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Some Where on the Far Side of Eisenhower January 12, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Fortin Street, Jazz, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Eric and I are the oldest people in the room I think, the only ones who might have heard these ancient swing tunes coming from the cloth grill of a hardwood hi-fi set or or on some long-reprogrammed station from a Solid State AM Radio in the Chevrolet dashboard of 1960. We stand up at the front of the bar because every seat along the bar and wall is taken by a crowd born in a time when the guitar was the undisputed king, when trumpet and strings meant Peter and the Wolf. Linnzi Zaorski stands willow-sapling straight at the microphone, the swing mostly in her sweet-tea voice with just with just a bobble-doll accompaniment from her head and shoulders, her hips and one hand keeping time as softly as brushes on a snare. Her publicity photos like those of the other jazz standard singers in town suggest sultry but under the spot tonight she is all wholesome blond and smile, ready for the pageant judges.

The band of trumpet, violin, hollow-bodied electric and upright bass doesn’t need a drummer to swing. Close your eyes when they start “Lady in Red” and you would swear there were two trumpets instead of Charlie Fardella’s one and a violin. Matt Rhodi’s fiddle reminds me that somewhere between Carnegie Hall and Church Point there is a whole other sound, that nothing swings quite like a violin. The bassist is late and through the first set Matt Johnson’s hollow body drives the band, comping Kansas City swing warm and bright as the glow of antique amplifier filaments, taking delicate solos that complement Zaorski’s voice. Once Robert Snow sets the dance floor thrumming its just a matter of time before the dancers peel off the wall and start to take the floor. I don’t have a notebook and I’m too beer-tipsy fascinated by it all to keep a set list in my head. The sound is almost too clear. You expect the wandering modulation of a distant short wave station broadcasting from somewhere on the far side of Eisenhower like the RKO tower. These songs were growing old before most of the band was born but here tonight they are fresh again. The seated players lean into the songs, intent as surgeons, while the base player’s eyes close and off he goes where ever the hell it is bass players go when they are mounted by the melody. The dance floor fills by fits and starts, one couple at a time at first as if by prearrangement, the jitterbug and Lindy Hop couples each taking their turns, inviting the crowd to marvel at their steps like the first Lindy Hoppers at the Savoy in Harlem most of a century ago.

“Can you believe this? That we’re here listening to this?” Eric asks. We are like two old vaudevillians between shows grabbing a glass of beer and of course I answer as I always do. “Yeah, this sucks. Cleveland. That’s where we should be tonight. I bet it’s happening in Cleveland.” We both laugh and the people around us give us the slantwise eyeball and edge away a just-visible inch. Cleveland. Right. Somewhere in Cleveland in a Holiday Inn there may be a quick-silver blond with Betty Grable legs crooning with a pianist who misses his ashtray more than his youth, but I don’t think you would find a house full of kids and wish-they-were’s leaning in toward the singer just as the band does, swept into Zaorski’s updo and baby-doll vocals. The whole room–band, dancers, audience– is titled slightly toward the singer and you can almost see the energy flicker by spark jump from the crowd up to her and come back in a brilliant million candle-power flood of Forties poise and song.

I first heard Zaokrski sitting in with the Jazz Vipers at the Spotted Cat, before the big split in the band, before HBO’s Treme packed that place like the last dry room on the Titanic and they moved the stage and took away the old wicker chairs and couch where non-dancers like me could wait for a chance to collapse and just get lost in the sound. I’m not about to Google a lady’s age but Zaorski started a dozen years before that in a barroom called Southport on Bourbon Street. Between songs she talks about singing over the football game, of the bartender vacuuming around the bands’ feet during the last set. Swing has come a long way since bands like the Jazz Vipers took swing out of the dance-class and wedding ballroom and brought it back to the smoke and mirrors of the barroom where it was born. Half a dozen bands work the trade now to fill all the dance cards of the jitterbug-crazy retro fedora and nylons crowd. Its impossible for a stand-and-drink man like myself not to watch the footwork of the dancers but when singers like the sparkling Zaorski and pin-up sulty Ingrid Lucia and the fiery Meschiya Lake with her updo and tattoos take the stage the real magic is straight up center over the microphone. The magic of all the swing cats–men and women, singers and players–is the magic of jazz, the ability to bend space and time like notes, to take you out of yourself and toward another time and place, in this case to a scene out of some Ronald Reagan Rest Home dream, where the syncopation of music and feet among the sharp hats and shapely gams made old cats like us first twinkle in someone’s eye.

Jumping the Groove October 22, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Fortin Street, Jazz, New Orleans, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street.
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like a skittering stylus, a warp in the musical continuum when even the moderately sophisticated listener who is not a player loses connection to the time, the drummer Ali Jackson’s soft foot on the bass drum and his mad, scattering drum licks like the branches of lightning in a duo with Victor Goines’ tenor, playing inside the time that lifts the listener outside of the time, outside of Time entirely, into a void bright as stage light with only two voices, reed and drum, murmurs of appreciation and cocktail clink muted to zero, everything not born of breath and stick muted to zero, the players trading off one to the other, trafficking in time on a wavelength undefined by sine and cosine, mind to mind, instrument to instrument. When great players recalibrate time your body, unnoticed, still dies cell by cell but your mind is briefly illumined by the infinite, your life not longer but broader, your personal event horizon expanding in a perfect sphere to encompass everything which, in that moment, is not, the Big Bang and Gabriel’s horn reconciled.

Uncle Lionel July 8, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, je me souviens, music, New Orleans, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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NEW ORLEANS — Legendary Treme Brass Band leader and drummer Uncle Lionel Batiste passed away Sunday morning. He was 81.

04 – Gather by the River

Shield of Beauty April 27, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, music, quotes, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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“. . . I am going to put a shield of beauty
over the face of the earth to protect us.”

– Sun Rha

Manoir de Mes Reves July 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Jazz, music, New Orelans, The Narrative.
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Do you have any Gerry Mulligan? my son asked. His school band leader asked him to pick it up last year because he wanted one in his orchestra, and it took. He’s going to have to give Franklin’s back (which he was allowed to keep all summer) and you don’t want to know what a barri costs. I said I only had one song, and it’s one I’ve had for a very long time. (I now own a couple of records through the magic of the Internet and he has copies of both).

Through all my years in Fargo Leigh Kamman’s The Jazz Image on Saturday nights was a lifeline to a larger world, a window into the past of jazz, an education it would be hard to duplicate anywhere else. He always opened his show with this song, and all of Saturday’s chores and the long week’s labors would melt away in Gerry Mulligan’s soaring baritone. The closest you can come to approximating the tone color and cadance of the voice of the now retired Kamman, the small hours of morning club cool, is to listen to K. Balewa’s Morning Set Wednesdays on WWOZ, but while Balewa’s is raspy brushed snare and the low register of the trumpet Kamman’s was all horns, the baritone in the lead, the sound of the opening choruses of this song.

Manoir de Mes Reves (Django’s Castle)

A thousand silos aimed at what? May 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, literature, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Gil Scott-Heron died the other day.

