A look back at (some of the) great local live music in 2013
30th December 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
For awhile in the Fall of 2013 it seemed as there was a festival or a free music event every week. And autumn in New Orleans isn’t even considered “festival season.” That title has long been held for springtime because of the biggies – the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the French Quarter Festival.
Filling the entire year with music, particularly when its accessible, affordable, and the venue is welcoming to all, is a good thing. The award in that category goes to the Jazz in the Park Thursday evening series presented by the People United For Armstrong Park. One of 2013’s best shows that took place in this wonderful setting found keyboardist/vocalist Jon Cleary united with the appropriately named Absolute Monster Gentlemen with Derwin “Big D” Perkins layin’ superb grooves on guitar, Cornell Williams, one of the great voices in New Orleans today, on bass and Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander driving on drums. Keyboardist Nigel Hall was the special guest for the set that sent it to an even higher level.
A couple of other outdoor performances rated some high marks. At the French Quarter Festival, guitarist/vocalist Benny Turner with an all-star band that included Charles Moore and June Yamagishi on guitars showed how the blues and more are done in New Orleans – with unleashed enthusiasm and a ton of fun. The same goes for the always full-on accordionist and singer Dwayne Dopsie who kicked at the Cajun-Zydeco Festival.
Satchmo Summerfest picked it up a notch this year by bringing in internationally renowned trombone and now trumpeter and singer Wycliffe Gordon. His take on legendary Louis Armstrong’s material was incredibly striking. Hats off to the Satchmo Fest for bringing in some modern jazz to the event with the arrival of pianist Ellis Marsalis. Jazz is, after all, timeless but it doesn’t stand still.
Clubs all around town got in on the action of presenting some of the most outstanding music as played by both local and national acts. Audiences were privileged to have the opportunity to hear the New Orleans debuts of three incredible, very unique jazz artists. The New Orleans Jazz Heritage Foundation sponsored Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca who impressed with his speed, technique and soul at a free performance at the House of Blues. Vibraphonist Warren Wolf brought his entire band to town to perform as part the “Gem Sessions” at the Little Gem Saloon, a venue that has started to get further notice. It was also the site of pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford’s New Orleans Legends Series that offered intimate conversations and performances at shows with both Irma Thomas and Nicholas Payton.
The newly renovated Civic Theatre’s dance floor/concert seating proved to be perfect layout for the jazz/electronic explorations of keyboardist Robert Glasper. With the Civic, along with the Saenger Theater having opened this year, the possibilities of more great artists coming to New Orleans is highly anticipated.
Stanton Moore is best known reigning behind the drums with the renowned rock/funk band Galactic. He’s also a fine and sensitive jazz drummer, a side of him audiences were able to experience when he took over Tuesdays at Snug Harbor for a month. The match-up with him and bassist James Singleton and David Torkanowsky brimmed with spontaneity and joy. Onetime New Orleans resident, saxophonist Rick Margitza with his group the Mouten Reunion Quartet, that includes French brothers bassist Francois and drummer Louis Mouten, brought a flavor of European improvisation to the Frenchmen Street club.
Tork also held court for several sessions at the Prime Example with some of this city’s finest. With the pianist at the helm and the mix of musicians drummer Shannon Powell or Herlin Riley, saxophonist Roderick Paulin or Wess Anderson, bassist Roland Guerin and vocalist Germaine Bazzle, a taste of old-school New Orleans modern jazz could be heard in the music and felt in the atmosphere at the North Broad Street Club.
Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club on St. Claude Avenue was the home of the second edition of the Guitar Extravaganza, an ongoing series established to raise funds for the Danny Barker Guitar and Banjo Festival planned for October 2014. This particular extravaganza featured almost all blues with organizer/guitarist/vocalist Detroit Brooks and guitarists/vocalists Mem Shannon, Chris Thomas King and Vasti Jackson. Each of their styles – and guitars! – were so very different, the evening was a real study of the blues.
Aaron Neville wasn’t among his siblings, who performed simply under the moniker The Nevilles at Tipitina’s, it nonetheless felt like old times at the club (and on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon) where the group really got its start and played so many memorable times.
The highlight of this year’s Ponderosa Stomp, which was held at the Rock ‘n Bowl, was soul singer with a political bent and a man of many writing and production talents, Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams Jr. He shook up the house when he jumped off stage to great the eager crowd.
These are just some of the great performances in 2013 – there’s just too many to name them all. Plus every music fan certainly has a list of favs. Oh, and then there were all the brass bands blowin’ on the streets with the social aid and pleasure clubs. Thank you.
There’s plenty of music to come in 2014 unless the grunches who want to steal the lifeblood of New Orleans get their way and pass the “noise” ordinance that was recently introduced at the City Council. More on that in future columns. Next week, a look at some of 2013’s finest albums.
This article originally published in the December 30, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.