― Will(iam), Friday, 27 May 2005 17:50 (8 years ago) Permalink
September 8, 2005Jazz Musicians Ask if Their Scene Will SurviveBy BEN RATLIFF, New York TimesNew Orleans is a jazz town, but also a funk town, a brass-band town, a hip-hop town and a jam-band town. It has international jazz musicians and hip-hop superstars, but also a true, subsistence-level street culture. Much of its music is tied to geography and neighborhoods, and crowds.
All that was incontrovertibly true until a week ago Monday. Now the future for brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, to cite two examples, looks particularly bleak if their neighborhoods are destroyed by flooding, and bleaker still with the prospect of no new tourists coming to town soon to infuse their traditions with new money. Although the full extent of damage is still unknown, there is little doubt that it has been severe - to families, to instruments, to historical records, to clubs, to costumes. "Who knows if there exists a Mardi Gras Indian costume anymore in New Orleans?" wondered Don Marshall, director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation.
"A lot of the great musicians came right out of the Treme neighborhood and the Lower Ninth Ward," said the trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, temporarily speaking in the past tense, by phone from Houston yesterday. Mr. Ruffins, one of the most popular jazz musicians in New Orleans, made his name there partly through his regular Thursday-night gig over the last 12 years at Vaughan's, a bar in the Bywater neighborhood, where red beans and rice were served at midnight. Now Vaughn's may be destroyed, and so may his new house, which is not too far from the bar.
On Saturday evening Mr. Ruffins flew back to New Orleans from a gig in San Diego, having heard the first of the dire storm warnings. He stopped at a lumberyard to buy wood planks, boarded up 25 windows on his house, then went bar-hopping and joked with his friends that where they were standing might be under water the next day.
The next morning he fled to Baton Rouge with his family, and now he is in Houston, about to settle into apartments, along with more than 30 relatives. He is being offered plenty of work in Houston, and is already thinking ahead to what he calls "the new New Orleans."
"I think the city is going to wind up being a smaller area," he said. "They'll have to build some super levees.
"I think this will never happen again once they get finished," Mr. Ruffins added. "We're going to get those musicians back, the brass bands, the jazz funerals, everything."
Brass bands function through the year - not only through the annual Jazzfest, where many outsiders see them, and jazz funerals, but at the approximately 55 social aid and pleasure clubs, each of which holds a parade once a year. It is an intensely local culture, and has been thriving in recent years. Brass-band music, funky and hard-hitting, can easily be transformed from the neighborhood social to a club gig; brass bands like Rebirth, Dirty Dozen and the Soul Rebels have done well by touring as commercial entities. Members of Stooges Brass Band have ended up in Atlanta, and of Li'l Rascals in Houston; there could be a significant brass-band diaspora before musicians find a way to get home to New Orleans. (Rebirth's Web site, www.rebirthbrassband.com, has been keeping a count of brass-band musicians who have been heard from.)
The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is more fragile. Monk Boudreaux is chief of the Golden Eagles, one of the 40 or so secretive Mardi Gras tribes, who are known not just for their flamboyant feathered costumes but for their competitive parades through neighborhoods at Mardi Gras time. (Mardi Gras Indians are not American Indians but New Orleanians from the city's working-class black neighborhoods.) Mr. Boudreaux, now safe with his daughter in Mesquite, Tex., stayed put through the storm at his house in the Uptown neighborhood; when he left last week, he said, the water was waist-high. He chuckled when asked if the Mardi Gras Indian tradition could survive in exile. "I don't know of any other Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans," he said.
These days a city is often considered a jazz town to the extent that its resident musicians have international careers. The bulk of New Orleans jazz musicians have shown a knack for staying local. (Twenty or so in the last two decades, including several Marsalises, are obvious exceptions.)
But as everyone knows, jazz is crucial to New Orleans, and New Orleans was crucial in combining jazz's constituent parts, its Spanish, French, Caribbean and West African influences. The fact that so many musicians are related to one or another of the city's great music families - Lastie, Brunious, Neville, Jordan, Marsalis - still gives much of the music scene a built-in sense of nobility. "Whereas New York has a jazz industry," said Quint Davis, director of Jazzfest, "New Orleans has a jazz culture." (Speaking of Jazzfest, Mr. Davis was not ready to discuss whether there will be a festival next April. "First I'm dealing with the lives and subsistence of the people who produce it," he said. [Since this article ran, they announced that the Fest will take place somewhere in Louisiana next April-steve k])
And most jazz in New Orleans has a directness about it. "Everyone isn't searching for the hottest, newest lick," said Maurice Brown, a young trumpeter from Chicago who had been rising through the ranks of the New Orleans jazz scene for the last four years before the storm took his house and car. "People are trying to stay true to the melody."
