Completing the Circle


I started out the day rolling around on the ground at the park, and then bought some curtain rods at the hardware store. It is fun to walk Bourbon Street mid-day to run errands and get just a taste of the madness that is sure to come later in the day. The weekend is dominated in town by a pop music festival, so there are half a dozen college girls staying in the air B&B upstairs. I was a little worried when they came down the stairs in matching fishnet stockings and oversize custom jerseys advertising a DJ, thinking they might be partying all night, but luckily they discovered that NOLA is a 24 hour city, partied elsewhere and came back quietly.

I installed the curtain rods, and will buy Walmart curtains later. I went to Frenchmen Street to see if I could get tickets at Snug Harbor to see Ellis Marsalis. They weren’t quite open, so I sat for a few songs before heading across the street. I scored a ticket, and chatted with the bartender for a bit. I walked by DBA and saw that John Papa Gros was playing at the same time as Marsalis. Can’t do everything. I went to the R Bar, hoping to get in on the free crawfish, but decided to take a break so I could listen better later.

The crowd was decidedly different, older and richer, with some enthusiastic jazz fans and some conference goers probably due to the high ticket price. Marsalis opened with two Thelonious Monk songs and a Herbie Hancock song. I thought that was something that only someone of his musical experience could pull off, as many in the crowd knew the definitive versions of these songs note for note, and probably have a preferred alternative version. It was magical. The rest of the show was mostly originals, but Marsalis is responsible for a good part of the New Orleans jazz canon so it was all familiar. The players in the bass-drums-sax-trumpet quintet were probably the best I have heard in the time that I have been here. I saw a headline that said that playing or active listening to music releases endorphins, and I have been getting my share this month.

As I listened, I reflected that the first jazz show i ever went to was Wynton and Branford Marsalis in 1982 or 1983. I went there during pledge week at Northwestern, and had been partying every day for the better part of the week, and fell asleep during the show at a hotel in downtown Chicago. They were very young, and playing, to my uneducated ears, some pretty strident modern music. I have learned a lot about jazz and listened to a lot of recorded music since, and have even moved to a city in large part to listen to live jazz. It felt like completing a circle to see Ellis Marsalis, their father and primary teacher, perform in the style of jazz I like best.

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