Monday, April 18, 2011

The Music is my Medicine

"There's music all around here since I can remember.  In some cities you go to there is no music.  I don't see how people can live there."  Legendary Jazz Pianist, Lawrence Cotton. 

I am home, decompressing after five fabulous days submerged in the wicked good sights, sounds and tastes of New Orleans.

We've been coming to New Orleans long enough to see all facets of the city - from its rich Cajan French culture steeped in pride and bursting with the brilliant, flamboyant flair of its chef's, musicians, and artists; to the gritty cry of displaced victims of poverty, mental illness, addiction and an unprecedented cataclysmic storm; to the crime, corruption, and escalating suicide rate that stains its unsteady streets.

But for now, we focus on the music.  It is everywhere.

A free concert series, runs every Wednesday night in historic Lafayette Square Park. This week it features New Orleans MVP Trombone Shorty along with Soul Rebels Brass Band. The park is packed with music lovers including celebrities Kid Rock, Grammy's Best New Artist Esmerelda Spaulding, and Lenny Kravitz.

Shorty talks about his roots, what drives him, and how much he appreciates being able to do what he loves

My cousin, Jane Harvey Brown, followed her true path and is a spirited, New Orleans jazz singer and voice teacher. Her husband, Kerry Brown is a festival producer, pianist and drummer who has performed with David Allan Coe, Allman Brothers, and Treme Brass Band to name a few.

(photo courtesy of OffBeat Magazine)

Kerry and Jane are performing with the Traditional Jazz Stars at the French Quarter Festival - the largest free music event in the South. Four full days of funk, reggae, zydeco, cajun, rock, african, and jazz music performed on 19 stages throughout the French Quarter.

Accompanying them on the piano is a living legend of jazz, Lawrence Cotton. Mr. Cotton has backed up a number of stars, including Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Guitar Slim, and performed with legendary musician, band leader, composer, Dave Bartholomew. He toured Europe for four years with trumpeter, Wallace Davenport before returning back to his roots in New Orleans. At the age of 84, Mr. Cotton continues to plays Maison Bourbon Jazz Club every Saturday night.

I am especially moved by the street performers that mesmerize the crowds. We were fortunate enough to catch the last 10 minutes of this drum roll. As they pass the bucket by me, a penny rolled out and lands at my feet - tail side up (a sign from my son, Kerry).

Hands down, two of my absolute favorites, Tanya and Dorise, perform on Royal Street, in front of Cafe Du Monde, and throughout the French Market District.  They were among the first street musicians to return after hurricane Katrina. They play at their own pace.  They are not focused on fame or wealth.  They answer only to themselves.

If you find yourself in New Orleans on a Thursday night, head straight to Vaughns, where you'll catch Kermit Ruffins' playing with the BBQ Swingers.  Vaughn's is tucked away in a residential neighborhood. It feels more like a house then a bar. Go early and get some barbecue with a side of red beans and rice.  Kermit likes to cook almost as much as he likes to play.  

In addition to Kermit, Shorty, Mr. Cotton, and Kerry & Jane Harvey Brown, some of my must see's include: Buckwheat Zydeco, BoneramaGalactic, Amanda Shaw, Dr. John, Jon Cleary, Big Sam's Funky Nation, and anyone who's last name is Neville - or simply walk on down to Frenchman Street for a two block long, compact music conclave.

On our last night in New Orleans we stopped at an upscale bar where the house chardonnay is one of our favorites. With over-sized TV screens mounted above the bar, the crowd tends to be more sports fans then music fans and tonight is true to form. 

A couple from Baton Rouge boasts about their loyalty to LSU - how its purple and gold NOT purple and yellow, and how you can't judge an LSU fan by what you see at a sugar bowl game.  

The conversation shifts when they ask us why we are in town.  "French Quarter Festival? You go to that? Why, we would never...too many people...we don't like crowds."  

But you go to football games - bowl games, home games, any game that involves a Tiger?  What, no crowds at LSU games? The truth is, you aren't a fan of music unless LSU's band is playing it.

And that is fine. Not everyone gets it.  Not everyone feels it.  Not everyone is moved by it.

Music fans will go anywhere the music takes them - festivals, concerts, cruises, clubs, street corners, churches. There is no divide. What I see every time I look into a crowd of music lovers is bliss and harmony.

Jack and his Queen 

For me, the music is my medicine. It feeds me, heals me, and reaffirms my commitment to nurture and honor my creativity.  

Highlights from Jane Harvey Brown and the Traditional Jazz Stars 
performing on the French Market Stage.

Next stop...
New Orleans Jazz Festival - April 29th to May 8th.
All aboard!


  1. New Orleans is one of the places I've always wanted to go. It's not Almost Hubs's cup 'o tea, but I will get there one day. Probably on a girls weekend... when the boys are old enough to leave on their own. ;)

  2. you there! :-)

  3. What a wonderful trip! Thanks for taking us along. Good music, good friends and a sign from Kerry too? Yahoo!

  4. Jane is so talents! love her voice. thanks for sharing. can't believe mr. cotton still plays at the age of 84!

  5. I've always wanted to go to New Orleans, for its music & its creative style. Maybe someday...

  6. Ms. Monkey, you have again hit the nail on the head, MUSIC. I see how this was so much more than a trip and the festival is a big item on my bucket list. Blues and jazz are music of the soul the place most people dare to tread but where you and I live. I have this little plate with the inscription, "if music be the food of love, play on." Play on my friend!

    I'm still here just needed a break to hear the music :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. Great post! I've always wanted to go to New Orleans for the music, the food and the fun. Music is meant to inspire life (in my opinion) so I love festivals that give us that feelgoodness!

  8. Hey you... it sounds like you had a great time down there!!

    There is great music just about anywhere and everywhere down there!!!

    I LOVE the Soul Rebels...!!

    Are you familiar with The subDudes??

    I am going to try to get down and visit my daughter next weekend and catch the 2nd weekend of Jazz Fest... It's ALWAYS fun!!!



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