Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Part 3: Spirit Matters

William Carter By

Sign in to view read count
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 style, out of the national mainstream, had much to do with how it cradled classic jazz for most of a century.

But other than a couple of sleazy joints on Bourbon Street, it was hard for a musician to feed his family, or for a visitor to hear the real deal. Still, the city's close-knit neighborhoods proclaimed their musical birthright at pop-up parties, funky dance halls, street events, church memorials. "Let the good times roll," translated from the French, was always there, highlighted by everyone's anticipation of the Mardi Gras Carnival, which they prepared for all year long.

The past has always loomed large in this survival culture where one never knew what tragedies the future might hold. Generations of musicians have long been linked by family ties, spiritual traditions, personal musical tutelage, and people caring for neighbors. By the 1970s I had met and played with musicians in several cities of the world, but only in New Orleans did you learn so quickly where they lived—on which block of which street, in which ward, near which landmark. And no other city has ever spawned so many tunes named for beloved streets, from Basin to Canal to Bourbon to Burgundy to...

Within weeks of arriving, I knew I had arrived when I was invited to jam on the sidewalk to celebrate the birthday of an old lady named Miss Carrie. Then, on ten minutes notice, I donned a parade hat to go play a gig at Antoine's fancy restaurant. Then I joined a procession of Japanese visitors marching to the graveside of clarinet great George Lewis. There were plenty of weeks of no action at all. But one thing was sure: in New Orleans nobody ever needed to be asked to "play with feeling."

Photo Credits

Picture #8: Courtesy Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University

Picture #9: Dan Leyrer

Picture #10: Ralston Crawford, Courtesy Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University

Picture #11: Stanley Kubrick

Picture #13: Grauman Marks

All Other Photos: William Carter


comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Jazz Emerges
Part 7: Sing Miller: This Little Light of Mine
By William Carter
June 9, 2013
Jazz Emerges
Part 6: The Basses of Our Music
By William Carter
May 26, 2013
Jazz Emerges
Part 5: Preservation Hall Won Hearts Across U.S.
By William Carter
May 9, 2013
Jazz Emerges
Part 3: Spirit Matters
By William Carter
April 22, 2013
Jazz Emerges
Part 2: Blues Essential
By William Carter
March 30, 2013
Jazz Emerges
Part 1: New Orleans Brass Bands 1950-1990
By William Carter
March 13, 2013