Gregory Davis, the trumpeter and vocalist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of the city's most successful groups, said the typical New Orleans musician was vulnerable because of how he lives and works. (Mr. Davis's house is in the Gentilly neighborhood; he spoke last week from his brother's home in Dallas.)
"A lot of these guys who are playing out there in the clubs are not home owners," he said. "They're going to be at the mercy of the owners of those properties. For some of them, playing in the clubs was the only means of earning any money. If those musicians come back and don't have an affordable home, that's a big blow."
Louis Edwards, a New Orleans novelist and an associate producer of the Jazz and Heritage Festival, said, "No other city is so equipped to deal with this." A French Quarter resident, Mr. Edwards was taking refuge last week at his mother's house in Lake Charles, La.
"Think of the jazz funeral," he said. "In New Orleans we respond to the concept of following tragedy with joy. That's a powerful philosophy to have as the underpinning of your culture."
In the meantime, Mr. Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, has a feeling his own Mardi Gras Indian costume is intact. He was careful to put it in a dry place before he left home. "I just need to get home and get that Indian suit from on top of that closet," he said.
― steve k, Sunday, 11 September 2005 19:37 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Sunday, 11 September 2005 19:38 (7 years ago) Permalink
― don, Monday, 12 September 2005 01:23 (7 years ago) Permalink
One of the weird side effects of this whole thing is that most New Orleans musicians are instantly on tour as of now, since that's the only way they can make some money. I sent a snare drum down to Rebirth last week and saw them play up here a few days ago, and we're playing a benefit show with the Stooges in a couple weeks too. Apparently Bill Summers and Davell Crawford played in Minneapolis tonight, etc.
― Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 12 September 2005 02:30 (7 years ago) Permalink
New Orleans r'n'b singer Marva Wright and her extended family are now in Maryland. I got sent an e-mail asking for clothes and stuff. The e-mail didn't say where her band is, or if she was gonna do any singing around here.
― Steve K (Steve K), Monday, 12 September 2005 03:12 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve-k, Monday, 12 September 2005 03:58 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 12 September 2005 12:47 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Monday, 12 September 2005 13:34 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 12 September 2005 14:14 (7 years ago) Permalink
...with more pictures here:http://babelogue.citypages.com:8080/pscholtes/#a1446
...and more to come. Weird to think that Houston is now the safehouse of this culture. Houston!
Katy Reckdahl also tells the incredible story of her and her husband, brass band veteran "Kid Merv" Campbell, here:http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2005/09/a_survivors_sto.asp#more
Mike from Jack Brass Band is talking about getting the Soul Rebels to play Minneapolis...
― Pete Scholtes, Tuesday, 13 September 2005 00:20 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Tuesday, 13 September 2005 12:16 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Tuesday, 13 September 2005 12:59 (7 years ago) Permalink
― don, Tuesday, 13 September 2005 16:15 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Pete Scholtes, Tuesday, 13 September 2005 21:57 (7 years ago) Permalink
Some upcoming shows that I know about:
-Rebirth Brass Band, tonight at Martyr's (Chicago)-Rebirth Brass Band, Sept. 20th on that big pay-per-view benefit show at Madison Square Garden & Radio City Music Hall-Stooges Brass Band, Sept. 25th at ??? (Boston)-Stooges Brass Band/Youngblood Brass Band/Mama Digdown's Brass Band, Oct. 9th at the King Club (Madison)-Stooges Brass Band/Mama Digdown's Brass Band, Oct. 10th at Fitzgerald's (Chicago)
There should be a lot more dates in the midwest and elsewhere from Rebirth, Hot 8, Stooges, etc.
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 16 September 2005 17:42 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 16 September 2005 17:46 (7 years ago) Permalink
― strng hlkngtn (dubplatestyle), Friday, 16 September 2005 17:51 (7 years ago) Permalink
― strng hlkngtn (dubplatestyle), Friday, 16 September 2005 17:52 (7 years ago) Permalink
(do you still check your hotmail address?)
