Backtalk: Regina Carter

5 04 2016
Regina Carter

Regina Carter

OFFBEAT, FEB. 25, 2016:

More than a decade ago, jazz violinist Regina Carter became the first non-classical musician to play Niccolo Paganini’s highly guarded, handcrafted Guarneri violin, an instrument that dates back to 1743 and is counted among the most precious items in classical music history.

She used it to record 2003’s Paganini: After a Dream, an homage to the musician who first owned it that incorporated bop and Latin-inspired arrangements reflecting the violin’s 260-year-old history.

A few years after the album’s release, Carter was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship—or “Genius Grant”—and decided to use the money to fund a closer look at her own history.

Digging into the musical undercurrents in her family’s heritage, Carter has spent the past few years connecting the dots between herself and her mother (I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey), her ancestors (Reverse Thread) and most recently, her grandfather, whose experience as a coal miner in Alabama inspired her 2014 release, Southern Comfort, which she brings to the CAC on March 11.

Carter’s vision for the album began focused on coal mining songs, she says, but soon expanded to cover the blues, gospel, old-world country and folk music as she delved further into her research of the period during which her grandfather lived and the regions that surrounded his native Alabama. Studying field recordings from the Library of Congress, as well as whatever oral histories she could piece together from speaking to distant relatives and others, she developed a list of songs that she used as jumping off points for new arrangements.

Like much of her work, the results are a seamless mix of multiple genres that lead with her lush, soulful tone and creative approach to arranging and improvising.

In this interview, the violinist reflects on her research process, the emotional response she had to the music she discovered and more.

What got you interested in this specific aspect of your family’s past? Did your grandfather share the music he’d heard when he was coal mining with you when you were a little girl?

My grandfather died before I was even born so it made this process even more difficult. My whole life I’ve been very curious about my past, my family—my ancestors. So when I received the MacArthur award I decided to take some time and do some research. I joined and did the whole DNA test and the first record, Reverse Thread, was sort of about my findings.
The results came back 70 percent West African, I think 15 percent Finnish and some other sprinklings here and there. So Reverse Thread was just kind of a mixture reflecting that.

And then I decided to just really concentrate on my father’s side of the family. I didn’t know anything about my grandfather. And my only memories [of him] were from childhood, spending summers with my grandmother and a lot of my aunts and uncles down in Alabama in their home. I found it to be pretty difficult to get information about him, but I knew when he was born and I knew he was a coal miner. So I just started listening to the music and doing research as to what was happening historically during that time period. And the field recordings I found were so beautiful, amazing, raw, intriguing that I decided to try to piece a story together, to piece my family together, through music.

Was it difficult to get people in your family or otherwise to open up about the more challenging aspects of that period in American history?

Most of that information I got from reading historical books and knowing what was going on as far as being an African-American coal miner, being a coal miner period. The life that they were living back then. Because I wasn’t really getting information from my own family. No one seemed to recall or remember him. That made me more intrigued, because I thought, ‘Why don’t you want to remember him?’ I finally found the youngest family member who gave me some information. But most of that was coming from books. And people would say, ‘Oh, check out this book or this article,’ people that had maybe grandfathers that were born around the same time that were coal miners in the Appalachia region. So it came from just kind of sharing information with different kinds of people and knowing what life was like based on my findings.

What keeps you coming back to this idea of looking to your heritage for musical inspiration? Can you describe the satisfaction it brings you?

For me, it’s like I know that I belong to something. It’s like your faith if someone has a faith. But with faith it’s a blind faith depending on what you believe in. This helped me to say, ‘Who am I? Why do I play music? Why do I like the things I like? Why is my personality like this?’ And it’s like oh… My grandmother played piano and my great uncle played banjo, maybe that’s where I got it from. Or this person has this personality trait and I have it, or this person went through this and they were strong and if they could get through that then it helps me when I’m crying about something or thinking this is too difficult. It’s not to negate my feelings, it’s just to remember that people have gone through much more just to have what I have. That gives me the extra push to get up and keep moving.

What’s something you found that helped you connect yourself to older family members?

Music, that’s the biggest thing that I got directly from my mother’s mother and an uncle on my father’s side. And then just other personality traits I could see throughout my family. So it’s just kind of interesting, like sometimes my mother would say, ‘Oh, you’re just like your father.’ [laughs] And you always think they’re just saying that but it’s like yeah, she’s right. Or learning about my grandfather it’s like, ‘OK, we got that characteristic out of his personality traits.’

Another thing was they were hired workers. My grandparents have 14 children and my dad was the oldest. Seeing how their children had a very strong work ethic and left home and most of them moved up to Detroit and got odd jobs and how they really helped each other, it was a very close family bond. They all believed in working hard. Whatever it was you have to work hard and succeed and go forward and they passed that on generation after generation.

And on my mother’s side, my grandmother was the first person in their family to go to college and graduate. She graduated in 1915 with a degree in pedagogy so I have that degree on my wall. So that helps—all of those little things—looking at photographs, listening to this music. With the field recordings even though I know it’s not directly of them, the recordings are from people that lived during that time. It’s a connection for me and a source of strength.

Was there anything you learned about the music, whether it was song form or instrumental technique or something else, that surprised you when you studied the field recordings?

When I listened to the field recordings I didn’t go in with any preconceived ideas or theoretical or analytic point, I just listened for the sake of listening. I was just trying to capture that time period, trying to make that connection because the music was my way of connecting to the past. And just listening and having a gut, natural reaction and choosing the songs that I chose off of that reaction. The question I asked myself was just: Did I have some kind of emotional reaction to it?

What choices did you make with the arrangements when it came to staying true to the period in which the originals were written?

Because we were reimagining these tunes, if you will, we couldn’t sound like that time period because we aren’t of that [period]. And I didn’t want to do that and I knew people were going to hear this on the radio so it was my way of presenting the songs in a manner that people would maybe listen to them and be interested in hearing the original.
At concerts I pick maybe two or three of the songs and play a snippet of the original. And then play the arrangement we came up with.

It was a long process because we’d come up with an idea and play through it and some of the tunes just didn’t work for me with my instrument and then some, we’d play through them and then I’d listen back and I’d say, ‘Okay this works, this doesn’t work, let’s try this.’ It was really just playing and seeing how does this feel and hoping the whole process would be a natural flow.

How did you approach your instrument differently for this project? Were there certain cases where you tried to capture the feeling of a particular character from the past?

There are certain tunes that I tried to do that with, like “Miner’s Child.” But that in itself is a whole technique. A group that does that so well is the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but they really studied that, so it’s not something I can just mimic. With some of the tunes, I made just a nod to that time period but [was] not really trying to present that sound.

