As the title of his autobiography declares, New Orleans banjoist, guitarist, singer and storyteller Danny Barker lived “A Life in Jazz.”
By 1930, he had married Blue Lu Barker, a blues singer. The couple moved to New York City and reveled in the Jazz Age. He gigged all over Manhattan before hitting the road with Cab Calloway’s famed swing orchestra in the late 1930s.
He also recorded, performed and/or toured with Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie and Sidney Bechet, among many others. By some estimations, he appeared on at least 1,000 recordings.
He moved back to New Orleans in the late 1960s. Recognizing that the New Orleans brass band tradition was in danger of dying out, he founded the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Band in 1970 and stocked it with young musicians from his neighborhood.
Fairview schooled a new generation in the ways of New Orleans jazz. Its alumni include members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, trumpeters Leroy Jones and Gregg Stafford, clarinetist Michael White, drummer Herlin Riley, trombonist Lucien Barbarin, tuba player Kirk Joseph and the late Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen.
In late 1993, barely three months before he died of cancer, jazz guitarist, songwriter and a…
In his final years, Barker assumed the role of beloved jazz elder statesman, releasing albums, contributing to other artists’ albums and telling slyly funny stories. He died in 1994.
Two decades later, guitarist Detroit Brooks launched the Danny Barker Banjo & Guitar Festival to preserve and perpetuate Barker’s legacy. The fourth edition of the festival — with seminars, stories, clinics, performances and a second-line parade — got underway this week and continues through Sunday.
Highlights of the remaining schedule:
1 to 3 p.m., Louisiana Music Factory (421 Frenchmen St.): Gwen Thompkins, host of WWNO’s “Music Inside Out,” leads a discussion about the Historic New Orleans Collection’s lavish 2016 reissue of Barker’s “A Life in Jazz.” A banjo and guitar quartet also performs. Free admission.
4 to 7 p.m., Rhodes Family Services (3933 Washington Ave.): “Let’s Talk About Danny and Lu” features music by the Harry Sterling Quartet, a complimentary buffet, and stories about Danny and Blue Lu Barker as told by Leroy Jones, Harry Sterling, John Pult, OffBeat Magazine publisher Jan Ramsey and others who knew the Barkers. Admission is $20.
8 and 10 p.m., Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St.): The Danny Barker Birthday Bash features two performances by an all-star band featuring trumpeter Gregg Stafford, trombonist Freddy Lonzo, clarinetist Bruce Brackman, banjoist/guitarist Detroit Brooks, pianist Mari Watanabe, bassist Kerry Lewis, drummer Jerry Anderson and vocalist Topsy Chapman. Admission is $15.
5 to 8 p.m., George and Joyce Wein Center (1205 N. Rampart St.): Performance by the Danny Barker “Don’t You Feel My Leg” String All-Stars featuring Detroit Brooks, Carl LeBlanc, Steve Masakowski and Seva Venet plus Haitian guitarist Claude Carre and Senegalese kora master Morikeba Kouyate. Admission is $15.
9 p.m. to midnight, Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge (1500 N. Claiborne Ave.): Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins hosts a traditional jazz jam featuring James Andrews, Glenn Andrews, Gregg Stafford, Donald Harrison, Freddy Lonzo, Leroy Jones, Wendell Brunious, Roger Lewis and more. Admission is $15.
Noon to 2:30 p.m.: A second-line parade in Barker’s honor, departing from the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint and proceeding to Bullet’s Sports Bar (2441 A.P. Tureaud Ave.). Featuring the Hot 8 Brass Band and the Sons of Jazz Brass Band, plus various school bands. Free.
3 to 9 p.m., Bullet’s Sports Bar (2441 A.P. Tureaud Ave.): Performances by the Mari Watanabe Band, Steve Pistorius, Wendell Brunious, Les Getrex, Gregg Stafford and Herlin Riley. Admission is $15.
The festival’s grand finale at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint includes both a multimedia presentation and three stages of live music. Admission to the daylong event is $5.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., radio personality Fred Kasten hosts “Danny Barker in Sound and Image,” playing excerpts from interviews with Barker, followed by historic video clips of Danny and Blue Lu presented by filmmaker Matt Martinez.
The festival concludes with live music on two indoor stages and one outdoor stage at the Mint from 1 to 5 p.m., with performances by John Boutte, the UNO Jazz Ensemble, Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony, Charmaine Neville and Amasa Miller, Claude Carre, Kermit Ruffins, the Leroy Jones Quintet, George French and more.
Go to www.dannybarkerfestival.com for more information and the complete schedule.