Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Halloween Gift

For almost twenty years I did a radio show for WTJU in Charlottesville, Virginia, called the Bartender's Bop. When I started doing radio for WTJU in 1981, I was employed as a bartender, thus the name of the show. The show covered the roots of rock and roll, early gospel, RnB, blues and soul music. For the past week or so I have begun transferring cassettes of old shows onto my computer as mp3s and it has given me a chance

to hear some of my old shows for the first time in a long time. One of the things I loved to do was theme shows, so if the date of my show fell near any holiday or event, I would always work hard to put together some kind of tribute. Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to give you a small taste of one of my shows that was dedicated to spooky songs. Here it is for you to listen to. Don't expect to hear my voice from 25 years ago as I normally taped the music and not my commentary but you will get a feeling for my show. Enjoy the show and the pictures of some special folks from way back when, as they got ready to celebrate Halloween.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Favorite New Orleans Farmer's Markets

The Farmer's Market scene has grown here in New Orleans much like it has across the US. I don't have the time nor the gasoline to catch every market in the area but wanted to share with you the three markets I enjoy the best.

 Even though it is completely on the opposite side of town from where I live, Tuesday's Farmer's Market uptown is probably my favorite and is worth going to for a couple of reasons. The first is access; it is easy to find the market at 200 Broadway by driving the River Road. If you try and find it by going down Broadway, you might not find it. Once there, there is plenty of free parking and that means a lot. The last thing you need after you purchased nice fresh food is to find a ten or twenty dollar ticket on your car. The Tuesday market is set up nicely with two major rows of vendors. There is plenty of room to walk from booth to booth and scope out the entire market at a glance. At this market you can normally find fresh seafood, grain fed beef, vegetables, juice, popcorn, and flowers. The draw for me is that they normally have two different bakers offering their wares. There is nothing like a crusty baguette to remind me of time spent in Paris. Another draw is the vendor who sells chickens, quail, his own hot sauce and Bloody Mary mix. I recognize him as a favorite of mine who used to come to the market all the time before the storm and I am happy that he is back. The wonderful quail are rich and priced right: 4 for $10. His chickens taste like chicken and
have some texture to the meat which is sorely lacking in grocery store poultry. You never know who is going to show up to sell, so every booth is a delight. Take time to explore everyone's wares. The markets have become a draw for people you might not find in a normal grocery store line. One week uptown it was filled with grade school children exploring the market and buying goodies for their lunch. The Uptown market also has a booth for a local restaurant to sell their food. I haven't bought any yet, but the selection is always interesting.

 The other two markets I frequent are the Saturday market in the CBD on Magazine at Girod and the Saturday West Bank Market in downtown Gretna.  I normally start my Saturday morning in the CBD and then hop over to Gretna to see what is happening. The Saturday market in the CBD also has fresh seafood, grain fed beef, some baked goods and a number of booths that sell homemade foods like pestos. The parking is terrible and since Saturday parking is no longer free, you've got to feed the meter. The market is smaller than uptown and normally crowded, sometimes not with buyers but people just looking. I can't tell you how many times I have stood behind someone to find that they aren't going to buy but take up the merchants time and mine asking inane questions about their wares. It is not that I am not a patient man but come on folks, you go to the market to buy. It isn't a tourist spot and if you want to bring your kids, dog and then kibitz about your lives, then get out of the major flow of people.

 After walking around the Saturday CBD market, I take the short ride over to Gretna where it feels like I have been transported to another part of the state. The Gretna Market has an open sided market structure for the vendors and it is a winner. Parking is always available close by and you don't need to feed the meter. The atmosphere is so wonderful; there is room for everyone to move around even with their kids and dogs, while listening to a band play Cajun or New Orleans music. The prices are the best at any markets I go to, normally 1/3 less. They have seafood, North Shore wines and sausages, smoked meats, a knife sharpener twice a month, fresh veggies and some home made food like tamales, meat pies and such. The vibe is just so relaxed with no tourists gawking at eggplants and local West Bank folks having fun on a Saturday morning.

 There are other markets in the area. There's one on Thursday at the old Can Factory out Orleans Ave and a new one near Armstrong Park on Fridays. There is another one once a month or so in the Lower Ninth and there is
the fabled Vietnamese market out in the east of the city. I would love to go to it but it is an early market with much of everything gone by 8 or 9 am: too early for me. So go out and explore the markets, bring a cloth bag to help cut down on plastic bags and take your money out of your wallet when you get there so you can pay the vendor promptly to make it faster for the folks standing behind you. Get a fresh juice to sip as you stroll and bring home something to cook that you never ate before. Life is good and farmer's markets make it even better.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Who Played With Louis Armstrong On That Session?

