New sounds at the University of New Orleans

The first Jazz at the Sandbar performance of the fall 2012 series was a tribute to the style of guest artist Ellis Marsalis, who was chairman of the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans when the performance series was established in 1990.

Jamison Ross performs "Vestige" by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Jamison Ross performs “Vestige” by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

The second show of the series, on Oct. 10, shifted its vision to the future, featuring compositions by student musicians in the combo directed by assistant professor Brian Seeger, who has been teaching since 2007 at UNO, from which he holds a master’s degree in jazz performance.

“They put in a lot of work to get a lot of original material together in a short amount of time,” Seeger said. The combo’s next performance at Jazz at the Sandbar will be Oct. 31, when pianist Joanne Brackeen will be the guest artist.

First up was “Comrade Trampas” by pianist Kris Tokarski, who named the composition after a former classmate. Tokarski also wrote “Bud’s Lament,” a ballad inspired by Bud Powell, and “Vestige.”

An untitled piece by guitarist Stephen Powers was second in the program, followed by “Bud’s Lament” and the combo’s arrangement of “Have You Met Miss Jones?’ by Richard Rodgers.

The first set finished out with a tune by saxophonist James Partridge, and “Third Line” by bassist Sam Albright.

The second set began with a demonstration of the skills of the evening’s celebrity, Jamison Ross, who took first place Sept. 23 in the 25th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., winning over a panel of judges who represent excellence in his field: Jimmy Cobb, Ben Riley, Peter Erskine, Carl Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Brian Blade. His award came with $25,000 in music-scholarship funds and a recording contract with the Concord Music Group.

James Partridge, Gregory Agid and Derek Douget perform "Vestige" by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

James Partridge, Gregory Agid and Derek Douget perform “Vestige” by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Ross’ arrangement of Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” showcased the musicality of his playing delightfully. Afterward, guest artist Derek Douget, who plays saxophone with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and has two UNO music degrees, joined the student band for “Vestige” and for two of his own compositions, “Scrambler” and “Finally,” which he said got its name because he had trouble finishing it.

The second set ended with “Heading In” by Partridge and the band’s arrangement of “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter.

All Jazz at the Sandbar performances this fall are on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The schedule of guest artists is:

In addition, here are some performances coming up by musicians who played Oct. 10.

  • Derek Douget performs Wednesdays, Oct. 17, 24, and 31, with the NOJO Jazz Jam at the Royal Sonesta
  • Derek Douget performs Thursday, Oct. 18, with Mas Mamones at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, and with Jonathan Lefcoski at Snug Harbor.
  • Derek Douget performs Friday, Oct. 19, with Herlin Riley at Snug Harbor.
  • James Partridge will perform Thursday, Oct. 25, with The Session, featuring Darrian Douglas, Jasen Weaver, Steve Lands and Andrew McGowan, at The Maison from 7 to 10 p.m. This month, The Session recorded its first album, “This is Who We Are.”

“Jazz at the Sandbar” is presented by the UNO Jazz Studies Program with support from the UNO Student Government Association, WWNO Public Radio, Nate & Priscilla Gordon, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the UNO International Alumni Association and the New Orleans Jazz Celebration.

All proceeds go to the George Brumat Memorial Scholarship Fund. For more information, call the UNO Music Department at 504.280.6039.

The jewel-like lyrics of Alex McMurray get a complementary setting

It must have been a year ago when Alex McMurray mentioned that he was thinking of starting work on a totally stripped-down CD project, just a songwriter and his guitar, although longtime collaborator Carlo Nuccio was pulling him in another direction. I left the conversation thinking that Alex would choose the super-solo project this time, and looking forward to experiencing the poetry of his lyrics unsauced.

Alex McMurray and Matt Perrine perform

Alex McMurray and Matt Perrine perform “The Woman I Love” during the CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 2012

It turned out the time was right for Nuccio’s approach, but my anticipation was satisfied just the same. I am pleased to report that “I Will Never be Alone in This Land,” produced by Nuccio with horn and string arrangements by Matt Perrine, keeps the focus squarely on the songs, with the lyrics and instrumentation forming a unified whole, like the saucy roast beef on a po-boy.