I had been thinking of him lately, partly born out of a conversation I had during Jazz Fest. I spent most those two weekends sitting on my stoop on one of the plastic chairs I set out front, watching the crowds pass in and out the Sauvage Street gate, seeing who would pick up a sheet or three from the Free Jazz Poetry box I had placed atop of five gallon bucket on Fortin Street. Any number of people stopped by and asked if they could sit for a minute, and I always said yes.

One afternoon a young black man who had been handing out Where Y’at asked to sit.He had come by earlier and picked up a sheaf of the poems I had printed up and laid out, not true jazz poems in the technical sense but poems written about musicians I admire. He still had the poems in his hands when he sat down. I asked him about handing out newspapers, if he was getting a free ticket to Jazz Fest like the hawkers of free copies of Off Beat. No, he was just getting paid to do it.

I’m also a poet, he said after we sat silently for a bit, smoking. I asked him where he read or performed. He wasn’t doing much of that here in New Orleans, he said. He wasn’t a New York style slam performer. He preferred the words, and apparently NOLA is all about the performance. And everywhere is a clique in spoken word circles, he said. I told him the mostly white mainstream poetry scene was pretty much the same. Uptown at the Leaf, downtown at the Goldmine, the universities: everywhere people were huddled in their little groups and only a few people regularly crossed those lines. Even outside of poetry, there are groups of writers clustered together who rarely talk to each other. We’re all in our little silos.

I told him I had been looking into checking out some of the spoken word events, even though I can’t hold anything in memory long enough to ever get up to the mike, and I’m certainly no performer. A handful of Black poets come to traditional poetry readings, but almost no one from my world ventures into the spoken word circle. I told him about visiting a spoken word event when I was in D.C. on business, at the historic Cavern night club on U Street, the only white person there, sitting alone against the wall sipping whiskey. They asked me when I came in if I was going to read, but I never did. I sat there soaking up the beautiful words and thinking about the people who occasionally visit the Goldmine or the Maple Leaf, wondering if they felt as alien as I did that night.

Artists like Gil Scott-Heron and Sun Ra (also much on my mind of late) spoke from a Black experience but did not intend their art to be only for people just like them. Sun Ra is often pigeon holed in the Afro-futurist movement he is credited with creating, is often thought to be Afrocentic in the exclusionary sense of the the men selling The Final Call who will not meet your eye. But Sun Ran himself spoke in his poetry of “niggers of all colors” and in the opening of his flim Space is the Place he first speaks of bringing the Black people of Earth to a new planet of their own, but quickly suggests that they bring the whole planet to a new world to start over.

Gil Scott-Heron certainly spoke from his Black experience but not all of his work is Afrocentric. Pieces like We Beg Your Pardon (about the Nixon pardon) and Winter in America spoke for all Americans, to all Americans who were ready to listen. He collaborated with rap and hip hop artists but declined the title of father of rap, saying he preferred Jazz. In spite of works like Whitey on the Moon there is not feeling he fell into the seperatist trap. Heron and Ra understood the universal power of music, to speak to all people, to get people to listen, to make a transformation in the world.

Here in 21st Century New Orleans writers divide themselves up by race, by ward, by style, by where’d-you-go-to-school, just like everyone else. I sat around with a dozen people who would seem to understand the power of words during the visit of New York writer Eileen Miles and who told jokes about why there are no Republican poets: they’re all speech writers. The laughter was uneasy. We understand the power of words but don’t do enough to use them as a weapon or a spell to change the world, leaving that to others. We sit in our comfortable groups and read to or perform for each other each in our chosen denomination of the church of the word, never thinking to step over the threshold into another experience. We think ourselves wiser, more hip but are we that much better off than everyone else living in the speed-dial, cable-package, friends list silos the masters have wrought to keep us penned like factory farm animals?

The young poet was trained as a journalist and had worked in that field out west, but everywhere in New Orleans he found door closed against him. One publisher went so far as to tell him they already had their black writer. I went into the house and pulled out my copy of Atlantis Now, a new magazine of culture and arts in the city founding young Black men at UNO. Given them a try, I suggested, and he said he would.

We already have our Black writer? Really? I wish I had asked him who that was. Even as our corporate fathers realign my job to another state and I was thinking of trying to make a go of free-lancing and to out that person would seriously fuck up my own prospects I would gladly call them out. One thing we learn from the great artists is the need to be fearless. For a long time on my blog and emails I had a signature taken from a poem by Audre Lorde: “and when we speak we are afraid/our words will not be heard/nor welcomed/but when we are silent/we are still afraid/So it/is better to speak/remembering/we were never meant to survive.” I watched the PBS special on the Freedom Riders two weeks ago and can’t shake the idea of twenty-year olds making their last will and testament then boarding the buses. Where are those people now?

So much that troubled Henry Blount in his youth in the 40s and 50s and gave birth to the persona Sun Ra, all the issues that fueled Scott-Heron’s work in the 60s and 70s are still with us, issues of class and race compounded in New Orleans by our rigid system of caste and ward, where the universal question of a stranger “where’d you go to school” is a password challenge: are you one of us? This is particularly sad in New Orleans, the place where the uniquely African-American forms of jazz and R&B that are the basis of America’s mainstream culture we all embrace were born. And a city given the same clean slate as Noah, a city where for one bright shining moment we were not Black or white, Uptown or Downtown, Catholic or Baptist but all children of the flood, a chance at transformation that we promptly squandered.

I know Scott-Heron’s music but haven’t read much about his thoughts of the world he just left, a world still under the seventh-generation curse of slavery. I wonder if art can really transform the world. If we don’t open our hearts and really listen it it can just be emotional heroin, a withdrawal into the soothing numbness of familiarity and our fractional identities, a habit hard to break. Yes the world has changed. We have a Black president presiding over the antiquated atomic silos that dot the Dakotas but our worries today are not The Bomb. Our worry is the silos we have built for ourselves that make the new Vietnams of the east possible, that leave us paralyzed to act as the right froths over Obama with the same vitriol as Alabamians meeting the Freedom Riders, in cities rings\ed with a wall of big box malls while the center withers in apathy, a world where Whitey’s On The Moon still resonates as the last space shuttles fly over a planet full of hunger and pain.

And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

– Gil Scott-Heron

N.B. — Read the comment just below the video.

Sun Ra on Fortin Street May 7, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Dancing Bear, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Sun Ra, Toulouse Street.
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“Its After the End of the World. Don’t You Know That Yet?”

Too busy watching the world go by and trying to hawk books to get together a Jazz Fest post today but stop by the Shrine of Sun Ra at the Fortin Street Stage on your way in or out and light a josh stick. I just had to respond to the very nice woman I met the other morning who put up the Jon Bon Jovi shrine, and the Cyndi Lauper shrine that went up in answer a few days later. I think a jazz artist and a man of such spiritual truth deserves a shrine.

For years, the tagline on my Wet Bank Guide blog was the signature chant from the Space is the Place film, “It’s After the End of the World. Don’t You Know That Yet?”, a perfect statement for the Alice in Underland situation of New Orleans. The flood was a baptism that washed away the original sin of conventional Anglo-Saxon America and left me a pure son of New Orleans. When I got my tattoo I went for Moose Jackson’s equally apt line “I’m not alright but I am upright” but it was a hard choice. I may yet have Sun’s words permanently inked on my body, marked forever with the sacred chant of the postdiluvian elect.