What were the biggest challenges in maintaining the historic roots of a song while updating it in a way that made sense for you?

I think trying to really respect the music because the melodies are so simple and sometimes things that are the most simple are the most difficult. So [I was] trying to really highlight or hold onto the beauty and rawness that I heard in those tracks but at the same time allow our own voice to come through. It’s a balancing act.

What are you working on next?

I’m starting on the next project which is a tribute to Ella [Fitzgerald] and taking some tunes that Ella recorded that weren’t so popular and again, trying to present them not just in a straightforward [way], but trying to do something creative with that process so that I have a voice within that as well and am not just rerecording a tune. Just like Southern Comfort and Reverse Thread, it’s a long, kind of drawn-out process with me, but I enjoy it. It’s just hard to get started because I know it’s going to take a minute and sometimes I have no patience.

You started out with a list of about 50 songs you’d found in your research that you thought could work for this project. What made the tunes that landed on that list stand out for you?

It really all is a very organic process for me, so it’s all based on a feeling. I don’t do anything from a technical standpoint. If it strikes me on some kind of emotional level then I would say, ‘Hey, let me try this.’ It was based on an immediate reaction I would have and then by myself start to mess around with it, then I would know this will work or won’t. And then also getting together with some of the other musicians and playing, then that would also let us know whether it would work or not.

Were there any songs that you knew immediately would be perfect for this project?

Yes. “I’m Going Home On the Mornin’ Train” and “Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy.” When I heard that it was like a distant memory of hearing my mother rocking me on her lap, singing or humming something like that. And when we play it, so many people, whether they’re from the United States or not, feel the same way. I played a gig once and some people were in town from Finland and they were like, ‘We sing that song only we sing it like this.’ So it seemed like it was a universal piece.

Review: Magnetic Ear, Live at Vaughan’s

31 03 2016

magnetic-ear-albumOFFBEAT, MARCH 31, 2016:

A decade ago, Martin Krusche was using his pocket brass band Magnetic Ear as a small-combo platform for his complex, brass-based jazz compositions and electric tenor sax experiments. In recent years, the ensemble has expanded to a more traditional brass band lineup, a change that’s moved their sound squarely into cerebral dance-floor material.

Recorded in October 2015, Live at Vaughan’s sees the current lineup—which features Krusche’s tenor and soprano saxes alongside Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax, Wes Anderson and Jon Ramm-Gramenz on trombone, Steven Glenn on sousaphone and Paul Thibodeaux on drums—full of fire and playfulness.

And they need those ingredients in large doses to pull off shifts from Cuban motifs (“587 Miles”) to Balkan brass jams (“Zivilkonttrolle”) to Nirvana and Prince covers as seamlessly as they do.

The loose vibe associated with contemporary parading New Orleans brass bands shines through on tracks like “Uncle Roger,” their funk-laced tribute to the Dirty Dozen’s Roger Lewis. But more often than not, it gets juxtaposed against something like the mid-song breakdown on “Virgin Murder” where the saxophones veer off from their original, tight and clean motif to something skittering and woozy that flies around driving sousaphone blasts.

The horns take unexpected routes in and out of the Latin theme on “Samba 7 4 Now,” too; although Thibodeaux’s dynamic soloing on that track makes it tough to focus elsewhere.

There’s a thrill that comes with pushing the envelope as far as possible without compromising the groove. This album nails it.

Nicholas Payton: Black Keys

23 01 2016
Photo: L. Kasimu Harris for Jazz Times

Photo: L. Kasimu Harris for Jazz Times

JAZZ TIMES, Jan. 23, 2016:

In his controversial 2011 blog post “On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore,” trumpeter Nicholas Payton asserted, among other things, that he’s “not the same dude” he was a decade and a half ago. “Isn’t that the point?” he asked. “Our whole purpose on this planet is to evolve.”

That pronouncement hasn’t attracted as much attention as some of his other sentiments: “Jazz is an oppressive colonialist slave term,” for example, or its follow-up, “I play Black American Music,” which yielded the hashtag #BAM. But it resonates deeply, both in light of Payton’s evolution as a cultural critic and his changing focus from the trumpet toward the piano bench, where he’s settled in as a leader in recent years.

At the moment, Payton, 42, is settled into a booth at the New Orleans seafood haunt Frankie & Johnny’s, near his home in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. Clad in a Saints cap and a T-shirt featuring the logo of the band Trumpet Mafia, Payton considers what compelled him to veer off the path that earned him a Grammy and decades of critical acclaim.

On a basic level, he explains, it was a pragmatic move. But there’s also another advantage. After becoming increasingly adept on keys over the past few years, he began playing trumpet with one hand and either Fender Rhodes, piano or organ with the other, essentially converting his trio into a quartet at will. It’s a skill that has opened up a whole new realm of musical possibilities while expanding his voice within the context of his band. “The cumulative effects of opening that door add so much vibrancy to what I’m able to express,” he explains.

“I didn’t set out to do it as a gimmick or some kind of parlor trick, even though it does have that type of entertainment value, perhaps. I set out to do it out of just … function. I want to play these things that I want to hear. It’s easier for me to do that than to try to coax someone else to do it.”


Like his blogging, which touched a nerve in the music community when he divorced himself from the notion of “jazz,” redefining his artistic output in terms of “BAM,” the Rhodes and trumpet/keyboard combo add weapons to his arsenal of expressive devices. The results are reflected in three strong albums, #BAM: Live at Bohemian Caverns, Letters and Numbers, each of which built on its predecessor, adding new depth and dynamics to his repertoire. “When I play trumpet and piano or keyboards at the same time, there’s so much that hasn’t been done,” he explains. “To be at the cusp, at the vanguard of expanding technique for a voice that doesn’t have much of a recorded history? That’s a whole other realm. … It’s a new frontier.”

On 2014’s Numbers, featuring Payton almost exclusively on Rhodes alongside the Virginia-based quartet Butcher Brown, he left as much space as possible for interpretation, compiling pieces of music he’d already written but not yet used into 12 soulful, open-ended tunes designed with the idea that listeners might play along to the music. Letters followed the next year, reuniting Payton with his main trio bandmates, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart, in a context blending hard-bop motifs with swinging grooves and shades of funk and R&B. The disc also found Payton performing at the top of his game on acoustic piano, organ and Rhodes, which he occasionally used to accompany himself on trumpet solos.

Payton’s committed himself to exploring new musical terrain for the better part of his career, which had already been prolific and wide-reaching, style-wise, despite his relatively young age. In that sense, his latest shift feels like a natural progression.