The whole gang turned out for the CD release party at dba on Thursday. The core band consisted of McMurray on guitar and vocals, Nuccio on drums, Perrine on sousaphone and Bill Malchow on keys. During the first part of the show there was also a horn section, with Joe Cabral and Martin Krusche on saxophone, Charlie Halloran on trombone and Eric Lucero on trumpet.

dba, however, was not a great venue for this show. The crowd there seems inclined to participate, either by dancing or talking, and since this wasn’t really a dance party, well, that leaves talking. I can’t imagine why so many people focused on their own conversations paid even a $5 cover for a show presenting unfamiliar compositions by a singer-songwriter noted for clever turns of the phrase, but there you have it. I may have to go see McMurray again on Thursday at the Saturn Bar, to do it up right.

McMurray will be going to Europe for a week at the beginning of November. Local gigs before then include:

  • Sundays, Oct. 14 and 28, with Bill Malchow on the House of Blues patio, 225 Decatur St., 3-6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 14, with Bill Malchow, before and after “Treme” at Buffa’s, 1001 Esplanade Ave., 8-11 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, Oct. 17 and 24, with The Tin Men at dba, 618 Frenchmen St. 7-9 p.m.
  • Thursdays, Oct. 18 and 25, at the Saturn Bar, 3067 St. Claude Ave., 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 21, with Debbie Davis at Three Muses, 536 Frenchmen St., 8-11 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 26, with Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show at the Voodoo Music Experience Preservation Hall Stage, 5:15 p.m.

I said it was all about the lyrics, right? It seems only right for me to attempt to present them to you.

“I Will Never be Alone in This Land”

I will never be alone in this land

I will never be alone in this land

I will never be alone while I’m trying to go back home

I will never be alone in this land.

I’ve been trading time for change in this land

I’ve been trading time for change in this land

I’ve been trading time for chump change

There’s some things I’ve got to rearrange

But I will never be alone in this land

(band kicks in)

I’ve been running to beat the band these days

I’ve been running to beat the band these days

I’ve been running to beat the band, over rocks and trees and sand

But I will never be alone in this land.

And all the world is sad and dreary

Everywhere I roam

Carlo Nuccio performing with Alex McMurray during the CD release party for "I Will Never be Alone in This Land" at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

Carlo Nuccio performing with Alex McMurray during the CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

We all wanna be ready in this land

We all wanna be ready in this land

Yeah, we all wanna be ready

But we got to try to keep things steady

And we will never be alone in this land.

(John Mooney)

All the world is sad and lonely

Everywhere I roam

We all want to be ready in this land

We all want to be ready in this land

Yeah, we all want to be ready

Now if I can just keep things steady

Then I will never be alone

I just might find my way home

I will never be alone in this land.

“As Long as You Let Me”

Going to do my dance up on the roof, sing my song

Frighten my neighbors who haven’t met me yet

I’ve got a feeling today, a feeling so strong

I’ll love you as long as you let me

I love you for the secret smile we share

You’re there for me when no one seems to get me

I’ve got a feeling today, a feeling so strong

I’ll love you as long as you let me (guitar solo)

I’ve got a feeling that can’t be wrong

The on-stage set list for Alex McMurray's CD release party for "I Will Never be Alone in This Land" at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

The on-stage set list for Alex McMurray’s CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

I’ll love you as long as you let me

I love you for the way you feel real deep inside

When you stare into the future

This train’s got a long way to go

So take my hand

I’ll love you as long as you let me

This train’s got a long way to go

So climb on board

I’m going to love you as long as you let me.

“All My Rivers”

I found my dollars from Mardi Gras day

Guess I had it all squirreled away

Gonna take it on the town

I’m gonna throw the dog around

Because all my rivers is running right

I’ve been dancing in double time

Something’s making everything rhyme

Tie a rag upon your head

Do it ’til you’re almost dead

Because all my rivers is running right.

C’mon boys, strike the band

Been this way since the world began

C’mon baby, dance with me

Like it was meant to be

Something’s grinnin’ up in my head

I got the trees in my boutonniere

Fill your pockets up with dreams

Til they’re bursting at the seams

Cause all my rivers is running right.

(Jon Cleary)

C’mon boys, strike up the band

It’s been this way since the world began

C’mon baby, dance with me

Like we was meant to be

Something’s grinnin’ in my ear

I got the trees in my boutonniere

Fill your pockets up with dreams

Til they are bursting at the seams

‘Cause all my rivers is running right.

“One Step Away from the Hole”

And now we see you handing out your mischief

And folks will pin a dollar on your shirt

Tomorrow when I smell you in my jacket

I’ll gather up those dollars from the dirt

Before you realize the dice are loaded

Before you know it’s someone else’s game

The trap for you is set

When you get free from that net

You’ll spend a lifetime clearing up your name

‘Cause you’re one step away from the hole

Yeah, you’re one step away from the hole.

You like the cards you’re given

But you had better fold

‘Cause you’re one step away from the hole.

Behind the bleachers everybody’s falling

And everybody blames the referee

The ones ain’t busy falling, is busy climbing

Why don’t they want to come down from their trees?

‘Cause they’re one step away from the hole

Yeah, they’re one step away from the hole.

There ain’t a one among them

who’s ready for this role

And they’re one step away from the hole.

I work the chain farther down my ankle

I move the collar up around my neck

My wrists are red and raw

I can’t forget the things I saw

Perhaps someone will pull me from the wreck

‘Cause I’m one step away from the hole

Yeah I’m one step away from the hole.

The drinks are pretty cheap here

But you pay with your soul

When you’re one step away from the hole.

“Me and My Bad Luck”

Me and my bad luck just hit town today

Down  the road so many times, ain’t nothing left to say

Kick me out the doorway, leave me in the rain

Always in my business but I never know his name

Tells me I’m his only boy, but it ain’t the same

As a hook to hang my hat or a place to lay the blame

Me and my bad luck come around

Someone’s doing dishes in a dirty dining car

Someone’s making wishes on a 30-cent cigar

Someone’s standing in the rain, wishing on a star

Someone, somewhere, wants to know where all the people are

Bad luck reassuring me he never will be far

I can’t find him in the morning when he’s hidden my guitar.

Me and my bad luck come around.

(horn party)

Me and my bad luck, we been on a roll

Lost all our muscle and we wash up on the shoals

It’s getting so I wonder just who is in control

Who will pay the ticket, and who will pay the toll

Bad luck disappears on me, falls into a hole

And every time I get the bill he goes and takes it on a stroll

Yeah, me and my bad luck come around

I take him by the collar, put his hat upon his head

Hold him in the river ’til I’m sure that he is dead

Put a bullet in his eye and fill him full of lead

Put him in his dying bed.

Will I say a prayer for him, or do a dance instead?

The things that bad luck said.

Me and my bad luck come around.

“The Get Go”

He was a flunky from St. John’s pit

He told himself that he was through with it

So tired of drifting and bumming around

He thought he’d take it to another town.

She was a chippie from Chicago

The only place she’d ever seen before

She does her drinking from a jar

She keeps beneath the seat of the car

She like to hit it from the get-go.

Old Cassandra and Pollyanna

Lived together on their father’s land

All of the neighbors, one by one,

shoot out the stars and sleep in the sun

You know, in life there ain’t no accidents

Flunky creeping up along the fence

Flunky, he crossed Cassandra,

So he never thought of it no more

He got to hit it from the get-go.

It ain’t your business to reason why

You got to go before you die

You got to hit it from the get-go.

(Brian Coogan, organ, and Ben Ellman, harmonica)

Roll the credits and fade to black

Flunky never gets his dollar back

Settle down and take his key

Every evening watching busted TV

There’s a message coming from the screen

You got to listen to the in-between

He’s got to finish all his chores

To get to what’s beneath the floor

He got to hit it from the get-go.

“The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”

I rode out west with a double-O crew

I rode in the style of the double-O too

I was tall in the saddle, sick in the soul

I’m the man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance

I cake-walked clear across Wisconsin

Backwards with my high heels on, son

They saw me shaking by the saloon

And I couldn’t xxxx

I used all of my skills, all of my talents

The man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance.

So tie me upon my horse

‘Cause if I lose my balance

I’ll never get out of this town alive

String me up or cut me down

It’s all the same to me

Ten pounds of pain in a size nine boot

Bury me now in a mohair suit

There’s just one thing all dead men know

Don’t double-cross dressed as double-O

I was the fastest gun west of Tarzana

The man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance

“Beneath the Rain”

What would you do to hear the fat man sing?

Would you walk through fire?

Would you do anything?

And what would you give to see the emperor dance?

To begin, you got to live in a certain trance.

And what would you give to hear the golden chef,

Hear her laugh on the line, up in the treble clef?

That laugh could cut you down, kill you where you stood

But I swear it’s always there when I am feeling good

All that’s good, all that’s sweet beneath the rain

I see it every time you look my way

I see it every time you call me friend

On down the road until the end of the day.

I went to the Aardvark

I went looking for you

And they sent me to Charlie’s, and I went there too.

They said you went to Molly’s and I turned away

I thought that I would see you on some other day.

So tell me, what is the scene on the golden shore?

Do you stay up all night? Baby, do you walk the floor

And let your thoughts drift over gentler days,

The breeze up in the trees running off the summer haze

All that’s good, all that’s sweet beneath the rain

I see it every time you look my way

I see it every time you call me friend

On down the road until the end of the day.

I couldn’t believe you saw me with those eyes.

“I Can’t Wait ‘Til They Turn my Baby Loose”

I can’t wait ’til they turn my baby loose

‘Til she’s walking out the door

All is forgiven, and I know

She will soon be giving me everything I’m hoping for.

I’m lurked outside this barroom every night

I can hear laughter out of any crowd.

And when it’s closing time, I’ll feel her hand in mine

And off we’ll go together in a cloud.

Ain’t it a pity, on an evening so pretty

A man must learn to dance alone

Underneath the old oak tree, I can dream she’s here with me

And we’re dancing close and slow.

And now the band is saying nighty-night

Try to get them out the door, but it ain’t no use

They’re gonna sing another song

I’m gonna have to wait a minute longer

Until they turn my baby loose

Ain’t it a pity, on an evening so pretty

A man must learn to dance alone

Underneath the old oak tree, I can dream she’s here with me

And we’re dancing close and slow.

And now the band is saying nighty-night

Try to get them out the door, but it ain’t no use

They’re gonna play another song

I’m gonna have to wait a minute longer

Something about the evening has got the power to seduce

So, don’t you get my meaning, I ain’t trying to confuse

I just can’t wait until they turn my baby loose.

“Texas Again”

Nine years wasted with the cold running through me

Throw my pants on the fire

The shadows stretching away to forever

The boys are about to retire

The smell of the diesel, the feel of the damp

Come to be my only friends

I’m holding steady, but I ain’t near ready

To go back to Texas again

Sometimes it seems like a lifetime or two

Since we wrote our names in the sky

Drove all night with the moonlight upon us

Made love while the mockingbirds cried

And how would I know that one day you’d go

Just as easy as counting to ten.

I’ll love you forever, but I thought I’d never

Go back to Texas again.

Texas again, where the wind doesn’t see me

Texas again, running through the same fire

Texas again, where I knew I was the same old liar

Keep your coat, boys

Let me be.

I thought my rambling soon would run through me

Somehow, it never let go

One day I woke on the dry side of life

And I knew I’d be always alone.

Well the next train I know is heading to San Antone

And I stopped for a moment, and then,

Well she’s pulling away

I can wait one more day

To go back to Texas again.

Texas again, where the wind doesn’t see me

Texas again, running through the same fire

Texas again, where I knew I was the same old liar

Keep your coat, boys

Let me be.

Keep your coat, boys

Set me free.

“Otis at the Wheel”

Now hear this!

The ringmaster’s gone.

He has been relieved.

Give me a round

To put you in the book

But do not be deceived.

Gather up your trumpets, gather up your wits

You’re leading the parade

But the Lord is coming down the telephone line

Saying, “Do not be afraid.

Bring all my children up to heaven.”

Now Tiny and me, get things straight, apples in the fall

I’ve cleaned all the cages, I’ve gathered up the gate,

I’m a cannonball.

There’s a gal in the midway who shouted to the wind,

You said “Take me where you go.”

Well there’s always a place for a Winchester girl

In a Wild West Show.

Just take your bullets to the straw man.

Well someone lit a fire on the stock car floor

Starting up a stampede, open up the door

Circus train’s a-rolling to the Sarasota shore

With Otis at the wheel.

Faster, faster, faster, faster!

Yeah, we’re grinding up the gears, there’s a fire in the box

And the bells are ringing

Well, Tiny is a goner, the boy is no good

That just leaves me and you

We’re locomotives screaming through the Ocaloosa woods

Tell me, what you gonna do?

This train is lifted up to heaven

Someone lit a match on the stock car floor

Started up a stampede and opened up the door

A hundred miles an hour on the Sarasota shore

With Otis at the wheel

“Diamonds in Your Hand”

The ones that nearly drive you up a wall

Will be the ones to catch you when you fall

And when you run away, they can find you any day

You can never hide forever from a friend

The ones who have some chore for you to do

Will be the ones to tell you what is true

And even when it hurts

When they drag you through the dirt

They’ll be the ones who make you whole again.

The ones you love are diamonds in your hand

So hold them just as tightly as you can

The bitter will be sweet

You only got to treat the ones you love

Like they’re diamonds in your hand.

You don’t come by a diamond every day.

They’re sometimes very far away

But whenever you’re alone and your boats are full of stones

Just remember there’s a diamond shining somewhere.

You can take these diamonds everywhere you go

You can hide them in the lining of your coat

And when your coat grows thin, you can cash your diamonds in

As long as there’s a  little left to share.

The ones you love are diamonds in your hand

So hold them just as tightly as you can

The bitter will be sweet

You only got to treat the ones you love

Like they’re diamonds in your hand.

The ones you love,

They’re diamonds in your hand.

The exceptional Helen Gillet at Bacchanal

Like love, or Republican foreign policy, great music can create a sense of exceptionalism: a feeling that nowhere else in the world is anyone else so attuned to the glories of the present moment.

Helen Gillet puts her cello to use as a percussion instrument during a solo performance at Bacchanal in New Orleans, Oct. 8, 2012

Helen Gillet puts her cello to use as a percussion instrument during a solo performance at Bacchanal in New Orleans, Oct. 8, 2012. Photo by Eliot Kamenitz

Globe-trotting cellist Helen Gillet makes this feeling of blissful grandiosity accessible by pulling together bits of traditional French songs, New Orleans rhythms and electronic loops to create a musical environment that heightens the best aspects of the here and now.

Gillet performed solo in the Bacchanal courtyard on Monday and will hold down the Monday slot into early November, sometimes solo, sometimes with a band.

The two-set show on Oct. 8 started off with the quiet, delicate instrumental “Waking Milo,” from her second CD, “Running of the Bells,” which segued into “Le Petit Royaume” from her first, “Newton Circus.”

“Running of the Bells” is a trio recording, with Doug Garrison and Tim Green, and “Newton Circus” was created with the Wazozo band, including violin, guitar, harp, French horn and accordion.

Other songs from “Newton Circus” included “Mon Amant De Saint Jean“; “Sympatique”, which featured harmonies created by singing along with looped vocals; and “J’ai Rendez-Vous avec Vous” by George Brassens, also the author of “La Non-Demande en Mariage.”

Gillet also performed some of her own compositions, including “Atchafalaya” and “Julien” from her most recent CD, “Helen Gillet.”Also in English was her version of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You.”

Gillet performances in the next few weeks include:

Huzzah for The Big Ballyhoo!

Debbie Davis has a story to tell.

After contributing to dozens of presentations of others’ stories, she calls the shots on her first solo CD, “It’s Not the Years, It’s the Miles,” which was featured during a performance Thursday at Ogden After Hours, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Debbie Davis and Matt Perrine perform at Ogden After Hours at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.

Debbie Davis and Matt Perrine perform at Ogden After Hours at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.

Performing with Davis were Alex McMurray, guitar; Josh Paxton, piano; and Matt Perrine, tuba. Between sets, she was interviewed by George Ingmire, producer of the “New Orleans All the Way Live” radio program for WWOZ.

McMurray wrote three of the songs on the CD: the title track, which Davis performed first; “Everything Right is Wrong Again,” which she said was inspired by a whiskey-drenched conversation at the Circle Bar; and “I’m Looking at You.”

Local songwriter Paul Sanchez’s work was also featured, with “Don’t Be Sure” and “Mexico.”

Presenting the music in a historical context, Davis discussed “You’d Be Surprised” by Irving Berlin (1919) as an example of the racy, double-entendre songs that became much rarer after 1922, when Will H. Hays, head of the newly formed Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America censor board, capitalized on a recent scandal to take a stand for morality in Hollywood. In September 1921, actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who gained fame in silent films, was accused in connection with the death of actress Virginia Rappe four days after a party Arbuckle attended. Arbuckle was acquitted after three trials, but the damage to his reputation was done.

The first set also included “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Try,” released by Connee Boswell in 1956 three years after it was recorded; and “I’m No Good,” by Amy Winehouse, sounding fresh yet again with tuba and ukulele instrumentation. Davis said her next project would be a ukulele and tuba duo with Perrine, her husband, which they had decided just that evening to call The Big Ballyhoo.

The second set included “Blue Gold” by Myshkin, now living in Oregon; “Blue, Red and Grey” by Pete Townshed, from “The Who by Numbers”; “Mama Goes Where Papa Goes” by Jack Yellin; “Skylark” by Hoagy Carmichael; “Would You Like to Play the Guitar?,” with hilarious lyrics by Pat Donohue; “Sunny Afternoon” by Ray Davies’ “Things We Said Today,” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney; “I Wan’na Be Like You” by Lucy Woodward; “The Masochism Tango” by Tom Lehrer; and “D’yer Mak’er” by Led Zeppelin.

Davis’ performances this month include:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 17, with Tom McDermott at Chickie Wah Wah, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 21, with Alex McMurray, Josh Paxton and Matt Perrine, at Three Muses, 8 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 26, with Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show, at the Voodoo Music Experience, 5:15 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 27, with Ingrid Lucia’s New Orleans Nightingales, at the Voodoo Music Experience, 4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 28, with Meschiya Lake and Banu Gibson at Three Muses, 8 p.m.

Another event to note is the CD release party for McMurray’s third release, “I Will Never be Alone in This Land,” at dba on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 10 p.m.

Jazz at the Sandbar at UNO nourishes a community of sharing

Stella Edwards traveled an hour from her home in the community of Lucy, between Edgard and Killona on the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish, for Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday night.

Ellis Marsalis, Emily Fredrickson and Tanarat Chaichana, Jazz at the Sandbar, University of New Orleans, Oct. 3, 2012

Ellis Marsalis, Emily Fredrickson and Tanarat Chaichana perform at Jazz at the Sandbar, University of New Orleans, Oct. 3, 2012

Certainly the opportunity to see master jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis perform for a $5 cover charge was her primary motivation. But once there, she was rewarded by the embrace of a community that shares her delight in America’s classical music.

“It’s become a tradition, and we love traditions in New Orleans,” Jason Patterson, jazz producer for Snug Harbor, said in announcing Marsalis’ participation in the initial performance of the 2012 fall season of Jazz at the Sandbar. The performance series, established in 1990 when Marsalis was chairman of the jazz studies program, pairs UNO student ensembles on the bandstand with established jazz professionals.

Performing Wednesday night was the UNO Jazz Combo under the direction of Victor Atkins III. The players were: James Partridge, tenor saxophone; Emily Fredrickson, trombone; Brian Murray, trumpet; Jordan Baker, piano, Tanarat Chaichana, bass; and Peter Varnado, drums.

The Cove was built in 1973, and reopened in December 2011 after Hurricane Katrina repairs and renovations. It’s a lovely venue, opening onto a courtyard landscaped lushly enough to create a sense of separation from nearby, convenient parking lots. When the weather is pleasant, as it was Wednesday, two wall panels are drawn up like stylish garage doors and the music room and courtyard merge. Burgers and fries, and beer and wine, are available for purchase, and the room is long enough to allow conversation in the back without disturbing the music listeners in the front.

The UNO Jazz Combo’s first set Wednesday included “The Soulful Mr. Timmons,” by James Williams, a pianist who performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as well as his own ensembles; “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter; “Emily” by Johnny Mandel, which was first performed by Julie Andrews in the 1964 movie “The Americanization of Emily”; andd “Teo” by Thelonious Monk. Student pianist Jordan Baker played on the first two of these, and Marsalis on the rest.

The second set included “Wheel Within a Wheel” by Bobby Timmons; “Have You Met Miss Jones,” by Richard Rodgers; “Cherokee” by Ray Noble; “Girl from Ipanema” by Antonio Carlos Jobim; “Invitation” by Bronislau Kaper; and “Proclamation” by Geoff Keezer. Baker played piano on “Wheel Within a Wheel” and “Cherokee” and “Proclamation,” and Marsalis on the others.

All Jazz at the Sandbar performances this fall are on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The schedule of guest artists is:

“Jazz at the Sandbar” is presented by the UNO Jazz Studies Program with support from the UNO Student Government Association, WWNO Public Radio, Nate & Priscilla Gordon, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the UNO International Alumni Association and the New Orleans Jazz Celebration.

All proceeds go to the George Brumat Memorial Scholarship Fund. For more information, call the UNO Music Department at 504.280.6039.

