Monday, December 1, 2014

Celebrating the Season at Degas House

This past week it was my great pleasure to have the opportunity to attend the annual Christmas party at Degas House on Esplanade Ave. Even though I am originally from New Orleans and have spent most of my life here, it was only my second visit to the lovely historic house that was once owned by the family of painter, Edgar Degas. Now a museum, Bed and Breakfast, and wedding venue, the house sits just minutes away from the French Quarter.

It was nice to have a free evening and to actually be able to relax and enjoy myself. Last year I was able to make the party and get a quick look at the house, but I was only able to stay a short time as I had to rush off to another event with the Singles Meetup.

I wish I'd thought to get a photograph of it, but in one of the buildings is a model that shows how the original property was divided into the current two buildings that now make up the Museum and B&B. I did manage to get a few photos of the rooms in the B&B this time, and I realized that there was a third floor I hadn't seen before.

Alas, I only took photos in the one building, and none of the courtyard either. What can I say? It was chilly out and I'd had a long day. There was a DJ in the courtyard where one of the bars was set up, and a live band inside the B&B. I'm going to call this room the double parlor. As you can see there are copies of Degas' work hung about all over the house.

What would the party be without an appearance from the Grand Dame of social events, herself? If there is something worth doing or an event worth attending, it's a bet that Senora Margarita Bergen will be there, and she'll be telling about it on her blog.

This riff-raff are fixtures at the Swirl Sensational Wines Friday tasting. I used to see them weekly until life got in the way and I was unable to make it across town on a regular basis.

Tom missed out on the photo above, but that just gave me an excuse to get one of the two of us together. We rarely get to see each other now that I am not running the Wine Meetup or working in the CBD anymore. I suppose I should have checked the image...

This year's party also afforded me the opportunity to meet David's mother. Too bad I didn't realize she wasn't looking when I took the picture. I usually prefer to take candid shots of whatever activity is going on, and someone will look up and smile and cause everyone else to turn as well. Maybe I should go back to that...

As I said, (well, typed) above, I barely had a chance to look around last year, though David insisted I see upstairs before leaving. There were delicious little sweet treats up there the last time and I was looking forward to visiting that section of the house again to indulge in a chocolate petits fours (okay, I had two).

As you can see, this lovely room leads out onto a balcony, which overlooks Esplanade Ave. on the front of the property.

The doorway above, just to the left of the bed, leads to the room that is pictured two photos down.

This room is situated at the opposite end of the house just as you come up the stairs. It had already turned dark out, so there wasn't much point in trying to take photos of the views from any of the windows, but this room overlooks the courtyard.

It was upon leaving that burgundy room that I realized that you could go up to the third floor and decided to take a peek at those rooms.

That last one's a bit dark, sorry about that. At least these images give you an idea of what the inside of the house is like. Of course, there are more photos on the Degas House web site. I wonder if next year I'll get to make it three in a row...

If you're a history buff and/or an art lover, this is a must see when travelling to New Orleans. You can visit in the morning in time for breakfast and then take the neighborhood tour. (That's another thing I'll have to add to my Tourist at Home bucket list.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco de Jazz Fest

My one and only day at the fest this year began in the afternoon with a stroll through the Congo Square area after saying hello to a few folks. I tried, unsuccessfully, to enter the Jazz Tent and decided to try another area of the Fairgrounds since there was still a while yet before I would see the band I had gone out that day to hear.

George French was playing over at the Economy Hall tent, so after a brief stop at the Blues tent, I hiked out across the field to see what he was up to - musically that is.

Economy Hall is different in design from the other tents with stages at the festival in that it is outfitted with a slightly raised dance floor. There are several diehards who attend regularly and bring their second line umbrellas to dance through the audience conga line style, only with a New Orleans flair.

It was a soggy mess throughout much of the Fairgrounds after all the rain in the days preceding, but thankfully under the tent on Sunday it was more like standing on damp beach. A few yards away it was another story.

Back on the asphalt and headed to the Jazz tent once again, I took a quick peek at the artists in the Contemporary Crafts area. More pretty dresses - these were from Maureen Roberts and Michael Lubim.

The piece all the way in the back of the booth on the right is what caught my eye - something about it reminded me of Frieda Kahlo. The art here is from Jenny Mendes and Mark Roegner.

Spotted in the crowd -- Allen Toussaint was pausing for a photo with an excited fan. Good thing I was walking around with my camera on my wrist, right? 

Outside the Jazz Tent once again I was trying to decide where would be the best point of entry when I look up and directly in front of me is the phenomenal Brian Blade, my reason for being at the festival that afternoon. After a bit of shrieking, laughing, and hugging, he introduced me to his lovely, almost newlywed wife, Lurah. An accomplished drummer, Brian was there to perform with Wayne Shorter.

Backstage at the Jazz Tent is like an annual reunion. Locals, visitors, musicians, friends, family members, photographers, Foundation personnel... For many people, it's the only time they really get to see each other. It really becomes sort of a social time for the musicians as well, especially the ones who are crossing paths while traveling around.

