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New Orleans Clarinet with Evan Christopher This Week on Riverwalk Jazz


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This week, Riverwalk Jazz spotlights the rich legacy of jazz clarinet players from the Crescent City.

The sound of New Orleans jazz is unique. The distinctive New Orleans clarinet sound blends with cornet, trombone, drums, bass, banjo and piano in polyphonic New Orleans-style jazz bands, just as filé spice binds ingredients together in a gumbo stew. Evan Christopher, a contemporary New Orleans-based player dedicated to this unique clarinet tradition joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on stage at The Landing.

The program is distributed in the US by Public Radio International, on Sirius/XM satellite radio and can be streamed on- demand from the Riverwalk Jazz website.

In a city whose lifeblood was music, there was always work for clarinetists in early 20th- century New Orleans. When refined Creole jazz came head to head with the rougher uptown sounds, the unmistakable cry of New Orleans jazz clarinet was born. Its wail could be heard from street parades and dance halls in the French Quarter to picnics on Lake Pontchartrain.

Early jazz clarinetists like Johnny Dodds Jimmie Noone and Larry Shields—all born around 1890—found plentiful work in New Orleans before World War I. But, as war loomed over the country, thousands of African Americans migrated to Chicago from the South to take jobs supporting the war effort. On the south side of Chicago, the winning combination of hot jazz and liquor created a “gold rush" of nightclubs catering to dock hands and stockyard workers. Opportunities for jazz musicians shifted from New Orleans to the wide- open scene in Chicago.

Music on the Air This Week

New Orleans clarinetists Sidney J Arodin, Tony Parenti and Joe Darensbourg emerged in the 1920s. Arodin composed the classic “Up a Lazy River" with Hoagy Carmichael and on his own wrote the tune “Get Wit' It." “Lou-easy-an-i-a" is Joe Darensbourg's best-known song. The title of Tony Parenti's “Vieux Carré" refers to New Orleans' historic French Quarter.

The 1962 opening of Preservation Hall gave renewed energy to the New Orleans revival movement launched in the 1940s. Clarinetist George Lewis, a veteran of Bunk Johnson's band, was a regular at the Hall, as was Albert Burbank, composer of “Lucky Me."

Also on the air this week, we hear Evan Christopher's original composition, “Wrath of Grapes."

Preservation Hall Jazz Band photo © William Carter

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