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Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2015

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.

by the time I stop drinking and start thinking about sleep
by the time we’ve eaten the last of next-door jimmy’s hot meat
by the time my feet have shuffled their last hussle
on the public blacktop ballroom of Fortin Street
and the hustle has all gone downtown to Bourbon
and the bustle has all gone downtown to Frenchman
and the last of the one-song, school-kid bands
and the last of the weary ice-cold water men
have carried themselves home weary to the bone
and one sad bicycle hangs abandoned on the fence
and the can picking man passes on his sad, last round
i will stand on Fortin Street and glisten to the sound
the last frantic arpeggios vibrating in the silence
attenuated into memory, a faint flow of the distant glory
like the milky way backdrop to the asterism’s story–
then, yes, then and only then will I go to bed
with tempered brass angels at foot and at head

Odd Words April 24, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, Jazz Fest, literature, memoir, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, spoken word, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6:30 pm The Nix Library on Carrollton Avenue will host a poetry reading by the local literary group Peauxdunque Writers Alliance.

& Thursday night at 6 pm Join Room 220 for a Happy Hour Salon with local authors Zachary Lazar and Daniel Castro from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.). The event will celebrate the release of Lazarar’s s new novel, I Pity the Poor Immigrant. The book is Lazar’s third novel. It uses notorious gangster Meyer Lansky as a pivot point around which mobsters, journalists, and a seedy cast of characters run circles, darting back and forth between past and present, Israel and the United States, fiction and “reality”. Room 220 will feature an interview with Lazar soon about the book, conducted by Engram Wilkinson, but until then you can read profiles in the Times-Picayune and the Los Angeles Times. Publishers Weekly called I Pity the Poor Immigrant “an interesting and challenging novel,” while Kirkus Review said the intricate connections Lazar makes in the book are “complex and artful, though at times bewildering even to discerning readers.” So, bring your thinking caps. Joining Lazar will be Daniel Castro, who was born and raised in New Orleans. Castro is a graduate of NOCCA and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald and the Tampa Review. He is the winner of the 2012 Novella Prize from the Faulkner Society, and the 2013 CINTAS fellowship in literature.

& Also at 6 pm Thursday Garden District Book Shop presents Dr. Michael Saag’s Positive: One Doctor’s Personal Encounters With Death, Life, and the US Healthcare System. Positive traces the life of Michael S. Saag, MD, an internationally known expert on the virus that causes AIDS, but the book is more than a memoir: through his story, Dr. Saag also shines a light on the dysfunctional US healthcare system, proposing optimistic yet realistic remedies drawn from his distinguished medical career.

& Thurday the East Jefferson Main Branch Library hosts the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers Group at 7 pm. James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Also on Thursday at 6 p.m., Maple Street Book Shop hosts Sally Asher, who will discuss and sign Hope & New Orleans. New Orleans is a city of beautiful contradictions, evidenced by its street names. New Orleans crosses with Hope, Pleasure and Duels. Religious couples with Nuns, Market and Race. Music, Arts and Painters are parallel. New Orleans enfolds its denizens in the protection of saints, the artistry of Muses and the bravery of military leaders. The city’s street names are inseparable from its diverse history. They serve as guideposts as well as a narrative that braid its pride, wit and seedier history into a complex web that to this day simultaneously joins and shows the cracks within the city.

& Friday at noon Tulane University will host a Book Signing and Presentation by Tulane Professor Carolyn her book New Orleans Memories:One Writer’s City.

& And its Jazz Fest, and the Gulf South Booksellers Association will once again host the festival Book Tent. Here’s the first weekend’s lineup:

Friday, April 25th

  • Denise McConduit, 12-1PM, DJ Books
  • Rebecca Sive, 1-2PM, Every Day is Election Day
  • Nancy Dixon, 3-4PM, N. O. Lit
  • Ann Benoit, 4-5PM, New Orleans Best Ethnic Restaurants
  • James Cobb. 5-6PM, Flood of Lies

Saturday, April 26th

  • Dean Alger, 12-1PM, Original Guitar Hero and the Power of Music: The Legendary Lonnie Johnson, Music and Civil Rights
  • Jay Mazza , 1-2PM, Not Just Another Thursday Night: Kermit Ruffins and Vaughan’s Lounge
  • Edward Branley, 2-3PM, New Orleans Jazz
  • Jeremy Labadie and Argyle Wolf-Knapp , 3-4PM, New Orleans Beer
  • Carolyn Kolb, 4-5PM, New Orleans Memories
  • Richard Campanella, 5-6PM, Bourbon Street

Sunďay, April 27th

  • Patrice Kononcheck, 12-1PM, In a While Crocodile: New Orleans Slow Cooker Recipes
  • John Wirt, 1-2PM, Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues
  • Rebecca Snedecker, 2-3PM, Unfathomable City
  • Donald Link, 3-4PM, Down South: :Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything
  • Matt Sakakeeny, 4-5PM, Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans

& You can call the New Orleans Poetry Brothel every Thursday from 8-midnight for a live poetry reading. 504-264-1336.

&Friday Garden District Book Shop feature Coffee and Cookies with Cokie Roberts: Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies at 8:45 AM. Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies reveals the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes. Roberts traces the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others. Details are gleaned from their letters, private journals, lists, and ledgers. The bravery of these women’s courageous acts contributed to the founding of America and spurred the founding fathers to make this a country that “remembered the ladies.”

