|The Spotted Cat, Frenchmen Street|
Todd Burdick is best known as the tuba player and founder member of Tuba Skinny. He told me he came to New Orleans from Chicago and at the time you could find a pal and jointly rent a shotgun house near the French Quarter for just 400 dollars a month. (The price by 2015 had risen to 900 dollars a month.)
Shaye Cohn of Tuba Skinny has said: 'One thing really important to The Loose Marbles was ensemble playing. When I first started with them, I was playing second trumpet. So I had to work to find a voice where I could fit in. It taught me to play very simply, and to listen'.
The Loose Marbles still exists and is attracting plenty of gigs. As the sixty or so musicians who have played in Loose Marbles all still feel part of the family, it is easy enough for Ben and Michael to put together half a dozen of them to play at a gig.
To see a video of great historical interest - The Loose Marbles playing in the street in 2007, CLICK HERE. And to see them playing indoors in those early post-Katrina days, CLICK HERE.
The great banjo player John Dixon told me that with the musicians came some great dancers - people such as Amy Johnson and Chance Bushman; and they in turn attracted more dancers..... and so more musicians.
In the hottest months, it became customary to decamp to the cooler regions in the north, so you might find some of these bands in August busking in New York's Washington Square, for example. Some of the musicians head north in August to work as tutors in residential Jazz Camps. More recently, some of the bands have even been able to tour overseas during the summer.
As part of their learning and development, some players, after arriving in New Orleans, decided to take up a second or even a third instrument. They taught themselves and - in just a few years - reached the highest levels on these instruments. Think of Barnabus Jones. He arrived in New Orleans as a violinist. He then mastered the banjo. And finally he bought an old trombone and mastered that. Now he is regarded as one of the finest traditional jazz trombonists in the history of jazz. Then there is Shaye Cohn. She arrived as an outstanding pianist and accomplished violinist. She obtained a very old cornet (which she still plays - she told me it is the only horn she possesses), taught herself the fingering, and just a few years later has surely become the most creative traditional jazz cornet player in the world.
|Shaye kindly allowed me to take|
a photo of her world-famous cornet.
|It was an enormous pleasure|
for me to meet Todd Burdick.
|Todd on guitar -|
a few years ago.
The boom in tourism and the world-wide appreciation of their music (fostered by YouTube, internet-streamed performances and CDs) has meant that the best bands no longer need to play on the streets to make a living. They can survive on the income from gigs mainly in the bars and clubs on Frenchmen Street. Indeed, Frenchmen Street is the place to be - though the great tradition still continues at Preservation Hall: every night, while I was in town, there was a long queue in St. Peter's Street waiting for the Hall to open.
|A performance in Preservation Hall|
Meanwhile, more young musicians have arrived in New Orleans to try their luck. The most outstanding (such as James Evans from Wales and Haruka Kikuchi from Japan) have rapidly been recruited into established bands.
On the streets the musicians playing for tips have continued to multiply. In my view, there are now too many for their own good, because competition has made it hard to earn a living. Even so, I have to report the standards of the music to be heard on Royal Street are so high that those bands are much better and more exciting than the typical band that we find in pubs and jazz clubs here in England.
This Facebook entry by guitarist Shine Delphi shows just how hard they work - even on a birthday:
Thank y'all for the birthday love. If you're in New Orleans come give me a hug. I'll be busking with Yes Ma'am 11 - 2, then Goorin Bros hat shop 3 - 5 and I'll finish the evening over at Buffa's 11 - 1.
While I was in New Orleans I had the privilege of conversations with several of the musicians I had previously seen and admired only on YouTube. It was a special thrill to meet them. I learned a great deal about their approach to the music, and how they practise, rehearse and manage their lives. But that will be a subject to write about later.smile emoticon
|Meeting the great Japanese trombonist|
Haruka Kikuchi was a special thrill.
See her in full flight
BY CLICKING HERE.