New Orleans has been a city of music like no other. Brass marching bands strutting down the street in their signature “black and whites.” Mardi Gras Indians parading in feathers and beads. And the unmistakable wail of New Orleans-style clarinet swooping in and out of hot trumpet riffs at jazz funerals. Hurricane Katrina swept all of that away—for now. Born out of hardship, New Orleans jazz has endured and uplifted people around the world since King Oliver first blew his horn in the cafes of Storyville.
LISTEN — "Ode to New Orleans" by Vernel Bagneris and "Just a Closer Walk" by The Jim Cullum Jazz Band
Riverwalk Jazz offers Home Sweet Home, New Orleans, a special broadcast concert performed by The Jim Cullum Jazz Band with Vernel Bagneris and Topsy Chapman, celebrating the music and musicians of New Orleans, past and present.
In the heart of the French Quarter on St. Peter Street in New Orleans, an ancient building with peeling paint and squeaky hinges houses the institution known as Preservation Hall, a mecca for musicians, tourists and hard-core disciples of traditional jazz since it first opened its doors in the early 1960s. This broadcast features several favorites often heard at "The Hall" including: "My Darling Nellie Gray," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "Algiers Strut," composed by "Kid" Thomas Valentine.
In the 1940s and '50s, before his days at Preservation Hall, "Kid" Valentine was a popular bandleader playing for Saturday night dances in small towns along the west bank of the Mississippi across the river from New Orleans. In that happier time, a favorite hotspot was a big, old barn of a place called Speck's Moulin Rouge. There was a bar, a dance floor, rickety tables and folding chairs for dice games, and a bandstand. Nearby, taped to the wall, was a cardboard sign with the "Kid" Valentine motto—"Let joy be unrefined."
The ability to see joy in times of sorrow is a New Orleans tradition as tangible as red beans and rice, and filé gumbo.
Ed. Note: This program was produced the week after Katrina as a salute to the people of New Orleans.
Photo credit for Home Page:Thomas "Kid" Valentine, 1957. Photo courtesy preshall.blogspot.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2005