New Orleans Jazz Scene: Mississippi Delta Blues & Beyond

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IMG_1770This past July, we came back to New Orleans for eight nights after an extended road trip to the far too hot Northeast. It was ironic that New Orleans was cooler than New York, Boston, Vermont, and Quebec. We need our fix of New Orleans music before going to Seattle at the beginning of August so we did nine bands over six nights.

In the heat of late July the city brought a rich and varied selection of styles and venues, including some of our favorites and some new ones for us.

We also sampled a little food but having eaten a lot of road food we kept that to three places, two favorites and one new. There are many other places to eat with over 1330 now, up from 800 before Katrina. The three covered here are all great but just happen to be the ones we fit into our July stay.

One: The first night we saw Alvin Youngblood Hart playing at Chicki Wah Wah on Canal Street. He played a solo acoustic set of roots blues. I had seen his full band at French Quarter festival where he had a more of a hard rock edge.

Alvin focused a lot of his guitar playing and revoked a feeling of early Mississippi Delta blues. I though about how in New Orleans there is no greater concentration of working musicians than in any other city I have experienced. I did a painting that you can see below of Alvin based on one of the photos I took. This was just the first night.

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Two: On our second night we went to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for their After Hours program. Dave Malone who did vocals and guitar with the Radiators. The Radiators were together for 33 years and had a strong cult following in NOLA. He was there with his daughter, Darcy on vocals, and a base player and keyboard player. They did many great covers of songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, what Dave called the “golden decade.”

There were also a few recent original songs by Dave. There were sings by the Kinks, Beatles, BeeGees, Surpremes, and others, along with a great three-song medley featuring Darcy on vocals then went from the Ronnettes to the Kinks and ended up with the Shirelles. Dave did the Beatles on a banjo. Dave seemed to be having so much fun, it was catching. We will be back for more Ogden After Hours programs.

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Three: On our third night we saw Robin Barnes at the Carousel Lounge at the Monteleone Hotel. It was a bit more upscale than the places we tend to go. Her band included her father on electric bass, a drummer and piano. We had seen Robin at French Quarter Festival and became an instant fan. She sings Soul music in a style similar to Roberta Flack but is certainly her own singer. The venue was a bad place to actually hear music, as the crowd was more interested in hearing their own conversations and the acoustics are bad.

We managed to pull a big chair up between us and the crowd that was close enough to Robin to hear and her band. They did a great show of mostly R&B covers. On the last number she did Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and a large group of young men next to us joined in to show that there was some life in the crowd. We look forward to hearing her in better venues, as Robin is one of the young NOLA singers who will certainly do well.  At one point she gave the vocals to her father for Mustang Sally, leaning over to hold the mic for him.

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Four: We were going to see two familiar solid trad jazz bands on Frenchmen Street on Saturday night (Panorama Jazz Band and Smoking Time Jazz Club – they could be reasons 13 and 14). However, we had friends from Mississippi in town and we ate at Boucherie in our neighborhood, another reason why I love New Orleans.  Among other dishes we had Crispy Skin Duck Confit with Summer Succotash & Roasted Garlic Toast and Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket with Garlicky Parmesan Fries. It is located at 8115 Jeannette Street, just off Carollton.504-862-5514.

Five: On, Sunday, the fourth music night, we did a double header to make up. We also knew we had trad jazz on Frenchmen well covered on Monday as you will see in my next post. First, there was Cajun dancing to Bruce Daigrepont at Tipitina’s. We go to his Sunday Cajun Fais Do-Do several times a month. There was good crowd for a hot Sunday in July but the AC helped and we danced the first set. Bruce is great and we really love his fiddle player shown below.

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Six: Next, we went to Vaso hear electric blues from Ed Wills and his band, Blues4Sale. Ed added a wonderful harmonica player from Japan, along a new bass player, his usual keyboardist and drummer.  Ed is another musician we see frequently as I feel he plays the best classic electric blues in the city. We often see him at BMC on Wednesdays but this was the second time we caught his Sunday set at Vaso. Here is a post on his last BMC set. I did a painting of him based on a photo from BMC and you can see it below.

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