.” The mere mention of those words conjures up images in the minds of jazz lovers everywhere. That’s where it all started. Back in the days of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and those great jazz innovators jamming on New Orleans Bourbon Street.
I walked down
Bourbon Street back in the ‘50s and the street itself was blanketed in the sounds of traditional jazz. You could walk past one club after another and hear the music from each club transition into the music from the next club. Those were happy sounds and great jazz.
Preservation Hall is where traditional jazz is played in the “traditional” style. Located in the French Quarter, the Hall is dedicated to the preservation of
style jazz. The owners “seeded” the band with several very old black musicians when I was there. This may be a ploy to give authenticity to the venue and the band itself, but it worked. New Orleans
The musicians sat in chairs facing the audience and kicked off familiar melodies most people would recognize. It was a small combo of maybe eight musicians. With the exception of a few young “ringers” filling a couple of chairs, the rest of the musicians were very old and seemed to prefer blues and slow tempos. I remember one elderly clarinet player who never seemed to move. I began to wonder if he was actually still alive. I’m serious. I lost a bet when he blinked.
When I was there in the ‘50s the sounds of authentic jazz could still be heard echoing throughout the French Quarter. I don’t think it’s that way anymore. Once modern jazz and then “rock” and guitars with amplifiers moved in, the flavor changed. I was there a couple of decades later for a Super Bowl weekend and it had already begun to deteriorate. It was very disappointing.
My “work area” or “office” at home is almost a memorial to
jazz. I have a small statue of Satchmo, a painting of the “Preservation Hall” jazz band, given to me by my daughter Shannon, an actual tile from the roof of one of the old buildings on Bourbon street with a painting of a jazz combo, given to me by my brother Tom, and an autographed photo of the great Louis Armstrong that Satchmo himself gave me when I was a kid. I have T shirts, hats, paintings of many jazz greats, and even a photo or two of me playing in clubs myself “back in the day.” New Orleans
All this to say that I’m surrounded by memorabilia of
and the spirit of authentic American Jazz. By the way, jazz is the only uniquely American art form. Jazz is New Orleans ’s original and innovative contribution to the world. Like all art forms, music evolves. America
When I think of
jazz, I’m not thinking about Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis. And I’m certainly not thinking of the simplistic rock bands with screaming morons, jumping around on stage, ecstatic because they can play three chords on a guitar. I’m reflecting on those glorious days at the turn of the century when traditional jazz was born and incubated in New Orleans . New Orleans
Set your imagination free for a minute. Picture a smoke-filled brothel where black musicians play the blues all night until the sun begins to peek through the shudders on dusty windows. Think of a black and white scene from a film noir and picture a low fog hanging over a dark and wet street reflecting the moonlight. Picture steam rising from a manhole cover as a tired musician shuffles silently down Royal Street, past a gas lamp, his hat pulled low over his forehead, his dark overcoat collar turned up, and a beat-up leather trumpet case under his arm. Man…I love it. I wish I had been there. Not the brothel. Just playing jazz with those musicians. I wish I had been at the bedside in
for the “Birth of the Blues.” New Orleans
I think I’ll do a “mini series” of stories of my personal experiences in
starting on my next blog. It won’t be as colorful and exciting as New Orleans New Orleans in the ‘20s, but it was still . I’ll begin with my trip south after my discharge from the army and then I’ll describe a weekend I spent there a couple of decades later. New Orleans
I traveled with a few 49ers and other friends to a Super Bowl in
many years after my first trip. That one stands out, because I came close to being locked in jail with a couple of my friends who actually were locked up. A brawl at Pat O’Brien’s on New Orleans Bourbon Street started that weekend off with a bang for a few of us. Maybe I’ll just describe part of that trip, but I’ll start gently with my personal introduction to as a teenage soldier in 1958. New Orleans
Man, those were the days…