5 September 2015


A September Night on Frenchmen Street
I had an email from Jim Sterling, an elderly Florida resident and regular reader of my articles. Jim shares my tastes in traditional jazz and also experiences the same joy as I do when witnessing the finest performances.

In mid-September, Jim undertook the long drive to New Orleans to spend a couple of days catching what he could of the music.

As I have never been in New Orleans at such a time of year, I was happy to learn from Jim how well the music is supported even when it is not 'festival' season. There was standing room only in such places as The Spotted Cat. Jim wrote: 'The amazing thing was that it was a Monday night in September, not the height of the tourist season and not a weekend night. But the street was packed with locals and tourists.'

Although, in such a short visit, Jim inevitably missed some of the performers he would have liked to catch, he was thrilled to meet and have good conversations with the reed player Earl Bonie, who was deputising for Aurora Nealand in The Royal Roses. Jim wrote 'Earl grew up in New Orleans and played for years on the steamboats and with the Dukes of Dixieland for about ten years. He also plays on large ocean-going cruise ship bands'.

Jim also enjoyed in Frenchmen Street 'an impromptu street performance by a brass band of mostly young black musicians so I had to stop and listen to their spirited playing'.

At The Spotted Cat, Jim caught The Jazz Vipers. 'I really enjoyed their playing, as well as the Royal Roses, though their style is not the same era of traditional jazz as Tuba Skinny. Both bands did more swing numbers, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Fletcher Henderson/Benny Goodman style. I have been a fan of that style since my college days. I actually got to see and hear both Ellington and Basie shortly before they died... The highlight of the Jazz Vipers was their performance of Basie's One O'Clock Jump. And JUMP it did! It brought down the house, along with a couple doing the Lindy Hop while they played. The dance floor cleared of other dancers when they got going and it seemed to inspire the band even more'.

Just as I would have been, Jim was thrilled to meet and speak with the musicians, including some who were passing by and looked in for a while. These included Jenavieve Cooke (who sang a song with the Vipers) and Haruka Kikuchi, back from her European tour and shortly heading to Japan for a festival.

Jim managed to video some numbers, so watch out for his YouTube offerings. This one (CLICK ON HERE TO VIEW) brilliantly captures the atmosphere in Frenchmen Street on a September night.

He says: 'If you can't tell,  I am still on Cloud Nine about the experience'. I know the feeling.