On September 12 the Little Gem Saloon’s Ramp Room on S. Rampart St. kicks off a new series devoted to something heard too rarely in this town: modern jazz. Unbelievable as it may seem, a town known as the Birthplace of Jazz still presents only a handful of contemporary artists per month, while traditional jazz is widely celebrated and readily available. After noticing how many modern artists would play Baton Rouge or Jackson, MS while skipping New Orleans on tour, WWOZ “Soul Power” radio host DJ Soul Sister decided to approach the Little Gem Saloon about a contemporary jazz series, which seemed a perfect match for the atmosphere of the Gem’s second floor lounge.
Much like shows at the Blue Note or B.B. King’s in New York, the Gem Sessions at the Little Gem here in New Orleans aim to both fill a void and bridge the gap between the older, traditional jazz audience and the younger, experimental jazz crowd. This program, Soul Sister says, is to give both local modern jazz artists a venue to showcase music in their repertoire that does not fit the typical trad jazz or brass band genres, as well as provide a stage for touring contemporary artists who experiment largely outside the trad box.
Organized in collaboration with the Gem, Lura Belle PR and WWOZ, DJ Soul Sister will present the first edition of the new monthly Gem Sessions on Thursday, September 12 with guest Warren Wolf and his band, the Wolfpack. Often dubbed “a young Roy Ayers” or “the new Bobby Hutcherson,” Wolf is a progressive vibraphonist from Baltimore, MD. A multi-instrumentalist, he has performed and recorded with some of the genre’s masters – like Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra – as well as many of modern jazz’s most maverick rising stars, such as Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding (both of whom have held performances during Jazz Fest, but have yet to play a jazz club in New Orleans). Wolf also tours with bassist Christian McBride, who appears on Wolfpack’s new album, Wolfgang. Currently touring in support of the disc released just this month on Detroit’s Mack Avenue Records jazz imprint, Warren and the Wolfpack will see their first New Orleans show via the new Gem Sessions.
Warren Wolf and the Wolfpack perform live at the Little Gem Saloon (445 S. Rampart St.) in the Ramp Room (second floor) on Thursday, September 12 with shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $20, available in advance online or at the door. The Little Gem Saloon offers a full dinner menu and bar for all shows. More Info: www.littlegemsaloon.com
WARREN WOLF ON HIS NEW ALBUM, WOLFGANG
BRINGING IT BACK: BOOKING MODERN JAZZ IN NEW ORLEANS:
MORE: read our Fresh piece in this month’s September issue of OffBeat Magazine about the recent landscape of local opportunities for forms of jazz other than traditional styles in New Orleans, what drove DJ Soul Sister to seek out a venue willing to book more modern, contemporary jazz artists, and what progressive local musicians think about this dilemma for the future of jazz – here.