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Jazz in New Orleans: A 2009 Status Report

By Published: March 30, 2009

Some of the best musicians can be found playing on the streets of New Orleans for tips. The Quarters' charm and beauty invite strolling and looking for these important members of the musical ambiance of New Orleans. Visitors often start their mornings at Café du Monde listening to trumpeter and singer Hack Bartholomew, or have the pleasure of spending the afternoon listening to the guitar and violin duo of Tanya and Dorice. Grandpa Elliot can be found at the corner of Royal and Toulouse most afternoons singing with his beautiful voice and playing some of the sweetest harmonica ever played. Grandpa Elliot is a true New Orleans gem, and many videos exist of him on youtube, including an amazing multi-street musician version of "Stand by Me" produced by the organization Playing for Change. Royal Street is often closed to vehicle traffic, where clarinetist Doreen Ketchens will set up shop with her band, or brass groups like The Loose Marbles will slide a piano out of an alley and play for locals, tourists, and dancers who will look for this group so they can practice their Charlestons and Lindys in the middle of the street. In front of the Cabildo in Jackson Square, brass bands can be found often fronted by members of the Hot 8 Brass Band and trombonist Glen David Andrews.

New Orleans is alive with music, and jazz tourists will not be disappointed if they do a little planning and follow their ears. Music listings with times and venues can be found at Offbeat and are searchable by date. Additional information can be found at the web site of the local public music station WWOZ. In addition, there is a live music feed from the station, playing mostly New Orleans music groups. As much fun as planning your week is the unexpected and serendipitous—stumbling upon a new find on the streets and in the small clubs. New Orleans is full of surprises that way—just make sure to use your ears and take a moment to enjoy your find.

Sadly, there are large parts of the city that are still damaged and abandoned from the flooding, yet the New Orleans music scene has recovered nicely. What it needs most is avid jazz fans to give witness to its recovery. I am often asked how someone can help New Orleans. The best way to help is to visit. Come to the city, enjoy it, let it change you... and leave tips. When tourists leave a tip to a musician or a waiter, they are giving direct relief to someone who surely needs it. Many of these musicians lost everything in the flood, yet they were some of the first to return to bring the character back to New Orleans. Many of the people who returned in the first few months after Katrina noticed how quiet the city was with the music silenced. The music is back. Make your plans now to enjoy this city and the music it has to offer.

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