A good bit of silt has been deposited in the Gulf of Mexico since we last communicated. In fact, there are nearly two months of musical activities to report, so let me get right at it.
Perhaps the two most noteworthy events during this long interval were "BozFest" (the Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration, Nov. 30-Dec. 3) and the Danny Barker Birthday Celebration (Jan. 12-13). Both were held for the first time and are expected to be repeated on an annual basis.
BozFest was a four-day celebration of New Orleans' own Boswell Sisters, and particularly in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Connie (Connee) Boswell's birth. It brought together not only fans ("Bozzies") from hither and yon, but it showcased several outstanding singing groups dedicated to the perpetuation of the distinctive Boswell harmonies. Those groups included our own Pfister Sisters, who have been doing their thing so well for more than a quarter of a century. Other groups were Stolen Sweets from Portland, Ore.; Yazoozazz from Arlington, Va., and Shout Sister from San Diego, Calif. I heard all but the last group and was extremely impressed with the high quality of their presentations.
The celebration began with a Friday evening party on the Steamboat Natchez and continued with performances at a variety of local venues over the weekend, all of which were organized by Cynthia Lucas. The crowds were large and enthusiastic at the performances I attended, leading Pfister Sister Holley Bendtsen to announce that plans are already underway to stage another such event next year. I certainly applaud that. For more, see www.Bozzies.com and www.Pfistersisters.com.
January 13, 1909 was the birthdate of now-deceased local legend Danny Barker; hence this year's celebration (sponsored by the French Market and the New Orleans Jazz Centennial) served as a dry run for the 100th anniversary of Barker's birth to be observed next year. The two-day event took place on three stages in the French Market area of the French Quarter.
The lineup of performers included groups led by guitarist Steve Masakowski, trumpeter Gregg Stafford, banjoist Detroit Brooks (with sister Juanita on vocals), trombonist Lucien Barbarin, guitarist Harry Sterling (with Al Carson on vocals) and trumpeter Leroy Jones, among others. The focus clearly was on musicians who had been mentored by Danny Barker. Jones' all-star aggregation, made up of many of Danny's old Fairview Baptist Church brass band, gave perhaps the hottest performance of the weekend. We look forward to the centennial celebration promised for January 2009.
Beyond the above, the holiday season featured the usual array of live performances at local clubs as well as a full schedule at the Visitors' Center of the Jazz National Historical Park--not to mention a host of seasonal performances by groups on the streets of the Quarter.
Several birthdays of local notables (in addition to those mentioned above) took place during this reporting period. On Dec. 19, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins celebrated his "29th birthday, for the 14th time" at The House of Blues with a musical party that included the ReBirth and Hot 8 brass bands. Three days later, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, chairman of the New Orleans Public Library Board, celebrated his 30th birthday at Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue. Ruffins and ReBirth, along with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Allstars, were also on hand for the occasion. Last month's "cover girl," Helen Arlt, turned 86 on the same day with a party at the Bombay Club in the Quarter. Finally, drummer Bob French grudgingly acknowledged his 70th on Dec. 29 with a gig at Ray's Boom Boom Room on Frenchmen Street. Music was provided by his Original Tuxedo Jazz Band and guests.