Initially branded a traditionalist—“unfairly so, but OK,” he concedes—Payton experimented with electronic effects and lyric-writing in the late ’90s, leading a band called the Time Machine that drew on funk motifs and an R&B sensibility. At that point he’d already snagged a Grammy for his 1997 release with Doc Cheatham, and was consistently putting out tight and fiery forays into hard bop.

By 1999’s Nick@Night, the trumpeter felt more confident in his grasp of what he calls “a certain tradition of straight-ahead,” and started experimenting with less orthodox instrumentation. “I was hearing something else, keyboard-wise,” he recalls, “so that’s why I have the harpsichord and the celeste, which are sort of like Rhodes and clarinet.” He was also pretty much ready to break out of the Young Lion mold.

In 2001 Payton released Dear Louis, an album he describes as “a farewell to the idea that I needed to uphold someone else’s idea of traditions.” It wasn’t a defining feature of the album, but Payton contributed some Rhodes to the record, as well as flugelhorn and vocals. “I’ve always loved the Rhodes. In fact, growing up in the ’70s, most of the music that I heard around me was Fender Rhodes, and that was the piano of choice then. A lot of clubs didn’t have acoustic pianos,” he says. “It just has such a warm, lush sound. You have to work really hard to make it sound ugly. And it has a great sustain. It has more sustain than a piano. And in a lot of contexts, I think it blends better with instruments than a piano.”

Payton’s arrangements on Dear Louis updated the tradition associated with Louis Armstrong, imbuing classic tunes and solos with a contemporary feel. In subsequent work with his B-3-centric band Soul Patrol and the hip-hop- and groove-soaked Sonic Trance, Payton continued to push the music forward without compromising the traditions that helped birth it. Sonic Trance also featured more of Payton’s multi-instrumental capabilities. While trumpet remained his primary focus, Payton played keys, flugelhorn, bass and drums, underscoring his growing interest in developing a wider palette from which to express himself. Still, he was sticking to trumpet in performance settings.


That started to change in the months after the 2005 levee breaches that devastated New Orleans. With musicians scattered across the country, venues struggling to stay open and power flickering on and off across the city, the New Orleans music scene was suffering. Payton wanted to help remedy that, so he proposed playing a series of free late sets at the club Snug Harbor on weekends. “That’s when I started playing trumpet and piano at the same time,” he recalls. It’s also when he came to terms with the difficulty of what he was trying to do.

“One of those nights, some guy [pointed out] I was playing in two keys at the same time. And I had never thought about it; I was just doing it. Then I started thinking about it and it kind of fucked me up. I had to relearn what I was doing instinctually,” he says. “At a certain point it was just a textural thing for me, and also a way to be more a part of the music the whole time. … Playing a melody, taking trumpet solos and standing on the side of the stage for a majority of the show … just felt boring after a while.”

Drummer Shannon Powell, who’s known and worked with Payton since he was a kid, remembers being astounded by his expertise on trumpet and piano at the Snug gigs. “Nicholas is a guy that constantly practices and sheds,” says Powell, who proudly claims he gave Payton his first professional gig, at the Famous Door on Bourbon Street, with singer, banjoist and guitarist Danny Barker, when the trumpeter was a young teenager. “I can hear some improvement every time I hear him play. That’s the way Wynton is. They’re both constantly shedding and trying to perfect their craft.”

Though Payton’s played trumpet since age 4—“something about the instrument spoke to me,” he says—he’s played multiple instruments for most of his life, just as he’s explored various styles of music. His father, the acclaimed bassist Walter Payton, alternated between bass and sousaphone, and worked with players ranging from Lee Dorsey to Aaron Neville to Ellis Marsalis to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The piano that Walter shared with Nicholas’ mother, a classically trained pianist, maintained a central position in the family’s home and remains a strong source of musical memory for Nicholas, who used to sit beneath it when musicians like Marsalis and Professor Longhair would work their magic on its keys. “This cat Eddie Collins would come around,” Payton recalls. “The late, great Ed Frank was another. He had one hand. He played with his right hand but he never missed [his left]. Seeing guys like that really impacted me.”

He was also drawn to Herbie Hancock, whose sound, touch and chordal voicings, among other elements, continue to influence Payton. “He’s one of those rare, quintessential-type pianists. You can put him in any context with anybody and he’s going to sound like himself. But he’s also going to uplift the music and serve the music,” Payton says.

His bandmates over the years get that what he’s doing runs much deeper. “I’ve been struck for years by Nicholas’ ability to play multiple instruments—drums, bass, etc.—at a high level,” keyboardist Kevin Hays writes in an email. “He’s such a remarkable musician and seems to be able to absorb any music he hears very quickly.”

Hays worked with Payton regularly from the early 2000s through Into the Blue, from 2008, which marked a turning point with regard to Payton’s instrument of choice as a leader. Prior to the session, Payton set up Pro Tools in his house and recorded demos of the material on each instrument. “There are people who can play an instrument, but they might just be playing a line or a written-out part. He’s adding some kind of flavor to it, too,” Vicente Archer says. “He’s hearing where the music can go. Hearing those demos, it was like, ‘Wow,’” he continues, laughing. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.”

Archer was one of multiple associates who suggested Payton record an album by himself. It seemed like “a novelty” to him, Payton says, until he developed the idea for the vocal R&B project Bitches, much of which was based on leftover demos from Into the Blue. Bitches came out in 2011, the same year Payton launched his “BAM” campaign, which heightened the exposure of his writing online. By then he was leading from the piano bench regularly and working toward launching his own label, BMF, now Paytone. All those elements indicated that he sought a greater degree of control in both his artistic expression and in the way others define it. “He’s not focusing on what people consider him to be famous for,” Powell points out. “Coming from New Orleans, if you get famous doing one certain thing people expect you to do that the rest of your life. People have a tendency to want to categorize musicians.”


Archer agrees that Payton has more control of the music these days. “We’re very elastic with the music, [with] form and harmonically,” he says. “It gives the songs even more of a breath of fresh air each time we play.”

In terms of artistic evolution, Payton is still open to new ideas and vocabularies. He recently completed work on Textures, an album created entirely with the software program Logic—no live instruments—that he recorded alongside the visual artist Anastasia Pelias, who painted while he worked, each artist riffing on the other’s compositions. Payton remains involved with more conventional music as well, having produced, played on and written most of the arrangements for singer Jane Monheit’s upcoming tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

As for the resistance he’s encountered while challenging public and critical expectations—and there’s been plenty—recent recognition of his skill as a keyboardist has helped mitigate early complaints. “I guess I could have said, ‘Fuck it,’ and acquiesced to people’s expectations. But to me, you don’t ever get people to accept your artistry if you’re willing to cave because they want you to follow suit with whatever they expect you to do,” he muses. “You have to be willing to make sacrifices for the shit you feel strongly about.”

