Despite saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s arrival at Jazz Fest and with bows to all the jazz musicians who swung like crazy in 2003, trumpeters, particularly, triumphed on the New Orleans scene last year.
Trumpeter Nicholas Payton changed hats, labels and band members, threw away his suit, tie and straight-ahead jazz guy image opting to plug in and wah-wah up his sound. The trumpeter revealed his master plan to largely unsuspecting audiences at the Fest and at the Downtown Development District’s music series in Lafayette Square. Approving folks were itchy to get their paws on the revolutionary new disc, Sonic Trance, which had been nominated for a Grammy award. I dig the fact that Payton has now been recognized for his accomplishments in both traditional jazz — he won a Grammy for his 1997 release Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton — and the contemporary field. As WWL-TV’s Frank Davis says, that’s naturally New Orleans.
Another New Orleans trumpet heavyweight, Terence Blanchard, jumped labels, moving from Sony Classical to Blue Note for his fine release, Bounce. Ready to step away from “concept” albums, Blanchard dug in to blow in front of his newly assembled group of young musicians. New Orleans saxophonist Brice Winston is the eldest of the cast, coming in at just over 30.
Blanchard’s amiable patter with the audience during his engagement at the Contemporary Arts Center in September warmed the room while he and his combo cranked up the heat.
Talk about hot, trumpeter Maurice Brown has definitely been doing his part to keep the scene sparking. At his Tuesday night gigs at Snug Harbor, which he’s notably held down for over a year, one could literally watch the 23-year-old Chicago transplant continually grow as a musician. Even though he has yet to record as a leader,tunes like his groove-based “It’s a New Day” and risky “Look Ma,No Hands” have entered the jazz mindset. Brown is a “Have Trumpet,Will Play” musician, who popped up on stages all over town to play with various groups at spots like the Spotted Cat, Sweet Lorraine’s, Dragon’s Den,Tipitina’s and others. He also traveled to destinations like Chicago, Detroit, New York and Brazil joining a variety of jazz hotshots.
Irvin Mayfield’s notable activities in 2003 are really over the top. As artistic director and leader, the trumpeter debuted the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. which was also one element of the ambitious, multi-component performance of his composition “Strange Fruit:’ Mayfield Released two albums on the Basin Street label in 2003. He fronted his own combo on his strong jazz disc, Half Past Autumn Suite,and with co-leader/percussionist Bill Summers produced a world beat romp on Los Hombres Calientes Vol. 4 – Vodou Dance. Topping things off, in the fall,the City named Mayfieldas New Orleans Cultural Ambassador.
While Troy Andrews remains loyal to the instrument from which he gained his moniker, “Trombone Shorty:’ he’s been blowing a whole lot of trumpet these days. The switching led Aaron Neville to introduce the 17-year-old phenom as “Trumpet Slim” when Andrews sat in with the Neville Brothers at last year’s Jazz Fest. In the Jazz Tent, the amicable young musician wowed the crowd when he lifted two (!) trumpetS to his lips and blew them simultaneously. Okay we’ve seen this done on saxophone before–hooray Rahsaan Roland Kirk-but can’t quite figure how this feat is maneuvered on trumpet. Presently Andrews is in the stUdio with his brother, trumpeter James Andrews, recording a traditional jazz album. Whatever the instrument, whatever the style, Trombone Shorty is a guy to watch.
Recorded music is, of course, great as it can be returned to at any time, again and again.For me, however. there is nothing quite like hearing music live and listening to it transpire and transform. Listing some of my favorite live shows is fun to do because it brings back the experiences. Hopefully,mentioning these shows will do the same for those who caught many of these performances. Even better, perhaps the list will motivate some not-so-active music fans into lamenting at having missed them-“Damn, I should have been there”-and break out and hit the scene more often in 2004. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my moments to remember.
Snug Harbor: Drummer Herlin Riley with pianist David Torkanowsky, bassist/vocalist George French, saxophonist Tim Green-a love fest;. Danilo Perez — gorgeous; Mulgrew Miller, with local zingers. drummer Adonis Rose, trumpeter Maurice Brown, bassist Jason Stewart; Ravi Coltrane (also at Cafe Brasil)–a love supreme. Henry Butler and Ed Petersen with bassist James Singleton, drummer Herman Jackson.
House of Blues: Burning Spear–always; AI Green–wow for the intimate venue opportunity; B.B. King;ditto; Etta James-man, the lady is back strong; Deacon John–live and on the big screen (also at Sweet Lorraine’s); vocal powerhouse Busi Mhlongo-Cape Town connection.
Sweet Lorraine’s: Saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. with .drummer Idris Muhammad-Injuns, here dey come; drummer Ricky Sebastian Quintet.
Tipitina’s: ReBirth Brass Band–funkin’ it up; Dr. John–voodooin’ it up.
New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts: Brian Blade-drum monster.
Rock ‘n’ Bowl: James “Blood” Ulmer-free frettin’.
Special thanks and huge appreCiation to all of New Orleans social aid and pleasure ..clubs for their Sunday afternoon parades and groups like the ReBirth. Treme, New Birth, Hot 8, LiI’ Stooges, Lil Rascals and the Glen Andrews,