For Your Consideration – 59th GRAMMY Awards

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Dear Voting NARAS Members,

The Claudia Quintet’s album Super Petite on Cuneiform Records is on the ballot for GRAMMY consideration in the category: “the bestest post-jazz album with accordion and vibes” or something like that!…along with the instrumental composition Peterborough from the same album, composed by yours truly, John Hollenbeck. Below is a video of CQ’s live performance of this piece in Montreal last week!

If you and/or your friends and colleagues are voting members of NARAS and you’d like to give The Claudia Quintet the best 20th birthday present ever, please consider us in both categories!

[As a reminder, your vote must be received by Friday, November 4.]

“Super Petite is like savoring a long and lingering feast. There is much to enjoy, concentrate on, uncover and sample. The ten tracks each offer a morsel, and the full repast is oh so delicious.”
—Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition

Super Petite PRESS RELEASE

Listen to a track from Super Petite dedicated to the Super Cute beagles at JFK customs: JFK Beagle

“Forging headlong into uncharted territory on the cusp of its twentieth anniversary, The Claudia Quintet continues to adapt aspects from multiple genres and styles for its melodically harmonious grooves, making Super Petite one of the Quintet’s most engaging and enjoyable releases to date.”
–Troy Collins, Point of Departure

 

Claudia Quintet | super PETITE | October 2016 TOUR!

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Dear Voters,

We know you will do the right thing when you vote…for CQ in the upcoming GRAMMY nomination vote! In case you are undecided, we are coming to you to offer some encouragement in the form of SUPER, BIG, AWESOME, YUGE yet CONCISE (like some people’s hands) GEMS FROM OUR NEW RELEASE ON CUNEIFORM RECORDS APTLY NAMED SUPER PETITE.

As you can see from this photo above, which has been leaked by some Russian hackers to Wikileaks, Chris Tordini is joining us on this jaunt!

See you soon!

 

THU OCT 20 ‣ New York, NY ‣ Cornelia Street Cafe ‣ 8:00 & 9:30 PM

FRI OCT 21 ‣ New Haven, CT ‣ Firehouse 12 ‣ 8:00 PM

SUN OCT 23 ‣ Baltimore, MD ‣ UMBC Concert Hall ‣ 3:00 PM

MON OCT 24 ‣ Harrisonburg, VA ‣ Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art
James Madison University
 ‣ 8:00 PM  FREE CONCERT!!

WED OCT 26 ‣ Chicago, IL ‣ Constellation ‣ 8:30 PM

THU OCT 27 ‣ Ann Arbor, MI ‣ EDGEFEST Kerrytown Concert House ‣ 8:00 PM

SAT OCT 29 ‣ Ann Arbor, MI ‣ John Hollenbeck w/Univ of Michigan Jazz Ensemble
@ EDGEFEST
 St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church ‣ 8:30 PM

 

“Forging headlong into uncharted territory on the cusp of its twentieth anniversary, The Claudia Quintet continues to adapt aspects from multiple genres and styles for its melodically harmonious grooves, making Super Petite one of the Quintet’s most engaging and enjoyable releases to date.”
– Troy Collins, Point of Departure

“Super Petite is like savoring a long and lingering feast. There is much to enjoy, concentrate on, uncover and sample. The ten tracks each offer a morsel, and the full repast is oh so delicious.”
– Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition

“Rigorously executed but earthily grooving, dauntingly precise but flecked with hearty and intriguing improvised solos, the quintet’s set buzzed with freshness and vitality from start to finish. … For all the obvious effort and intelligence to Hollenbeck’s work, his songs could ultimately be straightforwardly emotional and moving.” – Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen

CLAUDIA QUINTET SUMMER 2016 CD RELEASE TOUR

CLAUDIA_2230_©Piero Ribelli copySMWe, the Claudia Quintet do hereby invite thee to get your butts down to our upcoming gigs on the west coast of the country that is led by Barack Obama, plus a great festival in the capital of Canada (John’s new home country), and another festival in the birthplace of Steve Gadd (and Red Wierenga).

John is learning French very slowly, first he is concentrating on words that are already part of the English language. Hence, the title words of the new recording are French! (and English). It is also the title of this
INCREDIBLY short blog!

