Tour Diary: Go-Go, Cello, Second Line

(July 9, 2012) NEW ORLEANS, LA — I didn’t have any plans for my final day in New Orleans. But plans found their way to me anyway.

The only thing I knew I needed to do was make today’s show, featuring DC saxophonist Brad Linde. You can hear it here. And I thought I’d show up at Bacchanal on Poland St to hear Brad Walker play. Other than that, I wasn’t sure how I’d spend my time.

I wandered around the Quarter a bit, found myself at Mama’s on Frenchmen Street enjoying some of the tastiest falafel I’ve had. Very scrumptious tahini dressing on the salad, too. And no iceberg lettuce, which, as we all know, is the greatest evil the world has ever known. As I tweeted the other day, every time someone serves me iceberg lettuce, I feel like I’m being punished.

Then I spent a few hours in Cafe Flora mixing the show. The people behind me were planning a poetry reading. The people across from me were playing scrabble. I was producing a jazz podcast. For a brief moment, Cafe Flora was beatnik nerd central.

Just as I was finishing the show, my pal DJ Soul Sister tweeted to ask where I was. I told her and she said she was on her way to pick me up. We had no plans to meet or anything, but who can resist DJ Soul Sister? Not I!

I finished my work, packed up my stuff and stashed it at the apartment, and waited in front of Mimi’s for DJSS, as I’ll abbreviate her, to pick me up. That was an appropriate place to wait, because Mimi’s is where DJSS holds court every Saturday night, spinning rare groove funk for the dancers on the second floor.

She’d just come back from DC and a deep exploration of the go-go scene, and I knew she was approaching because I could hear old-school go-go blasting from her car speakers. That’s how I always want to be picked up on the street corner from now on.

With no fixed destination in mind, we cruised around the city. Particularly uptown, a part of New Orleans I hadn’t made it to. DJSS showed me the Dew Drop Inn, home to thousands of classic shows by local and national acts. Now closed.

She also took me by Tipitina’s, now a nonprofit that is still dedicated to supporting local music. Those of you who’ve listened to The Jazz Session since the beginning may remember that I used to do a “Cause Of The Month” and the Tipitina’s Foundation was the first one.

We headed over to the Treme, where we spotted the sign for Ruth’s Cozy Corner. It’s a house now, but the neighbors renovated the old sign.

When I got out of the car to take the photo above, I heard brass band music from down North Robertson Street. And just like that, we were in the middle of my third second line for Uncle Lionel in two days.

Once again, the band and crowd surged into a club, this time into the Candlelight Lounge. Then we marched and danced down the street, ending up for a few minutes in front of Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy, site of the first of yesterday’s second lines.

After a while DJSS and I broke away and went back to the car. Then she dropped me at Bacchanal to hear the music. The band was led by guitarist Jonathan Freilich and featured cellist Helen Gillet, saxophonist Brad Walker and percussionist Anthony Cuccia. I thoroughly enjoyed Freilich’s compositions. I was also impressed by Walker’s playing. He sounded a lot like Ernie Watts to me (a sound I love) but with a much different harmonic vocabulary. And Walker and Gillet sounded fantastic together. She’s a monster on the cello. Extremely creative as a soloist and accompanist.

I dug the whole Bacchanal vibe. Outdoors, lanterns burning, good food, good music. Good conversation, too, with my housemate Scott and also with Brad’s partner, Carly. A great way to end my first trip to New Orleans.

Tomorrow I go to Auburn, AL, for the night. Then the loooooong trip from there to New York. I leave at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday and arrive in New York at 2:20 p.m. on Thursday. That’s a lot of time on a bus.

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