Irvin Mayfield: For Love or Money?

22 11 2015
Irvin Mayfield. (Photo: Erika Goldring for Jazz Times)

Irvin Mayfield. (Photo: Erika Goldring for Jazz Times)

JAZZ TIMES, NOV. 22, 2015:

At the first-ever performance at the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market, the sleek new theater that will serve as the permanent home for Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, the bandleader grinned and told jokes. He praised the legacies of musicians like Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong, then smiled broadly as soloists channeled their styles. He kept the vibe upbeat, lacing songs with humorous flourishes like the long, playful licks he eked out of a plunger mute.

The Grammy-winning trumpeter, 37, had plenty to smile about on that night in March. In addition to previewing the soon-to-be opened venue, he was about to release New Orleans Jazz Playhouse (Basin Street), a lush, 304-page coffee-table book featuring photos by Herman Leonard and Gordon Parks, essays about the various muses that inspire Mayfield, and seven CDs of music recorded over nine days at Mayfield’s club in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. He had also completed recording Dee Dee’s Feathers(OKeh), a collaborative effort that showcases what Mayfield has described as “New Orleans through the lens of Dee Dee Bridgewater.”

That spring evening, however, Mayfield was focused on the $9.6 million venue he and his business partner, Ronald Markham, were busily preparing to open in the following month.

Conceived as a mixed-use concert hall and community center, the polished and modern space boasts a 360-seat theater with crisp acoustics designed specifically for the presentation of jazz. In the building’s front lobby, what Markham described to me as “a non-profit bar owned by NOJO” provides a space for casual jazz performances plus coffee, cocktails, free Wi-Fi and various community programs. “This is a public space which we’re partnering with the Public Library Foundation [on] to provide a satellite location for residents here, kind of as a storefront branch of the public library,” Mayfield said in late January, as he breezed through the building’s sunlight-drenched foyer during an interview for a local music magazine. At the time, that partnership was key to the project’s community-center angle.

The Jazz Market had been heralded as a public library resource where residents of the surrounding Central City neighborhood could access the library system’s jazz holdings through a digital archive. Mayfield led me to a section of walls to the right of the bar where he said interactive touch screens would provide access to information about jazz artists and jazz-related city library books. A book return was also in the works, as well as a special library-card sign-up for visitors.

He went on to describe plans for the Jazz Market to house a copy of the first jazz coverage in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune—“even though it was a shitty review,” he quipped. A few months later, however, it was not jazz but Mayfield who found himself at the center of a firestorm of negative press.


A celebrated cultural ambassador for the city with a history of advocacy and fundraising work within the library system, Mayfield seemed like the perfect candidate to bring jazz, education and library access to an underserved community. Doing so through a multiuse Jazz Market seemed like a creative approach to utilizing real-estate tax credits while providing a boon for local libraries, musicians, jazz fans and residents. And it may well have been.

But on May 5, two days after the end of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, WWL-TV reported that Mayfield had funneled at least $863,000 from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation to the Jazz Market. “Public records show that in 2012, the library’s foundation gave the city’s cash-strapped public library system $116,775, a typical annual gift from the earnings off its $3.5 million endowment,” wrote WWL reporter David Hammer. “But that same year, the foundation also gave $666,000 to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra for the $10 million New Orleans Jazz Market that ended up opening with fanfare in Central City just last month. And in 2013, the library foundation gave the Jazz Orchestra, or NOJO, $197,000 more.”

Both the New Orleans Public Library and the Library Foundation, a private nonprofit created to raise funds to support the library, had long maintained high-profile relationships with Mayfield. The trumpeter served on the boards of both groups from 2007 to 2011, following a controversial appointment by former Mayor Ray Nagin. In 2011, Mayfield gave up his role as chair of the Public Library board after it was determined that board members should not serve on both committees simultaneously. Mayfield retained his seat on the Library Foundation board until this year.

WWL’s report went on to note that Mayfield and Ronald Markham, the CEO of the Jazz Orchestra and Mayfield’s friend since high school, earn six-figure salaries from the non-profit Jazz Orchestra. “[Mayfield and Markham] were also two of the five members of the Library Foundation board when it gave the majority of its grant money that year to the Jazz Market project,” Hammer wrote. “In 2012, NOJO reported paying two salaries: $148,050 to Mayfield and $100,000 to Markham. It also paid $109,441 to Mayfield’s publishing company for ‘concert productions.’”

Finally, Hammer reported that the then five-person Library Foundation board made two important changes in 2012 when they rewrote the organization’s bylaws. First, they decided that going forward the organization would raise funds to support “literacy and community organizations” as well as library needs. They also effectively handed the power of the foundation’s purse over to Mayfield.

The board “resolved to grant powers specifically to Mayfield to ‘sign any and all acts, agreements, contracts, and documents that he deems fit and appropriate, all containing such terms and provisions as he, in his sole and uncontrolled discretion, deems necessary,’” Hammer reported. It didn’t help that the story broke days after New Orleans residents voted to increase local property tax for the benefit of the library system.


While Mayfield declined to speak to WWL regarding the allegations, Markham told the station that he had been upfront about the use of all funds on his tax forms, adding that all of the money had gone toward the market, not to anyone’s salaries. Mayfield gave up his position on the Library Foundation board in late April; Markham did the same in May. But the resignations did little to dam the flood of fallout sparked by the report.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a statement urging, among other things, NOJO to return the money and the city library to separate itself from the orchestra. In a statement released on May 12, NOJO said it would return the money but implied there had been no wrongdoing. “NOJO and its Board of Directors are disappointed in misperceptions about the appropriateness of a relationship between a public library and a musical heritage, cultural and performing arts center,” the statement began. “However, it is critical to our board and to our artists to remedy any misperceptions and we unanimously chose to aggressively move forward today, return the dollars from the library foundation and immediately refocus on our mission to put jazz musicians to work, celebrate our culture, and travel the world promoting New Orleans and performing jazz music.

“Despite returning the dollars to the library foundation, NOJO, its artists and its Board of Directors remain committed to providing unique access to books, archival materials, recordings, digital media and Internet that teaches our musical history and cultural heritage around the jazz art form to which our city gave birth.”

Speaking to WWL, Markham maintained that the idea to use library money for a satellite library setup in the Jazz Market was not duplicitous but rather “a forward-thinking and aggressive way to expand the footprint of the actual public library system, at no cost to the public.” Markham did not respond to JazzTimes’ requests for comment, but when I last interviewed him he cast the library-Jazz Market connection in similarly “forward-thinking” terms.

