Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A New Orleans Memory

Autographs of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 1983 Posted by Picasa

For obvious reasons, here’s another entry about New Orleans:

My first trip to New Orleans occurred in August, 1983. Being a southern California native, my attention was immediately seized by the overwhelming humidity. I was glad my grandparents had left the South before I was born!

As a jazz fanatic, I needed to make the pilgrimage to Preservation Hall, home of traditional (don’t call it Dixieland) music. It’s small un-air-conditioned room, and on that hot humid night was completely filled with tourists like me. The band consisted of Raymond Burke (1904-1986) on clarinet, Emanuel Paul (1904-1988) on tenor sax, Emanuel Sayles (1907-1986) on banjo. Leading the band was trumpeter ‘Kid’ Thomas Valentine (1896-1987). Kid Thomas was OLD – I’m not sure that he wasn’t a conductor on the Underground Railroad! ;>)

It seemed Kid Thomas had a range of about an octave and a half. But he was still able to provide a punchy and quirky lead for the band. It was interesting to hear a trumpeter whose style owed more to King Oliver than Louis Armstrong.

A friend of ours was recently lamenting the many artists she had missed seeing (Tito Puente amongst them) and the city of New Orleans due to procrastination. If someone is playing nearby, go see them! As you can see by the dates of death for the Preservation Hall band members, I barely made it in time to see these gentlemen. But New Orleans will be back!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jam Session!

Jam Sessions at the Vintage Cafe! Posted by Picasa

Well, last night, I performed in public for the first time in two years and only the second time in about 12 years!

The occasion was the weekly Tuesday night jam session at the Vintage Café in Pasadena. The hardest part was making myself get out of the car. There was no ego tripping or endless solos; and everyone was cool. The host of the jam, drummer Tony DiGiovanni, went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome. House bassist Al Gruskoff was also a big help in easing my nerves.

All told, at varying times, there were two alto saxophonists, two flutists, two vocalists and one each on harmonica, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and tenor sax.

There was a variety of abilities amongst the horns – I wasn’t the best (that honor would have to have to go to a clarinetist(!) named John), but I wasn’t the worst either. There were things I wish I would/could have done better, but I did manage to surprise myself on how well I did when they called a funk blues in E (C# on the alto)! Considering the long hiatus, I can hold my head up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans Suite

New Orleans Suite Posted by Picasa

One of my favorite Duke Ellington albums is 1970’s "New Orleans Suite." It features the last recordings of Johnny Hodges. The first track, the appropriately titled "Blues for New Orleans" features him for the last time with the band.

New Orleans is (present tense) one of the great cities of the world. They’ll eventually come back with your help. If you can spare anything, think about www.redcross.org.

The title of the fourth track says it all - "Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta."