Many books have been written about New Orleans, particularly since Katrina. I just read Dan Baum’s brilliant Nine Lives, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read recently about the city. It follows the lives of nine New Orleanians from the time of Hurricane Betsy to Hurricane Katrina, bookmarks, if you will, of destruction and rebirth. If you want to know anything about why and how New Orleans is beloved, or reviled (in some courts), with an inside view into the city’s psyche, this is the book for you.
Paul Sanchez, whose Katrina experiences almost set him adrift, also read Nine Lives and, as creative types are wont to do, was so inspired by the book that he and Colman DeKay, his writing partner, wrote a series of songs based on the characters in the book.
Threadhead Records recently received a $50,000 grant from Pepsi Cola’s “Do Good for the Gulf Program” to produce the soundtrack album and score for what they hope will ultimately become a full-scale musical production of Nine Lives. Sanchez and DeKay have the theatrical rights to Nine Lives and they will enter the studio in early November to begin recording a 20-song cast album.
Staying true to the uniqueness, diversity and rich storylines in the book, Paul and Colman have written songs in a range of musical styles that will be totally new to the Broadway stage. The musical’s score encompasses Delta blues, gospel, traditional jazz, modern jazz, ’60s soul, Haitian meringue, klezmer, funk, brass band, Mardi Gras Indian chants and hip-hop—the musical bedrock on which the city rests.
Through the grant from Pepsi, a number of New Orleans musicians and artists will be involved in this project, including Matt Perrine, who will arrange and orchestrate the score, along with Shamarr Allen, Craig Klein, John Boutte, Lillian Boutte, “Sista Teedy” Boutte, Tanya Boutte, Tom McDermott, Evan Christopher, Alex McMurray, Margie Perez, David Torkanowsky, and Debbie Davis.
Another tradition is about to be revived by local restaurateur Dave Baird, who hosted brass bands at his bar, the Warehouse Café, on Annunciation years ago. Baird purchased the city’s oldest structure in the lower Garden District, converted it into a restaurant—Le Citron Bistro—and will once again feature brass bands, beginning with Rebirth Brass Band on November 19. “We’ll have the only place in town where you can listen to a brass band and a have a Louisiana-style ‘plate dinner,’” says Baird. Fried catfish, shrimp Creole, fried chicken, jambalaya, red beans and rice, potato salad and more sides will be available, along with the brass band show, for only $25. Dinner is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the show begins at 9:45 p.m. Reservations are recommended, (504) 566-9051.