First, Markham cited the dearth of library services in Central City, a neighborhood long plagued by crime and blight that’s recently started showing signs of gentrification. He also pointed out that the market’s expansive programming “is an incredible way to reach all parts of the community” that could potentially help “open doors” in people’s lives while expanding the audience for jazz. “Innovation being at the center of what we do at the Jazz Market,” Markham said, “if I can feed the whole individual by giving them culture and then giving them some other tools to assist them in living a fuller life, then we’ve done our jobs as a jazz orchestra and jazz market.”


Mayfield and Markham’s approach to community and library programming could still provide a great resource for the city. That will depend, however, on the results of a federal investigation into NOJO and the legality of diverting $863,000 away from the cause donors to the Library Foundation believed that they were supporting.

While WWL has led the charge in covering the scandal, it was New Orleans watchdog group the Metropolitan Crime Commission that first brought the situation to light by reporting it to federal officials. “Some time ago we received some information from people alleging that while Mr. Mayfield and Mr. Markham were on the board of the New Orleans Library Foundation, they were directing money donors gave to the foundation for the library system … to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra,” attorney and Crime Commission President Rafael C. Goyeneche told JazzTimes.

He added that the Library Foundation requires board members to disclose potential conflicts of interest and abstain from votes in such situations. Describing the commission’s standard process, Goyeneche said when his team uncovers information about potential corruption, they generally pass it along “to a proper law enforcement agency that has the authority to conduct a review.” He confirmed that he had done just that with the information about Mayfield and Markham, and that the matter remains under investigation.

Goyeneche added that the investigation should uncover “whether any laws were violated and whether the money was inappropriately diverted to the jazz orchestra.” In the meantime, Mayfield and Markham are conducting their own “thorough, independent investigation” into the matter, according to a representative for NOJO who stressed that her clients could not comment on the Jazz Market until the investigation was complete.

In the meantime, programming continued to expand at the Jazz Market ahead of the fall season, when the orchestra and other artists are expected to begin performing with some regularity in the Jazz Market’s main space.

On a Friday night in July, members of local ensemble the Trumpet Mafia performed their regular weekly set in
the Bolden Bar before a handful of patrons—a typical-size crowd for low-key jazz on a quiet and hot summer night in New Orleans.

A crate of records sat next to a turntable on the bar, left over from that day’s “Miles Davis’ Living Room” program. The recurring event invites guests to test-drive jazz albums, use the free Wi-Fi and enjoy coffee or cocktails at the bar. In the space intended to hold interactive monitors displaying digital jazz archive information, jazz-related books for adults and children had been displayed against the walls, separated by a table where visitors could sit and peruse them.

The next night, banjoist and singer Don Vappie—who contributed an expectedly lighthearted and fun rendition of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” to the New Orleans Jazz Playhouse CD set—delivered a solo performance in the Bolden Bar. Other performers in July included New Orleans-based piano and organ player Joe Ashlar performing music from the Great American Songbook and pianist Oscar Rossignoli, who focused on Duke Ellington material.

Markham’s hope to expand the Jazz Market’s offerings beyond jazz and literacy was also starting to take shape, courtesy of wellness-related panels and free exercise programs sponsored by the insurance agency Peoples Health. Finally, Harlem’s Apollo Theater, which announced a NOJO and Jazz Market partnership in April, was in the process of developing programs to that end. While nothing was set in stone for the market in July, the theater’s executive producer Mikki Shepard said she and her team hoped to present an “Apollo Music Café,” curated by Mayfield, at the New Orleans venue.

Shepard had also lined up a weekend’s worth of activities at the Apollo on Oct. 30 and 31, pegged to the New York premiere of Dee Dee’s Feathers. In addition to performances by Mayfield, NOJO and Bridgewater, and the New Orleans-based Brass-A-Holics, the Apollo-NOJO team expected to host “a jam-inspired set” featuring young female vocalists curated by Bridgewater.

Shepard went on to describe her working relationship with Mayfield and Markham in glowing terms. Comparing the Apollo and Jazz Market’s shared goals of supporting emerging artists and building a younger, more diverse audience for jazz, she called NOJO “natural partners.” “Partnerships can be challenging, but not so in this case. We have a great working relationship with Irvin and Ron and we see so many possibilities and advantages to this relationship for both organizations,” Shepard said. “We respect and admire Irvin’s artistry and the way in which he continues to push the boundaries of jazz forward and innovate within the genre.”


The Jazz Market’s relationship with the library is less clear-cut. Asked if the digital archive, monitors and other library amenities would still be installed in the Jazz Market, Library Foundation Board President Bob Brown said in an email that it was too early to know for sure. “The Library Foundation is in the midst of compiling and verifying all of the information related to contributions from the foundation to the Jazz Market and the use of those funds,” he wrote. “That will take at least a few more weeks. It would be premature to comment on this at this time.”

Meanwhile, Mayfield and NOJO’s programming director, Stephanie Mayne, both resigned from their positions at the University of New Orleans, where Mayfield taught a music class, a humanities class and ran the New Orleans Jazz Institute. Their resignations were announced in August. As for the future of the Institute, UNO music department chair Charles Taylor told JazzTimes that no decision had been made. “The future of the Jazz Institute is under discussion; the situation is giving us the opportunity to reassess the role of the Jazz Institute in the university and how best to incorporate it into our programs,” he wrote in an email. Taylor said he was not involved in the process of Mayfield’s resignation and therefore could not comment on why he left; however, WWL reported both Mayfield and Mayne stepped down due to “scheduling conflicts,” citing a statement from NOJO spokesperson Malcolm Ehrhardt. Shortly before the announcement, WWL reported NOJO had used part of a $125,000 grant to pay its own musicians for two concerts. The money was reportedly awarded to Mayfield’s organization for its assistance in putting together the opening of New Orleans’ Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.

Just before press time, two nights of NOJO music were announced for the Jazz Market in late October, a Jelly Roll Morton program with the ironic title “Truth, Lies & Gossip.” During the summer, Mayfield repeatedly declined to speak to press about the allegations against him as the federal investigation continued. But back in January, Mayfield said he and Markham hoped the Jazz Market would be the beginning of a larger foray into real estate. “We still want to build a $150 million, what I would call a ‘jazztarium,’” Mayfield mused at the time. “Like our chairman Ron Forman has done with all of his wonderful nature builds. I reference those to put into perspective what this project was. We didn’t see it as kind of like the end-all, be-all last building project that we will ever do. We see this as the first very important step in its mission to be a community space and really make a difference in this neighborhood and give the musicians a place to play.”

