New Orleans Brass Bands S/D

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Blogger Chuck Taggart posted this intro paragraph for a Keith Spera article on Dr. Michael White and all the historic objects and cds this jazz musician and professor lost:

The heartbreak continues. I guess I didn't post this as the lead because I felt we needed a drink first. As bad as our own experiences were, and as bad as they are for tens of thousands of people, you hear stories like this and it makes your head want to explode. I'm not sure we'll ever be able to truly get over the loss to the city of New Orleans, particularly when reading about people like Dr. Michael White, one of my favorite jazz musicians.

Saturday, October 22, 2005
By Keith Spera
Music writer New Orleans Times-Picayune

Jazz clarinetist Michael White returned to his Gentilly home on Friday for first time since Hurricane Katrina and confronted a desolate tableau: beige bricks stained and striped by 6 feet of water; a front door branded with the bright orange and red marks of search teams; dead grass and demolished trees.

"It reminds me of one of those 'Twilight Zone' episodes," White said as he approached the door, "where I'll go in and find my own body."

Instead, he found his body of work, his valuable jazz artifacts and his personal treasures -- now decimated by water and mold.

For White, jazz is life; his instruments, family. He leads the traditional Original Liberty Jazz Band and is a respected scholar of New Orleans music and culture. He occupied an endowed chair at Xavier University, published meticulously researched articles and biographies, and lectured on topics ranging from Congo Square to the early history of New Orleans brass bands.

He lived alone in the 5200 block of Pratt Street, surrounded by jazz music, books and artifacts. The night before Katrina struck, he fled to Houston with several vintage instruments, among them the model for the giant clarinet mural outside the downtown Holiday Inn.

But he left behind 40 others, including a clarinet owned by King Oliver sideman Paul Barnes.

[...] Picking through debris in the ruins of his house, he found little to salvage. Outfitted with a mask and green rubber gloves, he stepped gingerly over a pile of jazz magazines just inside the door, now reduced to pulp. He spotted the remains of a new two-volume encyclopedia documenting the Harlem jazz renaissance, to which he contributed five biographies.

To the right hung a framed smudge, what was once a rare 1960s Bob Coke photograph of jazz bassist "Papa" John Joseph, a distant relative of White's. Joseph died of a heart attack onstage at Preservation Hall in 1965, reportedly after performing "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"No matter what had happened during the day, I'd look at that picture, and it gave me strength," White said. "It was the most beautiful picture I'd seen of Papa John. Wherever you went in the room, those eyes followed you. There was wisdom, but also truth."

Inside a waterlogged closet lay White's collection of vintage wooden instruments. He couldn't open the warped door.

"I don't know if I want to," he said. "That would be like (finding) relatives."

His casualties included more than 4,000 CDs and LPs. And there were as many books and a vast trove of research material, including primary source documents, voluminous notes and taped interviews with musicians. He had original sheet music from Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong.

Also gone are a set of banjo strings played by legendary jazz raconteur Danny Barker; a medal appointing White to the Chevalier rank in the French Order of Arts and Letters; snapshots with the late jazz legend Kid Thomas Valentine and President Clinton; and a 1993 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster autographed by artist John Scott.

Accompanying him Friday were a cameraman and writer Jason Berry, who is directing a documentary about jazz funerals that features White. Berry marveled at the scale of the loss, both to White personally and to jazz scholarship in general.

"Not that many people carry the history and culture like Michael does," Berry said. "It's the way Louis Armstrong did, the way Danny Barker did, the way Wynton Marsalis does. They are those rare players who rise to another plateau and become more than musicians. That's why it's so heartbreaking to see his loss."

Berry carted soggy artifacts to the porch: a painting of legendary clarinetist George Lewis, one of White's heroes. A sketch from Africa. Framed album artwork from Bunk Johnson's "Brass and Dance Band" and the Young Tuxedo Brass Band's "Jazz Begins."

"Michael, I think some of this can be salvaged."

"At this point," White said, "I'm trying to figure out if I can be salvaged." "I tried very hard to picture what this would be like, but you can't begin to imagine. The hard part is that there's a lot of history here that can't be replaced. It's all gone. I'm overwhelmed. I wouldn't know where to start."