& Saturday at the Maple Leaf Book Shop it’s Story Time with Miss Maureen, who’ll read Gorilla by Anthony Browne. Hannah spends all of her time reading gorilla books, watching gorilla TV shows, and drawing gorilla pictures. She has gorillas on her bedside lamp and even on her box of cereal. Hannah loves gorillas and longs to see a real one, but her father is always too busy – or too tired – to take her to the zoo. Then, on the night before her birthday, something extraordinary happens – and Hannah’s wish comes gloriously true.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features JAZZ FEST OPEN MIC.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Tuesday at noon the Tulane Univerity book Store wil host a book signing and presentation by Sally Asher of her work Hope & New Orleans..
& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at 6 pm Bill Hillman and Ben Tanzer will be signing their books. Bill Hillman’s book, The Old Neighborhood, is the story of teenager Joe Walsh, the youngest in a large, mixed-race family living in Chicago. After Joe witnesses his older brother commit a gangland murder, his friends and family drag him down into a pit of violence that reaches a bloody impasse when his elder sister begins dating a rival gang member. The Old Neighborhood is both a brutal tale of growing up tough in a mean city, and a beautiful harkening to the heartbreak of youth. Bill Hillmann is an award-winning writer and storyteller from Chicago. His writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Newcity, Salon.com, and has been broadcast on NPR. He’s told stories around the world with his internationally acclaimed storytelling series the Windy City Story Slam. Hillmann is a Union Construction Laborer and a bull-runner in Spain. In the not so distant past, Hillmann was a feared street brawler, gang affiliate, drug dealer, convict, and Chicago Golden Glove Champion.

The essays in Ben Tanzer’s Lost in Space: A Father’s Journey There and Back Again focus on parenting, delving into topics including sleep (or the lack of), discipline, first haircuts, deceased parents and grandparents, illness, and the inherent challenges and humor that coincide with, and are intrinsically tied-into, these stages of life. The essays also recognize the ongoing presence of Tanzer’s own dead father in his life as he seeks to parent without his guidance or advice.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jeffersion Regional Library hosts The Fiction Writers’ Group, a support group for serious writers of fiction. We do not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

& Also at 8 p.m.every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJ’s in the Bywater. Featured this week is Sara Jacobelli and Whitney Mackman.

If you don’t see your event listed here, please be sure to send it to odd.words.nola@gmail.com no later than the Wednesday before the event. Late entries are accepted and added to the blog and so get into the daily post, but getting the in early is appreciated.

April 28, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, Jazz Fest, Murder, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.

If you open a beer while making boudin for breakfast at, oh, 11:30 it must be Jazz Fest on Fortin Street. The mini Bose are in the window playing Crescent City Soul Vol. 3 and 4. I found these disks in the Fargo library and promptly burned myself a copy. Someone had stolen Vol. 1 and 2 already. When I priced them I found out why. Out of print, they go for about $400, more if the box they came in is in what book sellers call Fine condition.

This is not a bad way to enjoy Jazz Fest, sitting on the stoop hearing the music loud and clear and watching people go by. The crowds fun watching them pass by the house instead of elbowing your way through a beer or food line. People look at the sign and stop to take a picture and talk. It’s friendlier out here on the perimeter.

And I’m closer to the Blues Stage than you’ll ever be in this lifetime.

Brother Tyrone & the Mindbenders are up on the Blues Tent stage, maybe 50 feet from my stoop so I’m saving Vol. 4 for the next break. Better to check the beans and plant myself in the V.I.P* section of the Fortin Street Stage. Last year no one ate the four pounds of red beans because everyone comes out full, but I figure my neighbor Jimmy and I will have lunch.

* Very Intense Proximity.

Green Weather April 6, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Its a blue and breezy 66 degrees outside. My cheap weather station says the humidity is 60% just outside my door. The winter-barren columnade of Nuttal Oaks (as best I can tell from the LSU Ag Center leaf identification site) are leafed in their brightest Easter green. There is probably no better indication of spring than my going out the door this morning to pluck a cluster of leaves and look them up when I should be working. If I knew how to weave a May crown out of these things I would frighten the hell out of my son when he wakes up.

The trees just barely shield me from the sound of Jazz Fest construction across the street. Jazz Fest is for me the start of summer, the first time out of the house and into the sun in spite of the heat. It is only weeks away, a movable feast like Easter, tied to the weekend in the middle of the weeks that straddle April and May. Soon I will be standing too far back from the music, digging in my bag for sunscreen and cursing the decision that put the only decent bear clear across the Fairgrounds from the Gentilly Stage. Or I will sit on my stoop watching the crowds pass in and out, door open so I can hear my music between sets, air conditioning bleeding out through the door.

That is later. This is now, the leaves laying darkly on the off-white cushion on the spare chair next to my front-room desk. They look nice enough there but better across the street, semaphores for the gentle breeze, the last not a a trite modifier but the description for Beaufort Force 3 winds. “Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended.” I haven’t put up my New Orleans flag since I took down the Krewe de Vieux banner.

There is room in front to put in some inexpensive flowers, but I don’t have time right now. I think I will just put up my flag instead with it’s marigold fluer de lis and it’s bright impatien red, white and blue call it good.

Sun Ra on Fortin Street May 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist 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.

Sanctifying Place May 1, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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It was Odd to sit on my stoop on Fortin Street, a literal stone’s throw from the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and hear the WWOZ announcer inside the festival talking about a gospel group riffing on James Brown. Isn’t it really more a matter of James Brown having riffed on the music of his childhood church? As I sit directly across the street from that stage and spent most of the last two days listening to the mighty choirs and soaring organs over the pounding drums and bass of Black southern gospel, it is an easy insight to understand.

Recall the controversy when Ray Charles took the sound of gospel and turned it into I Got A Woman in 1956, or think whether the entire R&B sound those of us in the Baby Boom grew up with would be the same without Sam Cooke. It was not only Black artists who mined this vein but many of the idols of our own youth. One of my favorite artists, Leon Russell, was a one man revival show in his own rock-and-roll piano recordings of the early 1970s (when he wasn’t producing/arranging Bonnie and Delaney or Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman tour). Anyone who has walked past the gospel tent will recognize the influence in his signature song Delta Lady or the dark gospel cover by the Rolling Stones of I Just Want to See His Face.

