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.
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.