Comings & Goings
The legendary Pete Fountain (July 3, 1930-August 6, 2016) died the morning of August 6 in hospice care in his home town, New Orleans. He was 86.
Pete had been ill for some time, having suffered two strokes and heart surgery along with a serious case of shingles. He lost nearly everything as a result of Hurricane Katrina. A perennial performer on the last day of nearly every annual Jazz Fest, he retired after playing the 2013 festival.
A funeral will be held on August 17 at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Public visitation will begin there at 9 am followed by words of remembrance at 11:30. Mass will begin at noon, followed by a second line parade. Though details about the latter are still unknown, it will surely include members of Pete's Half Fast Walking Club (of which I am a proud alum), among many others, I am sure.
Interment will be in Lake Lawn Cemetery in Metairie. It will be private.
For more about Pete, I append an article I wrote for The Clarinet magazine, June, 2012:
NEW ORLEANS CLARINETISTS TODAY: PETE FOUNTAIN
The following is the first in what I hope will be a series of occasional pieces about jazz clarinet players presently working in New Orleans. Accordingly, it seems most appropriate to begin with a brief account of the life and career of the dean of the city's clarinetists: Pete Fountain. There is probably no more popular or highly esteemed jazz musician in New Orleans today. He has truly become a legend in his own time.
PETE FOUNTAIN was born Pierre Dewey LaFontaine, Jr. in New Orleans July 3, 1930. Soon thereafter his father changed his own name to Peter Dewey Fountain, thereby modifying his son's surname as well.
Young Pete was raised in a modest double "shotgun" cottage at 822 N. White St., between Dumaine and St. Ann Streets, one block on the lakeside of N. Broad St. It was an ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood (said to be predominantly French-Spanish-Italian) in what would today be known as Mid-City.
Fountain was introduced to jazz at a tender age. He would hear music played by the likes of Sharkey Bonano, the Prima brothers, clarinetist Raymond Burke and othe top local bands while standing outside the Top Hot Club (St. Ann and Dorgenois, on the downtown side of Broad), just a few block from his home. His father,who drove a beer truck for the Dixie Brewing Company, was an amateur musician. When a doctor recommended that the youngster take a wind instrument because of weak lungs, he bought Pete a clarinet (at age 12). From that point on, the boy set his goal to be another Benny Goodman. Soon, however, a neighbor introduced him to the music Irving Fazola who immediately became a second idol. His devotion to Fazola eventually led to his nickname "Little Faz" among local jazz fans, and he later replaced his idol on a gig the day Fazola died. Pete inherited at least two of Faz's clarinets. Pete in turn gave one of them, a Boehm model to which which Faz had switched from a "half-Albert" in his later years, to his erstwhile protege Tim Laughlin.
Fountain's formal musical training was of limited duration by today's professional standards. It began in public school at McDonough 28, just a few blocks from his home. At the same time he took private lessons on clarinet at the State Band School of Music, which was run by well-known jazz cornetist Johnny Wiggs (John Wigginton Hyman). His music education continued at Warren Easton High School, where he had been recruited because of his talent. There his band instructor encouraged him to take additional private lessons with Emanuel Allessandra, a member of the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. Because of work opportunities and his growing reputation as a jazz musician, Pete left school two months before graduation. With that, his formal music education came to an end. But, a he has often said, his real jazz education was gained on "The Street, working with veteran jazzmen at the clubs on Bourbon Street.
One of his fellow students at State Band School was the fine trumpeter George Girard (1930-1957), abou three months his senior. The two boys became close friends, played together, and recorded, for the first time, with drummer Phil Zito's International City Dixielanders (1949). That band broke up but re-emerged as the Basin Street Siz, a talented and tight group that made three recordings on the Mercury label in the earl '50s. Fountain and Girard also recorded with trombonist Santo Pecora and his band.
While in high school, Pete had met the Assunto brothers, trumpeter Frank (1932-1974) and trombonist Freddie (1929-1966). They formed the Junior Dixieland Band, a group that won a national amateur competition sponsored by the bandleader Horace Heidt in 1947. They granted celebrity as a result of subsequent touring with the Heidt organization.
The Assuntos then formed the Dukes of Dixieland in the 1950s, and Fountain recorded and briefly toured with that band in the mid-'50s. Despite the band's success, he returned to New Orleans when his second child (son Kevin) was born. (Pete and his wife Beverly were married in 1951, and they have remained a team ever since.) He recorded with well-known local bandleaders such as drummer Monk Hazel and trumpeters Tony Almerico, Sharkey and Al Hirt, and he made his first recording as a leader in 1954 (Pete and his Three Coins).
But Fountain's big break--one that would redirect the course of his career and establish his reputation for good--came in 1957 with a call from popular bandleader Lawrence Welk. Hew was hired as the Welk band's jazz clarinetist for their weekly television shows from the West Coast, thereby exposing him to millions of viewers--a great many of whom immediately became fans--across the country. Pete became an overnight star.
Fountain stayed with Welk until 1959, by which time he decided that he had had enough. Like so many New Orleans musicians who leave the city to pursue opportunities elsewhere, he succumbed to the powerful magnetism of his birthplace and returned home. He did not agree with those who criticized him for "going commercial" during his Welk interlude, arguing that it had been an opportunity to introduce many people to jazz who had not been exposed to it before.
Upon his return to his hometown, Fountain realized a long-held dream by opening his own club on Bourbon Street. With his newly-acquired star appeal, it became an immediate sucess drawing fans from all over the country. That was followed by a larger club on Bourbon Street until he opened a more posh venue in the Hilton Hotel Riverside in 1977. The latter remained his local base until 2003, when he decided that 43 years as a club owner was enough. During this period, Fountain was frequent guest on national television talk shows (including 59 appearances on the Johnny Carson show) and made scores of records. In all, he has made about 100 recordings. Three of his albums (Pete Fountain's New Orleans [considered by many his best]), The Blues, and Mr. New Orleans, as well as one single (A Closer Walk with Thee), have "gone gold." Recognition of his popularity in him hometown was reflected by the erection of a life-size statue of the clarinetist in Music Legends Park on Bourbon Street in April, 2003.
With a vibrato that is perhaps the most identifiable characteristic of his big sound, Pete has said, "Between Faz and Benny, I tried to come up with my own style. I tried to combine FAz's fat mellow sound together with Goodman's drive and technique."
The years since then have not been easy for Fountain. Like so many along the Gulf Coast, his primary home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi--along with the entirety of its contents and memorabilia--was totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005.
This had a severe impact on his life in som many ways, no least in terms of his health. For the first time in 45 years he missed participating in Mardi Gras with his Half-Fast Walking Club (HFWC) in February, 2006. In the following month he had open-heart (quadruple by-pass) surgery, from which he recovered successfully (even performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival later in May). Loyola University of New Orleans awarded him an honorary degree that spring as well.
Nevertheless, he resumed his regular gig at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis and was back living there in a renovated home. His last performance a the Hollywood was in December, 2010. He put his property up for sale and moved back to his old home in the Lake Vista neighborhood of New Orleans, where he continues to reside today.
Pete resumed his participation with the HFWC at Mardi Gras in 2007, 2009, 2009, 2010, 2011, as of this writing, 2012. The group observed its 50th anniversary in 2010, and it was an honor for me to be part that special occasion.
Fountain and his family celebrated his 80th birthday with a festive party at the Rock 'n' Bowl Club in New Orleans in July, 2010. The hall was filled with hundreds of his admirers, and, of course, Pete "tooted" for them.
Fountain's health remains fragile, but he expresses no interest in retiring. Since his major heart surgery, he suffered two minor strokes and severe case of the shingles. As of this writing, he was playing very few gigs apart from his annual appearances at Mardi Gras, French Quarter Festival (he's played at all of them since the beginning) and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Tim Laughlin, his "best protege" (as he puts it), has always been at his side in his public performances in the past few years. "He is my man," Pete often says publicly.
I can only say, in conclusion, that I join his many other admirers in wishing Pete the very best and looking forward to his appearance at Jazzfest 2012.
Equipment. Pete played his Leblanc France Pete Fountain model clarinet with a large 15 mm bore and gold-plated keys on some 40 albums and countless live performances. Fondly known as "Old Betsy," he gave the instrument to his buddy Tim Laughlin in 2009, replacing it with a modified version known as the Leblanc Fountain "Big Easy" model, with an O'Brien mouthpiece and ligature. He uses M.A.R.C.A. (#2 1/2) reeds.
For further reading. Charles Suhor, "Pete Fountain," Downbeat 28(1961) 20-21; Pete Fountain with Bill Neely, A Closer Walk, The Pete Fountain Story, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1972; Nick Compagno, "A Closer Talk with Pete Fountain," The Clarinet 20:1 (1992) 34-38; "Tim Laughlin, Second Banana or Heir Apparent?" in Thomas W. Jacobsen, Traditional New Orleans Jazz, Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music, LSU Press, Baton Rouge (2011), 41-52; John Swenson, "A Half-Fast Walk with Pete," OffBeat April 2011, 44-48.