As Jazz Fest approached and the tents went up, I thought about how wonderful it would be to sit right across from the Jazz Tent where I’ve spent many an afternoon, or even right behind the Blues Tent, both of which back right up to the fence on Fortin, but after the last two days I’m glad I landed where I did. Friday’s how ended with a long and rousing reverse cover of the Isley Brother’s Shout, spoiled in part by the arrival of the water vendors hawking in front of my house but I didn’t care. I just cake walked my irresistibly wiggling hips across the street the better to hear. If you’ve missed the Gospel Tent in the past as I have, don’t make the mistake a habit. Or stop by the VIP Seating Area of the Fortin Street Stage on your way out if you leave early and take in the closing set. In the ending as in the beginning was the choir, and the choir was good.

The Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, fuckmook, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, NOLA, Toulouse Street.

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.

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

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans.

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.

Odd Words April 29, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, Jazz Fest, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I’m just back from my national tour of Marriott properties funded by The Counting House, with a brief interruption last Saturday for laundry, chores, a poetry reading at the Alvar Library and Patti Smith at Tipitina’s with The Usual Suspects. (That is not the name of her new band. You know who you are). I’ve waited 35 years to see Smith and she did not disappoint. Her voice was perfect, and she carries the intervening years since Horses was released in 1975 with the grace of an angel, her voice undimished. She tried out a new song about Roberto Belaño and if you were there, that was me shouting “viva la anti-poesia” somewhere in back. Yeah, well, I was having fun. So what. I have nothing more lively or clever to report, so we’ll get right into what’s coming up.

§ It’s not too late to to donate to any of the participants in theNeighborhood Story Project Write-A-Thon featuring their own authors and anyone else willing to step up and ask for sponsors. You can donate here to any of the participants here and if you’re reading this blog and this post in particular, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to.

§ Valentine Pierce presents “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up”, a seminar in how to present your poetry in public. Particpants will read a poem and she will offer coaching in public reading. It’s limited to twelve participants and was half full when I heard her and others read at the Alvar last Saturday so if you want to participate call now: (504) 596-2667. This event (and last Saturday’s reading) are funded by Poets & Writers, Inc. Which means some cookies and crackers and drinks and such that they actually let you eat and drink in the library. How much more exciting than that can it get?

§ Yes, it’s Jazz Fest time again and The New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (NOGSBA) sponsors the Book Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where authors will sign books during the fest. Friday-Sunday and April 29-May 1. Here’s the first weekend’s lineup:

April 29th – Thursday

Ashley Merlin 12 – 1:00PM
Statuesque New Orleans

Cecelia Dartez 1 – 2:00PM
Jenny Giraffe Books

Michael Patrick Welch 2 – 3:00PM
New Orleans: The Underground Guide

Richard Campanella 3 – 4:00PM
Beinville’s Dilemma

Arthur Hardy 4 – 5:00PM
Mardi Gras in New Orleans – 4th edition

Stacey Meyer & Troy Gilbert 5 – 6:00PM
New Orleans Kitchens

April 30th– Friday

Denise McConduit 12 – 1:00PM
DJ Books

Barb Johnson 1 – 2:00PM
More of This World or Maybe Another

Kenneth Phillips 2 – 3:00PM
Signed, the President

Daron Crawford & Pernell Russell 3 – 4:00PM
Beyond the Bricks

Kareem Kennedy 4 – 5:00PM
Aunt Alice Vs Bob Marley

Susan Henry 5 – 6:00PM
From My Mother’s House of Beauty

May 1st – Saturday

Ruby Bridges 12-1:00PM
Through My Eyes

Cornell Landry 1 – 2:00PM
Happy Jazz Fest & Goodnight NOLA

Alex Beard 2 – 3:00PM
Jungle Grapevine

John Radanovich 3 – 4:00PM
Wildman of Rhythm

Al Kennedy 4 – 5:00PM
Big Chief Harrison and the Mardi Gras Indians

Pam Lyles 5 – 6:00PM
Da Cajn Critter

May 2nd – Sunday

Lorraine Gendron 12 – 1:00PM
Lorraine Gendron

Jason Berry 1 – 2:00PM
Up From the Cradle of Jazz

Sal Sunseri 2 – 3:00PM
P & J Oyster Cookbook

Dean Shapiro 3 – 4:00PM
Historic Photos of Louisiana & Historic Photos of Steamboats of the Mississippi

*Tom Morgan 5 – 6:00PM
Historic Photos of New Orleans Jazz

§ 17 Poets! Literary & Performance series presents a reading/performance featuring poets RODGER KAMENETZ and DARA WIER on Thursday, April 29, 2010, 8:00pm @ The Gold Mine Saloon.

§ Paul Benton was among the fine poets reading at the Alvar library last Saturday, and he seconded Thaddeus Conti’s endorsement of the Wednesday night readings at the Yellow Moon Bar, 800 France St. I am going to have to find time to check this place out. He also confirmed there is usually some food, snacks and drinks being one of the few physical renumerations of poetry.

That’s all until I get out from under everything that doesn’t belong in this column that’s going on right now. Until next week, some thing by Roberto Belaño. If it were a wine, I would detect notes of Hart Crane and the Beats as well as his compatriot Neruda as much as I would his hero of anti-poetry Nicanor Parra.

On the dogs’ path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered, but alive,
dirty, poorly dressed, and filled with love.
On the dogs’ path, there where no one wants to go.
A path that only poets travel
when they have nothing left to do.
But I still had so many things to do!
And nevertheless, there I was: sentencing myself to death
by red ants and also
by black ants, traveling through the empty villages:
fear that grew
until it touched the stars.
A Chilean educated in Mexico can withstand everything,
I thought, but it wasn’t true.
At night, my heart cried. The river of being, chanted
some feverish lips I later discovered to be my own,
the river of being, the river of being, the ecstasy
that folds itself into the bank of these abandoned villages.
Mathematicians and theologians, diviners
and bandits emerged
like aquatic realities in the midst of a metallic reality.
Only fever and poetry provoke visions.
Only love and memory.
Not these paths or these plains.
Not these labyrinths.
Until at last my soul came upon my heart.
It was sick, it’s true, but it was alive.