Since evacuating, White has lived in a Houston hotel, exiled with his aunt, sister, nephew and elderly mother. Early on, he wondered if he could find work in Houston. He eventually landed a Sunday jazz brunch gig at a restaurant called Tommy's Seafood Steakhouse.

He is hunting for an apartment in Houston. But if Xavier University reopens in January, he wants to return. For now, he's written two "positive, upbeat" songs about a restored New Orleans.

And he takes comfort in the message of the jazz funeral, in which the spirit of the deceased is cut loose to enjoy a better life. Death, followed by rebirth.

"I have to keep remembering that," he said. "That's what gives us the courage to carry on."

Steve K (Steve K), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 03:28 (fifteen years ago) link


On November 18th & 19th, Galactic's "10-Year Invasion Fall Tour" tour will culminate with a pair of unique performances at Washington DC's 9:30 Club. Dubbed "9:30 in New Orleans," these tour-ending shows will be a New Orleans style party featuring improvisational collaborations, a multitude of special guests and covers of classic material. Legendary vocalist and keyboardist Ivan Neville will make special appearances with Galactic throughout both nights, as will The Stooges Brass Band, who will also open the night of the 18th with a traditional, celebratory NOLA brass band show. The following evening will begin with a special performance by Robert Walter, who will be joined by Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio of Galactic.

Steve K (Steve K), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 03:38 (fifteen years ago) link

That Stooges gig is not yet on the 930 Club website or Jordan's blog.

That Dr. White article, above, is another oh so sad tale.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 11:51 (fifteen years ago) link

Turning to the positive for a second, let's pump up that show to our friends in D.C.

Pete Scholtes, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 22:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Jordan's bandmate Erik, who booked the recent Stooges tour, is gonna check on details for me for that show. It seems that 2 members of Galactic used to live in D.C. so they've been staying here since Katrina. The 930 Club website just notes that Ivan Neville is playing with Galactic. As an aside, I see that New Orleans vocalist Marva Wright is living now in Randalstown, Maryland, outside of Baltimore.

Speaking of Baltimore. I received the following in an e-mail:

$50 donation.

HBO's The Wire is teaming up with Sonar to bring a little bit of New Orleans to Baltimore. The cast and crew of the show will all be on hand to help celebrate All Saint's Day with some of the Big Easy's best bands. All proceeds go to helping the victims of hurricane Katrina. (The ticket price is a tax deductible donation.)

The Wire & Associated Black Charities Present a Hurricane Katrina Benefit
The Subdudes • Rebirth Brass Band • The Iguanas
Hosted by Wendell "The Bunk" Pierce
This Tuesday!
November 1
@ Sonar • 407 E. Saratoga St., Baltimore, MD
6pm Doors • All Ages!

Advance tickets throught Ticketmaster.

(Yes Dusk we know it's not really Fat Tuesday).

curmudgeon, Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:10 (fifteen years ago) link

930 Club website updated, the Stooges Brass Band return D.C. shows are on!

curmudgeon, Thursday, 27 October 2005 19:10 (fifteen years ago) link

Cool, I updated the blog.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 27 October 2005 19:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Other stuff:

Hot 8 Brass Band are doing a series of benefits and gigs this week in NYC.

Also, Lousiana Music Factory, where I've gotten almost every single brass band cd, is back in business!

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 27 October 2005 19:43 (fifteen years ago) link

Now I just have to get Hot 8 to come to D.C. and Baltimore! I'll have to order their cd from the Louisiana Music Factory (from whom I have previously bought cds from). You've been plugging them forever and I just never got around to it.

Steve K (Steve K), Thursday, 27 October 2005 23:39 (fifteen years ago) link

Hot 8 is great. Let me know if you want a phone number for the band.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 00:28 (fifteen years ago) link

I already tried some of the e-mail addresses on that link you sent above. If I do not hear back, I'll contact you for a phone number.

Steve K (Steve K), Friday, 28 October 2005 03:45 (fifteen years ago) link

So Hot 8 contacted me and I put them in touch with some DC and Baltimore area clubs/promoters.

