The NOLA Diaries – Day 2

(Missed Day 1? Click here to read it)

After a good night’s sleep and surprisingly un-jetlagged, we rose with the glorious southern sun to our first full day in the city of dreams. By daylight, we could truly appreciate how lucky we were to have landed such a stunning hotel with pool-side rooms and a waffle machine to boot, and couldn’t resist having a little warm up (and a massive breakfast) before hitting the town.

Stuffed full of waffles and at risk of losing Tom to the streets in his excited state of urgency, we made our first day-lit steps towards the French Quarter in search of The Preservation Hall, where we would later be interviewing four of the most celebrated jazz musicians in New Orleans.

To the French Quarter!

The streets were even more beautiful than we had imagined; marvelous French architecture beaming with colour and life, bars pouring out music on every corner, mule-drawn carriages and more Mardi Gras beads than you could imagine in green, purple and gold hanging from every balcony.

Luckily, The Preservation Hall was only a short walk from our hotel, so we had ample time to bide. In the distance we could hear the faint sounds of a brass band, so took a stroll down the street towards it.

The music just so happened to be coming from Jackson Square, just outside St Louis Cathedral, where we sat for our first glimpse of NOLA street music. They called themselves The Jackson Square Jazz Band, and were playing all of the New Orleans traditionals that we had been learning prior to our trip such as ‘Lil’ Liza Jane’, ‘Oh When The Saints’ and ‘Bourbon Street Parade’.

This first taste of the music-and-culture-rich NOLA that we had been dreaming about was the perfect aperitif to whet our appetites in anticipation for what the week before us was to hold; The sun was shining, the music was swinging and everybody was smiling.

After singing along with “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In” at the top of our lungs, we headed over to The Preservation Hall to begin our interviews with jazz legends Leroy Jones, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford.

The Preservation Hall Interviews

As we entered The Preservation Hall, we were overcome with excitement – our first engagement in New Orleans, and it just so happened to involve interviewing some of our heroes! This was also a little nerve wracking at first, however; what should we expect? We stepped in awe into the room where those at the centre of traditional jazz revival inspire hundreds of people every day – Leroy, Freddie, Joe and Louis greeted us with enthusiasm and warmth. We had attempted to prepare by forming a list of questions which provided comfort at first, but as we got into the interviews the conversation flowed from one topic into the next and we all felt at ease. More than anything, we were delighted and relieved to discover that despite being greatly celebrated musicians, they were humble and honest people too.

Click here to read the interviews

Out on swing-patrol

After the interviews, and with a 5pm Preservation Hall Band show penned into our diaries, we headed out onto the street where were lucky enough to be greeted by our first glimpse of Second Line Parade;

After being handed our first Mardi Gras beads by a group of kids who were following the parade, we decided to walk down to the river to soak in the views of the Mississippi before hunting down more musicians. Most probably in typical British tourist fashion, we burst into a gleeful chorus of “Down By The Riverside”. It had only just turned midday on our first day in the Crescent City and we had already seen and done so much.

We headed back over to Jackson Square in search of some NOLA local cuisine only to find the Jackson Square Band still playing in front of St Louis Cathedral. This time, we were invited to play with them! We had not yet sussed out whether or not rocking up and joining in with the local musicians was the done thing, but it soon became apparent that the street musicians all over NOLA were more than happy to collaborate with us – a bigger band draws a bigger audience, after all!

To Tremé

After an hour or so of jamming our favourite tunes, we squeezed into a taxi and headed over to Tremé in search of The Mother In Law Lounge, where we hoped to meet Kermit Ruffins for another interview. Unfortunately, we were informed by the bartender that Kermit was playing at The Blue Note in New York and must have made a mistake with his diary – we did, however, get to have a brief glimpse of another part of town and unmanageable quantities of some much deserved food!

 

Evening antics

With our bellies full of seafood and buffalo wings, we headed back to the hotel to take a breather before heading over to The Preservation Hall once more for their 5pm show. The band play several shows every day, all of which are open to people of all ages. When we got there, we were invited to sit on a row of cushions right at the front – they had been incredibly generous and had put us on the guest list!

We sat in anticipation as the band entered, and were delighted to see that Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie and Louis Ford would indeed be playing, joined by Gregg Stafford on trumpet and Steve Pistorious on piano. The gig was a fully immersive experience that got everyone clapping, singing, laughing and literally following Freddie in and out of the room in a conga-line like fashion!