Mystery Street May 2, 2009

Posted by The Typist 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.

Fess Up May 1, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA.
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What the hell are you doing sitting at a computer reading this. Yeah, I’m got the Counting House’s Future of Shirk ankle bracelet on here on Toulouse Street, but if you can plead, beg, cheat or lie your way out of work today, you had best get busy. Gates open in just a couple of hours.

To get you ready here’s one last piano player who will not be on any stage at the Fairgrounds this weekend but if you want to find his spirit, throw away the cubes and follow your feet until they bring you to the place where they can’t stand still.

United Our Thing Will Stand April 28, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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To follow up on a Jazz Fest related post Forty Years Down the Road from a few days ago, here’s another legend of New Orleans gone from the ranks: James Booker. These days we get Billy Joel on the Acura stage instead.

Fess and Booker and all the rest are more than a set of cutouts in the infield, or a face hanging above a stage. They float over the Fairgrounds like the clouds of May, a subtle presence most Big Chiefs from Kansas City never notice but which subtly touches everything at Jazz Fest worthy of the name.

Heritage Forever April 26, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA.
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Today I sat in the patio-like paddock of the Fairgrounds and watched my son and a dozen fellow students mount the New Orleans Jazz Fest and Heritage Festival Lagniappe Stage and play Kidd Jordan’s Second Line, directed by Kidd himself.

Played. At Jazz Fest. Kidd Jourdan. I’m having a hard time getting past that simple set of facts, keep rearranging it in my head to find new ways to combine those words just as an excuse to keep repeating it over and over again. For a New Orleans father, this is even more powerful than seeing your son pull his helmet on and run out onto the field for the first time.

He is part of an after school program called the Heritage School of Music, funded by the Jazz and Heritage Foundation which sponsors the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His teachers at the Lusher Charter School Heritage School site include Kidd and Kent Jordan, both icons of New Orleans music.

It was a hard slog to get there in time. My wife could not come and I had her drop me at Esplanade Avenue and Mystery Street so she would not get caught up in Fest traffic, and so she (who is not from here) would not have to navigate the bizarre intersection of Gentilly, Paris, St. Bernard and DeSaix without a native guide. I had a comp ticket for my book signing but had to march myself all the way around to the Belfort Avenue entrance, which is way the hell down that street about halfway back down the far side of the track.

I was, however, so pumped at the idea of seeing him up on a Jazz Fest stage that I managed to arrive early (almost 30 minutes after getting dropped), with a crawfish bread in hand and camera ready. As I sat there mopping my brow to try and save my hat from the huge sweat I had worked up getting there, I stared at the stage with the familiar bulbous lettering across the banner at the top, the sign in the familiar hand writing (all of the Jazz Fest artist signs are done by the same person) announcing that the Heritage School of music would be up next. I considered that my son would be in that number, and was in that moment absolutely floored.

For the handful of parents and others who managed to find their way into the paddock so early on a Jazz Fest Sunday, it was a vision of the Heritage I often chide the Festival for downplaying, preserved and handed with care to the next generation.

My son is a beginner at sax but some of the kids in this program are incredibly talented, tackling Chick Corea, John Contrane and Miles Davis compositions with some fantastic solos. He is a bit intimidated by some of the more experienced kids, but I think he could easily have handled the piano part of All Blues they had charted for the junior horn students playing behind the soloists in the Dillard program.

I don’t think he knows just how fortunate he is to have this opportunity (kids rarely are), but I will keep reminded him until it sinks in. Two of the most accomplished musicians in New Orleans are teaching him, and taking him to play as Jazz Fest.

I just want to type those last words over and over again like a scratched record: to play at Jazz Fest, to play at Jazz fest…

If this wasn’t enough to cause my head to just burst with pride and an overwhelming sense of good fortune to live in this city, I also must remember my son will miss his next midweek private saxophone lesson because his teacher, Grace Bennett, will be in rehearsals with Allen Toussaint all this coming week for next weekend’s Jazz Fest performance.

I’m not usually reduced to a monosyllabic response to anything but: wow. Just f—ing wow. I have to remind myself that for every struggle we have faced to come and live here, at every turn in this broken road we have met such good fortune. In the case of his music teacher, it was one of the people I first came to know online after Katrina and before I moved here who has since become a friend, one with connections in the music biz who hooked us up with Grace. Getting Matt into Lusher where he had this chance (and Killian into Ben Franklin and NOCCA) were a stroke of luck almost beyond belief.

My wife frets that the kids don’t appreciate all the culture swirling around them, but I remind her of the Bay City Rollers poster she once confessed to having hung in her own teenage bedroom, remind her that I still have some Uriah Heep LPs from when I was the boy’s age. And I reminder her now much our daughter’s taste in music has moved, that the girl who once listened to bland pop radio and treasured a Now 17 compilation CD has stolen my Hot 8 disk.

There are guys in my son’s program he worries about keeping up with, the ones who grew up among musicians, who took up their horns when they were much younger. Not everyone gets that kind of start but to live here is to offer my children a richness of culture of every kind people in towns and cites in the rest of this country can only get with an upgraded cable TV package. Here it is everywhere, all around us, calling to them as is called to me once, as it calls still.

Why would we live anywhere else? Why would anyone?

Forty years on down the road April 24, 2009

Posted by The Typist in blues, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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This is the 40th anniversary of Jazz Fest, which started as a small festival in what is now Congo Sqaure at Armstrong Park. If you look closely at your cubes, you will notice stars next to the artists who were present at the first event. Many will be there, but many more will not.