I saw this book advertised by the LSU Press in the Oxford American:

Keeping the Beat on the Street
The New Orleans Brass Band Renaissance

Mick Burns

"Told in the words of the musicians themselves, Keeping the Beat on the Street celebrates the renewed passion and pageantry among black brass bands in New Orleans. Mick Burns introduces the people who play the music and shares their insights, showing why New Orleans is the place where jazz continues to grow.
Brass bands waned during the civil rights era but revived around 1970 and then flourished in the 1980s, when the music became cool with the younger generation. In the only book to cover this revival, Burns interviews members from a variety of bands, including the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band, the Dirty Dozen, Tuba Fats’ Chosen Few, and the Rebirth Brass Band." Mick Burns is the author of The Great Olympia Band and has played jazz professionally in Europe and the United States for forty years. He lives in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in England.

Steve K (Steve K), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 04:16 (fifteen years ago) link

So I noticed online somewhere that the Stooges Brass Band apparently played Philly recently with indie-rock media darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They are getting around--it's too bad it's just because of Katrina though.

Still waiting on word whether local DC/Baltimore promoters will get gigs for the Hot 8 Brass Band.

Steve K (Steve K), Saturday, 5 November 2005 06:15 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks Steve, I hope Hot 8 gets some gigs.

So I noticed online somewhere that the Stooges Brass Band apparently played Philly recently with indie-rock media darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.


Jordan (Jordan), Saturday, 5 November 2005 06:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Not exactly brass-band related, but relevant.

NY Times article on UK writer Nik Cohn and his involvement with New Orleans rap pre- and post-Katrina

curmudgeon, Monday, 7 November 2005 20:56 (fifteen years ago) link

This guy blogged about the Stooges in Philly in October (and others did as well) and elsewhere I saw a reference to this great show further north at M.I.T. that supposedly took place on 10/30:

Bayou Bash Concert featuring The Wild Magnolias, 7pm (doors at 6:30pm) at Kresge Auditorium. Bayou Bash’s main event!! This concert will be a huge gathering of New Orleans musicians including Big Chief Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias, the famous Mardi Gras Indians, who will perform with other Jazz standouts including: Marva Wright, Davell Crawford, Rockin' Dopsie, Jr, Bob French and the Lil Stooges Brass Band.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 9 November 2005 15:10 (fifteen years ago) link

bump...Still hoping for DC/Baltimore area joints to book Hot 8...Stooges Brass opening for Galactic at the 930 Club next week...

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 9 November 2005 15:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks for that link.

Davell Crawford is amazing btw (great organ player and sings like Stevie), and he's been having random gigs all over the place.

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 15:22 (fifteen years ago) link

I saw the Spirit of New Orleans and Charmaine Neville at Ronnie Scott's in London on Saturday night. I was there by chance because Dad had decided to go there for his birthday and I had no idea what to expect. They were great! From what CN said it seems none of them have anywhere to live at the moment and Ronnie Scott's is doing a whole month of benefits for Katrina victims so they had been playing all week. It was their last night - I think they're moving on to Spain next.

Mädchen (Madchen), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 15:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Somewhere I think I read that some of the Nevilles were living in Nashville now. Art and Aaron Neville are touring with a small group in the US right now.


I've read about Davell in Offbeat but have never heard him...

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:24 (fifteen years ago) link

I don't think any of his records have done him justice yet, but see him live if you get the chance.

His grandfather wrote Iko Iko (under the name Jacomo, and of course he hasn't seen a dime from it)!

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Jordan, I would really appreciate it if you could write a little about what is special about the Hot 8 CD. I bought it on the basis of your enthusiasm, but I'm finding it less than thrilling -- good, occasionally interesting, absolutely competent (although not so great recording quality), but nothing to knock my socks off. Several leagues short of my favorite brass band music (which is probably ReBirth's Hot Venom). What am I missing?

Vornado, Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:42 (fifteen years ago) link

It took some time to grow on me. I agree that the mix could be better (drums are way too low), and I'll admit that having seen them live a lot helps to fill in the gaps.

Hot 8 and the Stooges are sort of the generation after Rebirth, and the style is a little bit different. The tempos are slower in general and the beat is more broken up. Things I love about this album:

"Jisten to Me" - the sounds like a street tune to me, and probably best highlights how Dinneral (the snare drummer) isn't afraid to throw in the craziest, out-of-nowhere shit and make it work.

