Satchmo Summerfest 2010: A blowout far better than BP's
Marsalis was also at the annual Friday night club strut on Frenchmen Street, when music is offered at 20 different venues for the price of a wrist band. He fronted his Uptown Jazz Orchestra in a 90-minute set that focused on Basie-like charts, with the horn sections constantly riffing behind soloists and challenging one another to build excitement. The trombonist displayed his sensitive side on "Skylark" and wryly introduced a composition by elder brother Wynton (or "Winston"), "Fantasmagorical Bordello Ballet," that was based on the Charles Mingus classic, "Haitian Fight Song."
Just as the 16-piece band had settled into its chairs, the front door to the big club Maison opened, admitting a burst of music from a brass band that had been hired to march up and down the street to entertain outside crowds. In an only-in-New Orleans moment, Marsalis turned to his mates, waved his arm like a WWII battlefield lieutenant about to storm an enemy hill, and led his horn-bearing troops through the crowd to the street. No battle ensued; the guys just joined in playing some brass-band warhorse and the leaders embraced. Then, back to the club to play.
The club strut stars all those Big Easy musicians who haven't escaped the August heat on northward tours. Guitarist Carl LeBlanc presented singer Ella Smith for an animated "Fever" and other R&B classics; Tony Dagradi was on a balcony with his New Orleans Saxophone Quartet for harmony-rich versions of Duke's "Sentimental Mood" and the rump-rousing "Gemini Rising." Walter "Wolfman" Washington channeled his inner Ray Charles, singing "Mary Ann" and "Watermelon Man" among others while firing up his guitar and leading his ultra-soulful band.
Henry Butler sang too and summoned up Professor Longhair on piano; clarinet master Dr. Michael White turned up the heat on "Summertime" on this hot, sultry night.
We closed out the club strut at Snug Harbor, the city's primo jazz club, where Jason Marsalis led his quartet in a midnight set that showed again why he's one of jazz's top young tunesmiths. The vibraphonist draws on real-life experiences as inspirations for his songs, to whit: "Foreign Contaminants," written after he absorbed a kids' movie soundtrack and grafted on his own mischievous Monkish touches; "Bells of Ascona," echoing the beauty of a Sunday morning in the Swiss Alps town where a jazz festival is hel, d; and the kaleidoscopic melody fragments and tempos of "A Day at the Amusement Park."
Yes, it's very hot in New Orleans in August. Happily, the air-conditioning is on full blast, and our hotel, Maison DuPuy, has a pool where refreshing breaks help, day and night. The music is what brings you back, music you won't hear anywhere else in this wonderful world. Thank you, Satchmo, et al, for that.