I started to make a list of people I have seen over the years who will not be there, but it got too depressing. Time to pull out my Roosevelt Sykes LPs and try to get the turntable hooked up to the PC when I should be working. Better yet, I think I need to drag out the cassette I still have somewhere from the days I used to smuggle a deck into Jazz Fest and digitize one of those shows.

While I get busy with that here is is a bit of the Honeydripper himself playing “Gulfport Boogie”.

This year I will pull out the straw hat he autographed for me long ago one night at the Maple Leaf and wear it to the book signing. If you don’t make a point of stopping by the memorial spot in the center of the Fairgrounds every year, make the effort this year and just stop for a while and whistle a few bars to let them all know they are remembered.

Je me souviens. Remember.

Book Signing at Jazz Fest April 23, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA.
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I will be signing Carry Me Home at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Book Tent on Sunday, April 26 at 4 p.m. So if you’re looking to escape the sounds of Earth, Wind and Fire echoing through the Fair Grounds or just to get out of the sun for a bit stop by and say hello. Thanks to Amy of Garden District Books and Winter of deVille Books who organize this for including me.

And thanks to all the local booksellers who have supported the book

Memo to Quint Davis April 19, 2009

Posted by The Typist 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.

A Tale of God’s Will May 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Today Terence Blanchard led his quintet, with faces as solemn as morticians’, in a joyful noise together with a backing orchestral group selections of his A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). It was an Odd moment for Jazz Fest (and so perhaps our favorite here on Toulouse Street). I saw two tributes so far, one for Willie “Tee” and Earl Turbington and a show featuring young students of Alvin Batiste. Both were joyful celebrations of the musicians honored, music interspersed with stories and spoken word tributes. They were perfectly in the tradition of a city where, once we have buried the deceased, the parade begins.

Blanchard’s recital this afternoon was of another character altogether. It was more like the full funeral package, with all of the the sadness and solemnity of the service and the recession from the church and march to the cemetery. The Reverend-esque Blanchard spoke of the deceased and offered an excellent homily.There was his tale of boat rescuers, of people being taken out told to be quiet so the people left behind that trip might not hear them, told to cover their children’s eyes as they passed through an area full of dead bodies, introduced the piece “Funeral Dirge”.

His homily was on the importance of Lee’s film, When The Levees Broke. He told the tale of his mother asked by Spike Lee to let him film her first return to her ruined home, of how he warned her what having a full film crew following her might mean at such a difficult and delicate moment, of how proud he was that she insisted. People, his mother told him, need to know what happened down here. This led into the piece “Dear Mom”.

When they were not playing, Blanchard and his group were as serious as their subject, and as the music they composed. It seemed fitting for the piece of music a friend of mine told me before the show was the one he would put on when he felt compelled to escape his home on the sliver by the river to drive around Gentilly, sometimes checking on homes he had gutted to see if any have made progress. When he does this, he said, he will sometimes bawl like a baby.

At the first orchestral passage, Blanchard reached up to his face and wiped with his fingers just beneath his glasses as if to wipe away tears, a motion I last saw on a jazz stage at a Red Cross benefit in Fargo, N.D., after New Orleans trumpeter Marc Braud spoke of recovering his instrument as the rest of that band played “Do You Know What It Means”.

The audience I could see (and I was rapt and could not turn my head away from the stage) were just as transported. The WWOZ DJ who sat in front of me was not the outgoing, crowd-working celebrity I had seen in the tent and up on stage announcing the rest of the day, but sat solemn as a sphinx. The other stage announcer, a man in a red t-shirt and dreadlocks, sat at the foot of the stage looking not at the musicians but stared straight ahead into some private place. A woman came and sat beside him and put her arm around him.

As Blanchard spoke and the musicians played, the rain that had held off all day finally broke in torrents, as if the music had moved not just a few thousands in this tent on this day but had seized the hearts of the heavenly host and moved them to tears as well as they considered the Odd mix of pain and beauty that is God’s Will.

It was also, as I promised Friday, a time of joy. As the band wailed through the beautiful Ashe and the straight ahead jazz numbers that ended the concert, the orchestra musicians who had sat at attention in their best, serious concert poses, began to be transported by the music as well. The first violin began to show a shy smile, and to bob her head in time as members of the audience around me did. An incredulous cello in a John Brown beard divided his attention between an incredible bass solo and watching the drummer. When Blanchard called on the audience to help him by taking of the chant “This is a tale of God’s will” from the album’s opening cut, we were all transported without moving to the Gospel Tent and the moment of redemption many of us had come for arrived at last.

As I had hoped, Blanchard’s quintet had drowned the bitch in beauty and flooded the streets with tears of joy.

Also, don’t miss the podcast interview which Blanchard’s team (he mentioned bringing in his personal sound man and tour manager to run the boards) had put up the very same evening.

N.B. Fixed numerous typos. Must not try to post when dead tired and trying to rush out the door to the Fairgrounds. Thanks G.P.

Last update: here’s another camera video of an excerpt of Ashe’.

Update 5-12-09 Based on a notice from You Tube that the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra objected to these small, low-fidelity excerpts I shot with my $100 Cannon from 100 feet away, I’m removing the video. In fact, I’m going to go back and edit out references crediting the LPO with participation in this performance and will simply refer to them as “the orchestra”.

We Will Drown the Bitch in Beauty May 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist 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.

Stacy Head: Ambassador for New Orleans April 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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What is it about Uptown that causes some people to be so congenitally unpleasant? (I’m struggling to compose this in my head without reference to any offensive body part or function; we’ll see). You know the ones, the kids who grew up hanging out at the Valencia or by the Southern Yacht Club pool, the kids from certain high schools who ran in circles as exclusive as (and preparatory to) Rex or Comus. Yeah, them.

