We celebrate the cultural minglings in New Orleans with a visit to the 2019 French Quarter Festival. This week we’ll hear from Irma Thomas, the late Ellis Marsalis, the Preservation Hall Brass Band, Don Vappie and Evan Christopher, Bruce Daigrepont, Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars and Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band. The Festival plans its return for April 2021.
Nick Spitzer: This is American Routes live from last year’s French Quarter Festival. Music expresses what Americans share culturally, and in New Orleans, music is one place where cultural conversations are most vibrant. Louisiana began as a French colony. New Orleans was settled in 1718 on the Mississippi River. The old city included French and Spanish, Creoles, Native Americans, enslaved and free people of color, and later Sicilians, Irish, Germans and more. New Orleans mingles all these cultures in its food, festivals, architecture, and especially music: here live at the French Quarter Festival, a downhome, free event that’s grown to 32 stages over the last 3 decades.
NS: Jazz is one of the great American freedom statements with African, Caribbean, European and American sources. The music took root at the turn of the century in New Orleans. After the parade music, spirituals, blues and popular songs all got jazzed up, John Phillip Souza never seemed the same. The birth of jazz was lead by African Americans and Creoles of many colors as a declaration of independence, citizenship and pleasure, partly in resistance to the prevailing Jim Crow social order of the 20th century.
NS: Writer Ralph Ellison referred to jazz as African Americans’ Constitution and Bill of Rights. In our city today, the music still brings people into the streets to mourn everyday folks and fallen heroes: Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, Leah Chase, Dr. John, and Dave Bartholomew--all great cultural citizens that we’ve lost. Jazz resolves sorrow in death and joy in life, and it’s a pleasure for its own sake on the second line.
NS: We’ll bring you live music from the 2019 French Quarter Festival, including the Preservation Hall Brass Band, Soul Queen Irma Thomas, modern Jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis, Creole French songs from Don Vappie and Evan Christopher, and Dejean’s Olympia Brass Band--all distinct jazz styles. We’ll also have music that distinguishes our cultures: the Yiddish funk of the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, Cajun music from accordionist Bruce Daigrepont, alongside “All that Jazz.”
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.