For those who might have wondered what happened to this blog over the past two weeks, my husband Steve and I just returned from ten days in New Orleans. It was a wonderful break in many ways—the weather approached 70 degrees, as opposed to the 30-ish days in Milwaukee; the food was wonderful—I counted neither fat nor sugar (Mardi Gras is only a few weeks away!); and we listened to some wonderful music.
Our agreed-upon favorite was the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with Irvin Mayfield.
We had a table right up front and it was amazing to see the interconnections among this six-man subset of the NOJO. I especially appreciated hearing and seeing the pianist, Victor “Red” Atkins, whose playing was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, live. They all had so much FUN together—something I do not usually associate with performances.
We also heard music at other venues: Palm Court, the Jazz National Historical Park, as well as Preservation Hall. I was pleased to see several women included in some of the combos—as guitarists and horn players, as opposed to their traditional, somewhat limited role as vocalists. Music was everywhere, and often played, not for a salary, but “for tips.”
We did some shopping here and there as well. I visited the French Market, where a man named Oscar demonstrated the New Orleans custom of lagniappe—a little “extra”—giving me a second set of earrings along with the keyboard-like set I bought and wore to Preservation Hall. And another man sold me cds of some early jazz recordings, including Sweet Emma Barrett ,the first woman who ever played at Preservation Hall.
Not having ever traveled in the South before, I was surprised when I got onto the streetcar and, with Northern “efficiency,” hurriedly asked the driver “Is this the streetcar to Lafayette Cemetery?” She just smiled and said, “Well, good morning to you TOO, and yes it is!”
Before I arrived, and while there I read Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans by New Yorker writer Dan Baum (2009). Through interviews, Baum traces the lives of nine New Orleans natives from as early as 1965 through post-Katrina. And Steve and I also watched, before we arrived, the first season of the HBO series Treme, which I highly recommend.
Back home today, I touch my dusty piano, amazed as always at how much slips away after even ten days gone, buy groceries, walk Elliot, and return to life-as-I-know-it in the upper Midwest: business as usual. But before I get going too quickly with Northern “efficiency,” enjoy with me this word jazz by Ntozake Shange: “I Live in Music.”
Despite the urgencies of the day–whatever they may be–good morning to you, TOO!