Selected recordings as leader/featured soloist. Pete Fountain's New Orleans (1959, Coral CRL 57282); The Blues: Pete Fountain with Charles "Bud Dent's Orchestra (1959 Coral CFL 57284); Mr. New Orleans (1963, Coral CFL 757440); Pete's Place: Recorded Live at Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn(Coral CRL 757453); Cheek to Cheek (1993, Ranwood RDS 1009).
We are told in a piece in today's (NO/BR) Advocate that Jason Marsalis and his family moved to Orleans, France earlier this month. In so doing, he becomes the third member of his family--along with Wynton and Branford--to leave the city and reside elsewhere.
He explained it this way (by phone from France), “My wife and I had wanted to try something a little different. We’d talked about living in France for a while. I thought the timing was right to try to live here, even if only for a few years.” He wants his three young children to learn French as well as brushing up on the language himself. He went on to note, “just playing on the New Orleans scene is something I’ll miss doing. But there are other musicians and people I’ve wanted to work with. I wanted to use more of the European connections that I have.” He will, of course, be seriously missed by the Crescent City music community.
Jason stressed that he would be back in NOLA for various commitments, suggesting also that his move might not necessarily be permanent.
Thanks to Facebook messages from bassist Al Bernard, I have learned of the passing of veteran drummer (and singer) Milton John Zschiedrich Sr. (aka Milt Rich) at the age of 87.
Milt Rich was a familiar face in countless bands (including his own) in the French Quarter for more than 60 years. Bernard writes, "Milton and I were in the rhythm section of Santo Pecora and the Tailgate Ramblers at the Famous Door on Bourbon Street in 1965. He stood in me and my wife Kathleen's wedding that year."
Milton and his wife were longtime residents of Chalmette until their home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He had been living in Raleigh, NC since the death of his wife last year. He is survived by eight children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A short memorial ceremony was held at Christ Lutheran Church in Chalmette yesterday morning.
The jazz world lost one of its greatest with the death of baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley on May 11 in New York City. He was 86. See photos page.
I've always had a strong affinity for the baritone saxophone, ever since I first heard Harry Carney with the Ellington Orchestra as a teenager. (I have to add, however, that the bass sax was also a favorite of mine.) Carney was Temperley's inspiration and model, and he eventually took over the Carney chair in Mercer Ellington's successor band.
But Temperley was a Scot by birth. He played there and throughout the U.K., ending up in London with the legendary Humphrey Lyttelton's fine ensemble. In fact, it was Lyttelton who persuaded him to switch from tenor to baritone.
Ultimately, JT moved the the States where he played with a number of top big bands.
After a tenure of ten years with the Ellington band, he was invited by Wynton Marsalis to join the Jazz at Lincoln Center band--where he remained for 25 more years. Marsalis considered him the anchor of that orchestra.
Anyone who loves the big bands knows how important the bottom end of the saxophone section is to the success of the orchestra. Joe Temperley was a master at what he did--a superb soloist and section man--and will be sorely missed.
April 1, 2016
Legendary member of the New Orleans music community Helen Arlt passed away on March 20. She was 94.
Helen had been one of the most visible followers of the local traditional jazz scene for many decades until her health slowed her down after Katrina. A longtime member of the New Orleans Jazz Club and one of its pioneer leaders, she was president of the NOJC in 1965 when Louis Armstrong made his historic return home after boycotting the city for racial reasons in 1956. She hosted his visit, recalling in a Times-Picayune interview, "You live for moments like that, and when you experience it, its's just fantastic."
Widely known for her dancing, she could be counted on to take to the dance floor on almost any occasion anywhere. See photos page.
Another sad loss last month was my old colleague and friend, David Baker, professor emeritus of jazz studies at Indiana University. Baker, an outstanding trombonist and (later) jazz cellist, was a world-wide pioneer in jazz education. His many accomplishments have been recounted in the recent book, David Baker, A Legacy in Music by Monika Herzig.
Baker died March 26 in Bloomington. He was 84. A major memorial is planned for him in the fall at Indiana University. See photos page.
Veteran New Orleans drummer Tony Bazley passed away in Toronto, "one of his 'other' homes," on this day. He was 81.
Bazley, who said, "I consider myself a bebop drummer," lived for many years in Los Angeles where he performed or recorded with some of the giants of modern jazz: Eric Dolphy, Wes Montgomery, Roy Ayers, Teddy Edwards, Les McCann, Dexter Gordon, and Leroy Vinnegar, among many others.
Bazley returned to New Orleans to live and work with local groups in 1989. But he also traveled a good deal to Europe and Canada. He said that the Europeans loved the fact that he was from New Orleans.
There is no report about funeral arrangements.
Tulane University's Jazz Archivist just reported the passing of its longtime administrative assistant, Alma Williams in December of last year. In her more than 25 years of service to the Hogan Jazz Archive, she worked with three curators and, as Bruce Raeburn put it, "illuminated the workplace with her presence in a profound way. Her knowledge of New Orleans jazz and jazz photography was vast, and she was unfailingly gracious and cheerful in dealing with staff and patrons alike." (Ed. I certainly vouch for that. She was a sweet person.)
Alma moved to, I believe, Kansas after Katrina in 2005 and died there. She is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Loretha Bridges, and a son, Loren Williams. RIP.
Some readers of this blog may remember Vidar Svarva formerly of the Norwegian Seamen's Church in New Orleans (NSCNO). If so, you will know that he was a devoted follower of New Orleans music during his time in our city. Unfortunately, Vidar passed away earlier this month in Thailand, where he was serving the Norwegian Church. He had been ill for some time.
The NSCNO announced today that a memorial service with music will be held in his honor at the church on Sunday, November 22.
In case you need a reminder, see the photos page for a September, 2011 picture of Vidar at one of his favorite locales: the Palm Court Café, listening to the music of 100-year-old Lionel Ferbos.
I am saddened to learn of the death of legendary pianist-composer Allen Toussaint yesterday in Spain after a performance there. He had been on a tour in western Europe. He was 77.
Toussaint was one of the most original and influential figures in New Orleans music. His influence went well beyond New Orleans. It had just been announced last week that he and his old friend Paul Simon would be performing at a benefit for New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, a charity he helped create, on December 8.
His home and (Sea Saint) studio were destroyed by the Katrina disaster, which led him to relocate to New York City. Since then he has spent more time touring and performing on stage, something that he had not done much of in the past.
Survivors include a son, daughter and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been disclosed as of this moment. For more, see WWLTV.com.
A tribute from Delfeayo Marsalis about Toussaint:
"Allen Toussaint was a master musician, composer and producer, but most of all a great mentor with a generous heart. More than any other person, Mr. Toussaint was able to capture the joy, intrigue and exuberance of New Orleans music over the course of six decades. Thankfully his wonderful music is here to remind us of this gentle giant and his great spirit." (Sylvain Music Notes)
A funeral for Mr. Toussaint will be held on Friday, November 20. There will be a visitation from 8 to 11 am at the Orpheum Theater in the CBD, followed by a musical tribute at 11:00. A private burial will take place after that.
Veteran New Orleans pianist Ronnie DuPont was found dead in the Dallas apartment that he shared with his old friend, onetime vocalist Tony Page. He was 78.
A longtime member of the bands of both Al Hirt and Pete Fountain, he led his own quartet in the late 1960s--a "group that never failed to swing," according to his contemporary, drummer Charlie Suhor. While DuPont has been heard with a number of bands playing traditional jazz, he belonged to group of young modernists (Bill Huntington, Al Bernard, Reed Vaughan, among others) who came into their own in the 1950s, according to Suhor, thus following in the footsteps of pioneer New Orleans modernists like Al Belletto.
Ronnie DuPont is succeeded by his daughter Denise, who wrote a lengthy obit at the memorial website, Legacy.com/RonCDuPont, which will remain online until November 22.
I regret to announce that I have just learned of the passing on September 29 of one of my all-time favorites, reedman Phil Woods. He would have been 84 next month.
Phil was of course best known as an alto saxophonist, like so many of his generation heavily influenced by Charlie Parker. But he brought something special for me. I'll never forget the first time I heard him live in the Bay Area probably 35 years ago (or more). He was performing that evening with crack young trumpeter Tom Harrell, whom I was hearing for the first time and did not realize the health issues that the latter had. It was a memorable performance for me.
Woods was a clarinet major at Juilliard, I learned later, and I immediately went out and bought all his recordings on clarinet. I loved them. He had a sort of laid back style like Lester Young or Jimmy Giuffre on the clarinet. It was melodic and mellow.
So, it is with sadness that I say goodbye to him, but I still have most of those recordings...
From OffBeat magazine:
Drummer and percussionist Joseph “Smokey” Johnson died this afternoon [10/6/15] after a long illness. He was 78.