So stop by and get you some Cosmic Vibrations at the Shrine (and a beer, a bathroom and some beans). You know you want some.

The Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 504ever, fuckmook, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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They came early and the line stretched down Fortin Street even though it was only Friday, all in their straw hats spreading lotion, men in their ball caps and concert shirts, women in short-shorts and in cool summer whites, with parasols and backpacks and collapsible chairs, the barkers of sunglasses and hats and coozies that hang from your neck working the line until I was ready to kill the one who set up in front of my door incessantly shouting. I saw with my coffee and a cigarette watching them file past into the first day of Jazz Fest 2011.

I couldn’t tell you the line up. I’m working from home today and my joke post about being a stone’s throw from the gospel tent was “Jesus on the conference call, Tell him what you want” but first it was time for a mid-morning break, coffee and a cigarette in a dirty white resin chair next to my stoop to watch the crowd assemble then pass, perhaps to catch a bit of the excitement I’m wasn’t feeling looking at the line up. Today’s big act is Bon Jovi, and there’s a sign advertising the Shrine of Bon Jovi at 2992 Maurepas. The first fans are already at the gate two hours before it opens to stake their place.

This is why I was not that excited about what is still called the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the weeks leading up to this.

Yesterday I opened the door to sit on the stoop and smoke a cigarette and watch the crowd a man stood with camera gear slung around his neck, trying to make a cell call away from the chatter of the barkers and the anxious crowd. He didn’t get an answer and stood there a moment staring at his cell phone before he looked over my way and said nice seat.

It’s the Fortin Street Stage, I told him. Turns out the guy, who will remain nameless, with credits and credentials for a half-dozen jazz magazines, can’t get a press pass. He has hustled comps and even a press pass one year. Apparently someone at the festival hands them out to friends with tenuous credentials by the handful, and he managed to get one from a local lawyer one year. I didn’t go through the list with him, but let’s just say if you’re here from the Off Beat of L.A. you should get a press pass. Then again, this is not your grandfather’s jazz fest. I told him that back in the 1970s I could get a fistful of tickets for the University of New Orleans newspaper and went every day. I think you have to be from a rock magazine now, he said.

I see you have Rahsaan up on your wall he said, noticing a painting I have. He spoke of the other jazz fests he has attended elsewhere, ones where jazz in the name still means something. I told him about my visit to The Cavern in D.C. and looking at the marquee of coming acts, all the current touring big names and in jazz, none of whom every visit New Orleans. We spoke of Kenny G in the Jazz Tent, and talked about catching Ahmad Jamal and Sonny Rollins. He is debating staying for Rollins and having to buy another ticket out of his own pocket hoping to get some saleable shots. I said I planned to just walk up the street and plant as close as I can get to the Jazz Tent Saturday afternoon for Jamal, and was going in for Rollins because my son’s music program (sponsored by the Heritage Foundation) plays that morning.

I had never been a tremendous fan of the Gospel Tent, although I have friends who swear by it, always thinking I had too much else to see and do when inside. Today its a pleasant relief from work, to step outside with my coffee cup and listen to the choirs riffing on James Brown themes, to hear the sisters moan in a blessed tone as the John Boutte song goes, picking apart the music to find the roots of so much else I love in the pounding rhythm sections and soaring organ. I wonder how many Bon Jovi fans will pause outside the gospel tent today and recognize that much of modern popular music would not be possible without Southern gospel.

After Friday’s shows were over, a crowd who had rented the lot next door and erected tents cranks up their music right outside my window: the Charlie Daniels Band. As The Souths Gonna Do It Again replaced the sounds of gospel. What the hell are these people doing at Jazz Fest, I wonder? I step outside for a moment at glower around the corner them. I step back inside, and they crank it up a bit louder. Time to go all McAlary on them. I browse through my I-Tunes and decide on Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew. I turn my new Bose speakers outward, and turn it up, then wander into the back to stick my soaking red beans in the fridge for the night.

Forget the Acura Stage and Bon Jovi. Saturday’s lineup on the Fortin Street Stage includes Robert Cray in the Blues Tent and Ahmad Jamal in the Jazz tent (at the same time alas), just a short stroll up the street for me to listen over the fence. I’m going to cook up some red beans against any unexpected guests at the end of the day. I’ve got beer and water in the fridge and the bathroom’s clean. I’m ready to spend the day at my own private Jazz Fest. I just hope the stories aren’t true about the Bon Jovi fans booing Dr. John one year, anxious to hear their band, because if I hear the fuckmooks boo Irma Thomas who plays just before their band the Shrine of Bon Jovi is going to be in serious danger.

Elephants on Parade April 14, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Voices and whistles, the constant beeping of backing vehicles and the rattle of steel frames, all the noise of massive tents being erected: I almost expect the elephants to pass in parade but it’s not the circus come to town but the preparations for Jazz Fest. I admit the listings don’t inspire much excitement and I was thinking I would only go one day to see two of my favorite tenors, my son Matt and Sonny Rollins, but watching the jazz, blues and gospel tents assembling just across from my stoop on Fortin Street I have to admit I get the pleasantly anxious sensation of a child walking to school on Friday morning watching them erect the Ferris wheel.

I may still decide to go on only one day for a host of reasons including the lineup but I can still anticipate mornings on my stoop watching the crowds, sipping from a tall mug of coffee–black as the devil, hot as hell and strong as sin–listening to the sounds of the gospel tent wafting across Fortin Street. If you see an odd looking shirtless man dancing barefoot to Jesus on the Mainline as you walk in you will have found the temporary quarters of Toulouse Street.

P.S. While we’re on the subject of jazz and elephants…

The N.O. Jazz and Some Other Stuff Festival April 11, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans.
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I was talking to a friend the other day about how we had both fallen into like bluegrass music (Jerry Garcia recording Old and in the Way and the New Riders of the Purple Haze had a lot to do with it), and it put me in mind of the times I saw Doc and Merle Watson as a featured name artist at Jazz Fest.

Once upon a time the big Spring festival was the Jazz and Heritage Festival in earnest. I found a website, Swag’s Jazzfest Cube Rescue, which tries to capture old “cubes” showing the artists performing in years passed, and looking at cubes from say 2000 and a handful of earlier vintage reminded me how much the festival has transformed, and not necessarily for the better. Anyone remember the last time a blue grass band played the Gentilly Stage on a weekend? Me either. Neither does the Festival, as searching for Doc or Merle Watson on their official list of past performers turns up nada.

Looking at the old cubes was like a trip back in time to a schedule heavy with R&B, Blues and Jazz greats, along with a heaping helping of major local artists. As recently as the last Sunday in 2000, the closing acts were The Radiators, John Mooney, The Neville Brothers, Sonny Landreth, Joe Sample and King Sunny Ade and his African Beats. The closest the Festival got to pop acts that year were Lenny Kravitz and Lyle Lovette. Now the Festival seem to be in competition for the Voodoo Festival crowd, and I think anyone with a long history of attending the Festival will admit it is not just the same. I don’t know if the apocryphal story of a certain pop band’s fans booing Dr. John is true or not, but it feels about right.

