Passing batons

One comes to New Orleans for the trio of food, drinks and music; this is not usually the kind of vacation I take.  The food part of the trio is always there, the drinks less (I generally don’t do cocktails) and we rarely go out to listen to music back home or on vacation. But here I am getting into this wonderful combination of the three: we eat very well, we try out all sorts of interesting cocktails and we listen to all sorts of music.

There is music everywhere: on the streets, in restaurants, in historic settings and in clubs or dance halls. We have found our favorite place, Snug Harbor, which is indeed a snug little place with small chairs and tiny round tables and a small stage.

After a fabulous show earlier this week at Snug Harbor of Mahmoud Chouki, we returned to see one member of the Marsalis Family (Delfeayo) with his big band on the tiny stage. It was a most playful and enjoyable show of brass band artistry.

Compared with the soulless and uninspired performance at Preservation Hall (a tourist attraction), this was how music should be played – to the enjoyment of players and listener alike.

Towards the end of the show three high school students from Little Rock were invited onto the stage to join the band and show off their talents with their baritone sax, alto sax and trombone. You could see that this was a rather nerve-wracking experience for them – they could not yet be playful like the others.

Delfeayo  and the members of his band showed me how they were mentoring the next generation of great jazz musicians – talking to them with their eyes as jazz players do, and encouraging them to stand up and play their solos. I was very impressed, these kids are talented. I imagined them being big fish in their Little Rock high school pond, now swimming in the big pond with the real big fish – what stories they can tell on their return!

There was much joking about the boys’ hometown (‘country boys’) and the clothes they wore (sneakers, one with a hat and dreadlocks and T-shirts).  The band members all wore coats and most of them ties as well.  Still, you could tell there was also great respect. Later one of the players told us that this is now what he lives for – passing the baton and grooming the next generation of great jazz players.

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