Header Quote

"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New JAZZ TODAY: Rebirth in the Treme, New Orleans Ascendant

Your blogger and his oldest friend, struttin' with some BBQ
Over the Halloween weekend I visited New Orleans with three close friends.  We were there to celebrate the 50th birthday of my oldest friend (with my own just two months coming) and to do some work for Habitat for Humanity.

And we planned to eat ourselves into a jambalaya/po' boy/red beans 'n' rice stomach ache.

And there's the music.

What I wasn't expecting, however, was for the music to be "jazz."  These days, the Mecca of jazz is New York, of course.  But we ended up seeing some great New Orleans music—popular New Orleans musicians—who make jazz in the Crescent City feel alive again.

Kermit Ruffins, killin' it at Vaughan's Lounge on a Thursday
The latest JAZZ TODAY, up and readable here, is all about this trip and the experience of hearing Kermit Ruffins and Trombone Shorty over just a few days.  Ruffins seemed at first like merely a good-time player—rough around the edges and merely having fun.  But the longer I listened (and it was fun, I assure you), the more I heard his music as a wonderful melding of the Armstrong trumpet/vocal tradition with modern jazz feeling and groove.

Even more fun, and ultimately more exciting for this music, was a set by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, his invincibly funky band.

Trombone Shorty started playing second line music in the the Treme when he was a tiny kid, too little to handle his instrument (thus, the nickname), and today he is playing that instrument with amazing precision and attack—as well as trumpet—in front of what amounts to a New Orleans rock rhythm section.  The groove of the band (with drums and congas powering it fiercely) is pure N'Awlins, but the guitar is a fuzz-toned Gibson with plenty of blues fire.  Plus, Shorty sings soulfully, and he plays in a front line with tenor and baritone saxophone.  The result is a truly powerful, incredibly entertaining groove band that blows the roof off a room.  We heard them at Tipitina's, the classic New Orleans club, and it's night I'll never forget.

Photos from Bobby and David Atkins.  Thanks, guys!

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