After the show, alive with inspiration, we decided to brave the streets for the first time by ourselves as a group of street musicians. We found the perfect spot on the corner where Toulouse Street met Royal Street and began to play. We quickly gathered an enthusiastic crowd, and the joy of playing jazz at the top of our lungs at 7pm on a residential street and being congratulated for it was one of the most warm and welcoming feelings that we could imagine; It was a far cry from being moved on from a public walkway in Greenwich for busking in the middle of the day because street music ’causes an annoyance’. Freddie Lonzo himself even passed by and stopped to listen for a while! We knew that New Orleans had a rich musical culture, but were not expecting to be so readily and immediately accepted as musicians there ourselves.

Our busking session was promptly followed with our first daiquiris (frozen cocktail slushies!) and the rest of the evening was spent jamming with the house band in Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub.

Who knew that so much fun could be had in one day? Keep your eyes peeled for our next diary post to find out what we got up to on our third day in New Orleans.

Mentoring with Malcolm Earle-Smith

In the two days prior to our departure, we had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Earle-Smith in two group mentoring sessions. Malcolm is a multi-faceted musician with ample experience and expertise in playing (and singing) traditional jazz, among other disciplines.

We began the mentoring session by playing some of our best known songs, looking to Malcolm for advice and inspiration. He gave us the following tips to pursue a more authentic sound:

  1. Don’t get too attached to the melody – Malcolm pointed out that once the instrumental head has been played, the singer does not necessarily have to adhere to the exact melody of the song, even in their first chorus. The role of a singer in a traditional jazz ensemble is quite different to that of a contemporary jazz singer, and the voice should be viewed more along the lines of a horn. You need to project to be heard unamplified over a large ensemble so must be economical with note choices and focus on rhythm and energy.
  2. Slow down – Many of the tempos that we are comfortable with as contemporary jazz musicians would be considered unnecessarily fast in traditional or second line jazz. Does it swing better 20bpm slower? Probably!
  3. Play more collectively – After four years of essentially studying Bebop and post-bop, we have become acclimatised to the idea of soloing and queuing up for solos; in traditional jazz, the music is largely about the more collective aspect. Riffing and interacting as an ensemble throughout a song is key.
  4. Include other influences – No matter how hard we try to create an authentic sound, we have all grown up in 21st century Great Britain. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just means that we will all inevitably have had other influences throughout our musical (and non-musical) lives. Malcolm suggested not to shy away from these and to try to be open to include other influences in our music.
  5. Just let go! – Traditional jazz and second line music is all about the feeling and the joy of playing music with your friends, peers and contemporaries, so don’t be afraid to mess it up. Just let loose and play!

Our mentoring left us feeling much more comfortable in the genre and excited to have the opportunity to submerge ourselves in the real thing down in the Crescent City – Thank you, Malcolm!

Have a listen to our final moments of mentoring below.

 

Live Sessions

We’d like to invite you to our Facebook Live sessions!

‘Like’ our Facebook page and you’ll be notified when we’re rolling. If you didn’t catch our most recent rehearsal snippets, check them out below.

>CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK<

~ RECENT LIVE SESSIONS ~

11th January, 2017

‘New Orleans Bump’ (Transcribed by Johnny Woodham)

13th January, 2017

‘Lil Liza Jane’ (feat. George Winstone)

See you online!

 

 

 

 

 

Herlin Riley’s solo on ‘Dancing With Desire’

Check out this transcription and observations of Herlin Riley’s solo on Dancing With Desire by our drummer, Tom Wright!

Record: ‘Cream of the Crescent’ (Criss Cross, 2005).

Personnel: Herlin Riley (Drums), Wycliffe Gordon (Trombone), Wynton Marsalis (Trumpet), Victor Goines (Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax and Clarinet), Eric Lewis (Piano), Reginald Veal (Bass).

Herlin Riley transcription by Tom Wright
Herlin Riley transcription by Tom Wright

Observations on the solo:

-Marks the form very clearly. For example, notice the similarity between the first two A sections of the solo, versus the contrasting sound of the first B section. What’s more there is a certain theme to each 4 bar section of the form.

-After two choruses of soloing, Herlin plays a very clear 4 bar break/’call’ to bring the band back in. The call is so texturally different from the previous bars and incorporates repetition and diminution of rhythm it is clearly an intended ‘call’ rather than an extension of the form.

 

Personal favourite moments:

-The contrast between rolls on the toms and hi-hat ‘barks’ in the first two A sections

-The first and second B sections have a very clear shape to them (a characteristic of Herlin’s I hear often in his playing).

-The elasticity of phrasing at bars 14 and 16. It’s so elastic my transcription can only guess at how Herlin’s conceiving it, and the beauty is somewhat lost on paper.

-The call is also wonderfully clear and ‘very Herlin’.

Blog by Tom Wright

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