"I Got You" - most of the bands are playing this tune now, the bassline is funky as shit. The 50 Cent quote in the trombone solo (not even a quote really, he sticks with it for 16 bars) is nice. I'm pretty sure it's Joe, the trombone player who got shot and killed by the police last year.

"Skeet Skeet" - this is the hit, and I loved hearing it blasting out of cars in New Orleans. There are no solos, it's like three minutes long, I love the 5th Ward Weebie verse, and whole end sequence going from the "shorty" chant to riff to the shout chorus is fire.

"Sexual Healing" - the drumming on this ridiculous, it's great how they keep the original beat on the song while turning it into something totally New Orleans and unique. They've played it at all the club shows I've been at and it's usually the last, craziest song of the night. It made me realize how well-constructed the original Gaye tune is, and I like the accapella bridges (although it's even better when everyone in the club knows the words).

"Rastafunk" - this is one of the tunes that was recorded a few years back when Shamar and Herb (now in Rebirth) were in the band, and then the newer horn players went back and overdubbed parts as well, so it's a wall of brass.

"Get Up" - this is my favorite joint on the album, listen to this one first. The groove and the bassline are so ridiculous I sometimes have to listen to it three times in a row, and the rapping is on it too. I don't think I've heard them play it live but it seems like it would be the ultimate second-line tune.

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 17:19 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks. I don't really disagree much with anything you said -- those are the highlights of the album for me, too. Except: the "wall of brass" on Rastafunk (and elsewhere) comes off as very marching band to me -- more UCLA than NOLA, and not in an interesting way. I don't think the drum mix is so much of a problem, either. Right now, the drumming is probably the thing I like most about it, especially on the tracks you mention -- sometimes really surprising and inventive, always cool. The horns sound very dry and hollow to me, tinny, maybe overcompressed (I don't know, my ears aren't that good), especially when everyone is playing.

Vornado, Wednesday, 9 November 2005 18:44 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, there's definitely a lot of compression, which can sound weird when the sousaphone or the trombones are obviously playing REALLY LOUD, but it doesn't bother me much. The Stooges record has similar issues with compression and the drum mix, but it's great too.

I think the best SOUNDING brass band records are Hot Venom and D-Boy. It took H8 ten years to come out with this one, but hopefully they'll do another record soon (I know they were planning on going in the studio before the hurricane hit).

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 19:08 (fifteen years ago) link

Stooges Brass Band opening for Galactic at the 930 Club in DC tonight. Doors open at 9.

I am still waiting to hear back from Hot 8 regarding getting any local dates.

curmudgeon, Friday, 18 November 2005 14:31 (fifteen years ago) link

The Saturday 11-19 930 Club show where members of the Stooges brass Band are sitting in with Galactic is sold out. Tickets are still available for tonight.

curmudgeon, Friday, 18 November 2005 14:33 (fifteen years ago) link

Looks like Hot 8 will be doing some midwest dates in January!

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 18 November 2005 15:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I'll have to call Hot 8's manager, since my last e-mail to him bounced. He had e-mailed me that he'd let me know if my contacts got him any gigs.

I'll post here later about the Stooges opening for Galactic earlier tonight. I'm reviewing it, so I gotta write that first.

curmudgeon (Steve K), Saturday, 19 November 2005 06:42 (fifteen years ago) link

The Looka blog linked to this UK article on New Orleans. Read about Irma Thomas' place, Ernie K Doe's widow buying a hearse which she can keep the full-size statue of her husband in, and Chief Monk...,16373,1644513,00.html

curmudgeon (Steve K), Saturday, 19 November 2005 19:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Sounds like things are still pretty dark in New Orleans, but there was a second-line there on Saturday with Hot 8 and the To Be Continued Brass Band.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 28 November 2005 22:19 (fifteen years ago) link

I have seen nothing but gloomy ink about New Orleans everywhere--Time cover story; guest NY Times op-ed; Washington Post, & elsewhere.