SUPER petite
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Claudia Quintet
SUMMER 2016 CD RELEASE TOUR

Saturday, JUNE 18 & Sunday, JUNE 19
SFJAZZ Center
201 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA
8:00 & 9:30 PM

Tuesday, JUNE 21
EARSHOT Jazz@PONCHO Concert Hall
Kerry Hall, Cornish College
710 E Roy St.
Seattle, WA
8:00 PM

Wednesday, JUNE 22 w/The Blue Cranes
The Secret Society
116 NE Russell
Portland, OR
8:00 PM

Thursday, JUNE 23
Blue Whale
Weller Court Plaza 3rd floor
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St.
Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA
9:00 PM

Friday, JUNE 24
MIM Music Theater
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ
7:30 PM

Saturday, JUNE 25
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
1008 Wall Street
La Jolla, CA
7:30 PM

Wednesday, JUNE 29
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Back Stage

53 Elgin St.
Ottawa, CANADA
6:00 PM

Thursday, JUNE 30
Rochester Jazz Festival
Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza
100 S. Clinton Ave.
Rochester, NY
6:30 & 9:00 PM

For a slew of details about Super Petite & The Claudia Quintet,
GO HERE…and for a “Preview Listen” of JFK Beagle, click image below.EWR BEagle

CLAUDIA QUINTET EUROPEAN TOUR +++

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Hi World,

I am now officially treasurer of the Bad Blogging Club. If you also have a blog type forum, but do not use it regularly, “welcome!” and please send your membership fees to my paypal account.

Je m’appelle John. Je joue la batterie. So, I took a couple of French lessons, that’s all I’ve got for now, but there should be more in the future!

But the real reason for writing is that I’m pretty sure The Claudia Quintet is coming to a town not far from you this year, unless you live in Asia. By the way, promoters from Asia – please book the Claudia Quintet next year – this year, we are booked up, so don’t even ask!

First up is a jaunt to the European continent, where we will enjoy 2 Trump-free weeks (or Drumpf-free, as John Oliver told me to now call him.)

Wednesday, MAR 2
Pannonica – Nantes, FRANCE

Thursday, MAR 3
Sunset Sunside – Paris, FRANCE

Friday, MAR 4
West Germany – Berlin, GERMANY

Saturday, MAR 5
KÜNSTLERWERKSTATT – Pfaffenhofen, GERMANY

Sunday, MAR 6
Stadtgarten – Köln, GERMANY

Monday, MAR 7
Cafe de Ruimte – Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

Wednesday, MAR 9
Le Rocher de Palmer – Bordeaux, FRANCE

Thursday, MAR 10
Le Rocher de Palmer – Bordeaux, FRANCE
w/BIG BAND DU CONSERVATOIRE DE BORDEAUX JACQUES THIBAUD

Friday, MAR 11
Paradox – Tilburg, NETHERLANDS

Saturday, MAR 12
JamFestival at Teatro Villa dei Leoni – Venice, ITALY

Sunday, MAR 13
WORKSHOP Auditorium Villa Widmann – Venice, ITALY

Monday, MAR 14
Narodni dom Maribor – Maribor, Slovenia

Tuesday, MAR 15
Citadelic @ S.M.A.K– Gent, Belgium

***

In April we will back to the homeland playing for the beautiful people of VA, MD, PA and NYC.

In May our new recording, Super Petite will be released on Cuneiform. Check out the great cover by karlssonwilker below!

The-Claudia-Quintet Super-Petite Cover RGB

This cd will be accompanied by a live DVD of CQ at our home in NYC, the Cornelia Street Cafe!

And! in June we will be on the west coast in the US of A and my new homeland of Canada.

And! in Ann Arbor and other fun mid-western towns in October
(Drumpf supporters will most likely not be in attendance at any of these gigs BTW).

Also! in non-Claudia news, I’m just finishing a new piece for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the directorship of Guilllaume Bourgogne that will be premiered in Montreal on April 6th.

And! on May 4th, I will be premiering a new work at the Trondheim Jazz Festival that is a collaboration with Sissel Vera Petersen and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. I’m very excited!… So I will now go to the bathroom, and then immediately start working on that music!!

Salut! John

Adirondacks/Newport/Rheinsberg/Chicago/Montreal

Hello World!

This is John Hollenbeck AKA “lame blogger”. The key to lame blogging is mainly to not do it!
But then, as I get into this defensive stance…
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…I’ve got lots of great excuses.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about my summer!