If you don’t remember those days at the Fairgrounds, consider this. The lineup at this years French Quarter Festival is about what the lineup used to look like at Jazz Fest, minus the few big touring names. And it doesn’t cost $50 to go. Now if you’re a fan of Wheezer (whatever that is) or whoever else, $50 isn’t a bad price for access to the band whose stage you will camp in front of all day, with an entire afternoon of opening acts that might open your eyes to some new and different music and a all you can afford buffet of some of the best food and crafts you’ll see anywhere. Go for it. Have a blast. Stop by my stoop on Fortin Street and buy a water bottle. We’re glad you came to see your band and are here spending lots of money. Come back real soon. Or come for French Quarter Fest next year and see what you missed when your parents were coming to the Fairgrounds: a true festival of our heritage.

Refried Confusion Is Making Itself Clear August 7, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Well, once again your vision of us as a people at once lazy and shiftless and then again prone to party a bit too much will be confused by this weekend’s Satchmo Fest, during which we will drag ourselves out into the 110 degree heat index, temperature and humidity both well up in the nineties, to stand on blinding white concrete and infernally black macadam in this egg-baking heat and drink beer and dance in tribute to our native son and the music he helped give birth to.

If you wonder why we would do this consider this: did not your parents and grandparents drag themselves out to gyrate and shout in an sweltering August revival tent or to sit Quaker still in their best black all in the days long before air conditioning? There are certain rituals which must be observed for the saving of one’s soul, and in New Orleans a music festival–even one scheduled in the weatherman’s perfect ninth circle of summer hell–is one such opportunity to make a joyous noise and shake off the dust under our feet for a testimony against those who think all this foolishness.

Now, some of you may go out on an August day and stand bare chested with a beer over a blistering grill fire or take yourselves out in your Clorox-bottle plastic boats, lathered in sun screen and sipping again on that beer when sensible people might go to the movies for the cool and the dark, so don’t be too quick to judge. The price of that starter fluid and the gas in the outdoor may be the death of all our oysters and crabs, an event tantamount to the rest of America loosing its beef and white wheat bread for an indefinite period, but we are a faithful people, a hopeful people, a people of the book who have ingested all of the messages even if we don’t believe. We will walk through that desert for the promise, try to love our neighbors, and when things go wrong, well, Insha’Allah. Nothing to do but get up and do the next thing on the list, and at this moment Satchmo Fest is it.

Oh, hell, don’t listen to me. Let Ella and the fellas tell it. If that’s not heaven calling in that opening trumpet solo I don’t care. I’m following it wherever it leads.

Pedestrian I: 310 May 10, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Jazz, Pedestrian I, Toulouse Street.
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“Oh the streets of Rome/Are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints/Are everywhere.”
–Bob Dylan, “When I Paint My Master Piece”

310

Mondrian ruins on the hard luck side of Rampart, the pawn shop gone, the facades unredeemed, avoided by spooked rail-pass tourists walking past the remains of the Eagle Saloon wondering where the picturesque history and jazz are hidden.

A Viper Night on Frenchman Street December 27, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The Spotted Cat has always been a bit of a hole, with feeble A/C and bathrooms that make you wish there was a yard out back. It has none of the brick-back-wall, cocktail-waitress ambiance of the Snug Harbor across Frenchman, the city’s bastion of two-set, two-drink minimum traveling jazz artists, or the Tremé cache of Sweet Loraine’s on St. Claude, but the Cat is where New Orleans goes to swing.

The new management took out the beat couches and the high-back Caribbean wicker chairs which is a damn shame. The barmaid insists they moved the stage to make more room to dance but I doubt there’s enough room for one more couple than there was before. If you’re like me and don’t dance you will miss sinking into the cushions for a set but the Cat is as much about the dancers as it is the music. I’m there to listen to that old New Orleans jazz but you can’t beat the free floor show of Lindy Hoppers crowded onto the tiny dance floor. The barmaid isn’t very attentive but it’s clear she’s not there for the tips. She will spend half the night at the stage-end watching the band and as often as she can will vault the bar and dance.

You don’t have to be a dancer to be drawn to the Cat. This isn’t the sedate cocktail music that New Orleans jazz turned into when we were growing up, the sounds of Pete Fountain or Al Hirt that we smirked at in the 1960s. There is such raucous energy to these bands I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone pogoing lost among the swing dancers or be shocked to see one of the band members stage dive into the crowd. And at the same time it’s incredibly cerebral in an Odd sort of way like chess on crack, not the mathematical dance of Classical music but a Stravinsky opera-house riot of syncopation climbing up the lizard brain stem to light up your cortex like a Captain Fantastic machine with the ball trapped in a rapid ricochet between two bumpers and you find your wildly illuminated mind getting away from you and floating out with a soaring trombone solo over the dance floor filled with leering bishops and galloping knights swinging their queens in the complex moves of Lindy Hop and suddenly you realize (a comforting thought at age fifty-something) that maybe your parents or grandparents weren’t as square as you thought they were when you were a kid.


I set out last week with my buddy Eric who follows the dance bands when he’s in town (I’ve seen him and he’s good, having inherited his swing from parents he tells me were champion dancers in their day) to listen to the Cotton Mouth Kings, the band that came out of a split between members of the old Jazz Vipers. I don’t know the details first hand but the rumor outside between sets is that front man, tenor player and vocalist Joe Braun is a bonus baby, living off his New York money, and was not willing to take the Vipers to the next level as a working band. That’s a damn shame, because Braun’s Pops-like gravelly voice and spirited playing always seemed to be the heart of the group. But Braun is out, and the Cotton Mouth Kings now rule Friday night’s at the Cat.

The Kings swing every bit as hard as the Vipers. I don’t know who the titular leader is but guitarist John Rodli now is listed as vocalist in lieu of Braun. You may have seen Rodli sitting in with the Django gypsy Grappelli influenced Hot Club of New Orleans (and the new Cotton Mouth Kings have picked up violinist Matt Rhody from that group). Clarinetist Bruce Brackman (who was conspicuously absent from the last months of the Vipers and much missed; this music needs a clarinet player) not only plays with the Kings but with the Tremé Brass Band as well and “anywhere else I can” he told me one night after the Tremé were interviewed as part of a Louisiana Humanities Center series on New Orleans brass band.

One thing you notice about the New Orleans jazz scene, both parading and the swing dance scene, is the way the players overlap in the bands. That’s the way it’s been since Jack Laine picked up players on Exchange Alley to fill the bandstands of the 1920s. It seems a small world, but the number of working dance bands and the clubs that book them keeps growing (but keep in mind that in most of these clubs the band often plays just tips so don’t let the jar pass you by. There are a half-dozen groups playing on Frenchman and the Bywater regularly: the Vipers, the Cotton Mouth Kings, the Loose Marbles, the Hot Club of New Orleans, Zazou City and that list doesn’t include all the ensembles playing Preservation Hall, Fritzel’s Jazz Club and a half-dozen other venues.