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 16 September 2005 17:58 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Pete Scholtes, Friday, 16 September 2005 22:55 (7 years ago) Permalink
― don, Saturday, 17 September 2005 01:02 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Saturday, 17 September 2005 02:43 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Canpass Air (nordicskilla), Monday, 19 September 2005 21:29 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Pete Scholtes, Tuesday, 20 September 2005 18:55 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Steve Kiviat (Steve K), Wednesday, 21 September 2005 03:11 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 21 September 2005 16:44 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 23 September 2005 16:36 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 23 September 2005 19:30 (7 years ago) Permalink
"But the musicians from New Orleans - among them the Neville Brothers, the original Meters, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band - outsang and outfunked most of the better-known stars. The programming was smart: New Orleans musicians had the first and last words, in the form of parade music from the Rebirth Brass Band.
New Orleans music, from jazz to hip-hop (which wasn't represented at the concert), has a distinctive rolling swing that's directly derived from community celebrations. It's deeply connected to Mardi Gras songs (like "Iko Iko" and "Brother John," which the Dixie Cups sang on Tuesday night, and "Hey Pocky Way" performed by the Meters and the Neville Brothers) and brass-band music for funerals and parades.
Famously musical New Orleans neighborhoods like Tremé and the Ninth Ward were hit hard by the flooding; how they will be rebuilt, and who will return, is still an open question and one that worries New Orleans musicians. "Nothing's going to be the same," said Ms. Thomas, the 64-year-old queen of New Orleans rhythm and blues. "But by the same token, what ever is? The main thing is to bring everybody back, because that's the ambience of the city."
But for the moment, it didn't matter that the performers' homes and neighborhoods have been damaged. They were executing the old African-American alchemy of tribulation into joy.
The politics of New Orleans's plight were not entirely sidelined. Bette Midler said, "I could stand up here and talk for hours about ineptitude, stupidity, blame, inequality, global warming, the dangerous destruction of the wetlands, but if I did, what would all those other people have to talk about?" She was loudly booed after mocking President Bush. Former President Bill Clinton, who introduced Mr. Fogerty, received a long ovation.
Cyril Neville, of the Neville Brothers, wore a T-shirt reading, "Ethnic cleansing in New Orleans"; his brother Aaron wore a baseball cap reading, "Evacuee." And when the Meters sang "People Say," their bassist, George Porter Jr., said, "People want to know - do we have a right to live?"
Backstage, Ms. Thomas said that both her house and the club she owns, the Lion's Den, were badly flooded. "We're among the New Orleans easters who lost everything," she said. "But we're gonna be all right." Onstage, backed by Ry Cooder, Lenny Kravitz and Buckwheat Zydeco, she sang a riveting, unsparing version of Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues": "When it thunders and lightnin' and the wind begins to blow/ There's thousands of people ain't got no place to go."
Aaron Neville joined Simon and Garfunkel for "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and he followed Art Garfunkel's rickety, overwrought verse with one that was tender, idiosyncratic and delicately poised; later, with his brothers, he sang a humbly devout "Amazing Grace." The Meters, who defined New Orleans funk in their own songs and as a studio band, regrouped for one song, then merged with the Neville Brothers (who include Art Neville of the Meters). And Kermit Ruffins, a trumpeter and singer, growled a steamy "St. James Infirmary" with the Dirty Dozen.
Louisiana musicians also propelled strong performances by non-natives. Elvis Costello belted "The Monkey Speaks His Mind" with the Dirty Dozen and the song's writer, Dave Bartholomew, and found the scorn and vitriol in Allen Toussaint's "On Your Way Down," with Mr. Toussaint at the piano. Diana Krall, also with the Dirty Dozen, dug into the Fats Domino hit "I'm Walkin'." And with Buckwheat Zydeco, from Lafayette, on accordion, Mr. Cooder sang another Domino song, "My Girl Josephine," with a knowing rasp.
The longest segments went to the rock stars. Mr. Fogerty......An unexpected consequence of the hurricane is that it has focused attention on New Orleans's music, with all its local quirks and underappreciated genius. Ms. Thomas, for instance, is recording an album while she's in New York. With luck, the sounds of New Orleans will remind the world that rebuilding the Crescent City is not only a commercial project but also a cultural one. "
― steve-k, Saturday, 24 September 2005 17:35 (7 years ago) Permalink
Regarding media attention for New Orleans bands--It is sad it Katrina to get attention, but it's also sad it took Katrina to get some New Orleans groups on the road. Some of the press is happening now because some of the groups are touring the U.S. for the first time. The artists also need to get the word out. Somebody needs to set up or update a website for the Lil' Stooges Brass band. Texas Fred Carter, according to an e-mail I got, is booking Lil' Stooges at Chick Hall's, outside D.C., but the show is not yet on the club's website. The band deserves media ink in the nation's capital, but somebody's got to spread the word.
