This is my first post to you as the ARLIS-NA 2017 NOLA meeting publicity coordinator. For the months of October into December on (some) Fridays I will be writing about fun New Orleans-related things to make you “think about NOLA,” and decide you simply must be in New Orleans, February 5-9, for the 45th Annual Conference, Arts du Monde!
Today, I will talk about that quintessential New Orleans treat — music.
First, I want to mention a Music Plenary called “Pulse Points and Backbeats” scheduled for us on Monday afternoon, February 6th. The panel of music historians are all musicians themselves and all help to sustain and document the musical heritage of New Orleans. On tap thus far: Dr. Michael White, jazz clarinetist and professor of African-American music at Xavier University; Bruce Raeburn, jazz and rock drummer and curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive and Director of Special Collections, Tulane University; Ben Sandmel, working musician, folklorist, journalist and author of books including Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans. It should be fascinating listening as well as great fun. Stay tuned (pun intended) for details.
You probably know that two of NOLA’s greatest musicians passed away within the last year: Clarinetist Pete Fountain died on Aug. 6, 2016. Born with the name Pierre Dewey LaFontaine, Jr. in New Orleans in 1930, he began playing clarinet as a child. Fountain was able to mix traditional New Orleans jazz with swing and produce his well-known joyful, exuberant sound. Listen to him play his nuanced version of Basin Street Blues.
The very much beloved New Orleans great — songwriter, composer, producer, arranger, pianist and singer Allen Toussaint, died on Nov. 10, 2015. You are familiar with his beautifully evocative song Southern Nights, done by dozens of singers, and popularized by Glen Campbell. You may recognize a few more Toussaint songs as performed by Dr. John, Irma Thomas, or The Meters, but Allen Toussaint wrote hundreds of songs.
Here is an article that appeared in Rolling Stone with a link to Toussaint performing his song Southern Nights. The four other fine songs of his included here may not be as familiar. Also via this link, check out the 2005 interview with Toussaint conducted only days after hurricane Katrina hit the city.
You will no longer be able to hear either of those two greats when you come to New Orleans in February, but you will be able to catch a lot of music of all kinds (jazz, rhythm & blues, funk, soul, zydeco, Cajun, Mardi Gras Indian, brass band, Dixieland, and more). I hope you get to hear one of my favorites, the multi-award-winning Trombone Shorty.
That musician’s real name is Troy Andrews, and he grew up in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans. You can see him on YouTube with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra when he was only thirteen years old, but his career really began when Bo Diddley pulled him up on stage to play with him during a New Orleans Jazz Festival.
I have been listening to this fantastic guy for years, and I have been lucky enough to see him live (be still my heart). You must hear him now, at the ripe old age of thirty, with his band Orleans Avenue at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival:
So are you ready to check out all the New Orleans music venues and hear all the fabulous music? Here is a list of five of the Big Easy’s places for prime listening. Although the list was compiled for visitors to the Jazz and Heritage Festival, these places are always open, and waiting for you. Don’t forget our hotel is on the streetcar line!
We will be in New Orleans just before Mardi Gras takes place, but I am told we will still be able to take in some real Mardi Gras parades. As in the Paul Simon lyrics to his song Take Me to the Mardi Gras, New Orleans is: Where the people sing and play – and there’s music in the street, both night and day -— Let the music wash your soul….
E. Lee Eltzroth, NOLA 2017 publicity coordinator