Johnson was born in New Orleans on November 14, 1936 and is one of the “cornerstone” drummers and percussionists who created New Orleans’ indigenous jazz, funk, R&B and soul music, along with people like James Black and Earl Palmer.
Johnson was raised in Treme and originally played trombone before he began playing drums at age 12.
Johnson was loved and respected by all local musicians, and worked with New Orleans music luminaries Wardell Quezergue, Dave Bartholomew, Earl King [add Tim Laughlin] and hundreds more. Johnson and Quezergue wrote the Mardi Gras standard “It Ain’t My Fault,” which as been covered by many musical groups, especially local brass bands, as it was one of the first tunes to incorporate second line syncopation into pop music.
Johnson’s music and riffs were sampled by numerous rappers and he was involved in several lawsuits with record labels over the use of his music.
Smokey Johnson suffered a stroke in 1993 and stopped playing drums. He was forced to leave New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, but returned to New Orleans to live in the Musicians’ Village in the Upper Ninth Ward. He was a beloved elder musician and an original creator of the New Orleans sound. Johnson was the recipient of OffBeat’s Best of The Beat “Sideman” Award in 2004.
He is survived by his wife and children, many friends and admirers.
The following from NOLA.com:
Joseph Torregano, a clarinetist and retired New Orleans music teacher, who, over the years, was a mainstay of traditional brass bands, such as the Young Tuxedo, the Olympia, the Excelsior and the Original Royal Players, died Tuesday (Oct. 6) of cancer at his house in La Place, said his brother Michael Torregano. He was 63.
Torregano was the third of four children, all boys, of Louis Torregano and Anna Malarcher Torregano who lived in New Orleans' 6th Ward. He began taking piano lessons at age 5, his brother Michael said. Torregano took up the clarinet, which would become his signature instrument, while attending Andrew J. Bell Junior High School.
He attended John McDonogh High School and received a degree in music education from Southern University of New Orleans in 1975. He eventually became a band instructor teaching musicians, such as Christian Scott and Victor Goines during more than 30 years working in New Orleans area schools, such as Gregory Junior High, John McDonogh and East St. John High School in La Place. Most recently, he taught at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the 9th Ward.
Fellow reed player Dr. Michael White said that he and Torregano met as teenagers taking private lessons at the Crescent City Music Center on Saturdays. At age 18, Torregano was playing in Ernest "Doc" Paulin's Dixieland Jazz Band and not much later in Danny Barker's Fairview Baptist Church Band.
As a teacher, White said, Torregano impressed on his students the traditional values of good music, and the discipline of marching. Friend and band mate Greg Stafford said that in their prime, the brass bands he and Torregano played in would "march for almost 12 hours on a Mardi Gras Day."
Both White and Stafford recalled that Torregano's clarinet playing favored the style of Pete Fountain, who was a friend and hero. White and Stafford traveled with Torregano, delivering traditional jazz around the globe, to Japan, Switzerland and Germany, as well as the Smithsonian Institution and The White House.
In the midst of his music and teaching career, Torregano enlisted as a reserve New Orleans Police Department officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant. For roughly two decades, Torregano spent part of each week on patrol or engaged in other NOPD assignments, his brother Michael said. His favorite role, Michael said, was keeping the peace during Carnival at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Poydras Street.
Torregano has had cancer since at least 2010. His 2011 appearance at Jazz Fest was a triumphant return from a hospital bed. Bass drummer Anthony Bennett, leader of the Original Royal Players shared the stage with Torregano that day, as they had time and again since they met in seventh grade.
"We had a ball," he said of the performance. The audience was "really glad to see him."
A NOLA.com commentor calling himself woodwind70, left this note on a story about Torregano's 2011 Jazz Fest appearance: "This guy taught Kirk Joseph of the Dirty Dozen, most of the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Christian Scott, Herman LeBeau, Shannon Powell, Victor Goines and Gerald French."
In the early 2010s, Bennett said, the Original Royal Players would perform at The American Cancer Society's Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge, a cancer treatment center on River Road, where Torregano was "an inspiration to a lot of those people."
Thinking back on their decades of friendship, Bennett said Torregano didn't change much from seventh grade on.
"He was pretty much the same spirit. He was all about the music," Bennett said.
Torregano and his quartet played the 2015 Jazz Fest in April.
Torregano is survived by his wife Dr. Jacqueline Langie Torregano, two children Joseph Torregano of State College Pennsylvania and Jennifer Torregano of New Orleans, and brother Michael.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Joe was a good friend. I interviewed him for the Danny Barker/ Fairview story that first appeared in two issues of the Mississippi Rag (2006). We became good friends thereafter, and he kept me closely advised during his long fight with cancer (with its many ups and downs). In July, 2012 he invited me to attend a recording session at the Word of Mouth Studios in Algiers, eventually asking me to write the liner notes for the expected CD. I did so, but, unfortunately, he was never able to release it. It was to have been called "It Had to Be You," as a tribute to his wife. Joe was a wonderful human being. He had many friends in the music community and will be remembered by all of them. See Photos Page.
The following from OffBeat:
Photographer Syndey Byrd passes
October 2, 2015
New Orleans photographer Syndey Byrd, who had suffered for several years from Altzheimer’s disease, passed away October 2, 2015 at the age of 71. Byrd was a regular photographer at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, at second line parades, and at celebrations throughout the city. She leaves a long legacy of beautiful photography that chronicled New Orleans and Louisiana’s music and culture.
Syndey moved to New Orleans in the 1970s and spent the next 40 years chronicling the music and lifestyle of her adopted city, producing thousands of vivid color slides of the musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, parades, funerals, voodoo rituals, and the culture of New Orleans.
She was born July 3, 1944 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and earned a degree in art from the University of Mississippi, and later studied under renowned Austrian photographer Ernest Haas. Her photos were used on album covers, in books and calendars, on magazine covers (including OffBeat) and were featured in a special tribute to Syndey at the 2015 Jazz and Heritage Festival in the Grandstand.
A gregarious, generous woman with a big heart, Syndey lived a life as colorful and alive, and often as broke, as many of the legendary local characters she loved to hang out with and photograph. In an interview published in the Mardi Gras Guide, Syndey said, “I try to make people who think they are ordinary feel as if they are truly extraordinary. Everyone has a little bit of magic in them. My job is to bring it out.” –Bear Kamaroff
The great saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator Harold Battiste Jr. passed away in New Orleans early today after a lengthy illness. He was 83. He had suffered a stroke in 1993, and his health had declined since that time.
It would take a book to recount the accomplishments of Mr. Battiste, and, in fact, one was written about him just a few years ago: Unfinished Blues, Memories of a New Orleans Music Man by Karen Celestan (2010). He was a founder of AFO Records, which still exists. In fact, I would heartily recommend a CD on that label, Harold Battiste Presents: The Next Generation Big Band (2013). Great big-band music that presents several of his many compositions.
He was the first appointment by Ellis Marsalis, when the latter was hired to head up the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans in 1989. He has contributed to the education of a host of fine young musicians that have come out of that program over the years.
"Mr. Batt" is a legend in New Orleans jazz. He has received countless honors, among them OffBeat's "Best of the Beat Lifetime Achievement in Music Award" in 2009.
The Harold Battiste Next Generation Band is still together and doing a regular
Wednesday gig at Julius Kimbrough's Prime Example Jazz Club on N. Broad. Their performance this week (June 24) will be dedicated to Mr. Battiste's legacy. Admission is free, but donations to Battiste's A.F.O. Foundation will be accepted.
The funeral service for Battiste will be held this Thursday, June 25th, 10:00 a.m., Christian Unity Baptist Church, 1700 Conti St., New Orleans, 70112.
It was reported today that young trumpeter and bandleader Travis "Trumpet Black" Hill passed away in Tokyo while set to begin a tour in Japan. The cause of death was reportedly a serious infection that spread quickly after a recent minor dental procedure. He was 28. Hill led his own band the Heart Attacks and also played with the New Birth Brass Band and Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet. Hill was the grandson of the R&B legend Jessie Hill and a cousin of James and Troy Andrews, Glen David Andrews and Derrick Tabb. The Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar on Orleans Avenue, where Hill and his band had a regular Monday night gig, will host daily celebrations in his memory, and Kermit Ruffins will donate the proceeds of his May 10 gig at the Mother-in-Law Lounge to the Hill family.
There will be a public viewing at the Carver Theater on Orleans Avenue on May 22
and 23, with a public service on the 23rd followed by a second line parade. Burial will be private.
I regret to report the death of Dr. Gorst Duplessis on Saturday, April 18 from heart failure. He was 78. Gorst, born in the U. K. and raised in South Africa, has been a longtime resident of New Orleans. His wife is Andrea Duplessis. Gorst, a gifted sculptor and physician (radiologist), will be remembered by jazz fans for his genial hospitality at countless Mardi Gras musical gatherings at their home in the French Quarter. He will be sorely missed in both the city's music and arts communities. To express your sympathy to Andrea, contact her at the following email address: email@example.com. A detailed obituary appeared in the Times-Picayune of June 10-14. A celebration of Gorst's life will be held in the Palm Court Jazz Cafe in late October.
