New Orleans Music Miscellany Thursday, Jun 14 2012 

Preservation Hall Jazz Band press photo

It has been nearly three months since I left New Orleans, but the music has not left me. I’ve got days of music on iTunes and a lifetime of music on Spotify, so it’s almost always with me. But, it is not the same thing as being in a sweaty, smoky bar on Frenchmen Street or walking beside a brass band on Orleans Avenue.

However, several things have crossed my radar in recent days to get my toe tapping:

First, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is coming to the Portsmouth Music Hall on Friday, June 15th. Yes, I bought tickets months ago, but it is now imminent. No, it’s not the same thing as entering their stark, yet hallowed hall on St. Peter Street. For one, it’s a lot more expensive; but, you don’t have to wait in line with a bunch of drunks or  stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the back for the first set. Although I’ll miss sitting on the floor in front of the band for the second set. The tour helps mark the band’s fiftieth anniversary since its creation in 1961.

The second thing to get my traditional New Orleans music juices going was a review in Offbeat of Dr. Michael White’s upcoming album, “Adventures in New Orleans Jazz, Part 2.” I know, I know, I made fun of the title of last year’s installment and putting another number behind it doesn’t make it any better. However, I loved the concept and execution of the first one and this sounds even better. While the first had a decidedly international flavor, White brings it back home this time around. It includes some original music, chestnuts like “Tiger Rag,” and some unlikely covers of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobbie McGee” and the Turtles’ “Happy Together.” In two words: “it’s fun.” Basin Street Records provides some musical snippets online prior to its release later this month.

Rock and Roll pioneer, Fats Domino

And finally, in an escape from more traditional New Orleans musical fare,  Rolling Stone helps celebrate Louisiana’s bicentennial with an 18 song collection of funk, soul, hip hop and more. From Irma Thomas to Lucinda Williams; Lee Dorsey to L’il Wayne, it is an eclectic reminder of the musical richness of our 18th state. You can read about each tune and artist and thanks to Spotify, you can listen along as well. Chances are, you’ll encounter something new. And if you are an old hand, it should serve as a happy reminder of what we miss by being anywhere else than the Crescent City!


Random Facts About New Orleans Sunday, Mar 4 2012 

These facts have been supplied to help my students get a snapshot of New Orleans prior to their spring break, service-learning trip. Some facts may be subject to bias (mine). Those generally appear towards the end of the list. No harm or misinformation is intended by these pronouncements.

St. Louis Cathedral, March 2010.

Distance from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: 1,586 miles

Road hours from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: one day; two hours

Average high temperature on March 10th in Durham NH: 37 degrees

Average high temperature on March 10th in New Orleans LA: 71 degrees

Population of New Orleans LA (2010): 343,829

Population of Durham NH (2010): 14,638

New Orleans founded: 1718 by French explorers and speculators

Durham founded: 1732 by English settlers

Portion of New Orleans below sea level: 49%

Top New Orleans employer: Ochsner Health System, 10,000

Second line parade, March 2010

New Orleans racial composition: African-American 60.2%; white, 33%; Hispanic, 5.3%; Asian 2.9

% of New Orleans population who are Roman Catholic: 35.9%

Rank of New Orleans in murder rate (US): 1st

Rank of New Orleans in bicycle and foot traffic (US): 8th

Best cross-dressing bounce artist: Big Freedia

Best radio station: WWOZ (90.7 FM)

Best seafood po’boy: Domilise’s

Best music club: Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street

Best place for traditional music: Preservation Hall

Me and Kermit Ruffins, Rock and Bowl, March 2011.

Oldest regularly performing jazz artist: Lionel Ferbos (100 years old) at the Palm Court

Coolest senior citizen in America: “Uncle” Lionel Batiste (81 years old) bass drummer for the Treme Brass Band and Frenchmen Street denizen

Best New Orleans brass band: Rebirth Brass Band (OK Stu, I’ve come around)

Mr. New Orleans: Kermit Ruffins

Best city in America: Do we really have to ask?

Things to Do in New Orleans — Part 2 Saturday, Mar 3 2012 

Preservation Hall Stars at Preservation Hall, March 2010.

Tuesday, March 13th will be our first day on the job. Expect to be on the road and ready to report for work before 7:00am. Breakfast and lunch makings will be provided at the Peace Mission Center. Remember: close toed shoes are required. At the end of the day, we’ll return to the Center to clean-up and have dinner. For that evening, I would suggest a trip to Preservation Hall, where Shannon Powell and the Preservation All Stars will be playing. It’ll require $10.00 and a substantial wait in line. And if that is not your cup of tea, Frenchmen Street is a musical smorgasbord where you can wander from door to door to hear what’s playing. And I suspect a few will end up at Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets.

Dr. Michael White

After work on Wednesday, we’ll be heading out to Xavier University to hear Dr. Michael White and his quartet, drawn from his Original Liberty Jazz Band. White holds the Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities of New Orleans Music and Culture, but he is best known for his clarinet and musical compositions in the traditional style. This will be the fifth year we’ve had the pleasure of working with him to learn more about the origins of New Orleans jazz. (Thanks to the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Jazz for sponsoring this event.)

