From Dan Baum’s “New Orleans Journal” published by the New Yorker.
It’s rare that I quote extensively from an article, but this “outsider” has so successfully described a fundamental truth about New Orleans that he deserves some props:
“Before living here…I’d imagined that the jazz scene was a closed, exclusive world of too cool cats in wraparound shades, dissolute men and women contemptuous of the daytime world and aloof in artistic arrogance.
What a dope I was; that’s what you get for learning about “jazz” from watching sixties movies with Quincy Jones soundtracks.
The jazz scene in New Orleans turns out to be a warm, welcoming family, and we’ve been privileged to drift around its edges. We see the same musicians over and over again, often in different configurations, and it always strikes me both how tender and supportive they are with one another—and how accepting they are of atonal squares like me.
(The jazz scene also appears, to my eyes, to be the only New Orleans milieu in which race is genuinely irrelevant.)
The musicians whom we can hear on any given night, just by walking up the street, are musical giants, artists and technicians of breathtaking soul and technique, and here they are slouching around town like the rest of us, always ready to stand around and gab, generously handing out their CDs and inviting us to shows.”
Anyone who loves live music – especially jazz – is depriving themselves of one of the 21st centuries greatest pleasures by failing to bring themselves to New Orleans right now. It’s happening and you won’t find a scene like it anywhere else in the world.
Baum’s New Orleans blog is on the New Yorker site. I kind of hate to send you there because they just canned him. Dumb move on their part. New Orleans is the story of America’s future if we all don’t get it together. We can’t focus on it too much.