The great trumpet and flugelhorn player, Clark Terry, died in New York City February 21 at the age of 95. He was native of St. Louis, but he left town to join Count Basie's band before working with Duke Ellington for 8 years. A wonderful player and fine human being, he was also an important jazz educator. Known for his good humor, he was also famous for his distinctive "mumbling" style of scat singing. I vividly recall meeting him at Jazzfest some years ago and have a nice pic of him and Doc Cheatham's wife Nellie. (I remember Terry playing at Doc's funeral in NYC.) See photos page.
A note from Matt Hampsey at the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park indicates that
Park Ranger Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes has resigned and joined Paul Simon's band, now on tour. That means that Hampsey will be looking for a replacement to do his jazz demonstrations and other activities at the Visitor Center. He is looking for a local trumpet player to help him out.
Big Chief Theodore Emile "Bo" Dollis of the Wild Magnolias is dead. He passed away yesterday at the age of 71. Dollis last appeared at Jazz Fest with the Magnolias nearly two years ago (2013). For more about his life and music, see the biography printed in today's offBEAT Weekly Beat.
The current (December) issue of The Clarinet includes an obituary (and cover photo) of the legendary British traditionalist Bernard "Acker" Bilk, who passed away in England last November. He was 86.
Virtually all clarinetists of my generation were familiar with his hit composition "Stranger on the Shore," which, incidentally, we are told was originally called "Jenny" after his daughter. It was a big winner on the charts in both the UK and US for the whole of 1960 (and later, I suppose). Bilk, however, was an essentially untrained musician. His inspiration on clarinet was George Lewis, and he termed his vibrato style "British New Orleans." He is said to have been playing up to within months of his death. Indeed, I heard him at Fritzels when he visited the city twenty years or so ago.
He was clearly in the mold of countless British trad jazz players inspired by New Orleans music before and after WW II. But, unlike so many of them, he chose to remain in his native country rather than to move to the Crescent City.
American Federation of Musicians, Local 174-496 New Orleans:
A Celebration of Life
Please join the family, friends and fans of
for a Celebration of his Life
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Musicians Union Hall
2401 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans LA 70119
(Enter parking lot on Rocheblave Street)
See below for the following (from Ramsey's blog, Rifftides)
Musicians Union Hall
2401 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans LA 70119
(Enter parking lot on Rocheblave Street)
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Passings: Al Belletto
December 28, 201
Al Belletto was so attached to New Orleans that he returned to his hometown in midcareer and spent almost all of the rest of his life there. The saxophonist and bandleader died Friday night at home in the Crescent City suburb of Metairie after a long struggle with Huntington’s disease. He would have been 87 on January 3. No public obituary has yet appeared, but his family prepared one and has permitted us to share it with Rifftides readers. We have added photographs, and a bit of music by the Belletto big band. Al was born in his beloved New Orleans on January 3, 1928. He died at home on December 26, 2014, following a prolonged encounter with Huntington’s disease. His long career in jazz made him one of the city’s best known and most treasured musicians.
The young clarinetist switched to alto saxophone at Warren Easton high school and began working as a professional musician while a teenager. His early experience came with a variety traditional New Orleans bands including those of Sharkey Bonano, Wingy Manone, Leon Prima and the Dukes of Dixieland.
Following his graduation from Loyola University as a music major, Al earned a master’s degree in music at Louisiana State University and was an expert clarinetist and player of alto and baritone saxes. Although he loved the traditional jazz that he played in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the bebop pioneered
by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie captured Al’s attention. Many older New Orleans players and fans were cold to modern jazz, but Al got encouragement from a few, among them Monk Hazel, the drummer of the legendary New Orleans Rhythm Kings. He often recalled with a big smile, that Hazel told him, “Just play your horn, baby." In 1952 he founded the Al Belletto Sextet. Encouraged—
sponsored, really—by big band leader Stan Kenton, he recorded for the Capitol, Bethlehem and King labels. The records showcased his sextet’s ability to sing as well as they played and brought Al national attention. No small part of the recognition came because the Belletto sextet’s recording of “Relaxin’” was the theme of Dick Martin’s “Moonglow With Martin” program on WWL Radio. The station’s powerful signal sent the program across half the United States. Martin kept his listeners informed about where the band was playing. Here’s a
1997 remake of “Relaxin’” by the Belletto big band from the Jazznocracy CD . Al has the alto sax solo.
In several cities, fans filled clubs when the sextet appeared. The group became a part of Woody Herman’s big band for State Department tours of South America in 1958 and 1959. Despite those successes, Al couldn’t get New Orleans out of his system. He came home in the sixties determined to spend as much time as possible in his native city. Orleanians’ tastes had changed to encompass modern sounds, and through the years as he worked with his quartet, sextet and big band, Al became a major figure in the city’s cultural community. As music director of the Playboy Clubs, he still traveled, but the New Orleans club became his base and he brought major jazz artists and entertainers to appear there. In the late sixties, Al was a member of the board of directors of the original New Orleans jazz
festival known as JazzFest. He successfully pressed for a policy guaranteeing not only that many of the city’s prominent black musicians would be presented at the festival but also that they would be paid on a scale commensurate with that of white musicians. In the midst of the civil rights era, it was one of his proudest achievements.
Flooded out in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, Al and Linda moved for a time to Dallas to be near Al’s son Bradley and his family. They returned to their new home in Metairie a few years ago. Among the members of Al’s bands over the years were such prominent musicians as Johnny Vidacovich, Ellis Marsalis, Carl Fontana, Willie Thomas, Michael Pellera, Don Menza, Richard Payne, John Mahoney and Rick Trolsen. Players who worked for Al had a title for him that reflected their admiration for his musicianship, his leadership and the warmth of their feelings for him. They called him Coach. Along with Linda, Bradley and Al’s countless friends around the world, former sidemen are among the survivors remembering him with love. Plans for a memorial service are to be a
We thank Linda Belletto for allowing us to publish her husband’s obituary, and we send deep condolences.
YouTube’s Al Belletto pages have dozens of tracks from his albums.
The Times-Picyune reports that death of veteran New Orleans drummer Paul Ferrara at his home in Kenner. He was 76.
Starting professionally as a teenager, Ferrara spent some six decades in the music business working most notably with Louis Prima and Al Hirt. But he worked with a host of other New Orleans bandleaders including Pete Fountain as well as national stars such as Ella Fitzgerald. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
A funeral mass is scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 5 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kenner. Interment will be at the St. Joseph Abbey Cemetery in Covington.
Though details are sketchy, a reliable report at NOLA.com notes the death of saxophonist Tim Green at his Bywater home on August 28. The cause of death was not reported though he is known to have experienced a number of health issues in recent years.
Raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Green moved to New Orleans in 1978. Once established here, he could be heard in a variety of musical contexts, from blues to avant-garde jazz. But, from my experience as a listener to his playing, I would say that he seemed most at home in the local experimental or free jazz style. I had occasion to speak with him a few times and found him to be a humble and soft-spoken individual. Those who knew him well have nothing but praise for him as a human being.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
Famed drummer Idris Muhammad, a New Orleans native, died today at the age of 74. The cause of death has not been confirmed, but friends report that he had been receiving dialysis treatment in New Orleans since returning from New York City to retire in 2011.
Born Leo Morris November 13, 1939, he became a Muslim while still a relatively young man and changed his name accordingly. Capable in a variety of musical styles, he was one of greatest drummers to come out of New Orleans, a city known for it marvelous percussionists. His outstanding talents caused him to work with many of the top jazz artists over the years, spending the last two decades with pianist Ahmad Jamal.
In 2012, Muhammad joined with fellow drummer Britt Anderson to produce "Inside the Music: The Life of Idris Muhammad."
Funeral arrangements for Lionel Ferbos are as follows:
Friday, August 1, 6:00-9:00 pm, a wake at Charbonnet Funeral Home (1615 St. Philip Street).
Saturday, August 2, 8:00-11:00 am, visitation at Corpus Christi Catholic Church (St. Bernard Avenue), followed by the funeral service at 11 am. After the service, there will be a procession to Charbonnet Funeral Home.
Widely admired as a true gentleman, Ferbos was preceded in death by his wife Marguerite and his son Lionel Jr. He is survived by his only daughter Sylvia and a number of grandchildren. See photos page.
Helen Judy, a long time supporter of traditional jazz in the city passed away today. She was 76. Helen is survived by two sons and her husband Ralph, also a devoted jazz fan. The Judys moved to New Orleans about 20 years ago from the Washington, D.C. area, where Ralph had been an employee of the government before retiring.
Guitarist/banjoist Don Vappie confirmed that he is joining Evan Christopher's Django a la Creole quartet. He will be playing both instruments as well as doing his fine vocals in Creole French. Vappie will be replacing Australian guitarist Dave Blenkenhorn.