Perhaps it’s living in such grand houses in a city otherwise tightly squeezed onto the small slivers of high land hereabouts, the narrow streets and crowded rows of houses that confront Them when They venture out the door and off Their own block. Maybe it is the tangles of traffic in parts of town with no wide boulevards, streets crowded with people who don’t know who They are, hourlies and layabouts passing their day without the sort of important appointments They keep. Perhaps it was the pre-gentrification habit of keeping one’s servants close by in those claustrophobic little houses, and the uncomfortable situation as the master-servant relationship changed over the decades in ways visually expressed by the replacement of lawn jockeys and faux carriage posts with discrete private police patrol warning signs.

They are (at least in part) the people of Women of the Storm, our self-appointed ambassadors to the outside world–people who still know when to wear hat and gloves, people who own their own evening clothes and periodically cast them off so that slobs like us can have cheap tuxes as needed in their fine Uptown thrift shops. They travel to Washington and New York to let the Right Sort of People know that They have things down here under control, that its safe to invest in our recovery. I am glad these people do what they do whatever their motives I am not ready to condemn an honest evangelist for New Orleans until they transgress simple decency and fairness.

Then there are people like Stacey Head: evangelists only for their own advancement, for the opportunity to profit by the flood and to flush out what they might deem “undesirables” from their idealized city, who would love to carry us back to old Virginny bayou style. They aren’t terribly fond of anyone coming home who can’t afford a proper and tasteful house in spite of the tremendous escalation of prices after the storm and the collapse of the private insurance market. They are people who resent all those low-rent types and their dependents; you know, the ones who mix Their drinks, bus Their tables and make Their beds. Stacy is noted recently for blowing kisses (presumably in farewell) to the noisy public housing demonstrators, symbolically dismissing the people who make the local t-shirt-and-tits, beads-and-beer economy work. And then there was her clever remark about people so déclassé that they would rent poisonous FEMA trailers to live in because they have no other homes to come back to.

Stacey represents the Young Turk wing of the people who gave us a generation of economic stagnation and sat idly by as public education imploded after desegregation; the ones who quietly applauded as their hirelings in Washington diverted hurricane protection funds to the Inner Harbor Navigation Lock and who were convinced the MRGO would bring us a future of prosperity; they are the people who had themselves gerrymandered into suburban Congressional districts so they could at least have a Congressman they could call on when needed. They are the people who helped engineer the election and then the re-election of Clarence Ray Nagin. Heck of a job, guys, heck of a job.

They are the people who no doubt applaud the $50 Jazz Fest ticket and sourly wish they were just a bit higher, given some of the people you might encounter at the Fair Grounds. As they used to say when I lived in North Dakota, 40 Below Keeps the Riff-Raff Out: a principle someone like Stacy would no doubt admire. Too bad I can no longer bring her back a t-shirt from the Fargo International Airport like the one I saw on my first trip there. Those now retired “40 Below” shirts featured a shadow caricature of a man with an afro and a pimp hat. Very classy.

In addition to making the world safe for mohitos and driving the trailer trash into the land of Nod, Stacy has found a new job as Goodwill Ambassador for New Orleans.

This comment from Humid Haney’s Rant blog was confirmed as legitimate in an email by the woman who posted it, and her husband has in fact sent a nasty letter to the Times-Picayune. She wondered in her reply email if Ms. Head didn’t in fact have friends at the T-P who might make sure it never sees the light of day. I think there’s a good chance Ashton the Second might keep such a letter under wraps. (Ashton. Wow. Where do they get these names for their children, from lines of clothing they saw at Perlis?)

Here’s the entire post from Humid Haney’s, confirmed by the author via email.

Please let me share a story that my fiance sent to the editor of the local paper. It tells about a recent encounter we had with Stacy Head:

My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit to 2008 New Orleans and Jazz Fest. I have attended every Jazz Fest since 1983. My 11 and 9 year old daughters have attended every Jazz Fest since their respective births. My fiancé has enjoyed the region and its offerings on no less than five separate occasions since we met a year and a half ago. Despite the rainy weather we loved the first weekend, as always, and will be back for weekend 2. While we have not lived the post-Katrina challenges directly, we certainly empathize with the challenges. It has been encouraging to see the improvement during our many post-Katrina visits. We joined the Audubon Zoo last year knowing it was unlikely we would get a chance to visit regularly, but hoping the funds would be put to good use. I have lived and worked in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge for years and someday we hope to be able to return to the area to live. I guess I know enough about the area’s culture to realize that the foregoing “credentials” are helpful to what I am now going to say.

Unfortunately, our Jazz Fest experience was marred by a dispute over seating in the blues tent on Friday. I left to take my daughters to the porta-potties. My fiancé held our three seats. When we returned 15 minutes later, she was in deep discussion with several women. It turns out that they asked if our seats were available. The response, “no, but you can sit in them until the rest of the party returns”. As we returned, the women refused to get up, demanded we move down to use an open seat—not a bad idea, but we were still short a seat–etc. Our group, including young children, had to witness a less than kind interaction which included my fiancé being called a “Yankee bitch”–she from Kentucky with as strong a Southern heritage (and accent) as it comes. When the group of aggressors finally left, one of the women came behind my fiancé and proceeded to verbally dress her down at length. While perturbed by the incident, we attempted to enjoy the rest of the set. Of note, several seats opened up around us within two or three minutes (it was early in the day).

