The New Orleans Jazz Scene: From Solo Magic To Bands

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Over the summer, we hit New Orleans for a little over a week after an extended road trip to the way too hot Northeast. We need our fix of New Orleans music before going to Seattle at the beginning of August so we did eight bands over six nights.

Despite the two no-shows 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.

Seven and Eight:  When we were in Vermont, we saw that Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses were playing at the Fourth of July celebration in Montpelier. When we got there we found out that Aurora was still In Vermont with another band. However, the real Royal Roses with a new clarinet player did a nice job of traditional jazz and we still pleased we came. We also see Aurora with Tom McDermott at Buffa’s on Thursday on a regular basis.

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Nine: We live near the Maple Leaf and used to go the 101 Runners drum practice where one of neighbors played at 8pm before carnival but most of the bands appear later than we like. We make do exceptions for bands like the 101 Runners when the full band plays late. We were very pleased to see than one of our favorites, Jon Cleary with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen had taken over the Papa Grows Funk Monday slot and moved up their start to 9PM.

We often saw Jon do his solo act at d.b.a and Chicki Wah Wah but his whole band is extended joy.

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Ten: On Tuesday we met a friend at the High Hat Café for lunch. This is one of the many neighborhood places that have been around for a while. It serves food from the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana. There is a long list of neighborhood places we have been to but this was new for me. We will return for sure. We had BBQ Shrimp with Pimento Cheese Grits and Spicy Seared Gulf Red Fish with New Potato and Shrimp Hash. We could resist sharing a piece of Chocolate Chess Pie with vanilla ice cream for desert. The High Hat is located at 450 Freret Street, New Orleans. 504-754-1336.

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On Tuesday we had planned to start at the Circle Bar but when we got there we found out that they did not update their web site to let us know that Emily and the Velvet Ropes did their last set at the Circle Bar last week. We had seen Emily last year at Mimi’s in the Marigny and was pleased to see that she was back, although that was an illusion. As I mentioned, having been burned twice in the same week, we learned to actually call ahead and speak to a person in the summer to see if the designated musicians are really going to play.

Eleven: So we stopped by and checked on out second planned stop for the night, John Rankin at the Columns Hotel and they confirmed his 8PM start. John is a friend and we have enjoyed his Columns set several times. He brings in different guests so there is a good variety. This night John was solo and this is also a very relaxed and pleasant experience. He did some Spanish guitar, along with a lot of old New Orleans stuff and several of his own songs.  My grandmother ran the Columns Hotel in the 1950s and I have many childhood memories of the place. There is a majestic stained glass skylight at the top of the stairs going up to the rooms. She lived on the top floor so I saw it every time I went up to her room.

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Twelve: Chiba is one of our favorite places in New Orleans and it is one of the twenty great places within walking distance of our home. Here is an early post I did: Chiba: Great Japanese Food with a New Orleans Twist. This night we did small plates: cucumber seaweed salad, pork and crawfish fried dumplings, vegetable tempura, freid oyster, shrimp tempura, and short rib steamed buns, bananas foster egg roll with icream, blue berry bread pudding with ice cream. It was all fresh and wonderful.  Chiba is located at 8312 Oak Street (504) 826-9119. They do take out but we enjoy sitting at the bar watching all the new drinks being prepared. If you are coming to the city, add it to your list of places to eat.

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