March 1, 2014
Musician and music educator Yvonne Busch died today at the age of 84. Ms. Busch, a professional saxophonist, was a public high school teacher and band director for 32 years and was responsible for the training of a number of distinguished local musicians including drummers James Black and Herlin Riley and saxophonist James Rivers. UNO prof Al Kennedy profiled her life in his Louisiana Legends in the Classroom series ("One Teacher's Role in Shaping New Orleans Music") and in his fine book, "Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans."
A funeral mass will be held at 10 am on Saturday, March 8, at St. David Catholic Church, 5617 St. Claude Avenue.
December 11, 2013
It is with great regret that I report the death of George Buck earlier today. Born on December 20, 1928, he would have been 85 in less than two weeks. Despite being blind from an early age, he oversaw his GHB Foundation and recording business form an office above the Palm Court Jazz Café on Decatur street. Apart from the closing of the Palm Court on December 11-13, no further plans have yet been disclosed. I will let you know as I learn them. See photos page.
The Palm Court Jazz Café on Decatur Street in the French Quarter has announced that there will be a memorial for Jack Maheu on October 24. More as details become available.
August 27, 2013
I regret to report that acclaimed clarinetist Jack Maheu passed away peacefully at 3:30 pm today at Cuyuga Medical Center in Ithaca, NY. He was 83. After a long and distinguished career on the East Coast and in New York City, Maheu moved to New Orleans in 1990. He became a leading figure in the Crescent City jazz scene thereafter and remained so until suffering a stroke in 2006, essentially ending his music career. He then moved back to his native upstate New York to be near to his two sons. See Photos page.
August 9, 2013
It is will great sadness that I report the death of banjoist-guitarist Les Muscutt at his home today. He was 72.
Muscutt was born and raised in England, but he left there in 1966 and--after a brief time in New York--moved to New Orleans in 1968, where he and his wife Barbara have resided ever since. He had been very active in the local jazz scene for many years, traveling with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and serving a long residency at the Palm Court Jazz Café. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2001 (see Photos page), and he has not been playing in the last few years.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
July 30, 2013
Respected drummer Charlie Lodice passed away at the age of 86. Born in August, 1926 in Queens, New York, he began playing drums at an early age. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing professionally and ultimately moved to California. Eventually, he settled in New Orleans, where he held the drum chair for many years in Pete Fountain's band until being replaced by Bryan Barberot. Lodice also played with the old Dukes of Dixieland in the 1960s, and I last saw him perform in a tribute concert to that band in October, 2004. A memorial will be held at the Palm Court Jazz Café on September 26 starting at 7 pm.
July 19, 2013
Guitarist/banjoist Steve Blailock died at his residence in Pearland, TX. He was 69.
Blailock was preceded in death by both parents and his wife Jing C. Blailock. Survivors include his son Lloyd of McComb, MS; three brothers, Thomas, Joseph and Bernard; and a grandson, three nieces and two nephews.
Blailock lived in New Orleans for many years and played with numerous bands during that time. He was admitted to New Orleans Magazine's All-star Honor-role in 1997, and he was inducted into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame in 1998. His CD,
Mixed Bag, was released in 1996.
He had a number of health issues (including a liver transplant) and moved to Houston, where he was being treated and where his wife had a position in a law firm. Eventually, he managed to do some performing there and occasionally in New Orleans. He was scheduled to leave for a tour in Thailand with a New Orleans band on July 30.
The Blailocks were good personal friends of me and my wife and will be deeply missed by us as well as by his many other friends in the New Orleans area.
A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, July 30 at Jones Funeral Home in McComb, MS, where Blailock was born. Visitation will be from 4-6 pm with a service beginning immediately thereafter. See Photos page.
A memorial tribute was held in honor of Buzzy Podewell at Tulane University, where he had been a member of the Theater faculty for many years. See Photos page for photos of the occasion.
March 29, 2013
Banjoist and Tulane professor Buzz Podewell was lost to world, just short of his 70th birthday. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his widow, Banu Gibson, and their two children. A memorial was held at The Lupin Theatre on the Tulane University campus on May 11.
January 7, 2013
It is with great sadness that I report the death of longtime New Orleans trombonist Tom Ebbert. He was 94.
Ebbert retired from active playing after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city (2005) and moved to Indiana, where he passed away.
I will pass along further details as they become available.
The Capital Focus Jazz Band--the youth learning program of the Potomac River Jazz Club and one of the premiere trad jazz youth ensembles in the U.S.--is thrilled that they have been invited to perform in the JazzFest at Sea in December 2012! To hear the CFJB, go to their web site at prjc.org/cfjb or check them out on Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X3qbuuVoo8. Their director is Dave Robinson of Traditional Jazz Education Network (see link at right).
Drummer and longtime leader of the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band Bob French died today after a lengthy illness. He last performed with his band, now led by his nephew, drummer Gerald French. Bob French was 74. For more, see today's nola.com/music.
A Celebration of his life will be held at D.W. Rhodes Chapel, 3933 Washington Ave. on Saturday, November 17, 2012 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm; Interment: Private: NO SECOND LINE AT THE FAMILY REQUEST; Arrangements by D.W. Rhodes Funeral Home, New Orleans, LA; Please visit www.rhodesfuneral.com to sign the guest book.
Ace drummer Hal Smith, a sometime resident and performer with various bands in New Orleans, writes that he will remain in his hometown of San Diego "until the end of the year." At that point, he will return to San Antonio, TX to rejoin the fine Jim Cullum jazz band at the Riverwalk.
The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Irvin Mayfield, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Congratulations to a wonderful musical organization. In addition to free performances here in the city, they will appear at Carnegie Hall on October 8 with guests Dee Dee Bridgewater, Haley Reinhart, Casey Abrams, Branford Marsalis, Aaron Neville, the Sphinx Virtuosi String Chamber Orchestra, among others, with Soledad O'Brien of CNN hosting. Their full schedule of anniversary events can be seen on their website.
Ace reedman Evan Christopher set out today for a two-month series of appearances in Asia and Europe. He'll be back in New Orleans in November.
Clarinetist Tim Laughlin will be appearing with ace trombonist Dan Barrett at the Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach, CA this evening. Catch 'em if you can.
Big Al Carson, longtime headliner at the Funky Pirate on Bourbon Street, is seriously ill. He has not performed at the FP for some three months or so. Please join us in wishing him a speedy recovery. We hope to see him and his band back at the Pirate soon.
Evan Christopher on the Clarinet Road
He just played Somaliland, July 13-16; Paris, July 17-19; the Hull and Edinburgh (UK) festivals, July 20-21; then he will return to the States and play the Newport (RI) Jazz Festival on August 4. Then it's back home to (probably) a steamy NOLA. Whew...
A Second Line parade and memorial musical benefit in remembrance of Uncle Lionel Batiste are scheduled to take place this afternoon and evening. (Hopefully, rain will not disrupt the former.) The latter is set to begin at 7 pm at Sweet Lorraine's Jazz Club, 1931 St. Claude Avenue, and will include volunteer performances by many local musicians. More about all of this, along with photographs (hopefully), later.
The family just announced funeral arrangements, as follows:
Thursday, July 19, public viewing at Charbonnet Funeral Home, 1615 St. Phillip Street (Treme), 10 am-5 pm
Friday, July 20, funeral services at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in Armstrong Park at 11 am, with viewing from 9 -11 am.
Interment will be at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 4100 Norman Mayer Blvd, New Orleans
If you wish to donate to the Uncle Lionel Memorial Fund to assist the family with medical and funeral expenses, go to www.Treme2012.com and press "Donate" or visit any Liberty Bank and Trust Branch. Donations can alos be mailed to Uncle Lionel Memorial Fund, Liberty Bank and Trust, PO Box 60131, New Orleans, 70160.
It is with extreme sadness that I include the following:
New Orleans - "It is with deep sadness that we inform the New Orleans community of the passing of our beloved "Uncle Lionel" this morning at Ochsner Hospital. He was surrounded by his family and loved ones and transitioned peacefully. The family wishes to extend its deep gratitude for the kindness and love shown during his illness. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized at this time."
Karen Williams (Daughter of Lionel Batiste)
Editor's note: Although there is some uncertainty about Lionel's true birthdate, he should have been 81 in February according to the information he gave me some years ago. However, according to the cover story in the July 9 Times Picayune, he was born in 1932 rather than 1931, as he had told me. (An obit in the Washington Post of July 8 noted his age at death as 81.)
May he rest in peace.
Blues and jazz singer Carrie Smith passed away in Newark, N.J., her hometown. She was 71. I remember her visit to Jazzfest in April, 1996, followed by a spirited concert with Doc Cheatham and Benny Waters at the Palm Court Cafe during the festival. She was a fine talent.
