As a holder of a Lifetime subscription I’ve never been disappointed by an issue of OffBeat, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
At this year’s Jazz Fest, the biggest contingent of Cuban musicians ever in one place at one time in the U.S. in over 55 years is coming—and not even one page in the Jazz Fest Bible is devoted to welcoming them, introducing them, or explaining their significance.
It’s tantamount to your closest cousin who you grew up with and haven’t seen in decades—and who you know has been through hell—showing up with a bouquet of flowers and not bothering to get up off the sofa to answer the door.
Havana built the “French” Quarter—literally—as the Spanish Empire’s administrator of “Luisiana” from 1763 to 1802.
New Orleans brass band music as we know it today got a big boost after New Orleans musicians from the Onward Brass Band returned from extended duty in Cuba after the Spanish American War.
Uber drummer Earl Palmer said one of the musical highlights of his entire life was experiencing Havana’s music scene in 1941 as a stowaway on a ship.
Dave Bartholomew recalled to Robert Palmer that he got the sax riff to his iconic “Country Boy”—the root of all rock ‘n’ roll—from a bass line he heard on a Cuban record.
Finally, the “habanera,” the rhythm Cuba received from Africa and digested for the rest of the Western Hemisphere and the world, is the foundation of the second line beat.
Great opportunity to educate folks on an essential ingredient of what makes New Orleans New Orleans missed. Quel dommage.
—Ken McCarthy, Tivoli, New York
This is a letter to thank you again for publishing OffBeat. I am commenting on the interview with Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews in the 2017 Jazz Fest Bible edition. Troy is the real deal! The sky is the limit as far as what he can and will accomplish. I also want to bring to your attention what is on page 71. There is an ad for the movie, The King of New Orleans. Troy’s brother James “12” Andrews is playing a musical role in this film and his longtime bass player, Michael Randolph Ballard, is the music supervisor for this locally produced movie.
—Harry Ballard, New Orleans, Louisiana
Funding a higher purpose
The following letter is in response to Jan Ramsey’s blog post, “A Side Dish Rather Than the Entrée,” about national acts playing Jazz Fest and how the Festival funds a much higher purpose to keep local music and culture at the heart of the Jazz Fest’s offerings.
This just explained why we come for French Quarter Festival not Jazz Fest any more. I remember the Earl King, Wayne Toups, Marcia Ball year, when everyone started coming for Phish and Widespread Panic, etc. We changed to French Quarter Festival and have not looked back. I come for the local music.
—Joseph Holtzman, Chicago, Illinois
Our feature on Basin Street Records’ 20th Anniversary (Jazz Fest Bible 2017) incorrectly cited Mark Samuels as a graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans. Samuels alerted us to the mistake as follows:
It’s a wonderful article and you did a great job of expressing the essence of the label.
Only one mistake. I am proud to have a BBA and an MBA in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin (not Loyola). I was however an adjunct professor at Loyola for a semester, attended a summer music program in high school there (along with Victor Goines), and was a mentor in their business school for about 5 years (assigned to about 8–12 freshmen).
I could also add that if it hadn’t been for Loyola, I likely would never have met my amazing wife Kara, who came to New Orleans to pursue a theater degree undergrad and later a law degree from Loyola. And I also love Loyola for housing the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp for the past several years.
—Mark Samuels, Basin Street Records, New Orleans