If it’s October, then you know that it’s time to kick off the popular fall concert series known as “Nickel a Dance.” Largely funded by the New Orleans Jazz Celebration, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the City of New Orleans and the Arts Council of New Orleans, the “Nickel a Dance” series offers music lovers an incredible opportunity to experience some of the best musical programing that New Orleans has offer.
For the next three consecutive Sundays, make your way over to the Maison on Frenchmen Street for a great time that the entire family can enjoy.
Famed trombonist Lucien Barbarin got things rollin’ this past Sunday along with his New Life Jazz Band as music lovers packed the house for the first concert of the series. On tap this Sunday, Oct. 12, is the famed New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra; then Gregg Stafford and Jazz Hounds command the stage on Oct. 19.
The final concert of the season will be Oct. 26 when the house pays tribute to Lionel Ferbos with a musical tribute performance by the Palm Court Jazz Band. Ferbos regularly appeared with the band, and, in fact, his last public concert was at the Maison just before his death at the age of 103.
Each one of these shows showcases jazz at its best, but the final concert holds a very special place for everyone who loved New Orleans oldest living performing jazz legend.
Shows run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Sunday and kids are always welcome. “Nickel a Dance” concerts are free and open to the public, and because the shows take place during the day, the platform attracts an audience that may not be inclined to experience the Frenchmen Street entertainment corridor by night. On my recent visit, I observed a wide spectrum of age groups that ran from young families with children to seniors, so truly “Nickel a Dance” is for everyone.
Jazz experts Fred Hatfield along with award-winning music writer Steve Steinberg were both in the house and each shared his thoughts on how the music of jazz has evolved over the last several decades.
“There was a time in New Orleans when jazz was difficult to find, even on Bourbon Street,” Hatfield explained. “During my youth in the late 1940s, the music of jazz was mostly confined to neighborhood dance halls. Frankly, only old folks listened to Jazz.”
“After the war and by the mid 1950s, there was a jazz explosion on the New Orleans music scene,” Steinberg said.
Both men agree that two of their favorite up and coming young bands of today include Tuba Skinny, a group that’s rooted in the street music scene, and the Smoking Time Jazz Club, a young group that blends traditional jazz with classic blues then adds a pinch of swing to the mixture. It was a rare treat indeed to listen to both of these men recall their experiences as participants and observers of the rebirth of what is today a vibrant New Orleans music scene.
To learn more about the 20-year history of “Nickel a Dance,” visit www.nojc.org. Remember that the New Leviathan heats things up this Sunday at the Maison, located at 500 Frenchmen St. Hope to see you there!
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