Claudia Quintet | NOLA | Meredith Monk

It has been a while,  so I’m packing a LOT of stuff into one blog. Read-look-listen away!


Check out this photo album from out our recent jaunt to Barcelona/Cremona/Trieste/Bolzano/Baden/Saalfelden PLUS the debut of the CQ bowling team, Jeremy’s Viner cable car video from Soprabolzano to Bolzano with CQ’s Soterius Lakshmi and  this cautionary video demonstrating what happens when I leave the soundcheck for more than 5 minutes.


Thanks to a CMA-funded grant written by some nice gents from Florida (David Manson, Gustavo Matamoros, Matt Gorney), we had a nice little trip to Florida in late February (insert jealousy here). We performed music from Royal Toast with special guest, Fabian Almazan. Here is a little teaser video from our concert at the Timucua White House in Orlando.


The latest installment in the CQ Video Project is from  Michael Formanski.   He chose “Sinanari” which can be found on my recording Rainbow Jimmies. “Sinanari” was written for the Claudia Quintet’s cross-cultural educational journey to Istanbul, commissioned by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. It is my arrangement of a traditional Turkish song, taken apart and put back together (“remixed,” as I like to say) on top of a John Bonham-esque drum part.


Julie Mallozzi Productions put this amazing video together documenting our trip to Kathmandu, Nepal for the Jazzmandu 2013 Festival.


I had a few days free in between the Claudia Quintet tourlette in Florida and some NYC activities. So I decided to rectify an embarrassing fact – that I had never been to New Orleans. Since most of my travel to places far and wide is related to gigs, it is actually not that surprising: New Orleans is the heartbeat of jazz and a real music town, but it is not known for its “experimental music” scene…although I did see positive inroads in that respect too!

Here is a rundown of my 72 hours in New Orleans. Most of my trip was directed by Matt Moran’s great recommendations; he has obviously spent some quality time there! Also got a lot of info from Larry Blumenfeld – I knew he was a good person to contact from reading his enthusiastic blogs, so thanks to both of these guys for their input. Plus I tweeted out that I was flying into NOLA and got some great last-minute recommendations! One of the local radio stations, WWOZ seems to have a big presence, I heard it often in cafes, and their gig calendar was also very helpful!

I did not have much time to think about this trip, so as I was flying into New Orleans I emailed a few old contacts I remembered I had in New Orleans. One of whom I connected with sometime around 2006 when I heard an NPR segment on a US solider in Iraq who composed electronic music using samples from his time in Iraq. After hearing the show, I emailed him, Will Thompson, and to my surprise, he immediately emailed back and told me that he had in fact listened to some Claudia Quintet music during his time in Iraq! I have not been in contact with him in the recent past, and was not even sure if he had made it back to NOLA after Katrina. I was pleased to find his reply in my inbox by the time I got to my hotel and he told me he was playing at this improv series called the Instant Opus Music Series at Gasa Gasa that very night!

After dropping off my things at the hotel, I immediately went to Frenchman Street, which has about 8 music clubs in 2 short blocks. I caught Aurora Nealand’s Royal Rose at Maison. The band sounded so great, relaxed, and they made the traditional repertoire very personal and spontaneous! (not easy to do!) Aurora recommended the Instant Opus series to me as well, so I hopped on St. Charles Streetcar, which is a great slow ride through the Garden District. It was great to hear NOLA musicians in a free improvisation setting and also wonderful to finally meet Will in person!

Tuesday morning started with a café au lait and benignets (fried doughnuts) at Café Du Monde in Jackson Square of the French Quarter. After a good walk around the neighborhoods of Maurigny, Tremé and the French Quarter, I made my way to the Backstreet Museum. This is a grassroots exhibition documenting the Mardi Gras tradition. It was so helpful in clearing up my misconceptions on the history and tradition of this event.

That evening, I caught the first show at the Preservation Hall that was being led that evening by Shannon Powell. Although a little on the touristic side, I felt like it was important to go to this historic venue and just be there, to experience it, the vibe, the room, and of course the music! Hearing Shannon I remembered that NOLA drummers really play from the bottom up, the bass drum is very active and totally related to the bass drum in the brass band tradition. Since then I have been digging Shannon on his recording, Powell’s Place.

After that I once again took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Maple Leaf to hear the Rebirth Brass Band, which was preceded by a scrumptious dinner at Jacque Imo’s, which is right next door!

After a great breakfast at the Cake Café (I heartily recommend the grits), I headed to Gerken’s Bike Shop to check out NOLA on bike.

I had a great bike ride to the Garden District to see more of those incredibly beautiful houses, and an enjoyable ride around Audubon Park where there were hundreds of ducks quacking away with abandon.

I then had a fruitful reunion with John Snyder, actually Professor John Snyder, who is the head of the music industries studies program at Loyola. Man, I wish something like this had existed when I was in school! I know John best from the session he produced many years ago with Bob Brookmeyer and Kenny Wheeler. Looking back, that was such a once-in-a-lifetime meeting of two of my favorite musicians, so I owe John big time for that!

From there I went for an early dinner at Domenica, where I had a killing fried kale salad! (I never thought I would ever write those words in that combination!)

I then headed back to Frenchman and heard the Shotgun Jazz Band at the Spotted Cat. It was a great band, atmosphere and good combination of dancers and listeners. As I was wandering outside during a break, a young brass band, the Young Fellaz Brass Band, started playing at the corner of Frenchman and Chartres. A scene quickly commenced – really good, uninhibited dancers came out of nowhere and within what seemed like seconds, about sixty people had gathered around this intersection to take in the band. The cars that had to slow down considerably in order to get through the intersection did not honk their horns – they just slowed down and dug the music for a few seconds, even seeming happy to do so before moving on. This moment was actually my personal favorite NOLA moment – where else could this happen!? (If you know of another place, let me know!)

Although I was starting to feel some jet lag, I was inspired to go to the Candlestick Lounge to hear the Tremé Brass Band in Tremé! The atmosphere was a friendly neighborhood vibe, somehow the bartender knew I did not want Bud Light, or Heineken….I said “beer!” and she brought a great one, Abita Purple Haze!

On my way back to the hotel, I figured I should raise a glass to celebrate my first trip to NOLA, so I did so at the Roosevelt Hotel bar Sazarac (where they were playing Coltrane in the lobby) – I drank a Sazarac of course. It is the official cocktail of New Orleans!

I found a great morning yoga class at 8am at the Cabildo Museum before it opens. Then for my last two stops in NOLA, I had to go back to Café Du Monde and Cake Café because I enjoyed them so much the first time! And then it was to the airport and back to NYC, where the cold, snowy weather was a bit of a challenge to take in.

I hope to go back soon because I know that I just experienced a sliver of what the city has to offer! Being there also made me re-appreciate the HBO series, Tremé, in that local musicians and venues are featured in the filming and I can now see how successfully it captures and conveys the real vibe and look of NOLA. I’m definitely looking forward to re-watching Tremé.

Meredith Monk AT ZANKEL

This Sunday (3/22) I’m performing at Zankel Hall in a concert celebrating Meredith Monk and her wonderful music! This one may be sold out, but there is another one on May 2nd, go here for more info.

Thanks for your time!