It seemed for a time that jazz was a dying art, something staged at Sunday hotel buffets for the tourists but in the last generation that has changed. It’s not just the allure of swing. The chance for the dancers to dress out in their Forties finery as many of the dancers do is irresistible to people raised on Carnival. Its also the blossoming of the latest generation of parading bands into a nightclub phenomenon which has trained another generation’s ears to move past the guitar and hear the magic in a trumpet, the soaring wall of sound in a wailing ensemble playing from the perfect muscle memory of their grandfathers.

The Vipers had been noticeably absent from the listings for the last several months, so we were surprised as hell and secretly pleased to walk up Frenchman around eleven last Friday and hear Braun’s mellow growl and Jack Fine’s coronet spilling out into the street from the doors of the Cat. There is just something about Braun that stands out for me above the rest. Others have the look (Rodli in his slicked back hair and dark suits would not look out-of-place backing Stephene Grapelli in 1950s Paris) and the city is filled with talented players. There is just something about Braun that rolls it all up the way a practiced band pulls their disparate parts into a perfect song: the look of him slumped in his chair in a rumpled brown suit and flat cap cradling his sax, the satanic intensity of his up-tempo solos and the languid cigarette gargle of his vocals.

I don’t lament the passing of the old Jazz Vipers. I will always be able to say I was there, to travel back to the old Cat in memory when I hear their CDs. Where there was one band there are now two, just another reason to slip out of the house whenever I can and head down to Frenchman Street in the city where jazz was born and where it will never die.

(Drawing of Joe Braun lifted from PaulFayard.com. If you’re wondering what to get me for a 12th Night present this would be swell).

Come home to New Orleans, Bob Kaufman August 12, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I just finished Beat poet Bob Kaufman’s Ancient Rain and Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, two books of his I picked up at City Light’s bookstore when I was in San Francisco. I have had his anthology Cranial Guitar for a while but haven’t owned any of his full books. (His first, Golden Sardine, is out of print and new copies go for $150). Kaufman was a leading light of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and coined the term “beatnik”, and is considered America’s true Surrealist master.

A son of New Orleans the son of a German-Jewish father who was a railroad porter on the Chicago train and a Roman Catholic Black mother from Martinique who filled the home with books from estate sales), he lived elsewhere all of his grown life: on the ocean as a merchant seaman, in the port cities of the east coast where he was a merchant marine union rep and political organizer, and ultimately in and around San Francisco where he was a central figure of the emerging Beat generation

Kaufman wrote frequently about race, and his poem THE NIGHT LORCA COMES is one that has stuck with me since I first encountered it. In it he offers a vision of all Blacks leaving the south, liberated from its he geography of that dark history at last.

I understand the poem as the vision of an African-American political activist and poet living through the 1950s, but hope that in spite of the racial insanity that still prevails in the south today that many of us here in New Orleans are moving past that, that we have at least a core of people who want to build a city Kaufman would not recognize, one he would embrace as he did San Francisco. If he were alive today I would hope he would find life in the Bywater or 7th Ward as much to his liking as he once did life in North Beach.

I had meant to write something about my visit to San Francisco (and may yet get to that before I get swept away by the current) but for now, this is what something inside that would not let me drag my tired self to bed last night insisted I write this first.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And hear Leah Chase
Sing Mahalia Jackson
In the synagogue of the oaks
As magnolias brown and fall.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And see the old white south
Gathered at preservation hall
Where old Negro Bodhisattvas
Blow their Creole love songs.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
See the White Citizens Councils
Huddle in their Potemkin Americas
At the swampy back of town
In terror of their children’s radios.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see pale northern tourists
Hungry for that Black jazz
Wolf down bad okra gumbo
At Maspero’s slave exchange.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see Lorca’s sons openly
Embracing in the red carnations
Mirrored in the dark windows
Of the sad, historic cathedral.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And the ghosts of Congo Square
Will second line behind
Your broken poet’s bones
With an African brass band

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And Indians from all wards
Will carry you on their shoulders
The length of Basin Street
And sing that Indian Red.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And we will bury you in honor
bring flowers and pound cake
your hallow tomb with Marie Laveau
Homer Plessy and Eluard Burke.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And enter here, eternally
Into that crackling blueness
Of towering Gulf storms
Pouring out the ancient rain.

Mystery Street May 2, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The Jazz Tent can be a lonely place (however crowded) when most of your friends are off shaking it at Dr. John or Zachary Richard. If Mrs. Toulouse were coming she would come sit with me most of the afternoon, but I’m solo today. That will not, in the end, keep my away from the last tent by the Mystery Street exit.

I will try to catch Zachary Richard and Bonerama early so if you see an old geek in a Tilley hat doing the solo stoner shuffle that will probably be me. And at some point this afternoon I will find myself bidding farewell to all that and will head across the baking concrete of Heritage Square (thanking the Boggess for the good beer booths there) toward the Tent, getting ready to hear Jimmy Cobb’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

If you want to hear people who know their stuff talk about the record, you can jump right down to the short documentary at the bottom of this. This is the one jazz record you can buy at Target, has become iconic of jazz in so many minds of Jazz (capital J intended) because its just so damned perfect. The line up is an all star roster of the time (1959): John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderely, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on keys, Jimmy Cobb on drums and Paul Chambers on bass. The sound is perfect late 50s-early 60s Cool, so its easy on the ears as a Jazz 101 record to give friends, but sufficiently complex and damned near perfect that it bears up to listening to over and over again however deep into jazz you are.

Part of my musical experience is the transcendental sound of much of later 20th century jazz. As Americans drifted out of the old churches and into the secular world in that period we fashioned as we went our own pantheon and replacement religions. Out there somewhere behind the Cult of Kennedy, the Temple of the Most Noble Quarterback and the Shrine of the Four Liverpudlians is a path that takes you away from the noisy temple square and down toward a quiet and secret place. Before the arrival of the Merry Pranksters and the jam bands, jazz was our first mystery cult.

I am at best a minor acolyte, lacking the musical training to take apart recordings like diagramming a sentence or the inclination to memorize song and sidemen lists that jazz aficionados share with baseball fans. This record has much that captures my own call to jazz: that mystical something that draws the listener in, a captured vibration as old as Bog’s Big Bang; a swing that makes your feet move and your head nod, not danceable but a rhythm that spreads though the body like the a reverb heavy remix of your own heartbeat; the sparse notes building enormous colors that are wall of sound turned inside out, and solos like the high point of low church, a call home of tremendous voice and power to persuade.

Kind of Blue is just the record for initiates of the lowest order, and still speaks to the most high (many quoted in the brief film). If you don’t have a copy you can buy it at Target for chrissakes. Today the last surviving member of the session, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and his band will present a tribute to the record and I know I will be at the Jazz Test early to make sure I can claim a seat. If you don’t know the music but I’ve stirred the tiniest bit of curiosity come on by. Yes John Mayall will be next door and the O’Jays right over at Congo Square, but if you’re going to come to the Jazz and Heritage Festival (remember the name, right?) you should make at least one stop in The Tent, and this will be a good one.

