My heart is full and my head is still spinning from a magical few days spent in the Crescent City. I visited New Orleans for the first time back in October, when DUCHESS performed at Snug Harbor and the Boswell Sisters Revue. To put it mildly, the city got under my skin in a big way, so when E. and I were deciding where we’d like to go for our first real vacation in several years, we immediately chose New Orleans. The trip was pure pleasure, with every day spent eating and drinking (oh, how we ate and drank), walking through various neighborhoods, and delighting in incredible music literally around every corner.
I fell completely under the spell of JoAnn Clevenger, the septuagenarian proprietress of Upperline, a restaurant that will forever be New Orleans to me, both in spirit and cuisine. E. kibitzed with Debbie Lindsay, who co-owns Kitchen Witch, a vintage cookbook store (!) in the French Quarter. Debbie told E. stories about Cosimo Matassa and Allen Toussaint while ringing E. up for a mint-condition Ray Charles box set—because of course Kitchen Witch also sells CDs and vinyl. And late one night at the Spotted Cat, I caught up with an old friend and native New Orleanian, Kevin Louis, swinging out on trumpet and vocals with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.
One day, we joined a throng of over a thousand people in a second line for a young NOLA musician who had passed away recently; we walked through Tremé surrounded by music that grooved so profoundly that I can only describe it as the sound of life itself. We visited a little antique shop in the Faubourg-Marigny where E. bought me some costume jewelry from the 1950s and the shop owner told us that next time we visited, he’d have us over to his home, where he keeps the really good stuff. We drank Sazeracs in a leafy garden at twilight, gaped at the splendor of the Garden District, and got goosebumps at a drum circle in Congo Square, the birthplace of virtually all American music. There’s so much I want to tell you, and I suspect a more in-depth, focused blog post will be forthcoming. For now, though, this little photo travelogue will have to suffice.
Looking ahead, I’m getting ready to hit the road with DUCHESS. We’ve got quite a busy touring schedule this summer, and we’re heading out of town in just a couple of weeks. DUCHESS’ June calendar contains performances at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Regattabar in Boston, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Rochester Jazz Festival, and the Saratoga Jazz Festival; you can check out our complete gig schedule on our website.
Read: Mostly NOLA guidebooks, to prep for our trip.
Listened to: The Peaceful Side, Billy Strayhorn. A rare recording of Strayhorn at the piano, playing his own compositions. Some tracks feature the addition of a string quartet and vocals by the Paris Blue Notes. Strayhorn’s arrangements—especially the vocals—are beautiful and strikingly modern. WWOZ, 90.7 FM. The marvel of modern technology allows me to wake up to the sound of New Orleans right here in Brooklyn.