The Best of the Beat Sunday, Jan 20 2013 

2009 NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL PRESENTED BY SHELL - DAY 1

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

For 25 years, Offbeat magazine has provided some of the best coverage of entertainment, food, and culture in New Orleans. In addition to its monthly rendering of what’s happening in the Crescent City, it provides a very active website that tracks daily information of life performances and up-to-date news. And annually, it sponsors the Best of the Beat Awards to recognize the best music in a city that is synonymous with music.

This year provided few surprises, but it recognized some stellar, unquestionable musical achievements, some of my very favorite artists, and validated a healthy percentage of my voting for the awards. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied.

Dr. Michael White

Dr. Michael White

The Artist of the Year Award went to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. On the heels of two very successful albums, I believe he is on the verge of national recognition. The New Orleans-borne eclecticism that marks his music is likely the main thing holding him back. Andrews was also recognized as best “R&B/Funk” artist and as the best trombonist  And Dr. John, the venerable yet adaptable scion of swamp rock was recognized for Album of the Year, for his remarkable collaboration with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, “Locked Down.”  In addition to this well-received album, Dr. John was recognized as the best “Roots Rock” performer and keyboardist.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry

Clarence “Frogman” Henry

Some of my other favorite reward recipients: Best R&B/Funk Album: “Carnivale Electricos,” Galactic; Best Bounce Artist: Big Freedia; Best Traditional Jazz Artist: Kermit Ruffins; Best Brass Band: Rebirth Brass Band; Best Brass Band Album: “Unlock Your Mind,” The Soul Rebels; Best Drummer: Stanton Moore; Best Female Vocalist: Irma Thomas; Best Male Vocalist: John Boutté; and Best Clarinetist: Dr. Michael White. Some of my heroes receiving lifetime achievement awards were: Al “Carnival Time” Johnson; Clarence “Frogman” Henry; and the Dixie Cups.

To cap off the awards, at least as far as I am concerned, WWOZ was recognized as the best radio station; Basin Street Records as the best recording studio; and the Roots of Music, the wonderful marching band , after-school program, was recognized for non-profit achievement/community music award.

Now, on to the Grammys!

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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?

New Orleans Quick Reference Guide Thursday, Mar 10 2011 

OK, you guys will be heading out in around 36 hours. And there are probably labs, papers, and exams to complete, clothes and bedding to pack, and last minute questions. At this point, I can’t help with the first two, but I’ll see what I can do to help with the questions.

Jackson Square, March 2010.

Well, one of your first concerns is geography. You’ve got a 1500 mile drive ahead of you. What route are we following? Where are we going to be? I suspect most of you will be taking the western route, following I-81 from Pennsylvania, through Virginia and into Tennessee. It’s not terribly exciting, but neither is sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a major metropolitan area.  Google Maps will help you visualize what you are going to be up to.

Once you get to New Orleans, Kyle found a couple of maps that will be helpful.  Check here for a New Orleans Street Map. It covers most of the metropolitan area, but cuts off Marrero, where we will be staying. You’ll have to go to Google Maps for that. And for the French Quarter, Central Business District, and contiguous areas see this Map of Downtown New Orleans.

As you pack, I’m sure you are curious about the weather. I’ve looked at a number of sites and it looks as though we’ll be experiencing typical March weather. Highs in the low to mid 70s, with nights in the 50s. But if you don’t trust me, you can check out: the Weather Channel and National Weather Service.

We have a lot planned for the week, but if you want good sightseeing and tourist information, you can go to New Orleans Online. It is geared towards tourists, but this site contains some interesting pages on everything from New Orleans history and culture to information on gay nightlife.

And if you want to see what’s happening in New Orleans, you can check out news and events at what I consider the three best sites: Times-Picayune (nola.com) , Gambit (bestofneworleans.com), and Offbeat Magazine online. You can get all of the current news, culture, etc. that you’ll need during your stay in New Orleans.

And finally, if you’re into music, New Orleans is the Holy Grail. And the best place for music is New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Station, WWOZ. Great interface for listening to the station online. And for the most complete listing of musical happenings in-town, check out the WWOZ Livewire.

But, regardless of what you do and learn and accomplish in the meantime, I’ll see you in New Orleans on Saturday!

WWOZ 90.7 FM New Orleans Thursday, Feb 4 2010 

In March 2006, my first visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, I first learned about WWOZ.  Frankly, I don’t remember how. I spent the week in a FEMA camp without a car. Maybe I heard it on the radio of my friend Bruno’s truck. Maybe it was the night I drove my tent mate’s car back to Chalmette when my companions decided to eschew the strictly enforced curfew; I’m too old for fence jumping. However it happened — it happened. And once I returned to New Hampshire, I found it online and began listening while at work.

A year later,  I returned to New Orleans to work once again with Habitat for Humanity and to greet the UNH students who drove the 1500 miles in vans. I rented a car at the Louis Armstrong International Airport using Habitat’s corporate account number. For whatever reason, I paid for a $149 per week compact and they provided me with a Nissan Murano SUV. Stunned, I nodded to the attendant and before I left the airport’s bounds, I tuned the radio to WWOZ. It was exactly 11:00am on a Friday, and inexplicably, Tom Morgan and his “New Orleans Music Show” was coming on. And before I exited onto I-10 East, Tom spun his first tune: Louis Armstrong’s “Do you Know What It Means, to Miss New Orleans?” At that moment, I was thoroughly smitten by the power and meaning of WWOZ.

New Orleans has its cathedral, the bawdy bars of Bourbon Street, and the stately mansions uptown, but to me, WWOZ is a 30-year old monument to the Crescent City. It captures the soul of the city like nothing else, as it personifies music, the music that is New Orleans’s gift to the world.

It was host to the rants of celebrity DJ, rhythm and blues artist Ernie K-Doe. It helps sponsor the annual New Orleans and Jazz and Heritage Festival. And more importantly, as the station itself proclaims, it brings “New Orleans music to the universe.” And the wonderful stable of announcers do just that in a personal, quirky, New Orleans sort-of-way.

When visiting New Orleans, DO tune your radio to 90.7 FM. But wherever you are, so long as you have internet access, you can listen online or receive updates on programming information from Facebook.

WWOZ is one of New Orleans gifts to us, but only if you listen!