Two new books about music in post-Katrina New Orleans

November 26, 2011

Those who have spent any significant amount of time in New Orleans can attest to the fact that the real musical treasures are found off the beaten path. Keith Spera and John Swenson are both savvy writers who have infiltrated the inner circle of the Crescent City’s musical culture. Each has assembled a collection of intriguing essays that reveal secrets that exist well beyond Bourbon Street.

New Orleans native Spera, a longstanding music writer for The Times-Picayune who was also part of the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina coverage team, focuses on tales of musicians confronting the challenges of trying to continue to make music in a post-Katrina environment. He covers those displaced New Orleanians forced to seek refuge in Houston, Austin, Nashville and other points around the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (known around New Orleans as “the Federal flood”).

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Happy Birthday Pops!!!

August 4, 2011

It was on this day August 4th in 1901 that the great New Orleans trumpeter Louis Armstrong was born.

‘Groove Interrupted’ shows why Katrina couldn’t silence New Orleans music

July 27, 2011

‘Groove Interrupted’ shows why Katrina couldn’t silence New Orleans music

By Suzanne Stouse

“How’d y’all make out?” It was a classic New Orleans inquiry that became a standard greeting in the months after Hurricane Katrina, and it is the asked — and answered — question at the heart of Keith Spera’s finely drawn portraits of musicians’ lives and livelihoods bisected by the storm.

Burying the impossible notion that Aug. 29, 2005, might have been the day the music died, the veteran Times-Picayune music writer presents 13 profiles, many expansions on earlier pieces for the newspaper, all conveying a sense of “what New Orleans music was and is in spite of Katrina’s disruption.”

In an introduction as informed and insightful as the profiles, Spera calls the music a true echo of its distinctive birthplace. He writes about his post-storm days roaming the empty streets as a critic-turned-news reporter, where amongst the devastation he encountered the blessed sight of a still-standing Tipitina’s.

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Ferbos still tooting his horn at 100

July 13, 2011

100 years old and still blowing that horn, still performing and still creating beautiful music.

How inspiring!!!

May the flame continue burning bright.

Ferbos still tooting his horn at age 100
By Geraldine Wyckoff

If he wishes to, Lionel Ferbos has the lung power to blow out all 100 candles adorning a glowing cake on his birthday on July 17, 2011. That the trumpeter and singer, who hits the century mark on that day, boasts the ability to lead his band every Saturday night at the Palm Court and practice his horn daily, proves he’s up to the task. Dispelling any doubts is the fact that Ferbos has been playing trumpet for an amazing 85 years. He’ll again be back at it during his weekend birthday celebration at the Palm Court. He’ll be on stage for his regular spot on Saturday, July 16, and as the guest of honor on July 17.

“The trumpet is a very demanding instrument on your body, your breath, your lip,” says fellow jazz trumpeter Wendell Brunious, who still remembers that it was Ferbos who installed gutters on his parents’ 7th Ward home back in 1949. “He could put on gutters seamlessly. He was as good at his trade as on his trumpet. Lionel is the last of the Creole trumpeters,” Brunious continues. “He was schooled so that’s why his reading is so great.”

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David Simon explains “Treme”

July 8, 2011

Hot seat: David Simon explains “Treme”

The show’s creator defends some surprising choices, and explains how it’s “a story of fundamental patriotism”
By Matt Zoller Seitz

A man of characters: “Treme” co-creator David Simon (left) with one of the show’s major characters, Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters). Writer-producer David Simon didn’t want to do this interview about “Treme,” the New Orleans drama that just wrapped up its second season. When I put in a request to HBO, the initial response that came back through a publicist was, and I quote: “Oy, what can I tell that isn’t self-evident?”

But I asked again, promising that this wouldn’t be a nit-picky discussion of plot and character, but hopefully an interview that talked about larger issues: the style and architecture of the show, its storytelling philosophy, its view of art and culture, and the ways in which it is similar to or different from Simon’s previous series, “The Wire,” “The Corner” and “Generation Kill.” And he said yes. The conversation ranged over nearly two hours. Excerpts follow.

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Steve Earle Sees The Light

July 7, 2011

Steve Earle Sees The Light
By Jewly Hight

It’s been said of Steve Earle – more than once – that his mind and mouth are constantly going a mile a minute. When it comes to doing interviews, he can blaze through three hours’ worth of material in half that time. And that’s exactly what he does on the phone, zeroing in on points he wants to make and spouting a steady stream of colorfully insightful one-liners – regardless of the facts that he’s only just gotten back to his New Orleans hotel room after shooting the HBO drama Treme all morning and there are text messages about his infant son, John Henry, vying for his attention.

“It’s baby movies,” he explains, without skipping a beat. “His birthday’s coming up and he’s discovered this big huge box in the middle of the room and figured out that is has something to do with him.”

Earle’s done a lot in his 56 years, but he’s never channeled his creative, intellectual and emotional energies quite as intentionally or in quite as many directions as he is right now. On a given day, he might do interviews to promote his new album, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, or his new novel of the same title, or the first season of Treme on DVD, or Hardcore Troubadour Radio, his Sirius XM Satellite show. Plus, he mentions that he’s writing his second play. And he’ll soon start rehearsing with his newly reassembled and expanded band, the Dukes and Duchesses.

If, in the midst of all this action, he seems anxious to get back to Greenwich Village – where he hangs his hat these days – it’s not just because the Yankees have started their season. There are some pretty important people waiting on him at home: John Henry and John Henry’s mom, Allison Moorer, who’s one of the Duchesses and quite an accomplished, sophisticated singer and songwriter in her own right. She and Earle married in 2005.

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The DA stole his life, justices took his money

July 6, 2011

The D.A. Stole His Life, Justices Took His Money

In an important prosecutorial-misconduct case this term, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority threw out a $14 million jury award for a New Orleans man who was imprisoned for 18 years, including 14 on death row, for a robbery and a murder he did not commit. One month before John Thompson’s scheduled execution, a private investigator discovered that prosecutors had hidden evidence that exonerated him.

Mr. Thompson won a civil lawsuit against the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office, which had been led by Harry F. Connick, for its gross indifference to the incompetence of the prosecutors who violated his constitutional rights.

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