New Orleans remains one of the few major international cities willing to offer up its primary export free of charge to anyone who'll take the time to stop and listen. Music, this city's primary calling card, permeates the daily routine from worship to work and can be found in just about every walk of life. The important role that music plays in the marketing of New Orleans is not lost on city leaders. Dozens of free festivals where music takes center stage against a backdrop of New Orleans' other famous exports - food and culture - crowd the calendar from January to December. The French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summer Fest and Mo' Fest (held each year during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) are but a few venues offering a free listen to the varieties of music available in and around the Crescent City. So, when another festival, free or otherwise, is added to the already crowded musical calendar, it's sometimes greeted with as much anticipation as the next Rocky film or an-off Broadway revival of Cats. One music festival is attempting to change that. For the second year in a row, Fresh Music at the French Market will host free concerts from 6:00pm to 8:00pm every Friday in October. And while the line-up for this year's series dubbed "Seafood and Soul" may not be "all that jazz," it certainly showcases the talents of some of New Orleans most versatile and sought-after musicians - equally at home in the jazz idiom as they are in the featured genres of soul, blues, funk and R&B. But more about the schedule later. The French Market Corporation and the Mayor's Office of Music Business Development, an entity whose primary goal is to promote growth in the New Orleans music industry, sponsor Fresh Music at the French Market. In that vein, the City of New Orleans is attempting to make an investment in the music community and hopes to reap the benefits from numerous initiatives. Among these initiatives are:
Professional development for New Orleans musicians and music industry entrepreneurs to improve their business skills.
Providing additional showcase and income-producing opportunities for New Orleans musicians.
Creating marketing opportunities for New Orleans music as a whole, through such media as the Internet and satellite radio.
Making it easier for visitors to experience authentic New Orleans music - in all its forms.
Improving the quality of life for New Orleans musicians.
Though ambitious, the successful implementation of these initiatives could mean as much to the City of New Orleans as to the musicians and fans of New Orleans music. Legendary R&B performer, the late Ernie K-Doe once said, "All music comes from New Orleans." While many people agreed with K-Doe, it's about time that political and civic leaders acted upon it.
And now for the schedule:
October 1: Deacon John - local legend who's 2003 Image Entertainment release Jump Blues is a thing of power, beauty and emotion.
October 8: Maurice Brown & Soul'd U Out - 23-year-old Chicago transplant who has already racked up impressive credentials playing and recording with legendary jazz veterans such trombonist Curtis Fuller and fellow trumpeter Roy Hargrove.
October 15: John Vidacovich, George Porter, Jr. and Anders Osborne - Funk, funk and more funk from drummer Vidacovich, guitarist Osborne and Meter's alum Porter on bass.
October 22: Marva Wright - Born and raised in New Orleans, Marva is among the growing number of versatile and talented female vocalists emerging from the city known for the birth of the Blues.
October 29: Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters - "Equal parts funk, soul, and gospel blues stirred with deep feeling and simmered in a special New Orleans roux, Wolfman's music pulses with imagination and joy, framed by the guitarist's exquisitely personal compositions and relentlessly propelled by the crisp punch of his skin-tight ensemble." John Sinclair (Couldn't be said any better!!)
So, if your travels bring you to New Orleans in the month of October and you're here on a Friday, drop by French Market Place on North Peters Street. What you'll find is great music, good food and a whole lot of fun.
Until next time, see you 'Round About New Orleans.