What happened next amazed us. A pleasant middle aged gentleman came up and apologized to us noting that he was embarrassed because the “leader of the pack” was Councilwoman Stacy S. Head. He indicated that he had introduced himself to her a few minutes before the altercation as she represented his district. He “couldn’t believe” how she and her group had acted. Sure enough when we checked the internet that evening it was Ms. Head who led the altercation. While her web-site boasts, stated credentials, church membership, etc. are all very interesting; I would submit that New Orleans deserves to be represented by better. As long as interactions are led with hostility and followed by put-downs such as that chosen by Ms. Head (Yankee bitch) New Orleans will not move forward. I have always been bemused by endless editorials about “outsiders who do not understand, have proper appreciation, etc.” The fact is the region has rich cultural and tourist offerings-perhaps better than any other in the nation. That said attitudes like those displayed by Ms. Head can deter all but the most committed from wanting to visit. We will be back because of our love for the area, but had Ms. Head randomly abused a first time visitor I can imagine a different result. A city that prides itself on tourism and is reliant upon tourist trade needs to rethink its approach beginning with what its elected leaders convey. Something is fundamentally wrong when people who visit have to do so “in spite of…”


N.B. Any hint of class resentment in this post is entirely intended and historically accurate. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Thomas Agnew and his parents for the boorish behavior of all those nouveau-riches Lakefront types from C.B.S. who came to your lovely home St. Charles Avenue home for that eighth-grade party many years ago, who proceeded to get fabulously drunk on liquor looted from their parents and then introduce your delicate future debutantes to “poppin’ the gator” to The Guess Who’s “American Woman”. Not that I regret it. It was, in that Odd way we relish here on Toulouse Street, as perfect a moment of ritualized class conflict as anyone could imagine. The Agnews may take some comfort that at least one of us turned out better than might have been expected, mounting a creditable recent campaign for Congress in the near suburbs. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want your trailer folk either, Stacey, so you can forget busing them in from the North Shore.

Dinerral Shavers Jr. Sits In On Snare with Hot 8 April 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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I don’t know how many of the happy hippy mud dancers or tourists at the Jazz and Heritage Stage at Jazz Fest Sunday understood what it meant when little Dinerral Shavers Junior took the stage holding his father’ s instrument, the snare drum, with his father’s band, the Hot 8. For a kid who didn’t look much older than seven or eight he did a creditable job. I just wish I’d gotten a decent picture. You can see a bit of a blur in one picture of one of the two young men from one of the marching clubs that joined the band on stage. Seeing those three young boys walking in their father’s steps was impressive and encouraging.

May the line of warrior drummers be unbroken in New Orleans.

Remember, you can contribute to the education of this young man who lost his father tragically and at such an early age at The Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund.

N.B. Looking at the pictures while less tired on Monday, I went back and checked then fixed the reference to Dinerral Shavers Jr.’s age to be seven or eight, per this post at NOLA.com.

St. Louis Infirmary-Jazz Fest From St. Louis No. 3 April 26, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Passed by Ashley walking into Jazz Fest this morning. The song that played when I got to the St. Leo’s Mausoleum was St. James Infirmary, one of the songs the Hot 8 played at the funeral (both in a slow, dirge version and as an up tempo number).

The first of a couple of odd bits of synchronicity today. The next was a guy standing behind me at the Acura stage this morning. Either the ghost of Everette Maddox was at Jazz Fest, or someone relishes their resemblance to the dead poet, down to the pipe. I didn’t take his picture, not wanting to spoil the odd moment.

I’m still waiting for the third odd thing to make the set complete, but the day is not ended yet.

You were right, Ray. It sounds great (but you wouldn’t know it from this crappy camera video).

Battling Fortuna at the Track April 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Today I am at the counting house and not at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Our masters in the far away financial centers of the nation to the north do not take note of our particular holidays. (I was forced to take a vacation day for Mardi Gras, which is no longer an official holiday on the counting house’s calendar). And I am just too damned busy.

My absence is mitigated a bit by the fact that I am not as excited in the particulars of this Jazz Fest as I have been in the past. If you visit Toulouse Street often enough you would notice I have rather eclectic taste in music. Jazz, however, is in a central place in my musical pantheon. This year there is nothing as transcendently perfect as last year’s Pharoah Sanders followed by Terrence Blancard date. These are the Days of the Divas in terms of major, out-of-town jazz talent and female jazz vocalists fall somewhere mid list in my own musical universe. Then there is the prospect of having to shove through crowds of Billy Joel and TimMcGraw fans to get where I want to go.

Still, to walk up to the Fair Grounds among the large and anxious crowds on a hot Spring day is more than just a concert. It is, as I wrote of French Quarter fest last year, “…more than just an option sandwiched between a trip to Target in the morning and one to Blockbuster for a Saturday night’s entertainment. It is a defining and participatory event closer to the civic religions of pre-Christian Mediterranean societies than anything in America, peopled by larger-than-life figures who represent Who We Are. Failure to propitiate them, we remind ourselves, might upset the balance of our cosmos.”

Part of the reason I did not move heaven and earth to get out today (or tomorrow) is that there are an awful lot of Big Names I’m not as anxious to see and an awful lot of schedule conflicts that have driven my crazy these last several weeks. I regret I won’t see Mac Rebennak tomorrow but there is my daughter’s dance recital. That and I would really want to catch the Tribute to Willie Tee and Earl Turbington at the Jazz Tent while Dr. John is playing. I would then have to choose between standing behind tens of thousands of die hard Billy Joel fans to catch the good Doctor, or skipping that to stay at the Jazz Tent for Astral Project. The schedule this year seems to have taken a bad turn this year from the perspective from my taste, a ill spin of Fortuna’s wheel without respect for theology and geometry.

Still, before the weekend comes to a close I know that I will find myself walking across the Fairground’s track and into the heart of it all. Sunday’s downward arc is a good one, passing from the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars (Tab Benoit, Dr. John, Monk Boudreaux, George Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Johnny Sansone, Johnny Vidocovich & Waylon Thibodeaux; ah, I shall see the Good Doctor), then through the Nicholas Payton Quintet (I hope this is the Tribute to Miles Quintet I’ve read about), and with a tip of the hat to Pete Fountain as I pass the Economy Hall tent on my way back to Jazz and Heritage Stage, ending at the Hot 8 Brass Band. Somewhere in there is a mango freeze, some crawfish bread and perhaps a beer or two, if the lines are not horrible.