― steve k, Sunday, 25 September 2005 01:47 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Sunday, 25 September 2005 02:12 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Steve K (Steve K), Sunday, 25 September 2005 14:39 (7 years ago) Permalink
Mantra for New Orleans: 'We Will Swing Again' By DAVID CARR, N.Y. Times
NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 - In many American cities, indigenous culture is a bonus amenity, an add-on to the business and civic functions of the metropolis. Here, though, the first and last conversation you have will be about where you went, what you ate, who you heard play. The people who make music, who perform cabaret - and those who pour the whiskey that accompany the shows - are precisely the point here, and they play big for their size. If there is no show, there is no New Orleans.
"We will swing again in that place," Kermit Ruffins said by phone from Houston, where he went when Hurricane Katrina came. Mr. Ruffins is a trumpeter beyond compare, the crowned emperor of the New Orleans sound, who cooks red beans and rice and plays with his band, the Barbecue Swingers, every Thursday down at Vaughn's, in the Bywater section of the upper Ninth Ward. A flashlight aimed at Vaughn's last Thursday night revealed an intact building - and a big mess to go with it. "Could be six months, could be eight, could be a year," Mr. Ruffins said, "but I can't wait to get there and throw the grand reopening party on the new New Orleans. Count on that."
Workers interviewed this week up and down the high-low culture scale echoed Mr. Ruffins's optimism to a person. The message they sent from near and far was the same: This wounded city will heal itself show by show, and gig by gig, because culture - ribald, prissy and everything in between - is the nub around which the whole ball of yarn is wound. New Orleans without zydeco, without jazz, without theater, without nude dancers and orchestra players, is just a swamp town with hot summers, bad schools and a lot of mosquitoes. If this city is to return, it will do so on the backs of the artists who make it a place like nowhere else.
Mark Samuels, the owner of Basin Street Records, said as much. His small New Orleans label is the home to Mr. Ruffins, Los Hombres Calientes and Dr. Michael White. Mr. Samuels spent last week sneaking into the city from his temporary headquarters in Austin, Tex., to grab CD's so his artists would have something to peddle at their shows. Sitting at his brother's house in Metairie outside New Orleans last week, he showed pictures of his house in Lakewood South - a total loss by the looks of it - and shared his hopes and worries about the future.
"You can redo Bourbon Street anywhere in the world," Mr. Samuels said. "All you have to do is let people drink on the street, expose themselves on balconies and open a bunch of T-shirt shops. But New Orleans is a lot more than that. There is nowhere else in the world where you can head out to the Maple Leaf and hear the Rebirth Brass Band. That can't be recreated somewhere else."
Still, many New Orleans artists are now at large, playing for big audiences elsewhere. The Rebirth Brass Band tore the roof off in New York the other night as part of a benefit, and the Olympia Brass Band is setting out on tour from Phoenix. But while the money may be good, the tours will not be successful unless they end in New Orleans, where the rents were cheap and the clubs ample.
Many of those clubs made it through. Tipitina's is fine, for example, and Preservation Hall endures. As for the Rock n' Bowl, where the crash of pins mixed with the twang of a plucked guitar, John Blancher, who owns and runs the place, would like to reopen, but is also looking into some properties in nearby Lafayette. The club on the second floor is fine. But beneath it is mayhem, the result of eight feet of water rolling strikes for a week.
"I expect to reoccupy it," Mr. Blancher said. "From the outside, you would never want to even walk in there, but the inside is fine."
The insides of New Orleans seem great. The soul of the place, now dispersed, continues to thrive. The body is a hurting unit, though.
Dr. Ike - Ira Padnos to those who don't know him - is a medical doctor and a local scenester, the kind of man who embodies New Orleans's glorious, weird vibe. An anesthesiologist who worked through the storm at the Louisiana State University's hospital, he is now performing cultural triage in his role as executive director of the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau. He won't say this - modesty is a persistent feature of the local milieu - but both his jobs will play a role in putting the paddles on the stilled heart of New Orleans. The Mystic Knights run the Ponderosa Stomp, a roots music festival that runs concurrently with the city's giant Jazzfest - "all killer, no filler" is its advertising cry - and serves as a reminder that much American music started and persists here. Reluctantly, the Knights have decided to move the Stomp to Memphis this year, for a benefit show, which is fine, but it is not New Orleans.