So if you think you’re ready for your initiation, come on down toward the Mystery Street Gate (natch), last tent on the left. Initiation begins at 5:40.

Memo to Quint Davis April 19, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, African Music, blues, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Yesterday we pretty much planted ourselves at the Abita Stage at French Quarter Festival, with the idea that Mrs. Toulouse (nee’ Mrs. Wet) would really like to see Little Freddie King. (She was not disappointed).

All I could think of as I watched a parade of fine acts was that this is what Jazz and Heritage looks like. Casa Samba drew an estatic response from the crowd, who discovered a kindred set of booty shakers. And once the girls in the g-strings took the stage Boy suddenly lost interest in his phone’s video game and started paying attention.

We watched the Fatien Ensemble, organized by Dr. Micheal White and Jason Marsalis with superb African drummer Seguenone Kone merging jazz and African rhythms. (I caught Kone doing a show with Sunpie Barns a while back at the Maple Leaf, a magically ecstatic pairing), And of course we caught Little Freddie King. After wards Reynard Poche, New Orleans sideman extraordinaire took the stage with his own funk group. We left before 101 Runners, sadly, as they are a fantastic mix of funk and Indian.

And as I contemplated Jazz Fest next week (while I’ll be signing my book I’ll be missing out of Bon Jovi. Oh dear), I thought: this stage on the batture of the river where this city began, these acts on this stage; this is what the intersection of European and African music a century ago has done for the world.

This is our heritage.

Thank you French Quarter Fest and the artist sponsors for not forgetting why we live here, and why the visitors come. It is not for Bon Jovi.

P.S.–The sponsor for Fatien was Threadheads. Check out their site, activity and fund raising raffle.

The Sound of Building Coffins March 3, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, books, Jazz, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, voodoo.
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sobc_coverI don’t typically do What I’m Reading posts but I’m going to make an exception, maybe start a trend since my mind seems empty of good words of my own of late. I am about 2/3 of the way through Louis Maistros’ novel The Sound of Building Coffins and the reviews it has garnered so far (ex. “No novel since Confederacy of Dunces has done such justice to New Orleans”) are dead on.

Louis will be reading from his book and signing copies at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia Street, this Thursday March 5 at 6 p.m..

This lyrical tale of magic and transformation at the end of the Creole era and the start of the Jazz age weaves voodoo, jazz and race into a tapestry that captures the subtle pattern of New Orleans. This is bound to become (as the review quoted above suggests) one of the landmark evocations of the city. I normally wouldn’t write something like this until finishing the book* but I wanted to call out Louis’ reading and signing. Unless he’s been abducted by aliens and the publisher had a roomful of meth-fueled monkeys finish the book, I expect the last hundred pages to be as spellbinding as the first 250.

(The next day) Word.

* Confession: I once wrote a review of The Great Deluge on Amazon after reading the introduction and first chapter, confessing it was such a painfully bad work of history and writing I would only be able to finish it as a matter of obligation. (I never did.) If you transpose Lake Borgne and Bay St. Louis in the introduction to a work of history about Hurricane Katrina, you’ve clearly run off the tracks.

When there is no sun February 4, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street.
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As we crawl over the finish line of what I lately think of as “slump day” rather than “hump day”, here’s a soothing sea of darkness for travelers to the outer planets and other Odd folks, courtesy of the one and only man from Saturn.

Love In Us All January 28, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Jazz, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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loveinusall1

It was so many years ago now my vinyl copy of this was lost. It simply was not among my records when I unpacked in Washington, DC. Any number of books and records vanished while I was living in Baton Rouge in ’86, working on the Breaux campaign for Senate, before they were put into storage and I left town. I was crushed to find this (and other dear records and books) gone, but at least I still had a cassette dub: until the DC pipeheads came and snatched my tape player with the cassette copy in it.

I first purchased this Impulse recording on a whim, having heard one or two Pharaoh Sanders songs on the WTUL-FM jazz show back in the early 1970s. (This was long before WWOZ, children).

I was new to jazz and just exploring blindly with no real guidance other than what was spun on the radio, and what I could pick up reading at the library. Nobody at my neighborhood record store knew much about jazz. So along my copies of Weather Report and Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock (all the dangerous 1970s gateway drugs of jazz rock that were sure to lead into a serious jazz jones; it couldn’t be helped), along with the obvious Big Names of post-war jazz (Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan; you know this list), this record came home out of the cut out rack. I loved the title, and I knew the second cut was a tribute to John Coltrane by one of his former sidemen.

The first time the needle slid me into this groove I was hooked.

I’ve been entranced by the glamor of Sanders and by free jazz ever since. This is the recording that came to mind when I first read Sun Ra’s term “shield of beauty”. This is the side I play when its all too much and I need to pull back in and recharge, or when I’m just overwhelmed by the beauty of the world like Hopkins flashing on the grandeur of god. I play it every Easter in lieu of a Christian observance, in honor of Spring. It is my shield of beauty.

My LP lost and the tape dub after it, I discovered the record was not easily replaced. Long out of print by the 1980s, the copies I could find were almost too scratched to listen to. Clean copies were hard to find and far out of my price range. I remember having the library in Fargo run a national search and exactly seven libraries in the entire continental United States held vinyl copies. These were not available for interlibrary loan.

Sometime in the early Oughts I finally resorted to the internet, and found a decent digital dub of an original vinyl release (you can almost feel the needle digging in, hear the bits of dust and entry groove scratch noise as it starts up). That served me for years, and I never felt guilty. I had bought my original copy, and two scratched up ones since. I figure I was entitled to a fair copy for my own use.

The last time I found this Japanese CD pressing online, I was shipped the wrong disk and by the time I got my box and contacted eJazzLines, the rest of the pressing was sold out. My bad luck. Back to my bootleg while holding the chewed up LP I had picked up somewhere.

I don’t know why I got an urge to search eJazzlines the other day, but I found it waiting there for me. This time, the right disk came. I can’t puzzle out the Japanese liner notes, but the film strip photos are the same as the original LP interior And I don’t need the liner notes. I just need to hear that first side again, clean and clear and all mine.

I don’t care what else you do over the boxed up left overs of a life when I’m gone. Just promise to play Side One over me before you put me away.

The divisions here are mine to fool You Tube into letting me post something of this length, an LP side of 21+ minutes. It is a single piece of music.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

P.S.–I bequeath this copy to WTUL-FM when I’m gone.

Battle of the Bands (or Dr. White Reconsidered) June 11, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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I wrote a long post about traditional jazz composer, player and advocate Dr. Micheal White after an article on him appeared in Gambit several weeks ago. I applauded his preservation of the traditional sound and his outreach to groups like the Hot 8 Brass Band.

This morning I found an article in the Journal of American History by Dr. White that contained this:

Much has changed over the years. The traditional style of jazz no longer dominates the contemporary brass band sound of the still-popular community parades and funerals. A fake, distorted image and sound of jazz and “New Orleans music” have become increasingly common in the fog of cultural ignorance, commercialism, and indifference.

