Because of the consistently lovely weather, October is always a musically active month in New Orleans. This year was no exception. But, because I was out of the country for the first half of the month, the following account of the scene is incomplete.
The annual Nickel-A-Dance series of free Sunday afternoon performances at Ray's Boom Boom Room on Frenchman Street kicked off on Oct. 5 with Connie Jones and his Crescent City Jazz Band, featuring pianist Tom McDermott. That was followed on Oct. 12 with drummer Frank Oxley and his Joint Chiefs of Jazz. Pianist Steve Pistorius and his excellent Southern Syncopators played Oct. 19, and Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band concluded the month's program on the 26th. The series continued into the first two weeks of November. Nickel-A-Dance is a tremendously popular fall happening, always drawing large and enthusiastic crowds of dancers and listeners.
Fritzel's on Bourbon Street celebrated its 39th anniversary Oct. 20 with plenty of food and music, which drew a packed house. The event was dedicated as a benefit for the club's one-time bandleader, Jack Maheu, who is recovering from a stroke. The participating musicians donated their time and tips to the cause. Maheu himself was in attendance, but he did not play. Nevertheless, he was deeply moved by the occasion and clearly enjoyed listening to the sounds of several of his former musical partners, including pianist John Royen and fellow clarinetists Tim Laughlin and Tom Fischer. For those wishing to contribute to the Maheu benefit fund, make out your checks to "Jack Maheu" and send them to me, Tom Jacobsen, c/o Fritzel's, 733 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70116. I promise to see that Jack gets them.
It should be noted that Fritzel's has been markedly transformed, both physically and musically, by its new ownership. It continues to offer live jazz nightly, but the offerings are now more diverse than in the past. The groups performing there during October included bands led by Laughlin and Fischer as well as cornetist Chuck Brackman, trumpeter Chris Clifton, cornetist/pianist Jamie Wight, trumpeter Mark Braud and pianist/trombonist Richard Scott. For current information and listings, see the club's new website at www.fritzelsjazz.net
Members of the former house band at Fritzel's, reedman Ryan Burrage and pianist Jim Hession, can now be heard with trumpeter Phil Campo's band at Maison Bourbon on Bourbon St., on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons. Other members of Campo's band are Hank Bartels, bass, and Joe Lastie, drums.
The annual Voodoo Fest in City Park consisted of six stages this year, featuring music from late morning until well into the night (Oct. 24-26). As always, the styles of music represented were varied. But jazz was perhaps more prominent than ever before. Local groups included Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, the Hot Club of New Orleans, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Big Al Carson, the Blind Boys of Alabama with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dr. Michael White, Trombone Shorty, trumpeter Shamarr Allen and many more.
The Coliseum Square Association (Uptown) joined with the neighboring International School of Louisiana for their annual fest on the same weekend (Oct. 25-26). Among the featured bands were those of Tom McDermott, Richard Scott and Leroy Jones. This gathering has certainly grown since my wife and I lived in the neighborhood a decade ago.
It was reported in Variety in early October that another film about Louis Armstrong is in the works. Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, who portrayed Charlie Parker in the film Bird, will play Armstrong in a "biopic" called What a Wonderful World. Officially sanctioned by the Armstrong estate, the film will also be directed by Whitaker and made with the help of the French production company, Legende. At a hulking 6'2," Whitaker would be a monumental Armstrong.
Long-time Swedish RAG reader Sven Gustafsson sent along a note reminding us of the annual parade in Stockholm commemorating the closing of Storyville in November 1917. Believing in the importance of The District in jazz history, the Swedes have been celebrating this event on an annual basis since 1950.
"This year we will be celebrating the closing on November 9," Gustafsson wrote in late October. "If you are in Stockholm at that time, you are welcome to participate. We walk a very short distance, and we walk slow and short -- we have all become old -- and some 20 musicians will lead the parade." The record year for the parade was 1955 when more than 2000 people participated in the event. Sorry that I missed it, Sven.
Drummer David Hansen of the current Original Dixieland Jazz Band writes, "We are thrilled to announce that our new CD, Dixieland Jazz for Children, has been listed on the first round of the 51st Grammy Awards ballot in Category 77, "Children's Music Album." The results of the first round balloting determine which recordings move on to the Grammy Nominee round. Samples from the recording featuring singer Johnette Downing can be heard at http://cdbaby.com/cd/jdajlodjb or http:www.amazon.com/Dixieland-Children-Johnette-Larochas-Original/dp/B00125OS32.
The 41st annual ASCAP Deems Taylor music awards were announced in late October. One of the winners in the magazine/journal category was an article by Laurie Stras that appeared in the Journal of the Society for American Music, entitled "White Face, Black Voice: Race, Gender and Region in the Music of the Boswell Sisters."
The acclaimed documentary film Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans continues to be shown throughout the country and is scheduled to air on public television outlets in February during Black History Month. Visit the website www.tremedoc.com, where you can see a trailer and purchase the DVD.
Vocalist Evelyn "Cookie" Gabriel died of cancer Oct. 12. She passed away just days before her 74th birthday. The niece of reedman Charlie Gabriel, with whom she performed as a teenager, Ms. Gabriel was raised in a musical family and came to be perhaps best known as a rhythm and blues singer. She achieved some recognition as a jazz singer later in her career as well, in part the result of a 1997 GHB recording with Lars Edegran entitled Lars Edegran Presents Cookie Gabriel: New Orleans Jazz, Blues and Spirituals. By the turn of the century, however, her local public appearances had become less frequent.