The Adirondack Mountains

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From July 17th-August 16th, I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, The Blue Mountain Center! I wrote music for 6-8 hours daily, met great people, saw old friends, ate delicious food, played lots of tennis! I would tell you more about this place, but then I will have to compete with you in the next round of applications…so I will stop here. (I am still wearing my shirts with the top button buttoned in celebration of the good times and BMC peeps!)

Newport, RI

On August 31st, JHLE with special guests Kate McGarry, Ben Monder and Scott Robinson (with our amazing vocalist, Theo Bleckmann) performed selections from the recent release Songs We Like A Lot at the Newport Jazz Festival. The band bonded under adversity that came at the hands of our bus driver who showed up late to pick up the band, took strange paths, and drove so-slo-slowly. Definitely not a good combo! But we did eventually make it on stage and I have photos to prove it…
(plus jumbotron photos here!)
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Rheinsberg, Germany

Later in August, I spent the week in Rheinsberg, Germany with the BuJazzO band and choir, an amazingly talented group of musicians. I was lucky in that I was able to invite musician friends to work with the band, plus we had the opportunity one evening to perform together (see below with Sissel Vera Pettersen, Dave Ballou, Marko Lackner, Geoffroy DeMasure, Hilmar Jensson, Robert Landfermann, Me!…plus an anonymous leg-which sounded great BTW)

bujazzo concert night

BuJazzO (Germany’s “National Youth Jazz Orchestra”) is a dream band for any composer/conductor. We rehearsed 9 hours a day, and during the breaks, most of the musicians would immediately go to some fun activity like singing standards together, having electro dub jams, jazz jams, playing football (soccer), ultimate frisbee, yoga or playing many rounds of flunkyball (I had to try one round and discovered it is a very fun drinking game, but decided to stop after downing two beers…which is like six beers for me!) It is refreshing to hang with people with seemingly unlimited amounts of energy and enthusiasm!

Bujazzo)2015-08-29_HM_22-00-47

On our last day, the town was visited by a small group of Neo-Nazis who were planning a rally. In response, the BuJazzO-ers paraded around town playing New Orleans style music, delighting and engaging the locals with great, happy music that drew all of the attention away from and ultimately deterred the Neo-Nazi rally from happening. It was a fun and joyful moment where good (music!) triumphed over bad in a most peaceful manner. The mayor personally thanked everyone afterward and I have to say it was a truly moving experience that I will never forget! (If you know German, you can read about it here.)

New York City/Chicago

Then it was off to NYC to record the next Claudia Quintet album. I know I told some of you it was going to be a live record, but it will be even better than that – it will be a studio record AND a live DVD!

After two days of recording we went directly to Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Festival. I had a great time hanging for a bit with Steve Bernstein and hearing him with Henry Butler. I saw an old friend, John Wojciechowski, whom I featured in my Billy Strayhorn arranging commission for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. And then Claudia Quintet +1 + Theo Bleckmann + Kurt Elling played in one of the most beautiful venues in the world, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. Thank you Frank Gehry, Thank you Chicago.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

CQ Chicago 2015_COLWhfwUcAE9wfv
We ate (well some of us anyway) a lot of deep dish pizza (Lou Malnatis won in my personal competition), played a good amount of ping pong (thank you Hard Rock hotel), saw the incredible AACM exhibit at MCA, and I topped it off by watching a great Cubs game from the bleachers with Red Wierenga and his wonderful wife Kate (with a grand slam included!) Thank you Miguel Montero, Thank you Chicago.

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Montreal, Québec

Back to the excuse section, one of the main things that has been occupying my time is all the logistical work related to the fact that my wife and I are “transitioning” to Montreal from Berlin. I have been appointed a professorship at McGill University (go Redbirds!), which is super exciting! And at the same time, sad that at the end of the academic year, we will leave Berlin. I love teaching at Jazz Institute Berlin, so it will be immensely hard to leave.

Speaking of McGill, I will be having a “coming out” party there at Pollack Hall on October 21st with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. This is part of a little tour, or tourlette (not to be confused with toilet) that also includes:

Ithaca College – October 19th
Eastman School of Music (my alma mater)  October 20th
National Sawdust, the great new NYC venue – October 22nd

We will be premiering new music and playing some old favs! I know you are coming with friends, so “see you there!” (he said optimistically.)

CD Release Celebration of Songs We Like A Lot – JUNE 10 WEDNESDAY (or as some call it, hump day!)