The Treme Brass Band, the Rebirth Brass Band, Dr. John and Davell Crawford were at the Apollo Theater in NYC for the "Great Night in Harlem" concert. See Photos page for pictures submitted by Joe Torregano.
A sad loss for the jazz world was the passing of clarinetist Joe Muranyi at the age of 84. Muranyi was a well-respected reedman who played with many top bands in NYC. He may be best known as the last regular clarinetist with Louis Armstrong's All Stars (1967-1971). He once played with New Orleanian Danny Barker and, after Armstrong's death, he frequently could be seen and heard in the Crescent City.
A longtime visitor to New Orleans--especially for the annual Satchmo SummerFest--was Mrs. Phoebe Jacobs of New York. She passed away today at the age of 93. Mrs. Jacobs is perhaps best known as the founder of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. A serious lover of jazz, she has also been its generous benefactor. She will be greatly missed--and, I am sure, remembered--at this year's SatchFest. There will be a memorial tribute to Ms. Jacobs on May 24 at 1 pm at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. For more details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The family of longtime jazz advocate Phoebe Jacobs (June 21, 1918 - April 9, 2012), the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center recently hosted a Tribute to Phoebe Jacobs at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The event featured performances by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as well as Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Mercedes Ellington, Bobby Sanabria, Antoinette Montague, Robert O'Meally, Victor Goines, Bob Stewart, Stanley Crouch, George Wein, Norma Miller, Brianna Thomas, and more. A second line procession along Central Park South followed the performances.
Ms. Jacobs' life was devoted to the perpetuation of jazz through The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation for which she served as the executive vice-president. She was one of the most important behind-the-scenes influences in jazz.
It is with great regret that I report the death of one of the most well-known and beloved artists associated with New Orleans, Elizabeth Catlett. Ms. Catlett died today at her longtime home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She would have been 97 on April 15. Her association with the city began in 1939, when she became head of the art department at Dillard University. Best known in New Orleans for her impressive sculptures of Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson in Armstrong Park, she also is responsible for one of my favorite Jazzfest posters: the Congo Square Afro-Caribbean dancer from 2000. See the Photos page for an illustration of that poster. Scroll down on the Photos page and you will also see a picture of Ms. Catlett, when she was honored by bassist Rufus Reid on his March 2 visit to the city.
The current (April) issue of New Orleans magazine includes a profile of popular local singer/bandleader Meschiya Lake. Lake, 32, says about the dancers that frequent her gigs,
"The New Orleans dance renaissance largely started here about five years ago, but has expanded greatly over the last three. The traditional jazz dance revival began in the late 1980s and has continued growing from there. It is vast and world-wide..."
Young singer-composer Sasha Masakowski reports that she is just back in town after a residency of (I believe) a couple of months in Beijing, China. This young lady is a hit wherever she goes--no great surprise given her family genes. Singing, among other things, Brazilian tunes in Portuguese (Brazilian?), she said that she "grew up listening to Brazilian music" and even envisioned herself as The Girl from Ipanema.... Pay close attention to the evolution of her career.
Jazz Ed magazine announced the following: "Five-time Grammy Award-winning Terence Blanchard will join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as the Fred A. & Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Chair beginning with the 2012-13 season of the Paradise Jazz Series, sponsored by MGM Grand Detroit." That's another example of a local jazz trumpeter joining a symphony orchestra as jazz artistic advisor. Irvin Mayfield was appointed to a similar position with the Minnesota Orchestra last year.
New Orleans native and bright young pianist now living in New York City, Jonathan Batiste, is in Cuba at the moment. Jonathan is in Havana as part of a mission on behalf of the National Jazz Museum of Harlem to support jazz there.
Young pianist-vocalist Champian Fulton was in town for a gig at Snug Harbor last night. A couple of years ago, I reviewed her debut recording, "The Breeze and I," and quite liked it. It brought to mind the wonderfully talented Diana Krall...which is saying something. I missed Fulton's performance here, but I can happily recommend her.
New Orleans singer Linnzi Zaorski is setting out on a cross-country tour (NYC, L.A., Burbank, San Diego), concluding with two nights in NOLA (March 23 and March 26). These may be her last N. O. gigs since she announces her plan to move to Sweden on April 1. For more, see her website www.linnzizaorski.com.
January 7, 2012
The following email regarding Reed Vaughan was received from Charles Suhor today:
"Hi, folks-- Some of you know about Reed Vaughan's pioneering work in modern jazz in the 50s, but his contributions have been sadly under-recognized. I gave him attention in my book, but few who knew him when he was at his best are still around. As teenagers, Reed and I were the friendliest of rivals. We had the same teacher, would exchange ideas regularly, and heard each other at gigs and jams. He soon quantum-leaped beyond me, and it was a joy to hear the soul and invention of his art. I've sent the brief tribute below to a couple of jazz e-lists and wanted to share it with you.-- Charlie Suhor
Drummer Reed Vaughan, 75, died in New Orleans on December 29, 2010. Vaughan attended Holy Cross High School and played during his early teens in a Dixieland group with trumpeter Murphy Campo and clarinetist Pee Wee Spitilera. At age 16 he studied with drummer Lou Dillon, the versatile leader of the pit band at the Sho-Bar on Bourbon Street, and gained skills in reading and coordinated hand/foot independence. He rapidly became a premier modern jazz artist, jamming frequently with young modernists like bassist/guitarist Bill Huntington, pianist Buddy Prima, and trombonist Al Hermann. Huntington called him “a child prodigy.”
Modern jazz lacked an audience in the city in the mid-fifties, so Vaughan became part of the brilliant underground of be-boppers at after-hours sessions in the French Quarter. His sense of time combined relaxation with intensity, producing an effortless swing that exploded into inventive solos. In an environment where Earl Palmer and Ed Blackwell were the pacesetters, Vaughan was an original voice.
Vaughan’s first year of studies at LSU ended abruptly when he joined the Stan Kenton band. He worked in Chicago and Los Angeles with artists like Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Dave Pike, and Ira Sullivan. Wearied by the pace of life on the road, he returned to New Orleans and remained for the rest of his career. The groundbreaking years were behind him, but modern jazz engagements included work at pianist Joe Burton’s club and a late 1960s engagement at the Bistro with pianist Ronnie Dupont’s quartet and vocalist Betty Farmer. He played for fourteen years with Dick Stabile’s big band at the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel. In his later years Vaughan was active with bands in a variety of jazz styles at local clubs"
It is with great regret that I report the death of drummer Reed Vaughan, who passed away this evening at the age of 75.
Vaughan was among the talented young modernists in the city in the early 1950s. Fellow drummer Charlie Suhor, in his book Jazz in New Orleans, the Postwar Years through 1970, quotes ace guitarist-bassist Bill Huntington on Vaughan. Huntington called him a "a child prodigy" whose touch was "light and crisp." Suhor adds in a personal email, "The last time I saw him was in 2003 at the benefit jam session for Don [Suhor] at the Palm Court Cafe. My last words to him were. 'I love you, man.'"
Vaughan played with saxophonists Ira Sullivan and Art Pepper, pianist Hampton Hawes and the Stan Kenton band in the late 1950s. When he returned to the city, he played with Al Hirt and a variety of traditional jazz bands. The last time I saw him was at French Quarter Fest 2007, where he was the subject of an oral interview conducted by Jack Stewart. (See Photos page.)
A funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 am on Thursday, January 5 in the chapel of the Westside Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 5101 Westbank Expwy. There will be visitation from 9-11 am on Thursday. Interment will be in St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery #3. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the American Cancer Society, PO Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718. Express condolences at www.wesideleitzeagan.com.
Ricky Riccardi of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in NYC confirmed the rumor that Selma Heraldo, longtime neighbor and friend of Armstrong, passed away from heart failure on December 2. She was 88. Riccardi notes that "her funeral service was absolutely beautiful." Heraldo, like Riccardi, was a regular visitor to the annual SatchmoSummerFest here. In fact, she can be seen in a photo from this year's festival on the Photos page.
UNO student Barry Stephenson, a composer and bassist in the Jazz Studies program, has been named this year's recipient of the ASCAP Foundation's Louis Armstrong Scholarship. Stephenson will be honored and receive the $3K cash award today at the Awards Ceremony in Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. Stephenson will also perform at the occasion along with fellow UNO students Allen Dejan Jr.(saxophone) and Famison Ross (drums) and UNO Jazz Studies professor Brian Seeger (guitar). (Stephenson is pictured with saxophonist Victor Goines on the Photos page in a performance at UNO last spring.)
OffBeat magazine reports that, effective December 5, drummer Gerald French will take over the leadership of the venerable Original Tuxedo Jazz Band. Gerald replaces his uncle, veteran drummer Bob French, who had assumed leadership from his father, the late Albert "Papa" French (1910-1977). The band can be heard every Monday at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse on Bourbon Street.
Veteran reedman and native New Orleanian Jerry Boquet died on Tuesday, October 25. He had been suffering from leukemia for some time. He was 79.
