The summer season, now steaming into oblivion, seems to be shaping up as a time of evolution and emergence for New Orleans music and musicians. Crescent City and Louisiana sounds continue to carve their own niche in the national and global music markets. As interesting and unexpected developments continue to take place on the home front, Europe continues to open up as a kind of second home to many New Orleans musicians. But presently, progress is limited to no one locale—points of interest seem to be scattered almost randomly. For instance…
Harry Connick, Jr., the 21-year-old jazz singer, pianist (and son of the New Orleans District Attorney of the same name) is featured performer on the soundtrack of the just-released movie When Harry Met Sally. Columbia Records has high hopes for this production, which features Connick on such ’40s jazz-pop classics as “Stomping at the Savoy”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “It Had to Be You.”
The 1987 film Good Morning Vietnam resulted in a hit single for another New Orleans artist—”What a Wonderful World” soared on the charts for Louis Armstrong, who had, unfortunately, been dead for years. While young Connick should have no such problem, Columbia execs are in something of a quandary about how to hype the soundtrack, as a jazz or as a pop product. Whichever the direction of the spin, Columbia plans “to make Harry as visible as possible.” Tony Bennett recently described Connick as “the next Frank Sinatra.”
Mason Ruffner, the New Orleans-based blues-rocker, will be opening for Ringo Starr this month. The tour, with over 30 dates, began in late July. Ruffner, who was a regular on the local club scene in the early ’80s, achieved some degree of success—reflected by a lengthy stay on the charts—with his second album Gypsy Blood a few years back. Last March he was selected to accompany Bob Dylan on his new album, produced in the Crescent City by Daniel Lanois (best known for his work with Peter Gabriel and, most recently, the Neville Brothers).
Both Bob Dylan and Daniel Lanois have apparently decided that the time was right to buy into the New Orleans real estate market. But we won’t say exactly where…Lanois is based downtown in the vicinity of the French Quarter, in a large old mansion formerly owned by a well-known Crescent citizen. The studio will be on the second floor amid what has been described as a generally Fellini-esque setting. The place Dylan has acquired is Uptown, and that is all we are going to say about that.
Vintage N.O. rocker Barbara George is back on the circuit. George’s “I Know” hit single in 1961 was considered a classic of the Crescent City Sound, and topped the R&B charts for a month and reached #3 on the pop charts as well. She was also successful with “You Talk About Love” and “Send for Me,” and in 1968 was with the Sam and Dave show in Florida. But she tired of the music business, “of traveling and getting ripped off,” and so became a physical education teacher. George moved back to New Orleans in 1985, and has played at venues about town such as the Maple Leaf.
Spencer Bohren, the New Orleans blues artist, continues to spend much of his time on tour. He will tour France in September, where interest seems to be on the increase. A recording has already been released by Loft Records in that country, a compilation entitled Snap Your Fingers. Popular in Italy and Switzerland, Bohren has his biggest European following in Norway. Currently a new recording project is under way in Sweden. Born in a Biscayne goes Baltic. Way to go, Spence! Alright…