a well-known bandleader in Toledo, OH, as is his longtime colleague cornetist Dave Kosmyna. Belhaj and bassist Jordan Schug are from the Detroit area. This foursome has been playing together at least since 2011, when some of the tracks on this CD were recorded. (Others were laid down two years later, and the whole was just released last month.)

The program consists of a dozen well-known trad numbers that feature some fine playing by both Heitger and Kosmyna along with vocals by Heitger and Belhaj. It is good traditional jazz by a seasoned group of players. You may wish to check it out.

November 26 There was more destructive behavior last night in Ferguson. Less than the previous night, but still bad with >40 more arrests. I can understand that behavior; it is a result of deep anger. But the perpetrators must come to realize that it is counterproductive and cannot be tolerated. I do not see this struggle--both locally and nationally--coming to a quick solution. Time will require patience and understanding among all of us.

November 25
Despite being a relative newcomer to St. Louis, I cannot help but comment briefly upon last night's Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown case. I have been following closely the developments in this case for the last two months (or slightly more) and have come to the preliminary conclusion that the legal process conducted by the prosecutor Mr. McCulloch has been a total charade. The Grand Jury was conducted, in my opinion, like a court trial without the benefit of cross-examination of witnesses. Under the circumstances, there was no chance that the police officer would be indicted. That is unfair. The nature of the case was such, in my opinion, that it deserved to be heard in a standard jury trial. While I would be hesitant to suggest that the prosecutor's motivation was racially based, it is abundantly clear that racial issues lay at the heart of this case. Accordingly (and I think correctly) it has become a national cause celebre. (Did anyone see the account of the demonstrations in New Orleans in today's nola.com?) My hope is that enough attention will be drawn to all the implications of this case to lead this country to right those many wrongs. I have to admit, however, that I am not any more optimistic that anything positive will come of this than with the gun debate in our country. In my opinion, guns lie at the heart of our problems as much as racism. The two combine to create a truly sad situation.

I've said enough for now. I may choose to revise the above later. Your reactions would be welcome.

November 22
New Orleans trumpeter (and St. Louis native) Jeremy Davenport will be at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis for a two-night engagement next weekend. It is said to be his 15th Thanksgiving weekend performance in St. Louis since settling in the Crescent City in the early '90s.

November 16

The Jacobs School of Music has changed a good bit since I retired from Indiana University (Bloomington) in 1992. Not to mention the name of school itself, a new component has recently been added to the wonderful jazz studies program headed until recently by David Baker. It is a Latin jazz group that seems to have been inaugurated with the appointment of acclaimed percussionist Michael Spiro to the faculty three years ago. Soon thereafter, as I have noted in this column earlier, Latin-oriented trombonist Wayne Wallace was appointed to a full professor's position in the School.

One of the results of this has been the creation of a group called Ritmos Unidos whose name implies--correctly--that it is inspired by rhythms and melodies from various corners of the Caribbean. Spiro, an eight-time Grammy nominee, leads the ensemble, which consists of other IU faculty members and students/​alumni including Wallace (trombone), Pat Harbison (trumpet), Joe Galvin (percussion), Nate Johnson (tenor saxophone) and Jamaal Baptiste (piano). This is a spirited group that deserves watching, adding a bit of hot sauce to the Midwestern jazz scene.

Both Spiro and Wallace have close associations with the well-established San Francisco Bay Area Latin music scene. A second (double) album (also on the Patois label and also released earlier this year) is Salsa De La Bahia, vol. 2, Hoy y Ayer an historical collection of Bay Area bands and artists ranging from the likes of Pete Escovedo and the Orquesta Batachanga to contemporary groups such as Wayne Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet. A lot of vocals on this one.

With these two offerings we have more spirited Latin rhythms which, with the help of Spiro and Wallace, are bringing the lively Bay Area music scene to the Midwest.

November 11

This is to urge lovers of classic jazz to consider attending the second annual Steamboat Stomp on the steamboat Natchez this weekend, November 14-16. With people like Duke Heitger, Evan Christopher, Tim Laughlin, Banu Gibson and Topsy Chapman--among others--it promises to be another entertaining event. For more, see www.steamboatstompneworleans.com. Enjoy.

November 8
See the photos page for a few pics from my New Orleans trip. They were taken by Linda Abbott, Eddie Bayard and Mary Saltarelli, all of whom I thank kindly.

N.B. There will be another memorial tribute for Lionel Ferbos tomorrow, November 9, at Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue in the Lower Garden District from 5-6:00 pm. His former band, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, will provide t