Cornetist and bandleader Eddie Bayard noted," Jerry was a great musician, a great person and friend. He will be missed." I would add that I always enjoyed his clarinet playing and regret that I did not hear more of it. He once told me that his main inspiration was, like Pete Fountain's, Irving Fazola. Boquet was awarded a key to the city for his contributions to our music.
Boquet is survived by his wife, four children and six grandchildren. There will be a funeral mass on Wednesday, November 2, at The Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Drive, Metairie. Visitation is from 10 am until 12 noon, then a service at noon followed by a music escort to his final resting place. Contributions may be made to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at www.lls.org. Condolences may be expressed at www.gardenofmemoriesfuneralhome.com.
Burnell Paul Brunious Sr. passed away on Tuesday, September 28, 2011. He was 54.
Raised in the Seventh Ward, Brunious was a resident of New Orleans and the second youngest of eight children born to the late John L. Brunious. He was a drummer and performed with many local brass bands, including the Storyville Stompers. His siblings included the late trumpeter John Brunious Jr. and trumpeter Wendell Brunious. He is survived by three sons and many nieces, nephews and other relatives.
A memorial service, with visitation preceding it, was held on Tuesday, October 4 at the Upperroom Bible Church, 8600 Lake Forest Blvd., New Orleans.
Drummer David Hansen and his "Garden District Trio" (Tom Hook, piano, and Chris Sharkey, bass) will be doing a week's tour in September in British Columbia, where Hansen grew up. During the course of the tour Hansen will be doing a live radio interview on September 25 with veteran bandleader Dal Richards. To listen to the interview, select "Dal's Place" at www.dalrichards.com at any time.
The trio can be heard every Wednesday through Sunday at Houston's on St. Charles Avenue, Uptown. Their latest (fifth) CD, "Live in New Orleans," is just out. For more, check their website www.nogdo.com.
Wardell Quezergue Sr. passed away today. He was 81.
Quezergue, composer, arranger and bandleader, was best known for his seminal contributions to the New Orleans R&B scene. Termed by many "the Creole Beethoven," he worked locally with the likes of Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Professor Longhair and Dr. John as well as such national pop icons as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, B. B. King and Willie Nelson. He also led a fine big band, "Wendell Quezergue and his Slammin' Big Band," that performed at Jazzfest and other special occasions.
Accordingly, he was recognized as a "New Orleans Jazz All-Star" in the 13th annual tribute by New Orleans magazine. OffBeat magazine recognized Quezergue twice, once with a Living Legend Award in 2004 and with a Lifetime Achievement in Music in 2008. He was honored by the Arts Council of New Orleans in 2007, given an honorary degree by Loyola in 2009, and celebrated at Lincoln Center in New York City at a concert organized by the Ponderosa Stomp.
Quezergue, who lost his wife of 60 years last May, was survived by five sons, eight daughters and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. A funeral mass will be held at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 2022 St. Bernard Ave, on Monday, September 12 at 11 am, with visitation from 9-10:30. Arrangements for interment have not been announced. (See Photos page.)
Snare drummer Kurt Nicewander, leader of the revived Onward Brass Band, was back in town in late June, assembling the band for a performance at the Jazz National Park's Visitors' Center on July 2. (See Photos page and the link to the new OBB website at the right.)
The June issue of SOCGram, the newsletter of Save Our Cemeteries, includes an interesting little piece about the burial places of some of the city's musicians and writers (with photos of their headstones), e.g., Buddy Bolden, Professor Longhair, Eddie Edwards, Irvin Fazola, George Guesnon, Al Hirt, Louie Prima, and Leon Rappolo, as well as writers John Kennedy Toole and Stan Rice. Plus more. For more about the SOC, see their website www.saveourcemeteries.org.
The 27th edition of JazzAscona in beautiful Ascona, Switzerland took place this year from June 23 to July 3. Some 40 New Orleans musicians, including Irvin Mayfield, Davell Crawford, Don Vappie, Tom Fischer, Steve Pistorius and Herlin Riley (to name just a few) were on hand. Most notable, however, was the receipt of the Lifetime Achievement Award by "Uncle" Lionel Batiste, who was told by artistic director Nicolas Gilliet, "Ascona loves you!" I was at Ascona in 2007 and can confirm that it is truly an outstanding festival. For more, see www.jazzascona.com.
I was a guest for part of the annual Burlington (VT) Discover Jazz Festival. The festival, located on the beautiful shores of Lake Champlain, featured an all-star lineup of performers, among whom were pianist Herbie Hancock, percussionist Poncho Sanchez, New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, hot vocalist Roberta Gambarini, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, saxophonist J. D. Allen and New Orleans' popular group Bonerama, among many others. Unfortunately, the weather was not totally cooperative, causing a few acts--unfortunately including Sanchez and Blanchard--to cancel at the last minute. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my visit to the lovely city very much and am happy to recommend the festival. (I drove there from Ithaca, NY.)
I flew to Ithaca, with the intent of visiting Jack Maheu, who has been living in a nursing home there for several months now. He is there because he son John lives there, and son Michael also recently moved to Ithaca. Jack resides at Beechtree Nursing Home (tel. 607/272-2320). His cell phone number is 607/280-2755. He's managing quite well, and his sons are doing a great job of helping when needed. (John will be coordinating the sale of some of Jack's recordings on line, but more about that later.) I'm sure Jack would like to hear from (or see) old friends whenever possible.
The Historic New Orleans Collection announced in May that the website KnowLA (www.knowla.org) is now on line and includes more than 300 entires in six subject areas--including music--as well as nearly 1000 images, much of which is from the THNOC collection. They add, "As the site continues to develop, [the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities] plans to publish thousands of entries in 20 subject areas." This is obviously an ongoing project worth paying attention to. Check it out.
A talented 15-piece big band from Christiansand, Norway opened for the main attraction at the Palm Court Cafe on Saturday, April 23. The regular Saturday night band--expanded to 8 pieces for this evening--then followed. It featured Minnesota pianist Butch Thompson on piano (in town for Jazzfest) and the great Herlin Riley on drums along with with the incredible Lionel Ferbos on trumpet and vocals--before a large and very appreciative audience. (See photos.)
Swedish trombonist Jens "Jesse" Lindgren of the excellent Swedish big band, Kustbandet, was in town for a few days in April. He sat in with Duke Heitger, Tim Laughlin et al. at the Palm Court on the night of April 21. It was an excellent session of music. (See pics page.)
Incidentally, Duke will be leaving for Europe again soon and will be appearing in the U.K., Germany, and Sweden before returning to New Orleans on June 13.
Carnival and Fat Tuesday are now history. The final weekend was not all that pleasant weatherwise (heavy rains). It was particularly bad on Saturday, March 5, which caused me to miss the wonderful party annually hosted by Andrea Duplessis (my first miss in 20 years), but the band (Connie Jones, Brian O'Connell, Steve Blailock, Chuck Badie, and Ernie Elly--did I miss anyone?) was there, and they managed to carry it off mostly inside rather than on the front porch. I also missed Michael White and his band's performance at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church's 17th annual jazz service on the following day. But I did catch the jazz service at the Norwegian Seamen's Church that day, with pianist Paul Longstreth's Trio. And I was back at that venue on Fat Tuesday for a performance by Seva Venet's Quartet, who played outside and managed to dodge the raindrops. (See Photos page.)
I recently received a copy of the brand new CD by Delfeayo Marsalis and his octet which includes, among others, his brothers Branford and Jason and New Orleanians Victor Atkins, David Pulphus, Victor Goines, Reginal Veal and many others in a variety of combinations. The album is on the Troubadour label and is called Sweet Thunder, which is a takeoff on Ellington and Strayhorn's 1957 tribute to Shakespeare, Such Sweet Thunder . As an Ellington devotee, I warmly recommend it...though it has been called "even better than the original." As these lines were being written, the band and a company of actors were in the midst of a 36-city tour from January to May. See Delfeayo's website, www.DMarsalis.com, for the February stops.
Tom McDermott wrote a nice little obit of Dickie Taylor in the February issue of Offbeat magazine. (Incidentally, I am making progress with--but still far from finishing--the transcription of an interview I conducted with Dickie in December, 1995. See Works page for Part 1 of that interview.)
Trumpeter and entrepreneur Kermit Ruffins has arranged a long-term lease on the former Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge, 1500 North Claiborne Avenue, which closed last December after the family of the late Ernie and Antoinette could not keep it open. While his plans for the venue remain to settled, he is adamant that the distinctive exterior decoration of the building will always remain as is.
Cornetist Ed Polcer, now a local resident, notes his upcoming jazz festival appearances, as follows: The North Carolina Jazz Fest at Wilmington, (Feb. 17-19); the San Diego Jazz Party (Feb. 25-27); the Atlanta Jazz Party (April 15-17); the Colorado Springs Jazz Party (April 29-May 1), the West Texas Jazz Party, Odessa, TX (May 13-15) and the Sacramento CA. Jubilee (May 27-30). That's a lot of frequent flyer miles, Ed...
