Reply to a researcher on New Orleans music

Hi all, I got your email addresses from the Portland Jazz Jams website. I'm a senior at Portland State University and I'm doing a project about the musical history of New Orleans and the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I'm hoping you have time to answer some questions. Anything you have to say would be helpful. If you could briefly tell me if/how the hurricane has affected you, your music or anyone you know? Also, what do you think has been the greatest musical loss caused by the hurricane? Any other thoughts? I'm going to be compiling these interviews within the next week. Thanks in advance for anything you have to say; it is very much appreciated, Erica Reininger.

My reply:

I'm not from N.O. You may want to talk to Devin Phillips. He can refer you to the other refugees in town from New Orleans.

I know a few folks down there. They have had to relocate, mostly to Texas. I think the greatest loss is all the long term musical projects that were ended because of relocation. I am affected in a positive way, in that I get to play with these refugees here in PDX. The hurricane has affected my music by introducing the New Orleans scene here in in PDX. It has made me more focused on the blues, on swinging, trying to tell more of a story, and playing to the audience more. These are elements that the New Orleans players have brought with them. I'm sure the dispersion has had this same effect on musicians everywhere the refugees have settled. This is bad for the city of New Orleans, butprobably good for the musicians of the host cities.

I always viewed New Orleans as a musical backwater, kind of stunted. Great players lived there and came from there, but I didn't think much of the Jazz world felt like New Orleans was still a great scene. The biggest thing there was Dixieland and that was for the tourists sake. There was also a strange blend of old bebop, brass band music and blues. The thing that really put it on the modern musical map was the Marsalis family and they were never very forward thinking (except for Branford). So I didn't really have much respect for New Orleans. To me it was a dirty, racist, straw hat and suspender wearing, drug addled, poor, hot, humid, boozer's Disneyland. I thought all the really great shit was happening in NYC and that Wynton was a throwback that had hurt the industry.

After being exposed to these players I have come to appreciate the New Orleans style much more. I can see just how NYC has strayed from real swing in favor of freaked out chord changes and odd-time signatures. In NYC psuedo-hipsters stroke their goatees in high-brow martini bars while listening to slide trumpet players playing avant-garde Jazz over world-beat techo-jungle grooves. In New Orleans they always try to connect with the audience with hard swinging and bluesy Jazz. They usually aren't hipper-than-thou, like so many NYC bands. One of the New Orleans musicians told me," I just want to play some jazz, drinks some drinks, and talk to some ladies. All night, all the time." That sums it up right there! In New Orleans they're not so worried about getting written up in the Village Voice, or scanning the audience for Blue Note A&R reps. They aren't trying to take the Jazz world by storm. They just want to play good music and have some fun. There is always the possibility of getting called by Wynton. Devin told me that you don't go audition for Wynton or try to get on his band. Wynton will hear about you if you're happening and then he'll call for you. No one counts on that there.

In the end, I think the elements from an earlier era of Jazz that New Orleans has preserved will re-invigorate the greater Jazz scene. We don't necessarily need a resurgence of Dixieland :-) , but we always could use more swing, more wailing blues and more gravy.

I guess Katrina has profoundly affected my musical outlook. I'm starting to let go more of my need to always play the most harmonically advanced lines that I can possibly come up with. I'm also trying to make my lines swing more and I don't feel as self conscious about playing simple (and sometimes cliché) bluesy phrases.

More modern isn't always better. Usually more modern means less swinging. Less swinging is never good. I hope enough New Orleans musicians relocated to NYC to effect players there the same way that I have been affected.

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