I guess Hot 8 are not near the internet these days. Their website has not been updated, and my follow-up e-mails to the various e-mail addresses listed on the site have been ignored. I wonder if any of the contacts I gave them will be booking them in the DC and Baltimore area? I have a phone # that I had put off dialing, maybe I will spend the bucks and do so.

curmudgeon (Steve K), Tuesday, 29 November 2005 01:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Oh yeah, the Stooges were kinda uneven when they opened for Galactic in DC. I wish they'd stick with being a brass band, and leave the keyboard work to other groups.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 29 November 2005 15:46 (fifteen years ago) link

An excert of an article on the New Birth Brass Band by John Nova Lomax, Houston (Peter S. of City Pages noted that John has been doing writing about New Orleans bands in Houston)

Published: Thursday, November 24, 2005
"...At any rate, with 2005's catastrophic hurricane season finally safely past, it seemed as good a time as ever to check in on some of those most affected: the evacuees in the temporarily Houston-based New Birth Brass Band.

Outwardly, they are doing great. Every Wednesday evening, they play to a marvelously enthusiastic midweek crowd at Under the Volcano, and they also have standing Friday- and Sunday-night gigs at St. Pete's Dancing Marlin and a Sunday-afternoon affair at Dan Electro's. At the Volcano gig last week, despite the absence of their trombone player, they were simply smokin'. Trumpet and sax interwove over tuba boo-yahs amid the polyrhythmic rumble and clatter of bass drums, snare drums and hissing tiny cymbals -- this stuff is a syringe full of pure China white heroin for you beat junkies out there.

And like Volcano owner Pete Mitchell says, nobody can sit still at these shows. Sure, half the room (there were about 100 people in there on a midweek night) might not be dancing outright, but they're either tapping their feet or nodding their heads. And dancing is what this band is all about. The New Birth feeds off the crowd, and the crowd feeds off the New Birth. People holler encouragement and sing along. Guys dance with girls, girls dance in packs, guys dance alone, blacks and whites and evacuees and locals dance together -- and the people who sit boogie on the way to the bathroom when they go take a leak. I'm a pretty inhibited guy and no kinda dancer, but at one point I found myself cutting a rug with a girl I had just met when all I intended to do was go get a beer. The vibe is terrifically hellafied: Where there is the New Birth Brass Band, there is also the infectious joy of New Orleans.

I talked to three twentysomething women -- Volcano regulars who had never heard of the band before stumbling into one of their sets a month or so ago -- who have become staunch converts to the New Birth cause. "There should be more people here," says account executive Laurie Chidlow. "There are lots of Houstonians who love New Orleans, and if they knew this was going on, I think they would be here."

"Laurie told us about it, and this is our first time here, and we are very impressed," adds financial analyst Susie Hale. "We are gonna be here every Wednesday from now on, definitely."

"They are so New Orleans!" says Chidlow. "And not the creepy New Orleans -- not the 'Let's go to Pat O'Brien's and pay $9 for a drink' New Orleans," adds their friend Katie Edwards. "This is like you're on the street and a band plays and you're dancing in the street."

And Edwards, Hale and Chidlow all hope the New Birth is here to stay. Hell, all of us would love that; right now New Orleans is a culture without a city, and in many ways Houston is still a city without a culture.

All of us, that is, except for the members of the New Birth and the New Orleans natives at the show. I caught up with New Birth bass drummer and bandleader Tanio Hingle between sets and asked him what he missed the most about his hometown. "I just miss it -- just the whole nine yards, just bein' in our neighborhood playin' music -- bein' able to step out the door and just start playin' music…Seein' everybody -- family. I miss my family -- I got some people who ended up in Atlanta. My mother, grandmother and a bunch of others are up there. That's one of the hardest parts: not bein' around my family, because I am a family man."

curmudgeon steve (Steve K), Wednesday, 30 November 2005 04:20 (fifteen years ago) link

From the New Orleans Times Picayune:

Plans in works for `musicians' village' in New Orleans
12/6/2005, 4:45 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Singer Harry Connick Jr. and saxophone player Branford Marsalis are working with Habitat for Humanity to create a "village" for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

More than $2 million has been raised for the project dreamed up by Connick and Marsalis — a neighborhood built around a music center where musicians can teach and perform, Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, said Monday.

The first $1 million came from benefit concerts in New York three weeks after the storm, said Quint Davis, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer who helped arrange the concerts.

"The money being used to build these homes for New Orleans musicians was raised by New Orleans musicians. Our pact with them was to help New Orleans' musical community," Davis said during a Tuesday news conference.

