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Post-Katrina Jazz in New Orleans

Glenn Astarita By

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Like scattered remnants of a defeated Roman army, New Orleans musicians can be found far and wide, surfacing like bobbing corks in a pond.

Houston, Atlanta, Little Rock, Michigan, Oregon and Scandinavia are now home for the musicians who played the jazz clubs of New Orleans. For many, their return is problematic and some may never get back to the Crescent City. But others weathered the storm where veiled optimism conflicts with eternal hope.

Famed clarinetist Pete Fountain lost his home and music related treasures in hurricane Katrina-ravaged Bay St. Louis, MS., but has expressed his intentions of returning to the limelight. Trumpeter Gregg Stafford, currently touring Scandinavia, will join the Heritage Hall Jazz Band and former Louis Armstrong vocalist Jewel Brown in a Habitat for Humanity fund-raiser to be held on Saturday February 18, 2006 at Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego (see additional details below). This event is being produced by veteran New Orleans impresario and agent Paul Lentz.



Brown, who performed at the Satchmo Summerfest with Ellis Marsalis just a week before Katrina roared through the city, continues to amaze. She remains as electrifying as she was in her years with Satch. "It's a great band and working with Jewel Brown is the thrill of a lifetime, said Lentz. "The 'Musician's Village concept that Branford [Marsalis] and Harry Connick, Jr. are doing with Habitat is wonderful; very much needed and I have hopes that we can go on from San Diego and do more.

There are bands playing on Bourbon Street and in "The Marigny, which is the new entertainment area that snakes along Frenchman Street, while some venues have reopened in other parts of the city.

In the French Quarter, Preservation Hall opened the first week of December with a book signing for Tom Piazza's Why New Orleans Matters, but closed shortly thereafter because of slow business. The hall expects to reopen in 2006. The Palm Court Jazz Café—a longstanding traditional jazz dining and listening spot—remains closed but will reopen on New Year's Eve and continue with its customary lineup thereafter.

Bourbon Street continues to offer a dismal offering of strip clubs and bad rock joints doing business with construction crews and debris removers who have flocked to the city. A "nickel a dance traditional jazz series with children welcome, plays Sundays at Café Brasil while D.B.A. offers the Hot Club of New Orleans, the Klezmer All-Stars, and Jon Boutte. Multi-instrumentalist and Clint Eastwood favorite, James Rivers resumes his Jazz Brunch performances at the New Orleans Hilton on February 5th to mark his twelfth season, for one of the longest running engagements in New Orleans.

The Steamboat Natchez cruises the Mississippi River with Duke Heitger's Steamboat Stompers to complement nonpareil clarinetist Jack Maheu's afternoon cruise set while the Dukes of Dixieland handle the evening sail. Dauphine Street's Vaughan's has trumpeter Leroy Jones Friday nights, Hot Wings on Saturday's and Washboard Chaz providing mid-week entertainment on Wednesdays. The Rebirth Brass Band played a Thursday set there while Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers did a Saturday night at Tipitina's.

One can only surmise that better days are in store for New Orleans and even now, if you look in the right places, the Dixieland scene is resurfacing in parity with the City's laborious path back to normalcy.

A benefit for the Habitat for Humanity

New Orleans Musicians Village featuring Heritage Hall Jazz Band and Special Guest: Jewel Brown

San Diego, California: Saturday, February 18

Copley Symphony Hall — 8 PM: Tickets at Box Office and Ticketmaster

www.heritagehallband.com

PS—I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to the All About Jazz family for their incredible support and concern during the difficult times I encountered after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. I have since relocated to Nashville, TN with the intentions of picking up the pieces and pursuing a fresh start. Ultimately, I hope to return to the New Orleans area, but the road to recovery will be an arduous one for this truly unique city.

Photo Credit
Tipitina's by Jenny Bagert

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