As much as I respect Dr. White, I think he is missing an important point. There is no such thing as New Orleans Music, except as the broadest of geographical categories. Yes there is a style of jazz, precursor to all the rest and so much of popular music, that originated in New Orleans (sorry, Chicago and everywhere else, but it’s true). The style that came up out of ragtime and society/dance music of the turn of the last century is uniquely ours, and of incredible importance. It should not demean everything else that comes up out of New Orleans.

What bands like the Olympia, Rebirth and Hot 8 have done does not diminish New Orleans music. They have expanded it, brought younger audiences to hear a brass sound that I hope will lead them to discover all of the other branches of the jazz family. That was my own path. The music I thought of as Jazz was my parents music-Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, the commercialized players of the 1960s. I fell into Jazz through hearing groups like Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago, with their powerful horn arrangements, and strangely enough the Grateful Dead who lead me to understand the connection between their improvisational style and that of the great Jazz players of the 1950s and 1960s (as well as leading me to an appreciation of Bluegrass and through that Celtic music).

All those players far removed from the mainstream of Jazz laid a foundation so that first listening to Jazz on WTUL-FM (in the days before WWOZ) I was more easily drawn in, so that today on my I-Pod you will find the Preservation Hall and the Jazz Vipers and the Hot 8 and Pharoah Sanders and Miles Davis nestled up against the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead (the latter two which would not recognizably exist without the fertile cross-pollination with Jazz in the 60s).

This history of Jazz is one of experimentation and growth, new branches coming out of every generation. Miles Davis Bitches Brew, which once upset the world as much as Bob Dylan plugging in an electric guitar, does not diminish what Davis did before. It does not diminish those who came before, who’s playing Davis built on. I understood Dr. White’s words in Gambit and his work with the Hot 8 to be about educating young players, about broadening their exposure and experience so that they would be better players not about converting them to the One True Religion.

I hope it was the American Journal of History article I have misunderstood and not the Gambit piece. There is no one true New Orleans music any more than there is one true Jazz. There is room in New Orleans and in the world for Dr. White and for the Jazz Vipers, for the Andrew Hall Jazz Band and the Hot 8, just as there is room for the R&B and Funk sounds of this city. Dr. White should continue his work in the oldest style of New Orleans music, preserving through playing and growing through new compositions and the training of young musicians. He should not denigrate what he thinks of as the ” fake, distorted image and sound of jazz and ‘New Orleans music’.”

We should all remember that the music some would enshrine as “New Orleans Jazz” came up out of the streets and corner bars of New Orleans, was informed by and built upon what those first players had learned before the first recognizable strains of jazz came out the door of the Eagle Saloon and the other bars and brothels of the back of downtown, just as the music of today’s brass bands has come up from the street corner, is built on the foundations of the past. It is all New Orleans, and all worth not just “saving” in some Smithsonian or Disney sense, but worth playing and hearing.

We have to face the facts. Traditional or Dixieland Jazz is commercially a thing of the past, has an audience as keen and as small as that for string chamber music. That doesn’t diminish it’s value one bit. As I agreed in my last post, Dr. White’s work exposing young musicians to the tradition and training them in it is tremendously important. But just as important, no one should devalue the gateway music–whether it is the Hot 8 or the Grateful Dead–that might lead someone who came up on the pop music of their day to find themselves spending a cold night in exile reconnecting to their roots by listening to, of all things, See’s Candy Presents Riverwalk Jazz.

We Will Drown the Bitch in Beauty May 1, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Dancing Bear, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“I told you I would be here.
It was important that I came.
I’m leaving but I’ll be back again.
Will you be here?”
Shelton Alexander


Terrence Blanchard.
Requiem for Katrina. Tomorrow at Jazz Fest

We will drown the bitch in beauty and flood the city with tears of joy.

Will you be there?

Update: Replacing generic Terence Blanchard YouTube with a camera video shot May 2, 2008 at Jazz Fest, an excerpt from Funeral Dirge from Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), featuring Blanchard’s Quintet and the —————- —————— Orchestra.

Update 5-12-09 Based on an objection from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, I have removed this brief, low-fidelity excerpt which I had posted pursuant to fair usage for comment and criticism. Apparently they don’t appreciate free promotion. I will also remove any references to the LPO from this piece as well.

Kenny G whizzes on the grave of Pops March 8, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Fargo, Jazz, music, New Orleans, NOLA, quotes.
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…when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis [Armstrong's] tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician.
Pat Metheny on Kenny G

Tell us what you really think, Pat. I’m not a musician and as much as I love the music I certainly lack the depth of musical knowledge of a true jazz aficionado, but it’s pretty easy to recognize that Kenny G sucks. That he would have the audacity to mix himself over even something as syrupy as Its A Wonderful World, well, I think Pat Metheny said it all.

For me, the gold standard of a jazz aficionado is Leigh Kamman of The Jazz Image, who warmed up many a cold Fargo Saturday night with some of the coolest jazz around. When I die I want to come back as a night jazz DJ with his voice. The world is not the same place since his show ended. He would be on right now if he were still on the air and I were in the cold North. I can hear his theme (Gerry Mulligan: Manoir De Mes Reves (Django’s Castle) and his voice in my head right now as clearly as my other mother’s.

Kenny G, there’s a special place in hell for the likes of you. When Leigh Kamman departs this world, there will be a place for him at a first rate table in the jazz joint at the end of the universe, and the entire Cortege of the Cool will be on the bill.

HT to Dr. Morris for this one. Oh, and Ashley, all of us who read Anima Mundi want to know when we can stop by for Limoncello. I’ll bring the Brocato’s.

Hot Club: Then and Now February 18, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Regretting I didn’t go see the Hot Club of New Orleans Friday night at d.b.a on Frenchman Street in New Orleans, here’s the Hot Club of France: Django Reihardt and Stephane Grappelli and friends.

Sun Ra Does Disney February 17, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Jazz, New Orelans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uptown.
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Like, whoa.

By all reports, neither Sun Ra nor Frank Zappa did drugs. Some people clearly did not need them to get to that special place. Anyway, no apologies necessary to Mr. Disney for whoever synced up Sun Ra playing “Pink Elephants on Parade”. Consider it revenge for my inability to listen to certain pieces of music without Mr. D’s cartoon intruding. (Not that I diskliked Fantasia, but if you had small children in the era of the VCR or later and watched it a couple of hundred times…..

Josef Zawinul passes September 11, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Jazz, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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No, this has not a damned thing to do with New Orleans, but the passing of a great jazz man is always worth noting.

Here is an early Weather Report appearance on German TV. Peter at Adrastos has an amusing Weather Report/Zawinul story. The clip he posts has one of the later bassists (I’m not sure if it Pastorius or someone else) doing their signature version of Birdland. Here’s something slightly more out there with the larger Weather Report ensemble of the earliest days, including Miroslav Vitous on bass.

Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue May 26, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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I forget what this weekend is about: some sort of compulsory festivity organized by the central government. They don’t care about us. Why should we care about them? Build me a fucking levee, pay my neighbors what you owe them and maybe I’ll care again. Until then…

Join us instead for the Virtual Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue.