Many of the cities cultural treasures were not flooded, Mr. Padnos said. But for New Orleans to return, he added, "depends on people - the waiters, the musicians, the Indians - who live in the Ninth Ward, the Seventh Ward and Tremé, all of which were hit hard by the flooding. You need those people to come back to drive the city's culture."
It is still unclear what exactly they will be returning to, if they return. For instance, somewhere in the basement of the Orpheum Theater here there are 10 timpani drums floating in the muck and mire. At some point, Jim Atwood, the owner of the drums and a member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, will retrieve his equipment - likely ruined - and assess his future. But he is not expecting anything approaching normal anytime soon.
"Normal, when you are talking about New Orleans, is always a relative term," Mr. Atwood said. He and his wife, a flutist in the orchestra, said they have not really come to terms with what happened to the city and what it means for them.
"We have yet to have that conversation out loud," he said. "But when we do, I think it is likely we will conclude that New Orleans is where our home is, and hopefully our jobs as well."
The jobs may be there, but what many culture workers in New Orleans would like is an audience.
"Art here comes up from the streets," said Barbara Motley, who owns Le Chat Noir, a cabaret on St. Charles Avenue left relatively undamaged by the storms. "The city failed a lot of the people who live here and I think they will be slow in coming back, with good reason."
"On the other hand, this is New Orleans," she added, "so I would not be surprised if people decide they need a laugh and a show. We'll see, won't we?"
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
― steve-k, Monday, 26 September 2005 12:12 (7 years ago) Permalink
― curmudgeon, Monday, 26 September 2005 12:24 (7 years ago) Permalink
Sept 26-27 NYC @ Living Room and BarbesSept 29 Milwaukee, WI @ HighburySept 30 Madison, WI @ Great DaneOct 1 Baraboo, WI @ Tha ShackOct 2 Green Bay, WI @ MalonesOct 4 Iowa City @ Iowa City Yacht ClubOct 5 St. Louis @ Broadway Oyster BarOct 9 Madison, WI @ King Club (w/Digdown and Youngblood Brass Band)Oct 10 Chicago, IL @ Fitzgeralds (w/Mama Digdown's Brass Band)Oct 14 Wash D.C. @ Surf ClubOct 15 Arlington, VA @ festival (??)
If y'all have the means and the interest, any promotion will be greatly appreciated.
― Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 26 September 2005 19:13 (7 years ago) Permalink
Anybody with any Philly contacts or ideas for last-minute gigs there?
― steve k, Monday, 26 September 2005 22:24 (7 years ago) Permalink
I do not think they have gigs yet for the 12th and 13th. I think they're looking for gigs between Chicago and D.C., such as in Philadelphia.
― steve k, Wednesday, 28 September 2005 14:19 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Pete Scholtes, Wednesday, 28 September 2005 15:31 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Wednesday, 28 September 2005 15:38 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 22:03 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 22:26 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Steve K (Steve K), Thursday, 29 September 2005 03:26 (7 years ago) Permalink
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 29 September 2005 13:50 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Pete Scholtes, Thursday, 29 September 2005 20:57 (7 years ago) Permalink
I don't think the New York shows got much pre-press, but they split the bill with Slavic Soul Party who presumably have their own crowd.
Someone also sent me this bit of complete WTF-ness:
Lil' Stooges Brass Band | New Orleans JazzProductshop NYC — The Lil' Stooges Brass Band are a wonderfully gothic jazzoutfit that hail from New Orleans. These cats sound like they couldperfectly score a Tim Burton film. They're known as one of the hottestoutfits out the big easy.
― Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 29 September 2005 21:37 (7 years ago) Permalink
― steve k, Friday, 30 September 2005 10:18 (7 years ago) Permalink
So the New York press that missed the earlier shows may now have another shot.
― steve k, Wednesday, 5 October 2005 16:45 (7 years ago) Permalink
― strng hlkngtn: what does it mean? (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 18:55 (7 years ago) Permalink
The Stooges show in Madison was a blast, although they've certainly switched things up on this tour. Sammy, the snare drummer, is out on tour with Trombone Shorty so they got a drumset player (Christmas) in his stead. He just got off tour with Gerald Levert (!) and he's a bad motherfucker. They've also got some electric instruments now, so it's different but good. Can't wait for our shows together this weekend.
― Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 19:03 (7 years ago) Permalink