SWLAL cover

CD RELEASE Celebration of Songs We Like A Lot
on Sunnyside Records

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

at ROULETTE
509 Atlantic Avenue (Entrance at the corner of 3rd Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11217

General Admission: $20
Members/Students/Seniors: $15
Series Members — $10 // FREE for All-Access Members // Doors at 7pm

LIVE with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

featuring Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry
and Special Guest, Ben Monder

Ben Kono – sop/alto sax, flute
Jeremy Viner – clarinet/tenor sax
Tony Malaby – ten/sop sax
Dan Willis – ten/sop sax, english horn, flute
Bohdan Hilash – contra-alto clar, bass sax, clar
Mark Patterson – trombone
Mike Christianson – trombone
Jacob Garchik – trombone
Alan Ferber – trombone
Tony Kadleck – trumpet, flugelhorn
Jon Owens – trumpet, flugelhorn
Dave Ballou – trumpet, flugelhorn
Matt Holman – trumpet, flugelhorn
Chris Tordini – acoustic/electric bass
Matt Mitchell – piano, organ, keyboard
Patricia Franceschy – mallet percussion
John Hollenbeck – drums, composition
Theo Bleckmann – voice
Kate McGarry – voice
JC Sanford – conductor

Special Guest: Ben Monder – guitar

The New York Times recommends us!

“★ John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble (Wednesday) The drummer and composer John Hollenbeck uses an orchestra as a panoramic canvas, blending color and texture with an eye toward the sweeping view. His new album, “Songs We Like a Lot,” features an imaginative reframing of nominally unlikely fare — the Carpenters’ smash “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” the Fifth Dimension hit “Up, Up and Away” — performed by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry on vocals. The singers reprise their roles at this concert, with Mr. Hollenbeck’s namesake band. At 8 p.m., Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, near Third Avenue, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, 917-267-0363, roulette.org. (Chinen)”

As does The New Yorker!

“The percussionist, composer, and arranger Hollenbeck may admire the work of Pete Seeger, Burt Bacharach, Cyndi Lauper, and others, but that doesn’t mean he treats it as if it were scripture. On his new album, “Songs We Like a Lot,” a collaboration with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and the vocalists Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry, Hollenbeck radically reshapes tunes like “Close to You” and “True Colors” with impunity. Bleckmann, McGarry, and a sizable New York-based contingent join the leader at Roulette. (509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn. 917-267-0363. June 10.) Night Life

You can pre-order SWLAL!

You can LISTEN to & pre-order the CD (which will be officially released on June 23rd) at
Sunnyside Records.  Otherwise, if you ask nice, you can buy a fresh copy at the release show!

The Official Press Release for Songs We Like a Lot, courtesy of Fully Altered Media:

How to follow-up a Grammy-nominated album disarmingly called Songs I Like a Lot? By broadening the canvas and releasing Songs We Like a Lot, of course. John Hollenbeck returns after the triumph of Songs I Like a Lot, accompanied again by vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckmann and pianist Uri Caine, with an expanded palette and even more robust sonic transformations, encompassing everything from Burt Bacharach to the poetry of Kenneth Patchen, from Cyndi Lauper to a deconstructed “Get Lucky.”

A combination of indelible pop tunes and his own compositions, Songs We Like a Lot is propelled throughout by Hollenbeck’s creative arrangements for the Frankfurt Radio Bigband. These arrangements are heard to spellbinding effect in the album’s opener, a moving reimagining of “How Can I Keep From Singing.” The song is most strongly associated with Pete Seeger, and co-written by him; this rendition is intended as a tribute to the recently departed folksinger, who passed away only last year. A slowly swelling opening fanfare gives way to a steady pulse, which in turn builds, via a lovely tenor solo by Steffen Weber, to a rich crescendo, the horns framing delicious harmonies from McGarry and Bleckmann.

Like Miles Davis before him, Hollenbeck plucks a Cyndi Lauper hit — in this case, “True Colors,” penned by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg — from the pop pantheon, chopping and screwing it into a reconstituted suite that retains the lilting flow of the original while using new harmonies and repetitive motifs to recontextualize the beauty inherent in the song. (And not least rescuing it from Kodak-ad purgatory.)

Among the Hollenbeck originals is “The Snow Is Deep on the Ground,” a delicate composition that originally appeared on the Claudia Quintet’s What is the Beautiful?  Bleckmann sings words by poet Kenneth Patchen in both versions; here, rather than the skeletal framework of the quintet, his voice is embraced by a full brass and woodwind blanket of sound. Pianist Uri Caine and vocalist Kate McGarry are two new additions to this lovely, enlarged version.

