Born in 1914, pianist/vocalist Sing Miller was active on the New Orleans scene from the late 1920s until his death in 1990. If Sing didn't like something, he'd let you know. Man...that ball don't bounce," is a Sing-saying drummer Jeff Hamilton remembers.Early one winter morning in Iowa in 1984, when I was traveling as a photojournalist with the Percy Humphrey band, Sing sat alone in the lobby for most of an hour, staring glumly out at the blustery weather. Finally he lumbered over and checked out. Have a nice day," said the lady at the desk. Sing: How ...read more
Listen to bassist Pops Foster with the Luis Russell Orchestra from 1929, playing Jersey Lightning." Also on this record are New Orleans men Henry Red" Allen, Albert Nicholas and Paul Barbarin. Virtually all of the New Orleans bass players depicted in this post played in an energetic, percussive style very similar to Foster's:Fundamental: Historians and scholars have long believed the world's first jazz band to have been that of Buddy Bolden, whose powerful cornet was heard from the bandstands of city parks and dance halls across New Orleans in the early years of ... read more
Listen to St. Louis Blues" class="meta-date"> In a long caption in my book, Preservation Hall (W.W. Norton, 1991), I told the story, quoted below, of the Humphreys' long lives and distinguished lineage. I never met their trombonist brother, Earl, who died relatively young. Their father, Willie Humphrey, Sr., was a clarinetist who spent much of his life on road tours; in a surviving publicity shot he looks just like Willie, Jr. The pioneering grandfather's story says something about the rich artistic and cultural complexities underpinning ...read more
The Old Eureka Band, led from the 1930s by Percy Humphrey.Tops in the city as late as the 1950s, its joyous processions were marked by a dignity and decorum since overtaken by the wild and garish. Photos by Tom Sharpsteen, compiled with sound by Clint Baker and Katie Cavera, used here with permission.Years ago, the French Quarter streets were amazingly quiet. Especially in the mornings, before the few tourists were out and about, this historic section--located near the river, yet built on high ground for good reason--retained its residential feel. New Orleans' slow-going, personal ...read more
In the jazz genome, the blues is essential.Louis Armstrong administered his blues while performing open heart surgery on the whole world. Miles Davis wove his kind of blues-isms amid the dark arteries and shadowy intersections of postmodern life. Billie and De De Pierce? I just came to their house; they came to mine. Their house is your house. De De Pierce And Billie Pierce. De De sings. Billie Plays. read more
Visible Roots of America's Most Original Cultural ProductA lifelong preoccupation with traditional New Orleans jazz inspired my book, Preservation Hall (W.W. Norton, 1991). While doing my own shooting, I uncovered a trove of historical photos I decided to mix with my own (sources available on request). Like the music itself, this project is a blend of old and new, personal and professional. Blogs, like recordings, add a fresh dimension to a traditional art. In the 1970s and '80s I paid regular visits to New Orleans. I was invited to play with some of ... read more
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