For that to happen, NOJO will need to follow through on its promise to return $863,000 to the Library Foundation. Mayfield will also need to come out of the federal investigation without being found guilty of breaking any laws. The stakes are a bit higher given NOJO’s nonprofit status, as the Nonprofit Risk Management Center recently reported an increase in the number of nonprofit organizations being stripped of their tax exemptions.

“Our mission statement at NOJO,” Mayfield said in January, “is the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra creates jazz to enhance life, transform place and elevate spirit through the tenets of truth, love and beauty.”

Before & After with Delfeayo Marsalis

28 10 2015
Delfeayo Marsalis. (Photo: Keith Major)

Delfeayo Marsalis. (Photo: Keith Major)

JAZZ TIMES, OCT. 28, 2015:

Walking into trombonist and producer Delfeayo Marsalis’ home in Uptown New Orleans is a little like stepping into a hyperbaric chamber of creative stimulation. A piano peeks out from beneath sheet music and a dozen or so awards. Books like John McCusker’s Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz sit on the coffee table and line the wall space not adorned with art, while trombones and horn parts battle for space in the corners. It’s a fitting home base for an artist whose creative output has long been characterized by big-picture thinking that aims to provoke as much thought as it does enjoyment.

The latest example of that work came in 2014 with The Last Southern Gentlemen(Troubadour Jass), an homage to the essential human element of jazz and his first full-length recording with his father, Ellis Marsalis. (Delfeayo is now 50, three years younger than his brother Wynton, who is a year younger than their brother Branford.) And while the trombonist’s acclaimed production skills have taken a backseat to performance lately, his producer’s hat is always on—a point he made abundantly clear while offering insights on the following selections.

1. American Jazz Quintet
“Never More” (In the Beginning, AFO). Alvin Battiste, clarinet; Warren Bell, alto saxophone; Harold Battiste, tenor saxophone; Ellis Marsalis, piano; Richard Payne, bass. Recorded in 1956.

BEFORE: On the heels of the passing of Mr. Harold Battiste, you’re playing a song that features my father and Alvin Battiste, and if I’m not mistaken it’s called “Never More.”

In every town, used to be there’d be the set of musicians and the cats could play. In Pittsburgh, these guys ended up on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Those guys could play. And in Detroit it was Marcus Belgrave and his boys. So that’s how it sounds to me. It sounds like a group of musicians that if a traveling musician were to come to town and say, “Hey, we need some cats who can play,” they’d call this group. If it is my dad, I’m not used to hearing him sound that way.

AFTER: A lot is said about my dad and his influence on musicians, but to be honest, that’s just the New Orleans way. There are so many teachers, like Harold Battiste, Alvin Batiste, Kidd Jordan, John Longo, John Fernandez, Danny Barker, [a guitarist, banjoist and singer who] taught the whole traditional New Orleans crew that’s playing [today], the guys who are now in their 50s and 60s. You know, [trumpeter] Leroy Jones and [trombonist] Lucien Barbarin.

These are all musicians who love the music so much that they’ve given up much of their time and many hours of their lives to help the younger musicians grow.

2. Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya
“Calypso Minor” (Sotho Blue, Sunnyside). Ibrahim, piano; Andrae Murchison, trombone; Cleave Guyton, alto saxophone, flute; Keith Loftis, tenor saxophone; Jason Marshall, baritone saxophone; Belden Bullock, bass; George Gray, drums.
Recorded in 2011.

BEFORE: Immediately I can tell, just from the sound quality, that this is more recent. I don’t know who it is immediately, but the bass has that dreaded bass direct sound, a rubbery kind of sound. I would have edited out the bass solo. Sorry, bassist, whoever you are. It’s a pretty long bass solo compared to the other solos.

It sounds good. It’s well presented, but it doesn’t have a certain kind of bite that I like. But it’s good music. I like that it doesn’t sound like the guys are just runnin’ a bunch of patterns. They’re trying to talk, and to me the gauge of a great soloist is how much he or she sounds like they’re talking as opposed to running scales or patterns [that sound] like gibberish.

AFTER: Oh! OK. … I actually realized that some of my early harmony understanding came from playing with [Ibrahim]—even though I didn’t realize it as I started to compose.

It’s from a French film he scored called No Fear, No Die, from 1990.

Again, interesting; I can see now that it’s for a soundtrack. Maybe the design for the soundtrack is a little different. It probably worked out perfectly.

3. Elvin Jones
“Tintiyana” (Midnight Walk, Atlantic). Jones, drums; Thad Jones, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), piano; Don Moore, bass. Recorded in 1966.

BEFORE: I can tell it’s an older recording. Have no idea who it is. Seems like they got this song in the studio, because they’re not really owning the song but they’re playing it and sometimes that’s a great part of the experience. … I feel similarly about this as I did with the Abdullah Ibrahim song, where it doesn’t really seem like it gets to a climactic spot. That may be because they’re trying to figure out what is going on with the song. Just from a sound standpoint I would say that has to be something from the ’60s.

It was actually written by Abdullah as Dollar Brand.

AFTER: Are you kidding me?! Man, that was a tame day for Elvin. But the other part of that is these musicians, they performed and recorded so much. I remember asking Elvin about the A Love Supreme session and he just said, “You know, we just went in and did what we did every day.” And that’s how they approached it. Now we look at that recording like, “Oh, it’s such a thing.” So that’s kind of what that song sounds like: These guys came in and they played. I’m sure they got that song at the date and they’re just trying to figure out what to do with it.

4. Preservation Hall Jazz Band
“Rattlin’ Bones” (That’s It! , Sony Legacy). Mark Braud, trumpet, background vocals; Charlie Gabriel, clarinet, background vocals; Clint Maedgen, tenor saxophone, background vocals; Ben Jaffe, banjo, background vocals; Rickie Monie, piano; Ronell Johnson, sousaphone; Joe Lastie, drums; Freddie Lonzo, vocals. Recorded in 2012.

BEFORE: Ha! That’s an old riff. Oh, the big fat booty! Oh yeah, this is a contemporary recording. … The trumpet player’s playing is more modern than what you would [normally] hear in that style. Trumpet’s got good strong chops. I’m not sure exactly who that is, reminds me of a couple of different people in a couple of different instances. Tuba is good; vocal is a little loud. The band sounds like they’re in the background, but that might work for the kind of sound that they were trying to get. This is a good song. I think it really captures that New Orleans feeling in the way the musicians like to play spontaneously.

AFTER: Is that my cousin on trumpet, Mark Braud? Yeah. I was thinking Andrew Baham was playing trumpet. Mark’s [playing here] is similar to the way I’ve heard Andrew Baham play. They bring that modern sound, some of the things that Wynton did, and they bring that into the traditional sound. Branford isn’t always a fan of that, but I like it. Mark had good strong chops. I’m gonna call you for a gig, cousin!

