I love New Orleans.
It’s been exactly two years since I’ve been to New Orleans. I have visited New Orleans on three occasions; twice when I was living in Texas, and once when I was in Kansas City for work. Every time I have left the city thinking ‘that city knows how to live!’
New Orleans, of course, is famous for its yearly hedonism festival, Mardi Gras. I’ve never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and can only imagine the explosion of life, colour, and music that would exude from the city. I will need to make it to Mardi Gras to experience the full force of this city.
However, even when this city isn’t at ‘full force’ it has more than enough to mesmerize and enchant. The former French port city is like no other city in the United States. The mixture of fantastic European architecture, one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world, and a mouth-watering local culinary palette make for a city that is hard not to love.
The architecture, food, and music are the reasons why I love New Orleans!
Last time I was in New Orleans I was staying at a hostel, and they had a list of shows going on for that given night. I asked the guy at reception what was his recommendation. His responded with “Go see Kermit Ruffins. He is one of New Orleans’ best trumpeters. He’s been showcased on the TV show Treme.”
If he was one of New Orleans’ best trumpeters, that put him on the shortlist for the best trumpeters in the world. I needed no more convincing. To top it off, the show was held at a New Orleans institution of jazz, Tipitinas. Some of the greatest have played there, and when I took a look at their site while writing this, BB King plays there tonight. That goes to show the quality of this bar.
The opening band for Kermit Ruffins was a twelve piece brass band called The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Yes, I said a twelve piece brass band. The entire band was made up of young black men, with enough energy to light the entire city up. They played a ninety minute set, and didn’t stop once. Not once. Not for a drink. Not to let us catch a breath. Not for a cigarette. Not once. The entire crowd was in a dizzying dance by the grand finale.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band in action.
After ninety minutes of non-stop energy, Kermit Ruffins took the stage.
Kermit could play; that much was clear. The amazing thing is, however, that I had more fun with the opening band, just because of their energy. That’s how high the talent level of musicians is in New Orleans. One of the world’s top artists can take the stage, and it will be only one of a number of amazing musical encounters you’ll have on a given night.
Kermit Ruffins playing “Drop Me Off in New Orleans”.
The next night I went to see Glen David Andrews at Preservation Hall. Wow. The intimacy, power, and history of this place is palpable. They pack the place to the brim, which is maybe 150 people, then some of the finest traditional jazz artists in the city play. It’s a ‘must-see’ musical experience for anyone who loves live music. When I went there were people from across the globe in the small crowd.
After the show, I went up and thanked Glen, and congratulated him on his charity work in the city. He runs a high school for talented musicians, where they study traditional jazz for half the school day. On this evening we were treated to one of his very talented proteges playing with the band, a thirteen year old clarinetist. If you closed your eyes, you’d guess that he was 43, not 13.
Glen David Andrews in the studio.
The music makes New Orleans truly magical.
You could be walking down the street, and it’s not out of place to see a tuba player walking down the street playing his gigantic horn. Nor would it be weird to see a six year old practicing a trombone that’s as long as he is tall.
This is New Orleans.
I’ve had the opportunity to see this city before and after Katrina. My second time to the Crescent City was three weeks to the day before Katrina. Of course I was as shocked as the rest of the world to hear about the destruction that occurred in a city I so loved, and had so recently visited.
My most recent visit was in in 2011, six years after the hurricane that had such a drastic and terrifying impact on the city. There were definitely signs of the destruction, and some parts of the city will never be restored. However, what struck me the most was how much the city had endured.
New Orleans has a fighter’s spirit.
If you’re a fan of music, you need to ‘Make Your Way Down Yonder’ to New Orleans. It’s one of the most unique cities in the world. I can’t wait to go back. You’ll probably find me at Tipitina’s, Preservation Hall, or a random bar on Frenchman’s. I’ll be there soaking in the scene, and dancing till dawn.
Glen David Andrews’ nephew, Troy Andrews, or Trombone Shorty. He got the nickname because his trombone was taller than he was when he started playing.
Long Live New Orleans.