For many years a jazz historian was only as good as his music and reference library. This meant that historians with access to large music libraries definitely had an advantage. I began to grow my jazz reference library from the time I started to listen to jazz. One reason was that books about the musicians always had partial discographies in the back of them and I could always plan on discovering new recordings that I previously didn't know about. My library grew with the addition of biographies, but at that point I didn't realize that what I really needed to add to my collection was a jazz discography. When I first discovered them in the University of Virginia's music library, I knew that was what I needed. They were chock full of sessions (and of many musicians of whom I had never heard) put together by devoted music fans who'd been listening to the music much longer than I.

The discographies grew out of biographies, any documentation left by the recording companies, interviews with jazz musicians and sometimes just the "good" ears of the discographer himself. Somehow many of the best discographers were British; therefore the books are published by British press. This did not make them easier to acquire.
 Overtime, with the growth of the world wide web, it became much easier to get my hands on these volumes.  I found a source but soon realized that these 2 volumes would be the most expensive books I would buy for my library. I bought my first set, a pair of twenty year old copies of Brian Rust's "Jazz Discography," for about $125 a piece and was in heaven. Now, they only covered recorded music from 1897 to 1942, but it was a start. A few years later I bought a new updated version that also included Ragtime music and covered the same years. It was nice to have a new version; I realized that the research was still going on as new musicians were identified in old sessions and old recordings were still being found. The problems were: you were restricted to the books appendix and couldn't do any search within the text; there were never any pictures of albums in these book as they just covered the musicians, their instruments, songs, places, recording matrices and dates; and, the stopping point for most printed jazz discographies is 1942, now close to 70 years ago.

 As the Internet has grown, the world of discographies has begun to come into its own. There's not one central free source that's offering a complete jazz discography which covers the entire history of jazz. One is available by subscription run by noted author Tom Lord and I only wish I made enough money writing about music to be able to get a yearly subscription and go to town searching and learning even more. My first search would be for a list of recordings made in New Orleans between 1930 and 1940. Why those years? That's another blog to come.

 What I have discovered is that over the past ten years common jazz enthusiasts have begun to fill the void with pages paying homage to their favorite jazz musicians. They are branching out to collect all of the information about every recording and put it out there for all to enjoy. Discographies blossom on Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. You can find them listed by labels. You can even find them not only for jazz but all types of music (Allmusic Guide). The wonderful thing is that they're growing and covering those previous untouched years after World War II. So go explore and learn who recorded together, what songs were recorded, then buy a copy and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Musical Baseball

As we enter the peak time when the nation's attention turns to baseball, I thought it might be fun to bring music and baseball together. Popular music and baseball grew up together;  almost every year when the winner was declared a new song about the team was soon to follow. The first piece of baseball music was "The Baseball Polka" written in 1858. The most popular was "Take me Out to the Ball Game," which has been a standard since the first decade of the Twentieth Century.

Musicians, too, have been infatuated with the game. When John Phillip Sousa's band performed long summer engagements, they formed their own baseball team. Games would be played against local teams. The Sousa team normally fared pretty well. Their were also games with rival bands including Arthur Pryor's Band. Sousa participated in most of these games while he was physically able. After a while, though, games with other teams were discontinued and the band broke up into separate groups. The woodwinds played the brasses.

In the picture of the 1904-05 Sousa Band Baseball team, Sousa is the bearded man seated in the middle of the front row. His son, who was not a member of this team, is in the back row with the Nassau uniform. On July 4, 1900 the Sousa band initiated the first game of baseball ever played in Paris.

Turn of the Twentieth century African American comic, Broadway star and recording artist Bert Williams played first base every Sunday on the company team. It was widely known among the opposition that Williams was protective of his feet. If the play was going to be a close one, the opposition ran straight at Williams's toes. His reaction was to leap clear of the runner whether he had a chance to make the play or not. His always dapper partner George Walker, on the other hand, never attended or participated in these games because he felt the uniforms were poorly tailored.

In the early thirties Louis Armstrong sponsored a local semi-pro baseball team in New Orleans called the Secret 9. The picture here is of the team showing off the new "Armstrong" uniforms, caps, bats, gloves and gear that Louis purchased for them.

Among other musicians who were baseball players is Thirties bandleader Andy Kirk, avid ballplayer on a semi-pro team called the Maple Leafs. So as you sit down to watch the play-offs and then the World Series remember the marriage baseball and popular music have had since its inception.