Hope You’re Coming Back (to New Orleans) May 6, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Debrisville, Jazz, Jazz Vipers, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street.
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New Orleans Jazz Viper’s saxaphonist and signature gravel-GARGLING Joe Braun says it all, better than every one of the 100,000 words I’ve blogged out about coming home, in this excerpt of their performance at, um, a large local festival with strict recording rules that I won’t mention.

You can hear the entire song here, and on their home page is photo of them in their open (as in free–tip well and buy a CD) shows at the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street in the Marigny.

These guys are the real deal, Heirs to the great trad jazz tradition of New Orleans. My wife was anxious to see Pete Fountain marching on Mardi Gras for fear next year might be too late. Well, you may not find jazz on Bourbon Street any longer (last I checked the Famous Door was a karaoke bar; don’t get me started), but the music lives for an enthusiastic audience.

If you’re coming to visit, get thee to the Cat on Friday night around 10:00 for a taste of the New Orleans that was and the one that lives on today.

P.S. — I tried to get a good close up of the bass player all of the women in the audience were oohing over, but I was sitting at a bad angle. Sorry, ladies.

Jazz Festival Parade May 6, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street.
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It’s a crappy camera video, but since I stumbled into my first Jazz Fest parade in twenty years, I had to capture what I could of Valley of the Silent Men and New Generation Social Aid and Pleasure Club with the Pin-Stripe Brass Band. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the next generation at their father’s and grandfather’s feet learning the moves with their very own pint-sized walking sticks. Seeing those kids following the tradition was one of the highlights of my Jazz Fest.

Our culture will only die of America chooses to kill it. If they let New Orleans die, they will be remembered not as the enemy of the Taliban, but as another in the same league as the demolishers of the giant Buddhas of Bamyan.

Enjoy the parade. I recommend a glass of ice cold red tea over the tepid Miller Ligh every swills at Jazz fest (or better yet, a throwback to my days at the other end of the Mississippi River, the Leineikugel’s Sunset Wheat over by the Jazz Tent where the music is fine and the crowds and lines are manageable.

Gangbe’ Brass Band of Benin (West Africa) May 5, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in African Music, Dancing Bear, Jazz, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street.
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While the big crowds were Festering with the Allman Brother Band, featuring I presume Cher’s ex, I caught the Gangbe’ Brass Band of Benin at Congo Square at Sunday’s (May 5 2007) Jazz Fest. These guys are fantastic, combining traditional African rythems and melodies with European brass instruments. They are a glimpse into how jazz was borne of African roots and European instruments here in New Orleans over a century ago.

I immediately ran off to the music tent to buy a CD, but the hopeless Border’s clerk said they couldn’t find any to order to the half-dozen of us all standing in line to ask the same question. That’s odd, as Amazon seems to have both of their import releases in stock. If they’re going to have a music tent at Jazz Fest, it should be run by people who at least make an effort to stock the performers instead of filling an entire rack with the Allman Brothers and another with Rod Stewart.

Anyway, here’s as much of one song as my camera could capture. If this taste whets your appetite, or you were among those who caught them at Jazz Fest or Tipitina’s during Fest, then hie thee over to Amazon and scoop up one of their CDs like this one.. I did.

The sound track of satori April 24, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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pharoah-sanders.jpg

I don’t care how much the damn tickets cost, or what big name pop or rap star claims the stage somewhere else at days end.

I am going to see the jazz bhodisatva Pharoah Sanders. This will be the first chance I’ve had to see him since I discovered Love is Everywhere in a cut-out bin thirtry years ago, and was entranced.

His work combines the frenetic and estatic work of his mentor, John Coltrane, and combines it as he moved out on his own with an African-rooted spirituality and lyricism that no one can touch. More than anyone I can think of, he embodies everything jazz was meant to be.

I think I could sit in his presence for an hour, him silent on stage holding his saxophone, and be content. However, I”m hoping for something more in line with this 2007 concert.

“Pharoah is a man of large spiritual reservoir. He’s always trying to reach out to truth. He’s trying to allow his spiritual self to be his guide. He’s dealing, among other things, in energy, in integrity, in essences. I so much like the strength of his playing. Furthermore, he is one of the innovators, and it’s been my pleasure and privilege that he’s been willing to help me.” — John Coltrane

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers April 18, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in French Quarter, Jazz, Jazz Vipers, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street.
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Ok, well, the video sucks. Bad camera holding and you can’t see them on stage. Too dark. And the wind noise on the camera and the bad sound board work, well. Screw it. I had fun. If you don’t know the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, get thyself down to the Spotted Cat some Friday night and discover the best time in New Orleans. No cover. Tip well.

These cats were one of two traditional jazz bands we caught on Sunday at French Quarter Festival. The other was the Andrew Hall Society Marching Band, who are a living diorama of a pre-Rebirth, traditional brass marching and concert band. They are Living National Treasures. I keep meaning to ask them if they are the same outfit as the Andrew Hall Society Jazz Band that used to play the Maple Leaf long, long ago on Saturday nights. Those guys were already old in the 1970s.

Anyway, just take a peek at the scene, then close your eyes and let the music carry you away to The day before yesterday and well into the distant decades at the other end of the 20th century. The Vipers are keeping the traditional jazz alive in New Orleans for the future.

At the Jazz Band Ball December 30, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Oh, yeah. Bobby Hackett and Boys take us to the Jazz Band Ball. I wonder if they got those hats at Meyer’s…

Thank you Bobby, boy, you really grooved that..

And now, for some hot kazoo playing..

Hat tip to boberwig

James Booker is Alive And Well in Paris November 28, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Ok, well, not exactly, but N’wawlins own groove merchant Dan Phillips of Home of the Groove shouts out about some James Booker videos from Europe from the 1970s. One of my fondest memories of my life in my past life in NOLA (and AMONG least fuzzy, as this was often of a weekday afternoon) was waiting in the Maple Leaf for M to get off work around the corner and having Booker cadge drinks in the mostly empty bar. I never asked him to play for his drink, but he would often noddle about on the piano if he got his drink and was otherwise bored. If you are not a regular visitor to Dan’ s Home of the Groov hie thee hence immediately, or tear that WWOZ sticker off your car, you poser, and give up pretending.

Vid this, me droogies, the scroll down the other selections.

It ain’t over… September 24, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Hurricane Katrina, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Uncategorized.
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“It ain’t over. We’re going to try to make it better. It might not be today or tomorrow, but we’ll be back. We took New Orleans with us anyway, so everywhere we go, we’ve got it.”

– Tanio Hingle, New Birth Brass Band, from the article New Birth For New Orleans Brass Bands published September 10, 2005 in AllAboutJazz.com. Yeah, you right.

The Music Will Never Die August 7, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA.
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I found this Harry Connick Jr. and Bradford Marsalis trad jazz vid on You Tube, and thought I’d put it up here in honor of Satchmo Fest, the French Quarter Festival group’s late summer traditional and brass band jazz event in the French Quarter.

Ok, WordPress seems to not play nice with YouTube, so here’s the URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGOWNWi3fOE

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