In a telephone interview Monday, Connick said he and Marsalis — both honorary chairs for the national Habitat's hurricane rebuilding program — returned to their hometown several weeks after the storm and were trying to think of ways to help.

"I had been kind of coming up blank. The problem is so massive, it's hard to know where to begin," Connick said. "As we talked, we both realized we should really stick to what we know, which is music."

Connick said four or five of the 16 musicians in his own band lost their homes. "There's a ton of musicians who have no place to go," he said.

Pate said the organization hasn't decided on a location, but is looking at three older, predominantly black neighborhoods in New Orleans. He said Tuesday that the project will need $7.5 million to $15 million, and would include a music center named for Ellis Marsalis, the jazz pianist and educator. Marsalis has taught hundreds of high-school and college musicians over the years and is the father of the musical family that includes Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason.

"Ellis has been kind of a rock for music in this city," Mayor C. Ray Nagin said.

Branford Marsalis said the project is a thank-you to the musicians "who made it possible for people like me and my brother Wynton and Harry Connick Jr. to get out and spread the word."

Habitat cannot reserve houses for a specific group, and non-musicians would also live in the musicians' village, Pate said. However, musicians who lost their houses and have little or no insurance — and will provide labor for a Habitat house — will be asked if they'd like to live there.

"We'd hope some of our musician partner families could do some of their sweat equity by doing performances or concerts for some of our volunteers who are coming from all over the world," Pate said.

It's a fantastic idea, said Banu Gibson, who sings '20s and '30s jazz.

"So many musicians have moved out of town, and a lot of the good ones, too, which is really depressing," she said.

Gibson is back in her own house, but two of the seven musicians in her band lost homes they had bought in the last couple of years. "All the money they raised to put down as a house payment, $25,000 to $35,000, is gone," she said.

Bassist Peter "Chuck" Badie, 80, would love to see the dream become reality, and to live in a Habitat home.

"I'd be tickled to death," said Badie, who's staying at a jazz enthusiast's home after floods destroyed his house in the Lower Ninth Ward. "A village for musicians would be the finest thing. But build it where?"

The New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity covers Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, and is in the "embryonic" stages of adding Plaquemines Parish. Pate said it hopes to build 250 to 500 houses in the four parishes, and possibly as many as 200 in the musicians' village.

"We desperately need them back, because they are the soul of our community, or much of the soul of our community," he said.

curmudgeon, Friday, 9 December 2005 18:47 (fifteen years ago) link

The Hot 8 Brass Band cc'd me on an e-mail to local DC/Baltimore places that could possibly book them. I hope some gigs are coming together.

curmudgeon, Friday, 9 December 2005 19:03 (fifteen years ago) link

Great. I'm looking forward to seeing them around next month.

(btw, I YSI'd a Stooges tune from last year's tour, before the keyboard/drumset lineup on this thread)

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 9 December 2005 19:23 (fifteen years ago) link

Maybe this should be on ILE, but I'm gonna post it here anyway:

Death of an American City
The New York Times | Editorial

Sunday 11 December 2005

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed.

The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane, which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion. That is a lot of money. But that starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year's estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years. And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.

Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a Major American City

"We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," President Bush said that night in September. Our feeling, strongly, is that he was right and should keep to his word. We in New York remember well what it was like for the country to rally around our city in a desperate hour. New York survived and has flourished. New Orleans can too.

Of course, New Orleans's local and state officials must do their part as well, and demonstrate the political and practical will to rebuild the city efficiently and responsibly. They must, as quickly as possible, produce a comprehensive plan for putting New Orleans back together. Which schools will be rebuilt and which will be absorbed? Which neighborhoods will be shored up? Where will the roads go? What about electricity and water lines? So far, local and state officials have been derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan. That is unacceptable.

The city must rise to the occasion. But it will not have that opportunity without the levees, and only the office of the president is strong enough to goad Congress to take swift action. Only his voice is loud enough to call people home and convince them that commitments will be met.

Maybe America does not want to rebuild New Orleans. Maybe we have decided that the deficits are too large and the money too scarce, and that it is better just to look the other way until the city withers and disappears. If that is truly the case, then it is incumbent on President Bush and Congress to admit it, and organize a real plan to help the dislocated residents resettle into new homes. The communities that opened their hearts to the Katrina refugees need to know that their short-term act of charity has turned into a permanent commitment.