The vocal may have also been overdubbed. If you overdub any instrument it’s hard to recreate the balance; it’s either gonna be too loud or too soft. For some reason, when you have a group of instruments and then you do an overdub it’s almost impossible to make it sound like it’s in the same room at the same time. Or they had [the vocalist] isolated and the rest of the band was in the same room. That’s just something I know from having done overdubs. You can come close but it’s very difficult to balance.

5. The Curtis Fuller Sextette
“Kachin,” (Imagination, Savoy). Fuller, trombone; Thad Jones, trumpet; Benny Golson, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Dave Bailey, drums. Recorded in 1959.

BEFORE: Curtis Fuller. It’s such a distinctive sound. Hmm. Yeah. Three or four notes and you know immediately. Ha! Yeah, this is early Curtis. It’s from the late ’50s, huh? This has the kind of intensity that I like. Oh, that’s one of the records with Benny Golson. I don’t know this record. Sounds like Van Gelder’s studio, too. [Ed. note: He’s correct regarding the studio.] I couldn’t hear it with Curtis playing but I can hear it now that Benny Golson is playing. This might be the early ’60s too. It’s either late ’50s or early ’60s; if I had my headphones I could tell. Oh, this is one of Curtis’ tunes. He liked to write tunes where the harmony moves a certain way.

This is like an inspirational preacher. It’s like, you know about Martin Luther King, you know “I Have a Dream” and we know about “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” But there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other speeches that were that inspiring, and that’s the way it is to hear Curtis. It may not be one of the classic songs that we’re familiar with, but he knew how to tell a story.

AFTER: Thad again! It’s an elusive sound. It’s just somebody I’m not as familiar with.

6. John Ellis & Double-Wide
“Booker” (Charm, Parade Light). Ellis, tenor saxophone; Alan Ferber, trombone; Gary Versace, organ; Matt Perrine, sousaphone; Jason Marsalis, drums, cymbals. Recorded in 2014.

BEFORE: Nicely articulated. Again, it’s a pop kind of recording. You don’t get the sense that the guys are in the same room. It’s a different emotional feeling.

Is that my little brother, Jason? And Rick Trolsen? It doesn’t really sound like Rick but I’m trying to think of other trombone players that he played with. Jason did some stuff with John Ellis. I could see it being John Ellis on tenor. The trombone was good, well articulated. Trolsen’s got a little more grease in the stew.

I like to hear what they sound like together and here everybody’s isolated. You hear what they’re playing but it’s a different sensitivity.

AFTER: It’s good. They got the New Orleans feel. I like a little more of the street sound, a little bit more of that edge on it—like from that Curtis [track]. It’s a different time period, but you know what I mean. That’s what I personally like when I hear the New Orleans groove. … Yeah, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be Trolsen, ’cause, yeah, he got grit.

7. Kai Winding & J.J. Johnson
“Trixie” (The Great Kai & J.J. , Impulse!). Winding, Johnson, trombones; Bill Evans, piano; Tommy Williams, bass; Art Taylor, drums. Recorded in 1960.

BEFORE: That J.J.? Yeah, J.J. It’s an older recording. Is it Kai Winding? Is it J and Kai? Yeah. The ’60s. I can tell by the panning of it, it’s the ’60s.

J.J. was really important because of his insistence on precision. And Kai Winding developed a lot playing next to J.J. over the years. You hear early Kai Winding and he sounds rough. But playing next to somebody who insists on precision, it’s almost like the way Wynton plays—it has to affect you when you play. J.J., he’s really clear with his thinking. That’s really important as a soloist, to be as clear as possible with your thinking. He can be safe when you hear enough of his recordings, but again, everybody can’t do everything. This is much more safe than the Curtis we heard. But where J.J.’s like, “I know how to swim but I’m not sure what’s in these waters,” Curtis is like, “Man, hell with it—let’s find out what’s in the waters!”

[Impulse!] also put out a record called The Great Kai & J.J. Aha! Racial awareness of the times. The white guy’s gonna sell the records. I mean, come on, man. Kai Winding wouldn’t have said that. They got Kai Winding all in the front on the cover and J.J.’s all in the back. It’s just what it is. Sign of the times. Couple of the J.J. records, they would put white folks on the covers, like a white girl holding the trombone [J.J. Johnson’s Jazz Quintets, on Savoy]. We’ve always had to deal with the race thing. We’re always going to have to deal with that. It’s just a question of how do we deal with it.

I think this was probably recorded at Van Gelder’s too. Yeah, definitely Van Gelder’s. [Ed. note: He’s correct.] When was it from, like ’63 or ’64?

AFTER: OK, this is that record! I have it somewhere. The Great Kai & J.J.! I don’t think so, buddy. Yeah, here it is—Kai is in the front, J.J.’s in the back. And in the alphabet, J comes before K. It should have been J and Kai. Those doggone Marsalises, they’re always looking for any little thing. … The Great Kai & J.J. You gotta be kidding me. Nothing against Kai, but whatever. Come on, man. It’d be like The Great Chet Baker & Miles, you know?

8. Ron Carter
“Ten Strings” (Uptown Conversation, Embryo). Carter, basses, composer; Sam Brown, guitar. Recorded in 1969.

BEFORE: This is a modern bass kind of thing. I don’t like that particular sound, but there’s something to be said about it. With an electric sound, you could play faster in a certain kind of way better than you could with an acoustic sound. But, to me, [Scott LaFaro] was the one who did this. Bill Evans, knowing that he couldn’t possibly compete with Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly to create his own trio sound, I think he said, “We’re gonna go more to that European thing,” which is like the symphony orchestra, where you don’t have any string sound. You don’t have anything that would be kind of aggressive.

There’s another great record [featuring LaFaro], The Arrival of Victor Feldman. I saw the record cover when I was at Berklee. It’s like three white guys on a beach with loud colors and I was like, “Pshh, I gotta buy this record.” I love playing it for bass players ’cause only one, Delbert Felix, knew that it was Scott LaFaro. They’re not used to him playing that aggressively.

So Bill Evans was the guy who decided, “We’re gonna play the acoustic bass more like a guitar—no string sound, nothing aggressive.” And a lot of people have followed suit. Personally, I like, you know, you’re playing bass. It’s masculine. I don’t like that feminine kind of a bass sound.

AFTER: The bass direct is important for various reasons. This is not indicative of the classic bass direct sound. But for the type of mood that Ron Carter’s trying to set, I think this was good for that. … Ron Carter is such a master of the instrument he can pretty much do whatever he wants to do. He’s hittin’ some bass tone here. Ron Carter, man. And that’s ’69? Wow.