Complicated blues with Chris Mule and The Perpetrators

Chris Mule of the Honey Island Swamp Band brought his sly blues guitar to Chickie Wah Wah on Tuesday night for a performance with his new project, The Perpetrators.

Uganda Roberts performs with Chris Mule and The Perpetrators at Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012

Uganda Roberts performs with Chris Mule and The Perpetrators at Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012

Performing with Mule and the Perpetrators at Chickie Wah Wah on Oct. 2 were Tom Marron, who brought intricate and fascinating harmonica and fiddle work, and Uganda Roberts, with his mystical, rippling conga playing.

The music benefited from the respectful atmosphere at Chickie Wah Wah, where the audiences seem inclined to shut up and listen during performances. Mule’s interpretation of folk blues songs reinforces the connections between the simplicity of basic song structures and the complexity of the human struggles evoked through those structures for generations.

The songs spanned a wide range from “The Cuckoo,” which has its origins as a traditional English folk song; to Elmore James’ “My Kind of Woman”; to Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train”; to the Beatles’ “Across the Universe”; to The Traveling Wilburys’ “Congratulations”; to the Woody Guthrie lyrics of “California Stars” set to music by Billy Bragg & Wilco.

Included were some of Mule’s own compositions, such as “Never Saw it Coming” and “Baptized by Fire.”

Chris Mule and The Perpetrators will be playing at Chickie Wah Wah the next two Tuesdays, Oct. 9 and Oct. 16, at 9:30 p.m., following Tommy Malone. who is scheduled to start playing at 7 p.m.

The Honey Island Swamp Band has a lot of traveling lined up for the coming month, but is scheduled to play locally at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival in Houma at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14; at dba in New Orleans at 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2; and at the Blue Nile in New Orleans at 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

My kind of happy hour

The National Park Service doesn’t serve beer. But Tuesday’s late-afternoon jazz performance at its elegant stage on the third floor of the Old U.S. Mint fulfilled the happy-hour role of reawakening pleasure receptors numbed by the frustrations of daily life.

Oliver Bonie, Dominic Minix, with Jesse McBride at Old U.S. Mint, New Orleans

Oliver Bonie, alto saxophone, and Dominic Minix, guitar, perform with Jesse McBride and The Next Generation at a National Park Service event at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans on Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Oct. 2 performance by pianist Jesse McBride and The Next Generation was billed as a tribute to pianist Ellis Marsalis, but the musicians decided to shift their attention to the work of drummer James Black, who performed on the New Orleans modern jazz milestone album “The Ellis Marsalis Quartet – Monkey Puzzle,” as well as funky R&B favorites from Eddie Bo, such as “Hook and Sling.”

Performing in The Next Generation band were recent UNO jazz studies graduates Oliver Bonie, alto sax; Nick Hughes, drums; and Jasen Weaver, bass; along with Loyola University freshman Dominic Minix. All of these also attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, immersed since their teens in the compositions being performed. Since these young professionals brought fewer years of personal experiences to the music than their elders might, the focus of the music was squarely on the compositions, which were presented with skill, gratitude and respect.

The set started off with “Magnolia Triangle” by James Black, followed by “Swingin’ at the Haven,” an Ellis Marsalis composition in which Black’s drum work was an integral part. Next up were “Little Boy Man,” and then “All Blues,” which McBride acknowledged had nothing to do with James Black other than segueing nicely from the final chord of “Little Boy Man.” The set concluded with “Dee Wee” (McBride said he understood the title to refer to being a little drunk), “All the Things You Are” by Jerome Kern and “Jasmine,” a sweet, sad James Black composition.

Some National Park Service events bringing guest musicians to the Old U.S. Mint stage this month are:

  • Trumpeter Leroy Jones with a 5-piece traditional jazz band, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2-3:30 p.m.
  • Pianist Tom McDermott infuses traditional jazz with South American rhythms, for the Latin tinge Jelly Roll Morton would have appreciated, Wednesday, Oct. 10, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, noon-1 p.m.
  • Drummer Barry Martyn and pianist John Royen perform and discuss traditional New Orleans piano styles, Friday, Oct. 12, 2-3:30 p.m.
  • Pianist Victor Atkins in a jazz tribute to the Beatles, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 1-2 p.m.
  • Saxophonist Ed Peterson in a jazz tribute to Stevie Wonder, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2-3 p.m.
  • Guitarist Steve Masakowski in a jazz tribute to the Grateful Dead, Thursday, Oct. 25, 1-2 p.m.

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