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.


curmudgeon, Monday, 12 December 2005 16:46 (fifteen years ago) link

Fuck. I looked through Erik's post-flood photos the other day (taken over the weekend), the debris and abandonment in most of parts of the city is pretty striking.

On a slightly brighter note, some of these pictures of the Rebirth show on Thanksgiving for second-liner refugees are amazing:

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 12 December 2005 16:59 (fifteen years ago) link

Those are great pics, Jordan.

December 13, 2005 Gambit Weekly

West of the Sixth Ward
The Treme Brass Band fled the flood. They ended up in the desert.

Compiled by Katy Reckdahl

Two months ago, six men arrived in Arizona with no instruments. They came to play music.
Members of the Treme Brass Band gathered in Phoenix a few weeks after the hurricane. Still, the place doesn't feel like home, says bandleader Benny Jones Sr.

"When I see the cactus, I think of the Western movies and the cowboys that we used to watch on TV," he says. "It feels pretty odd to me."

Jones was staying in Dallas when he received a phone call from the head of an Arizona-based group, the Jazz Refugee Project. The man had gotten Jones' name and number from a bandmate who had evacuated to Phoenix.

The Refugee Project promised six months of housing and gigs. Jones found the idea appealing, but implementation might be tough, he said. "I told the man, 'My band is scattered out like a checkerboard.'" But after two days, Jones had reached three guys. Two days later, a few more. Within a week, he had an entire band -- but no instruments.

Of the group that moved to Phoenix, only Eddieboh Paris escaped with a horn -- his trombone. "That's because the other guys had to think about themselves, not their instruments," says Paris, who evacuated early, on Sunday. Most of his bandmates didn't leave. Three -- bass drummer Anthony Bennett and saxophonists Elliott "Stackman" Callier and Frederick "Shep" Sheppard -- spent the storm in their homes, then left by boat and chopper. Tuba player Jeffrey Hills weathered the hurricane in the Lafitte housing project, then walked across town in chest-deep water with his two small children on his shoulders. (Longtime Treme bass drummer and singer "Uncle" Lionel Batiste also sat out the storm in the Lafitte and evacuated a few days later by bus. He opted to return to New Orleans rather than travel to Phoenix.)

In late September, the Jazz Refugee Project dispatched a van that started in Mississippi and wound its way through Texas, picking up musicians. It was 120 degrees and sunny when they arrived in Phoenix. "Oh, Lord, it was hot," says bass drummer Bennett. "I was wearing shorts and flip-flops, and it felt like the flip-flops were melting off my feet."

At first, the Refugee Project supplied loaner horns. Soon, donated horns came via overnight delivery from members of the Jack Brass Band in Minneapolis, the Tipitina's Foundation and national charitable organizations.

The band has now settled into a routine, playing a few gigs a week and traveling around town in a Refugee Project van. But it's taken a few adjustments. The 2 a.m. bar-closing time has prompted at least one bandmember to carry a flask. The band plays a significant number of gigs in Phoenix's retirement communities, where the band is less apt to perform contemporary numbers like "Gimme My Money Back."

Treme's presence has also bolstered the city's traditional-jazz community. "There are 47 venues in Phoenix that play jazz, but it's mostly modern -- bebop and fusion," says Phoenix clarinetist Joe Hopkins, vice president of the Arizona Jazz Society. "Yet the Treme band has made inroads into clubs and with people who've never listened to this music. I think that's significant."

How long Treme will remain in Phoenix is still unclear. But on Tuesday, Nov. 22, the CBS' The Early Show, as part of its "Week of Wishes," featured Minnesotan Pat Lindgren saying that she'd seen Treme play at Donna's Bar & Grill. Her wish was to see them perform again in New Orleans. In response, the program marshaled weighty resources: temporary housing for band members in the French Quarter courtesy of Hibernia Bank, $60,000 worth of home furnishings from Sam's Club, and -- from the Jazz Foundation of America -- employment playing jazz in Louisiana schools, some new instruments, and first-month's rent and security deposits.