Another poet’s words figure in the Hollenbeck original “Constant Conversation” — those of 13th-century poet and mystic Rūmī. “Constant Conversation” uses Middle Eastern musical motifs to undergird McGarry’s spoken-word vocal. A riff and a drone and an unerring sense of melody allows Hollenbeck to create an atmosphere that feels at once deeply personal and innately global. This is sole tune on which keyboardist Gary Versace appears on this record, though his piano was heard throughout Songs I Like a Lot.

What John Kelman in his AllAboutJazz.com review of Songs I Like a Lot called “Hollenbeck’s skill at taking small but defining motifs from an original song and use them as starting points for broader orchestrations” is on full display in his reworkings of the pop chestnuts “Close to You” and “Up, Up and Away.” The latter reaches heights never dreamed of by original performers The Fifth Dimension and composer Jimmy Webb. A pulsating fever-dream of horns in flight, “Up, Up and Away” provides the album’s closing burst of color and beauty.

Meanwhile, the Bacharach and David tune “Close to You,” popularized by The Carpenters, maintains the lovely falling harmonies of the original, while Hollenbeck and McGarry extend the refrain repeatedly in a stirring, not-entirely-unsettling bit of musical mesmerism. Other highlights include a brief “de-rangement” of the Daft Punk smash hit “Get Lucky,” based, according to Hollenbeck, “on what I think the Russian Police Choir should have sounded like when they sang it at the Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony.”

In reviewing Songs I Like a Lot, David Hadju wrote in The New Republic that “you can hear, in [Hollenbeck’s] work, the collapse of cultural borders, the shuffling of traditions and influences, the old and the new and the earthy and the urban and the proper and the wiseass, swirling in unstable but unstoppable motion. Hollenbeck is a musician for our time.” This is only more true now.

Looking ahead, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble with Bleckmann and McGarry will be appearing at the next Newport Jazz Festival on July 31, 2015 , playing selections from this latest recording. Those who lament the turning away from the popular song canon for lyrical inspiration should find much reassurance — not to mention a lot to like — in this latest outing from Hollenbeck & Co. (Grammarians who lament the steady appearance of “alot” in our written correspondence also have reason to cheer.)

 I hope to see you on hump day so we can celebrate together!
-Johnnycakes

 

 

HAPPY MAYDAY! (or Happy Day after MayDay)

Sorry for the lateness of this, but I’ve busy preparing along with my Monkian cohorts for the
Meredith Monk Ensemble Concert at Zankel Hall on Saturday, May 2nd (tomorrow as I write this & today as you read this). If you go, you will hear the hits Dolmen Music and Gotham Lullaby as well as selections from On Behalf of Nature, Mercy and Impermanence – it has been a blast re-visiting these pieces! (If you need an extra incentive, I got a haircut and new shoes!)

Next week from May 6-8, I will be at  Cornelia Street Cafe for some special gigs with
The Claudia Quintet.

CQ @ West Germany cropped

We will be performing many new pieces (some of which have not been written yet, because the composer is busy writing blogs, etc.) And the special part is: we are recording these gigs for our next release on Cuneiform Records – so if you come and yell at the appropriate times, you too could be on our next CD!

I will leave the appropriate times up to you, but you could yell things like “Claudia Rocks”, “I’m Claudia”, “I like John’s outfit”, “This band is very good”, “Dude!”, “Woohoo!”, “I want to give you a million dollars to play for my daughter’s birthday party, her name is Claudia.” (That last one you could also just say to me privately after the gig.)

Cornelia also has great food in case you did not already know that. There are not too many venues that have the good food/good music combo!

On a serious note, Claudia was lucky enough to play in Kathmandu, Nepal in the fall of 2013. You can watch a little video about that here. We have been checking in on our new friends from Jazzmandu and thankfully they are all ok. Many others are not, so if you can, please help them out. I found this NPR piece helpful if you’re looking to see how you can help.

Claudia Loves You!

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!

CQ IN EUROPE

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.

CQ IN FLORIDA

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.

CQ VIDEO PROJECT

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.

CQ GOES TO NEPAL

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

72 HOURS IN NOLA

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!

MONDAY
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
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!

WEDNESDAY
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!

THURSDAY
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!

Johnnycakes