Thursday offers diverse choices. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Mark Braud on trumpet is downtown, while Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie are Uptown at Rock and Bowl off of Carrollton Avenue. A trip to Rock and Bowl is a must and zydeco is a great way to get your feet moving.

Friday will be our last day on the job and our last night in Louisiana. And it offers some great choices for entertainment.If you’d like to hear multiple trombones playing covers of Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers tunes, then Bonerama at the Rock and Bowl is a must. They are unique, to say the least. If you’d rather stay downtown, I’d suggest Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. Kermit, one of the founders of the Rebirth Brass Band, is a regular on the HBO series Tremehe is a party waiting to happen. Kermit will be at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen. And of course there are the usual attractions in and around the French Quarter.

Sylvester Francis at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, June 2011.

On Saturday morning we’ll return to New Orleans to visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Curator Sylvester Francis has accumulated an incredible collection of Mardi Gras Indian suits and second line memorabilia. He is a walking encyclopedia of those traditions. (Thanks to the UNH Discovery Program for sponsoring this visit.) It will also give you a chance to visit Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States. For your remaining hours in New Orleans, I’d suggest a visit to the French Market near the river and a walk down Royal Street. The former is a great place to by gifts and souvenirs. And on Royal Street, late Saturday morning brings street performers and musicians. And be sure to grab a po’ boy or muffalletta before you hit the interstate

Suggested Live Music: New Orleans Wednesday, Mar 9 2011 

Kermit Ruffins, March 2008.

There’s a ton of music in New Orleans while we are there. I have picked a variety of acts, ranging from traditional jazz and New Orleans brass bands to zydeco. The following acts will give you a good taste of what New Orleans brings musically. And none of these venues are 21+, a major consideration for college students. You can decide as a group where you want to go. And you can check with me or your group leaders when seeking advice.

Sunday, March 13th, Tipitina’s: Cajun Fais Do Do Featuring Bruce Daigrepont, 5:30pm, $7
Howlin Wolf : Brass Band Sundays with Hot 8 Brass Band, 9:00pm, $8

Monday, March 14th, Preservation Hall: St. Peter Street Playboys Featuring: William Smith, 8:00pm, $12

Mitchell Player (bass) Michael White (clarinet), Detroit Brooks (banjo), and Gregg Stafford (trumpet and vocals), March 2009.

Tuesday, March 15th, Xavier University: Dr. Michael White Quartet, 8:00pm, mandatory & free

Wednesday, March 16th, Preservation Hall: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Special Guest: Shamarr Allen, 8:00pm, $12

Thursday, March 17th, Rock and Bowl: Zydeco Night, Leon Chavis, 8:30pm, $10
Preservation Hall: Tornado Brass Band, Featuring: Darryl Adams, 8:00pm, $12

Friday, March 18th, Rock and Bowl: Kermit Ruffins & the BBQ Swingers, 9:30pm, $10
Preservation Hall: The Preservation Hall Jazz Masters, Featuring: Leroy Jones, 8:00pm, $12

And there are plenty of other options but, in general, check with me or the group leaders when making plans.

Musical Musings Thursday, Feb 17 2011 

New Orleans is arguably the best American city for live music. I know, cities like Austin and Memphis and Chicago, among others, can make a case, but my money and my heart are with the Crescent City.

And it’s that time of year. I’m heading down with my class in a little over three weeks, so every few days I’m sneaking a peak at the music listings. On one hand, I’m looking for musicians that I know and like; but then again, I’m looking for venues that are friendly for those under 21. And then, you have to factor in those intrinsic values such as: place (the stark reverence of Preservation Hall); showmanship (two words: Kermit Ruffins); or kinetic inspiration (OK, let’s get it out there: zydeco).

At this point, the musical possibilities seem to be coming together pretty well. On March 12th, the day we get to town, Preservation Hall is featuring trombonist Lucien Barbarin in a tribute to musical and familial ancestors, drummer Paul Barbarin and banjo/guitar player Danny Barker. On Sunday night, the Hot 8 Brass Band is at Howlin’ Wolf and Cajun Fais Do Do featuring Bruce Daigrepont is at Tipitina’s. Either way, people are going to be moving uncontrollably.

"Kid Chocolate" Brown, March 2010.

During the week, Shannon Powell and Preservation Hall-Stars are at – oh, you guessed it. Powell, can be something of a showboat, but he often surrounds himself with musicians like trumpeter “Kid Chocolate” Brown and pianist Steve Pistorious. And the venerable Rock and Bowl offers great entertainment value towards the end of the week. Clearly, nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like zydeco night. And on Friday and Saturday, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers take their feel-good sound uptown to Carrollton Avenue.

We’ve got papers, and readings, and a mid-term (them to complete; me to grade) before we head south, but musically, we’ve clearly got something to look forward to.