In Phoenix, band members sat and watched, speechless. Jones, certainly, plans to return home as soon as FEMA gives him a trailer. Trombonist Eddie King also plans to go back. But others aren't sure. They talk about the sputtering New Orleans economy, hard-to-find housing, and gigs that pay half as much as Phoenix gigs. Saxophonist Sheppard says that he misses friends but has no other reason to return to what he calls "The Big Raggedy."

Not surprising, says New Orleans cultural advocate Morgan Clevenger. "Most musicians that I know, they love New Orleans and they want to come back. But if you don't have the necessary quality of life, they're not coming back."

Final decisions have yet to be made. In the meantime, music is the perfect distraction. "Often I sit around thinking about how my homeowner's insurance has not come through or wondering what my children are doing," says Bennett. "The only time I get any peace is when I'm playing music."


curmudgeon, Friday, 16 December 2005 17:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks for that. I didn't know Jeffrey Hills was out with Treme, I know he's trying to round up the Lil' Rascals for a tour.

I'm not surprised that Uncle Lionel didn't go with them, I honestly can't picture him outside of New Orleans. He IS New Orleans.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 16 December 2005 17:46 (fifteen years ago) link

Not brass band related, but close enough...More sad news from the Looka blog:
"Bad news. I got an email from Mary Katherine yesterday ... Stevenson Palfi, the New Orleans-based documentary filmmaker best known for his amazing film "Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together" (featuring performances from Tuts Washington, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair two days before his death), took his own life a few days ago. He had lost his home, his office and almost all of his possessions, presumably including several years worth of work he had done on an unfinished in-depth biography of Allen Toussaint."

curmudgeon (Steve K), Saturday, 17 December 2005 04:02 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks for keeping this thread going. It's a subject that's at once almost unbearable to think about, and can't be let to slip away.

Pete Scholtes, Saturday, 17 December 2005 21:28 (fifteen years ago) link


I'm finally leaving for New Orleans tomorrow. I'm starting to freak out a little bit about what it's going to be like. Stupid hurricane.

adam (adam), Saturday, 17 December 2005 21:38 (fifteen years ago) link

Financially at least, the New Birth are absolutely thriving here -- in addition to the weekly gigs I mentioned in the story above, they are very active on Houston's Plutocrat Party / Organ Ball circuit, and they are starting to perform at schools during the day.

Also this week, Keith "Wolf" Anderson rejoined the band here. He had been in Detroit and I think I heard he got busted up there for public urination of all things.

Tuba Phil and some other guys from the Rebirth were at this week's Volcano show, and the whole joint went crazy when they tore into "Hush Your Mouth." Glen David's rewrite of Levert's "Casanova" was also damn cool, and having Wolf in the band has led to some serious 'bone battles. (Incidentally, I think Glen David's as much a potential breakout star as Kermit is... the guy is an incredible showman.)

I don't know what this has to do with anything, but it's pretty funny. Kenny Terry was walking around after the show sporting a Rand McNally map of NO -- he is the guy on the cover in the red jacket and white marching band cap blowing his horn in the Quarter.

novamax (novamax), Saturday, 17 December 2005 21:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Ha, I played a Mardi Gras gig with Glen David once. I think he has the loudest singing voice I've ever heard. The last time I saw him, he was flying (and crashing) a kite in a crowd at the Jazzfest grounds last year. (I think that Casanova arrangement comes from when Tyrus Chapman was in Rebirth, btw.)

I'm glad New Birth is doing good.

Adam, are you moving back? Good luck, dude.

Jordan (Jordan), Saturday, 17 December 2005 22:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, GD's really got that Monk Boudreaux / Bo Dollis holler workin' for him

novamax (novamax), Saturday, 17 December 2005 22:41 (fifteen years ago) link

Jordan, I fully expect to see you (and everyone else in this thread, dammit) in NO for Mardi Gras and Jazzfest this year.

adam (adam), Saturday, 17 December 2005 22:44 (fifteen years ago) link

I absolutely will be there, seriously. We'll be at Donna's.

I'm also getting married in N.O. sometime within the next year!

Jordan (Jordan), Saturday, 17 December 2005 22:46 (fifteen years ago) link

!!! Awesome.

adam (adam), Saturday, 17 December 2005 23:06 (fifteen years ago) link

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