9. Baby Dodds Trio
“Buddy Bolden Blues” (Jazz a’ la Creole, Circle). Dodds, drums; Albert Nicholas, clarinet; Don Ewell, piano. Recorded in 1951.

BEFORE: This is clearly old. “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” right? I have to guess it could be Jelly Roll Morton on piano. The clarinet … I know that sound. It sounds like somebody who played with Frog Joseph on these Sidney Bechet records. That sounded like it’s from the ’40s or the ’30s.

AFTER: Albert Nicholas, yes! That’s the thing he played on the Sidney Bechet recording. What year was it?

1951. You quoted Baby Dodds in the liner notes for The Last Southern Gentlemen, in reference to his willingness to play softly when the vibe of a room required it.

Yeah, and it’s interesting because you can hear the sense of humor that Baby Dodds had. That’s what sticks out with me, the changes he’s making throughout the course of the song. It’s not at all like some of the jazz drummers you hear who play one particular way. But this has a lot of great variety to it in the way that he’s changing it up. I didn’t even miss the bass. But that’s that joy that comes with New Orleans music.

Review: Through the Streets of the City: New Orleans Brass Bands

14 07 2015

Downbeat March 2014

cmichaelw Through the Streets of the City: New Orleans Brass Bands

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW 40212

 4 stars

Guided by clarinetist Dr. Michael White’s curatorial hand, Smithsonian’s latest  installment of its African American Legacy Recordings series features new  recordings by the Liberty, Treme and Hot 8 brass bands to offer a  comprehensive survey of today’s New Orleans brass band scene. As White  points out in the disc’s extensive liner notes, the bands represent traditional  (Liberty), updated-traditional (Treme) and modern (Hot 8) takes on a form that  dates back to the 1830s yet in 2015 remains one of the city’s most identifiable – and popular – types of music.

Selections here alternate between marches, 12-bar blues, hymns and pop-styled hits that incorporate elements of funk, jazz and R&B. Together, they open a window on how the music has both changed and stayed the same over the course of its nearly century-long development. The disc leads off with a crisply recorded rendition of the parade staple, “Paul Barbarin’s Second Line” by the Liberty Brass Band. On the same group’s rendition of “Panama,” an opening round of drum rolls combined with the tuba’s slow and steady cadence recalls the music’s military roots. The jazz funeral tradition resonates in the clipped horns and plaintive clarinet wails on “Liberty Funeral March,” as well as in the placement of the Hot 8’s up-tempo “Steamin’ Blues” immediately after the march. “Give Me My Money Back” represents the Treme Brass Band at its best, while the Hot 8’s moving street hit “New Orleans After the City” reverberates with the kind of regional pride that’s been so essential to rebuilding efforts over the past ten years.

The notes, meanwhile, include White’s capsule history of how and why the music changed over time the way it did – and what roles brass band icons like Doc Paulin, Oscar Papa Celestin and others played in that development. A compilation of suggested reading and listening at the notes’ end is a nice touch, giving listeners a chance to further explore the music’s history in order to understand its present landscape.

Through the Streets of the City: New Orleans Brass Bands: Paul Barbarin’s Second Line; The Sheik of Araby; Panama; Liberty Funeral March; Steamin’ Blues; We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City; Keepin’ It Funky; Old Rugged Cross; Grazing in the Grass; New Orleans (After the City); Give Me My Money Back; Lily of the Valley; Shake It and Break It (1:09:37).

Personnel: Liberty Brass Band: Dr. Michael White, clarinet/leader; Gregory Stafford, trumpet; Wendell Brunious, trumpet; Dwayne Burns, trumpet; Lucien Barbarin, trombone; Maynard Chatters, trombone; David Harris, trombone (4); Roger Lewis, alto saxophone; Daniel Farrow, tenor saxophone; Dimitri Smith, sousaphone; Kerry Lewis, baritone (1,4); Paul Barbarin, snare drum; Cayetano Hingle, bass drum; Treme Brass Band: Benny Jones, snare drum/leader; Kenneth Terry, trumpet, vocals, tambourine; Terence Taplin, trombone; Roger Lewis, soprano and baritone


Tour New Orleans Music History with the Jazz Houses App

14 07 2015

This one looks much better on its, so check out the full text and photos over there. I’ll just post the intro below. Very cool that the Preservation Resource Center in New Orleans is working to raise awareness about some of these important historic sites. I’d also encourage you to read my friend and colleague Dave Kunian’s New Orleans Jazz Landmarks Languish in Disrepair. Or go old-school and contact a human — John McCusker — for the most informed and interesting jazz tour you’ll find in New Orleans. Anyway, intro and link to more below:

bolden-1 On a quiet corner in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood, a modest, mostly  boarded-up double shotgun painted a muted shade of yellow holds a key to the  birth of what we now call jazz. From 1887 until 1905, the building at 2309 First  St. was the home of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, whose blues-oriented and  improvisation-heavy cornet playing is now widely recognized as the first  example of the genre.

For years, sites like the small, maroon stoop where Bolden helped engineer one  of America’s greatest cultural touchstones went largely unnoticed, falling victim to blight or demolition. But thanks to the newly updated and relaunched Jazz Houses: Where They Lived app from the Preservation Resource Center, the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and local tech firm Culture Connect, music lovers can now access interactive maps – along with music clips, photos, and short biographies – detailing the locations where titans of New Orleans music history once lived.

Researched by historian Dr. Jack Stewart, the free mobile app spans neighborhoods from Uptown to Algiers and beyond. Many of the homes featured in the app boast memorial plaques courtesy of the PRC and the New Orleans Jazz Commission, which are working together to commemorate these important landmarks. More than 60 plaques have already been installed, with hundreds more awaiting plaques of their own, according PRC education and outreach director Suzanne Blaum. (Two of the next plaques slated to be unveiled will mark “Uncle” Lionel Batiste’s former residences at 2733 Annette St. in the Seventh Ward and 5543 Press Drive in Pontchartrain Park).

“The reason we should preserve the physical representations of jazz residences in New Orleans,” says Stewart, “is because when you go into the neighborhoods and see what their residences looked like, it provides a context so that you feel much more connected to the past and the people who were there.”

The Jazz Houses sites are searchable by artist or neighborhood, with buildings that remain in need of structural support enumerated in a separate “Jazz Houses in Jeopardy” section.

“It’s important to save the places where our jazz musicians lived and made music because it’s our culture,” says PRC Executive Director Patty Gay. “It’s what makes New Orleans unique.” Read more


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