New Orleans – a must visit for every jazz fan and finally we made the trip over there … and it turned out to be everything I had imagined … even a little better in terms of music, but more about this later.
The cradle of jazz is still a place full of music – in almost every bar, at the corners of the streets in the French Quarter and of course in the many jazz venues, there are bands playing – and most of them on a pretty high level of musicianship. From big bands to solo performances, the streets and plazas of New Orleans cover it all.
We made the trip because of the Branford Marsalis Quintet recording a new album there with singer Kurt Elling and did perform at the Snug Harbor club in advance of the recording – they did 4 days, 2 shows each night, to get the new repertoire working. We went to show 3 out of 8 first and the wide spectrum of the repertoire was a real positive surprise, with them performing songs from Nat King Cole to Jobim and Sting. Not all songs were yet ‘there’, but one could hear what the possibilities were …. On show 8, the second one we watched, it all came together and this show was full of promise and excitement for a great recording to be made. On top of a great performance by the quartet (Branford, Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis and Justin Faulkner) – they started the evening with an amazing rendition of Keith Jarrett’s The Windup, fast and powerful in all soli and interplay – and Kurt’s immaculate singing, especially in Sting’s Practical Arrangement, a beauty of a song, the night came to a unexpected and incredible end with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irvin Mayfield, as well as Delfeayo Marsalis joining the guys on stage for some amazing music and fun. Something really special was happening in front of our ears and eyes …. magic!
While walking home that night we passed a wedding procession – swinging and dancing! The city grooves !!
The next few days we explored the amazing city, had a little cruise on a steamboat on the Mississippi, did some tours to learn more about New Orleans and its history, but stayed mostly Riverside and didn’t venture further into the city – too much to discover in a few days! And we visited the New Orleans Jazz Market, home of Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which was rehearsing for its Christmas shows, with guest Dee Dee Bridgewater. A truly great place with a community program, lots of music and a great hall to perform.
While being there Irvin mentioned that his drummer Adonis Rose would play his club on Bourbon Street, The Irvin Mayfield Jazz Playhouse, that night – so we decided to spend the last night of our trip with some more music. And music we got! We were there a bit early and sat down on our table having a drink – there were maybe another 10 people in the club. Just as the band started to play Irvin and Dee Dee and her manager/daughter walked in and came to our table – what company to have, which only got better when Joey Calderazzo and his wife joined the group .. and the stage – Dee Dee and Irvin were having fun with Adonis’ band and Joey joined in as well before leaving earlier .. then Branford walked in as well and sat down with us, but didn’t play, as he was at a friend’s house before and didn’t bring his horn. What a night – great company and great music again!!
We actually did enjoy the food in New Orleans, even so it is a bit on the heavy side – best meal was at Antoine’s – fabulous!!
When leaving even at the airport a band was playing – now I understand the song ‘You don’t know what it means to miss New Orleans’ a little better ….