Even when Mammon and Fortuna conspire against it Jazz Fest will always draw us in. At the end it is worth the money and the crowds and the lines because it is not just another stop on the festival circuit, even if the fest management books name acts as if it were. To be at Jazz Fest is not to be one among thousands of fans of this or that particular act. It is to be in the middle of a bubbling alembic full of the ingredients that are the secrets of the alchemy of New Orleans: the collision of so much and various music and food, and a crowd mostly assembled not for love of any one thing but for the love of it all. Out of that vessel comes the Spiritus Vitae of New Orleans, and no matter what conspires to prevent us none of us can live without a taste of it.

Queen of Denial? February 9, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Carnival, Debrisville, Flood, flooding, French Quarter, home, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, Katrina, levee, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Hollywood Reporter columnist Ray Richmond came to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, wandered Bourbon Street and its immediate environs like a good tourist–noting the drunken hordes, the breast obsession, and the beads, all of the touchstones of a Tourist at Mardi Gras. His blog notes that he did venture out of the Quarter and into The Ruins, fand found “a watterlogged [sic] ghost town pockmarked with wide swaths of untouched damage. Meanwhile, those who dared stick it out — or more likely, had no choice — are forced to live in flimsy FEMA trailer housing where their homes once stood.”

His reaction to this odd (to him) juxtaposition was to wonder at the boosterism of the city fathers in promoting Carnival, and the commitment of the costumed locals to have their day even in the middle of Year Three of the postdeluvian era.

The local and national media don’t really talk about this stuff anymore, as Hurricane Katrina is yesterday’s crisis. It’s also far better for tourism and for the city’s tenuous self-esteem to promote the fact that New Orleans’ self-gratifying, anything-goes character is back in full. “New Orleans Hotels at 90% Capacity — and Counting!” exulted one headline. The only hurricane you seem to hear about anymore is the one that’s served in a glass (dark rum, pineapple juice, splash of grenadine). It’s all something of a facade, of course, but that’s spin marketing for ya. There’s simply not as much to be gained from peddling the slogan, New Orleans: Merely a Shell of What We Once Were.

“….We can all sleep better knowing that New Orleans is once again safe for the rowdy and the inebriated, the naked and the perverse. For a city that’s still struggling to crawl out from under the lingering devastation of Hell and high water, it now finds itself drowning in denial, which rapidly has become the most powerful of opiates for these huddled, thinned-out masses.”

Ray, we are not merely a shell of what we once were, even if half of the city’s buildings are. Carnival is not denial; for us it is life. The picture of the man dressed as a soiled baby president is part of (or a dedicated hanger on to) the Krewe of Saint Anne, one of the groups dedicated to elaborate costuming in Mardi Gras. The people who worked half the year on fantastic costumes in spite of the state of our city are no different than my wife soldiering through celebrating Christmas while her mother died. To suggest Mardi Gras is inappropriate would be tantamount to suggesting that commerce in New York be suspended for a few years because of 9-11. If that were to happen, what would be left of the city? Would what remains even be New York? The same is true for New Orleans: to cease to be ourselves would be to surrender, and we have not, will not give up.

For people like the Krewe of St. Anne and all of those you saw following them, Mardi Gras is not a denial but instead a celebration of who we are, of why we live here. It was an affirmation that we do live here, that we will live here, come hell or high water or both, in the way we have for close to three centuries. We not only had Mardi Gras this year, we had it last year, and we had it in 2006 — six months after the Federal Flood, when half of the city had no running water or telephones. We costumed and paraded and partied.

We’re glad the tourists are back, even the vomiting hordes of Spring Break in Hell types. We need their business. We need your business, and that of your readers. Tourism remains a top industry. We want you to come for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, and we want you to take time out from those celebrations to see the rest of the city, the real city that stands in hollow, gray ruin not a mile from the Fairgrounds where Jazz Fest plays. We want America to know the one thing your story missed. We stand in ruin because we have been left to our own devices to rebuild. The money is all gone down the rat hole, parceled out to pay for fabulous no-bid contracts to Haliburton and their ilk for debris clean up and other tasks that followed the storm and flood. The money meant to help rebuild is tied up in Byzantine federal red tape. Little has actually reached the people who live here. And still they come home, maxing out their credit cards and cashing out their retirement and one-by-one rebuilding their houses and lives. We are doing it on our own because we just. Sinn Fein, baby.

They come home because they have tried life elsewhere in America when they had no choice but to leave, and they chose to come home. The come back because there is no place for a Krewe of St. Anne’s in Houston or Dallas or Atlanta or Memphis. They come home not for Bourbon Street but for the joie de vivre of the entire city, for the way of life which Bourbon Street caricatures for the tourists. The come because we have built a culture here over 300 years which is different than what the rest of America has, a life visitors don’t understand but are drawn to, which they come and sample with envy. A person may still be waiting — two-and-a-half years later — for a final insurance settlement or a check from the Road Home program, living in a camper trailer beside a home they are trying to rebuild themselves after a long day’s work elsewhere. They may be tired and beaten down, but they will have Carnival.

This is not denial. This is who we are. This is why you came, why the hordes on Bourbon Street came. This is why the floats rolled and the marching crews walked. They city may lay still half in ruin, but New Orleans is back because New Orleans is a people and a way of life. We have risked everything and spent every penny we have to be here because we will not let that way of life vanish from the earth, cannot imagine spending a life elsewhere, a life different from this.

See you at Jazz Fest.

Jazz Festival Parade May 6, 2007

Posted by The Typist 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 The Typist 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 The Typist in Jazz, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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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