We are in the midst of a busy spring music festival scene, but there was plenty of activity during the month of March to keep us entertained. The spring version of the popular Nickel-A-Dance series was held every Sunday evening throughout the month, concluding with a performance by Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band on the 30th. The Visitors' Center of the Jazz National Historical Park had its usual full schedule of events, including the popular Saturday afternoon free concerts. The latter included musical tributes to trumpeter Kid Thomas Valentine by a band led by pianist John Royen and to Bessie Smith by vocalist Lisa Lynn.
Special events during the month included "Rent Party 2008" on March 24 at the Abita Springs Town Hall, across the lake. The concert, which was the second in a series inspired by Hurricane Katrina to bring musicians back home and give them work, featured a diverse program of Louisiana music. The trad genre was represented by the Maryland Jazz Band from Germany and North Shore resident Don Vappie and his Creole Jazz Serenaders. It was Vappie and his wife Milly who came up with the idea of the series, and they plan to make it an annual event. I missed it, but, from all reports, this year's edition was a great success.
There are a number of new music gigs around town. The renovated Maximo's Italian Grill on Decatur Street has instituted a live music policy every evening, it seems, except Tuesday that features a variety of groups. We caught trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his quartet there on March 3. The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue is hosting a series of concerts sponsored by the Renew Our Music program on Friday afternoons from 5 to 7 p.m. Guitarist Seva Venet and his String Jazz Band was featured March 14. And septuagenarian guitarist Warren Battiste heads up a trio for Sunday jazz brunches at Boffa's on Esplanade Avenue (11 a.m.-1 p.m.), with plans for evening sessions there as well.
In addition to the many events in connection with the French Quarter Festival, April 11-13 (see also www.fqfi.org), and Jazzfest, April 25-May 4 (www.nojazzfest.com), the Norwegian Seamen's Church, 1772 Prytania Street, launched a full schedule of activities in April and May. I mentioned most of the April events last month, to which I can now add a free concert of Duke Ellington music by a choir from the Swedish Church in New York which was held April 12. Moreover, there was the ever popular annual Jazz & Dessert evening on May 1, with music provided by Lars Edegran and his Triolian String Band. On May 4, there was a jazz service featuring clarinetist Chris Burke and Norwegian pianist Jan Engebretsen. Edegran will be back on May 17 with a brass band to celebrate Norwegian National Day, and clarinetist Orange Kellin's Quartet provides the music for a garden party (5 p.m.) on Memorial Day, May 26. For details, contact the church at (504) 525-3602.
Preservation Hall has announced a two-week series of "intimate" concerts during Jazzfest called "Midnight Preserves." The series opens on April 24 with a performance by Wardell Quezergue and his New Orleans R&B Revue. The varied lineup also includes appearances by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and George Wein with the Preservation Hall All-Stars. For the full schedule, go to www.preservationhall.com.