HL Does NOLA from A to Z: J is for JAZZ

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J is for jazz. I cannot possibly do a blog series about New Orleans without talking about jazz. After all, our city is known as the birthplace of jazz, and you can hear it everywhere: clubs and festivals, street corners and school yards. But how do I share New Orleans jazz with you? You can’t see it in pictures.

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No, jazz is something you have to hear. And when you hear jazz, you start to feel it . . . in your heart. And that’s what jazz is all about. So let me introduce you to just a few of our city’s great jazz artists. We’ll start with Louis Armstrong, or Satchmo as he was called. This native New Orleanian has been labeled a “foundational influence in jazz.” He’s known for his trumpet playing and gravelly voice.  Click here to listen to a 1929 recording of Armstrong and his orchestra performing “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

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 And then there’s Ellis Marsalis. This piano great has been a noted educator throughout New Orleans for years, influencing the careers of musicians like Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick, Jr., and four of his own sons: Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason. You can click here to watch the Ellis Marsalis Quartet perform “Twelve’s It” at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2012.

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Finally, I’d like for you to meet Irvin Mayfield, a Grammy and Billboard Award-winning trumpeter who is also the founder and artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. He’s an educator, composer, cultural ambassador, and creator of jazz venues. Click here to watch a performance by Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at the Los Angeles Public Library from a couple of years ago.

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That’s just a little taste of New Orleans jazz. If you’re interested in hearing more, you might consider attending the French Quarter Festival or Satchmo SummerFest (which are both free and held in the French Quarter) or the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Or just take a stroll down Frenchmen Street and enjoy the music as it drifts out of the clubhouse doors. And about the pictures for this post: The first was taken in front of the Mississippi River, which carried New Orleans jazz to the world. The others were taken in front of our neighborhood school, ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, which uses art-infused and arts-integrated strategies to educate K-8 students . . . keeping New Orleans jazz alive for generations to come.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Please click here for a link to the challenge homepage and a list of  the bloggers who are participating.


HL Does NOLA from A to Z: A is for ARMSTRONG PARK

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Would you like to spend the month of April touring New Orleans from A to Z? As part of the A to Z Challenge, I’m going to take you from one end of my beautiful hometown to the other. We’ll see parks, shops, restaurants, and more. Ready to get started? Let’s go! Our A to Z tour of New Orleans begins with Armstrong Park, located in the city’s Treme neighborhood, just across Rampart Street from the famous French Quarter.

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The 31-acre park is named for New Orleans musician Louis Armstrong and celebrates the city’s music and cultural heritage.

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The site includes historic Congo Square, where slaves gathered during the 1700s and 1800s on Sunday–their day off–to sell goods, sing, dance, and play music.

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There’s a statue of the late Allison “Big Chef Tootie” Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indian tribe. The Mardi Gras Indians trace their roots back to the days when American Indians aided runaway slaves. They showcase their unique music and spectacular beaded and feathered costumes at events like Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and Super Sunday (the Sunday after Saint Joseph’s Day).

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The park’s New Orleans Municipal Auditorium once hosted Mardi Gras balls, professional basketball teams, and gambling. Closed since sustaining damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the auditorium has seen the start of restoration efforts, but a date for reopening is still uncertain.

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The Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts, named for New Orleans native and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, also sustained flood damage following Hurricane Katrina but reopened in 2009 after extensive repairs and upgrades. Today it is home to the New Orleans Ballet Association, the New Orleans Opera Association, and Broadway Across America.

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Armstrong Park is a lovely spot to sit beneath the beautiful live oak trees . . .

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 . . . or watch the ducks glide across the pond. On your next trip to the Crescent City, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter and enjoy the history and peace and quiet of one of the city’s prettiest parks.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z  Challenge. Please click here for a link to the challenge homepage and a list of  the bloggers who are participating.

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A quick note from Harper Lee’s mommy/blogging assistant: The possibility of starting–let alone finishing–the A to Z Challenge looked a little bleak yesterday. But I am happy to report that the computer geniuses with the Geek Squad came through in a big way and repaired my computer  in record time. So we are back on track and ready to take you through New Orleans from A to Z. By the way, that’s our city flag that you see behind Miss Harper Lee.