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From Far and Wide

Saving Old Records to L.A. Throwback Bands

By Published: April 6, 2013
A new "Swing Street"? Could be, though it's not 52nd Street in New York, where the clubs thrived in the 1930s-1950s. This one is down in N'Orleans. No, not Bourbon Street, but nearby Frenchmen Street — a two-block mecca of a dozen-plus venues made famous in the HBO series Treme.

"Frenchmen is as different from dear departed 52nd as New Orleans is from New York, but it's a similar stretch of musical plenty," veteran visitor Dan Morgenstern tells me. Seven nights a week, you can wallow in Delta sounds.

"Jazz veterans such as bassist James Singleton, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins
Kermit Ruffins
Kermit Ruffins
, pianist Tom McDermott and Swedish clarinetist Orange Kellin are Frenchmen mainstays," writes the state webzine "And when it comes to a genuine icon, venerable trumpeter and vocalist Lionel Ferbos, now 101 years old, usually leads the band on the final Sunday of the "Nickel-a-Dance" series at the club Maison."

But a younger set of musicians is attracting new audiences. Admission is usually free, drinks cheap. "It's wise to stick to the good local beer rather than the hard stuff, if you're planning a full evening," Dan advises, "and some places even offer a bite to eat. And this being NOLA, there's dancing when space permits." You may be asked to "make a contribution to Philip" (as in "Fill up the tip jar"). In some spots, that's the only money the players make.

Musician Tragedies Impact Listener Reactions, Study Shows

Tragedies in musicians' lives can affect the way listeners react to their music, submits jazz historian and active musician Mark Gridley, whose study at four colleges was published in Psychology Journal, 2012.

In one semester of a jazz and popular music course, 94 students listened to Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's solo on the 1946 Dial recording of "Lover Man." Half the group knew nothing about Bird's life. The other half had read Brian Harker's account of the misery in that life and the unfortunate circumstances of the "Lover Man" recording session.

That second half rated the saxophone solo on the recording as significantly sadder than the uninformed students rated it. The author offers a PDF file of the full article to readers who email him at

This year Dr. Gridley published the 7th edition of his Concise Guide to Jazz, with three CDs of historic recordings. The book tells how jazz originated and is performed, what to listen for, and covers major style eras. Publisher Pearson Education and Amazon sell the 320-page paperback online. It's available digitally from Pearson's site, MySearchLab and in other formats from CourseSmart and Amazon.

Catherine Russell Tapped for Superb Recording Award

The night after Catherine Russell's CD, Strictly Romancin', was named Vocal Album of the Year by l'Academie du Jazz in Paris, the singer took the stage January 15 at Town Hall in New York to perform at the 11th annual Nightlife Awards. There she was feted as Outstanding Jazz Performer of 2012. In a review, The New York Times called Russell "a great, subtle jazz-soul singer [who] squeezed the last drop of tangy juice out of 'Romance in the Dark.'" And the roses kept flying. "Cat" Russell, who thrilled New Years Eve patrons at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, NJ, was tapped for a Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording at the 28th annual Bistro Awards Gala, March 4, 2013, at Gotham Comedy Club in New York.

"Throwback Bands" Dent Beat-Heavy Groups in Los Angeles

"Dustbowl Revival" is the name of the band of seven men in beat-up trousers mostly held up by suspenders, wide ties and vests, some wearing newsboy caps, and two women singers in flapper-style dresses.

Average age maybe 27, they strum, saw and blow with a happy vengeance while beaming couples swing around the dance floor. This at a club in outlying Silver Lake that, according to The Los Angeles Times, "usually houses mopey indie acts and beat-heavy EDM" (electronic dance music).

No musical quirk, it has counterparts across L.A. The "music-theater collective Vaud and the Villains (complete in Depression-era attire)" generate "a storm of energy and freewheeling musicality at the Fais Do-Do club midtown.

A few miles away at the Gorbals downtown, another musical throwback, the Eastern European-influenced Petrojvic Blasting Company" holds forth—"when the similarly idiosyncratic band Captain Jeff & His Musical Chumbuckets isn't performing there."

Zach Lupetin, leader of the four-year-old Dustbowl Revival, said "There's a lot of this throwback music, which is maybe because of the recession or depression fever." In the last three years, he added, "10 bars have opened in L.A. specifically designed for that '30s feel; they want old-school bluegrass and jazz."

Photo Credit
Page 1: Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Page 2: Courtesy of Infrogmation of New Orleans

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