It may be hot as hell in July, but it looks as though enough folks come to town to sweeten up the tourism pie a bit: the Essence Music Festival, the “party with a purpose,” draws about 150,000 African-Americans to New Orleans to the Superdome—lots of local musicians, plus the requisite R&B, rap, blues, and more. This month, we interview Clarence Carter, who’s at Essence this year, in our BackTalk feature.
EndFest and the Warped Van Tour will also roll through town this July. So baby, it may be hot, but we ain’t quit partying.
My June was pretty cool, especially considering that I departed the intense humidity and heat of New Orleans for the blissful climate of Bergen, Norway (daily average temperature of 58 degrees) to visit family and attend the Bergen International Festival, which is now in its 49th year. This festival draws a variety of talent from all over the world, including French chanteuse Juliette Greco; a recital by Argentina’s New Tango Quintet, originally led by tango master Astor Piazzola; multiple classical, opera and vocal performances, (including Festa Napoletana!, an operatic tribute to Naples performed by Capella de’Turchini); dance, theatre, avant-garde music and art (Joe Coleman!) and jazz. Jazz and jazz musicians are pretty well-regarded in Europe, much more so than in the U.S. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was playing during the festival at the Johanneskirken (a large beautiful church in the center of Bergen). We were even more pleasantly delighted when we found out that the band was staying at the same hotel as we were.
We learned quite a bit about the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in those few days (including the fact that at any given time four or more different Preservation Hall Jazz Bands are touring the globe), and even more about the appeal of their style of New Orleans trad jazz throughout the world. The band played two sets at the church. It was pretty strange to experience secular chestnuts like “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” and “When The Saints Go Marching In” with a 20-foot painting of Jesus overlooking the audience. There were 1,200 people at the band’s first set, and 800 at the second. They received a standing ovation at both shows. To tell you the truth, while I’ve heard those songs probably thousands of times, I’ve never quite experienced the joy that this music conveys to a European audience in my own hometown.
Now, how many local people venture down to Preservation Hall just to hear the band play? Not too many. The people who go to Preservation Hall are most likely tourists who have heard of the place and visit, more or less, as a shrine to jazz. It’s a shame—but understandable, I guess—that we always take the richness of our musical culture for granted. We can mosey down to Preservation Hall any old time, catch a brass band almost every night of the week at a secondline or a local club; hear blues, R&B, Cajun, zydeco, local rock…any old thing we want. New Orleanians are truly lucky people. Too bad most of us just don’t know it. I guess it takes a trip to another country to reinforce the idea that this is the musical mecca of the universe.
NEW ORLEANS TAKES A GRAMMY®
It looks as if New Orleans may soon be the home of the Grammy Hall of Fame on a downtown site next to the New Orleans Hilton. Bernie Cyrus, Executive Director of the Louisiana Music Commission, recently met with Michael Greene, head honcho and other representatives of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS, the Grammy Award people) in New York. From all appearances the deal may take place, as GMAC is involved as a $70-million guarantor of a bond issuance to finance the project. The state of Louisiana has also committed $9.9-million from its capital outlay fund to get the project on its feet. “Let’s put it this way,” Cyrus said, “the ball is entirely in their court now. When the deal is actually done, we’ll let the NARAS people lead the effort to make the official announcement that the Hall of Fame will be in New Orleans. I can’t say anything yet—but let’s just say I do have a happy face.”
It would be nice if the State had allocated almost $10-million to a Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, but hey, the Grammys will certainly attract people from around the country. Cyrus says the plans for the facility will include a Louisiana Pavilion to highlight local music and musicians.
There is also about 10,000 square feet allocated to the state’s music in the new Louisiana State Museum facility that will be constructed in Baton Rouge, across from the Capitol.
NEWS OF NOTE
Lots of new businesses are opening on Frenchmen Street, just outside my window, it seems: Old Dog, New Trick will open a second location just across from the new Mona’s; the old Faubourg Center is being renovated into a restaurant and music club by the same people who have converted the old Swiss Confectionery into Café Negril, a Caribbean-themed restaurant and music club. And right across the street from the OffBeat office is a major renovation of the old NO/AIDS Task Force offices into an upscale restaurant, rumored to be one of the Myriad Group restaurants of TriBeCa and Nobu fame in New Yawk City. Gee, wonder if they’ll have brass bands sitting in…
Entrepreneur/promoter Barry Mendelson is rumored to be returning to promote shows at the Orpheum in New Orleans…Summer Stages presents Schoolhouse Rock, Live! at the Fine Arts Theatre (1733 Constantinople St. at Baronne from June 22 through July 8. Summer Stages trains talented local kids in performance and theater in professionally-staged productions. Tickets are $22, adults and $14, children under 10, for a three-course buffet meal and show; $10 adults and $8 children under 10 for the show only. For further information, contact Julie Condy at (504) 598-3800 or email@example.com…We’re proud to announce that OffBeat has won two awards from the New Orleans Press Club: “Best Cartooning”: Bunny Matthews (for Vic and Nat’ly) and in the “Print Series” category—Bunny Matthews, Jeff Hannusch and Jon Pult for OffBeat’s Louisiana Music Masters series. Congratulations to our staff for keeping the music and culture alive!
LOUISIANA MUSICAL POWER AND MIGHT
By now, all Louisiana musicians and music businesses have begun to receive calls and emails from Mark Fowler, OffBeat’s Listings Editor, and our staff to update your information in the upcoming Louisiana Music Directory. We’ll be emailing you again and sending out our usual mailer in the next few weeks.
We’re taking a bold step forward this year by making the 2001-2002 Louisiana Music Directory the harbinger of important news for the Louisiana music industry. The upcoming LMD will announce the “Most Influential People in the Louisiana Music Industry.” Look for it early this fall.
CELEBRATING SATCHMO’S BIRTHDAY
Finally, don’t forget about the upcoming Louis Armstrong Centennial celebration to be held in New Orleans this August. The Centennial includes a Louis Armstrong Centennial Conference produced by UNO (call 504-280-6680 for registration information); a “Tribute To Fathers of Jazz” Concert at the UNO Kiefer Arena featuring the entire Marsalis musical family and Harry Connick, Jr. (tickets available from Ticketmaster at 504-522-5555) and the Satchmo Summerfest, a free festival of food, music, a club crawl and kids’ activities produced by French Quarter Festivals, Inc. at the Old U.S. Mint (which is air-conditioned!). Get more information on the Summerfest by calling 504-522-5730 or go to www.satchmosummerfest.com.