Donna's Bar & Grill on Rampart Street, which closed a few months ago, has reopened. But it is under totally different management than before. Normally open Thursday through Saturday, the club provided music nightly during Carnival. The traditional mixture of jazz and brass band music continues to be the musical fare.
The U. S. Postal Service announced on December 28 that it will be issuing a jazz stamp sometime during 2011. The announcement, appropriately, mentioned New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz. We'll be watching for the new issue.
Pete Fountain made his final appearance at his regular gig at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis, MS on December 8, and John Titsworth was there (along with many of Pete's family and fans). John's fine account of the evening, along with photographs and a clip from Biloxi TV, can be found on the internet at www.petefountain.blogspot.com. What the future holds for the 80-year-old clarinetist remains uncertain. As John writes, "Stay tuned." I'm pretty sure that we can expect to see and hear him as he parades with his Half Fast Walking Club on Mardi Gras day (March 8 this year). I understand that he sold his home in Bay St. Louis some months ago and is now back in his Lakeshore/Lake Vista home in New Orleans.
Richard "Dickie" Taylor passed away at about 9 pm on Tuesday, November 30 in the ICU at Lacombe Heart Hospital, just three days short of his 70th birthday. (Wrong! Dickie was 70 on January 23. The error is due to my misinterpretation of his once telling me that he was born "1-2-3-4-0.") I plan to post a transcription of an interview that I did with Dickie exactly 15 years ago, only bits of which were published. (See Works page.)
I attended the funeral. It was a wonderful occasion attended by many friends, family and fellow musicians. Music was provided by members and alumni of the Dukes of Dixieland: Kevin Clark and Mike Fulton (trumpets), Ben Smith (trombone), Ryan Burrage (clarinet), Tom McDermott (piano), Bruce O'Neill (banjo), Everett Link (bass) and J. J. Juliano (drums). Others sat in as well: Ronnie Kole (piano), Tom Saunders (bass, sousaphone) and Brian Besse (drums). Link served as emcee for the ceremony, and Kole as well as family members presented their remembrances of Taylor. The assembled band led a procession to (and from) the adjacent burial site. An excellent tribute to a man who, as Link put it, did not have a mean bone in his body. See Photos page for a few pictures.
Drummer Albert "June" Gardner passed away on November 19. Born December 31, 1930, he was 79. The cause of death has not been reported.
Gentleman June Gardner was known as a pecussionist at home in a variety of musical styles. He started out and made an early name for himself in the field of R&B. He also led a trad band that was known as "June Gardner and the Fellas." He and the Fellas performed in the Economy Hall Tent at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival annually, including an appearance at this year's event.
The funeral service will be held at 10 am on Thursday, December 2, at Rhodes Funeral Home, 3933 Washington Avenue, New Orleans. Visitation will begin at 9 am.
Clarinetist (William Charles) "Chuck" Credo passed away on Thursday, November 11. He was 84.
Credo was perhaps best known as bandleader of groups known as the Skylarks and the Basin Street Six. He took the latter name after first clearing it with Pete Fountain and the family of George Girard. At the band's height, Credo performed at clubs in New Orleans and toured widely abroad. I had not seen him perform since the French Quarter Festival of 1997.
His wife of 55 years preceded him in death, but he was succeeded by a brother and sister, three very successful sons, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visitations were held on November 14 and 15, the latter followed by a funeral mass. Burial is in Garden of Memories Cemetery, Metairie. An online guestbook is available at www.leitzeaganfuneralhome.com.
With the recent demise of Donna's Bar and Grill (see below), brass band fans can take comfort in the presence of Le Citron Bistro, 1539 Religious St., in (broadly) the Lower Garden District. Its owner is promising that it will be the city's next brass band headquarters, reportedly starting on November 19 with the appearance of the popular Rebirth Brass Band.
It is with great regret that I report the death on October 28 of Walter Payton Jr. after complications resulting from a stroke last January. He was 68.
Payton, a graduate of Xavier University and music educator for more than two decades, was one of the city's leading (electric, accoustic and brass) bass players. He was well-known for likening his upright instrument to the shape of a lady, noting "If you press her in the right place, she says just what you want her to say. And no more."
A leader of his own groups, he also performed with several local brass bands, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra and was perhaps best known for his work with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He can be heard on numerous recordings, including one of his own with two tracks of chamber music with his wife Maria, a classically-trained pianist. Payton toured extensively, saying that he loved the many opportunities he had to see the world. Walter and Maria were the parents of famed trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
A private funeral service was held at Temple Sinai on November 3. A memorial has been scheduled for Preservation Hall at 10:30 am on Saturday, November 20, followed by a second-line procession.
Richard "Cricket" Fleming, writer and fine musician, is back in town after some seven years, the last three of which spent in New York City completing a long-term project of two feature-length screenplays (parts 1 and 2). On Sunday, October 3, he led a trio for a jazz service at the Norwegian Seamen's Church: Fleming, piano and trumpet; Hank Bartels, bass; and Jerry Christopher, guitar. It is good to have him back home.
Jack Maheu is back in town after being honored at the Jazz 'N Caz festival in Cazenovia, New York on September 25. Jack was born and raised in upstate New York, so the homecoming was particularly pleasant for him. Three of his children--Lisa, John, and Michael--were there, as were many old friends. He says that several told him to move back there...and he is actually giving it some thought. It's just great that Jack, who is now 80 and recovering from a stroke, could make the trip.
I recently mentioned the installation in June of a commemorative plaque on the former home of trumpeter Teddy Riley. That makes a total of more than 40 such plaques put on homes of legendary New Orleans musicians by the Preservation Resource Center. To recommend a house or to learn more about the PRC's jazz plaque program, contact Suzanne Blaum, director of Education and Outreach, at email@example.com.
Avant garde and jazz clarinetist and composer William O. (Bill) Smith, a longtime member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, was in New Orleans recently for a week's residency at Loyola University. Among the many notable events during his brief stay was the donation by the Buffet-Crampon Corporation of 10 Buffet clarinets to deserving elementary school students in the city. Smith's residency was brought to a close with a concert that concluded with the premiere of his original composition "Blues for New Orleans."
Donna's Bar and Grill on North Rampart St. is now closed. The club, once known as "the brass band headquarters," opened in 1993 and may have reached its apogee on New Year's Eve, 2008, when National Public Radio broadcast live a set by Tom McDermott's and Evan Christopher's Danza Quartet before a packed house. Unfortunately, live music programs had become increasingly rare at the venue in the years since then.
Pianist Tom McDermott did a nice piece of personal reflections entitled "Goodbye Donna's" in the October issue of OffBEAT magazine. "Donna's was one of the three or four clubs responsible for the New Orleans music resurgence of the last 20 years," he observed. It seems that Donna Poniatowski, now relieved of club ownership, is preparing a memoir about the venue.
Renowned jazz photographer Herman Leonard died on August 14 in hospital in Los Angeles. He was 87.
Leonard acquired an international reputation as a photographer, particularly as a photographer of major jazz artists after he moved to New York City in 1948. His famed collection of images from the 1940s to the 1960s is now in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Leonard moved to New Orleans in 1992, where he continued his important work while documenting the local jazz and blues scene. Unfortunately, his home incurred serious damage (including the loss of many prints but no negatives) as a result of the Katrina flooding. This led to his move to Los Angeles in 2006.
The Ogden Museum hosted a celebration of Leonard's life on November 6, attended by hundreds of friends, relatives and former co-workers. The program included music by a trio of Steve Masakowski, James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich joined by James Andrews and emceed by Harry Shearer. Speakers included Joshua Pailet of the Gallery for Fine Photography, John Edward Hasse from the Smithsonian and countless other friends and onetime co-workers. Herman's daughter Shana Leonard presented the Ogden with a portrait of Frank Sinatra, adding "[My father] was happiest living here. He felt at home here." She said that one of her father's last wishes was for a second line parade in his memory, and that wish was fulfilled by a large parade led by the Hot 8 Brass Band that wended its way through the French Quarter and ended up on Frenchmen Street. (See Photos page.)
Trumpeter and music educator Clyde Kerr Jr. passed away on Friday, August 6. He was 67. Kerr was an admired member of the faculty at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, where he had a hand in the training of countless talented young musicians who later gained major reputations as jazz artists. A funeral mass was scheduled for Saturday, August 14, at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, 1932 Dumaine Street.
The September issue of OFFBEAT magazine contains a Kerr obituary including laudatory statements from several of his former students: Christian Scott, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Dave Mooney, Nicholas Payton, Adonis Rose, and Irvin Mayfield. It's clear that these talented musicians regarded Kerr as more than just a great teacher.
Trombonist Al Barthlow died at his home from a heart attack on July 27. He was 78. Barthlow was a widely respected musician in the city and played with numerous local bands, including those of Connie Jones and the Dukes of Dixieland, in his long and distinguished career.