So many people in these next photos... How about just a few highlights from people actually facing the camera or in profile? Bill Summers (in the white cap), Jason Marsalis (behind Bill); Ellis Marsalis (white hat, 2nd photo), Jack Hopke (talking to Jason)... Derck Douget, Rex Gregory, and Matt Dillon (all in the third photo).

Marlon Jordan and Jackie Harris; Irvin Mayfield... and then, Wayne Shorter.

Nicholas Payton... Brian Blade and Deacon John... and then Eric Waters photographing Brian and Deac.

Up until I'd run into Brian, I could have easily gone home. That's one of the things about living in New Orleans, there is so much music and so much going on all the time, it wears on you. (Not to mention it's hard to hang out when I should be home writing).

Hearing the Wayne Shorter Quartet, on the other hand (Danilo Perez, John Pattitucci, and Brian blade), is a nice treat that makes the trekking through all the mud, muck and mire (not to mention the barnyard smells) completely worth it.

Jazz Fest 2013

The last day of Jazz Fest 2013 was blessedly dry, if not a little chilly. After all the rain that had fallen in the previous week it was nice to be able to enjoy my one and only day at the fest after a two year hiatus basking in the sunlight.

Jazz Fest has evolved quite bit over the years and it was nice to see recycling stations scattered about the Fairgrounds. I only hope that people actually noticed and made use of them.

I had decided to start my circuit on the "north" side of the field - that's lake side, if you're a local, and mom was headed that way so we walked together. One of the first people we saw was local clarinetist and leader of the Panorama Jazz Band, Ben Schenck with his family.

Jazz Fest isn't just about the music; it's also quite social since many people see each other once a year at the festival. I hadn't gone out the first weekend and as usual my mother told me that a whole bunch of people had been asking after me. One of those was Wali Abdel Ra'oof, former Executive Director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which puts on the festival each year. 

After saying hello to Wali, mom took off to go photograph Irma Thomas and I went over to say hello to New Orleans artist, Bruce Brice - one of those people I only see at Jazz Fest. He created the first Jazz Fest poster and he and his art are synonymous with the festival.

After my chat with Bruce I took a casual stroll through the Congo Square African Marketplace, glancing at the booths. I really liked some of these dresses from visiting textile artist Aita Carmichael.

Of course no stroll through Congo Square is complete without a visit to Dr. Foots. One of my absolute favorite pairs of earrings I have ever owned was crafted by Foots. I lost one getting out of the car in front of Green Charter one afternoon and I have been heartbroken ever since. He told me he has been looking after his elderly mother and hasn't been working much, but will be casting soon (yay!) and should have the replacement ready for me when he comes back for Essence Festival in July.

Foots is usually joined my by good friend and Jazz saxophonist, Aumra Frezel. For over two decades now Aumra and I have been introducing each other to some of the hippest music on the planet. Every now and then I am lucky enough to actually get to hear him perform.

Strolling along once again, I was lured into a small tent by the sound of African drums. It turned out to be music from Njum Waalo Band of Senegal.

Before leaving Congo Square I ran into another local musician, percussionist Luther Gray. After a quick exchange of pleasantries we were both on our way - several stages and only so much time means you can only visit for so long.

While there is lots of great music at the festival, there is also an unbelievable array of foods available reflecting the cultural diversity of the city and surrounding area.

Leaving Congo Square, I decided to avoid the area by the Acura stage and cut across the field to get to the Jazz tent. My next encounter was with local bassist (and fellow gemini!) Donald Ramsey. Musicians in New Orleans tend to work in a lot of different bands and Donald was rushing off to his next gig in the Gospel tent.

You know something is popular when people have their chairs set up outside of what's happening and they can't even see the performance. This was the case by the time I reached the Jazz Tent where John Boutte was performing.  This camping out is also a strategy for getting into the tent when people exit in between acts.

This shot of John on stage was taken from outside the tent with the zoom on my little point and shoot. Who knew he was so popular?  Coming up after John was Wayne Shorter, who was to be followed by Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

I thought I would try entering the tent around the far side, but there were just too many people. I decided to head over to Economy Hall instead, with a quick stop in the blues tent where Bushy One String was performing solo. He is truly unique...

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Weekend at the Fest

It's Jazz Fest time again! Fresh off a plane and still recovering from a bout of jet lag I spent the entire first weekend at the Fair Grounds helping my friend Ginger Kelly in her booth in Contemporary Crafts. Since we weren't totally slammed the entire time I was able to walk around a bit every so often and take some photos and even catch a minute or two of a variety of different performances.

We were situated between the Blues and Gospel tents so I had the opportunity to hear Kipori Woods while we were working as well as Little Freddie King early in the day on Friday but the rain put an end to my plans to see Leroy Jones and Maurice Brown later in the afternoon.

My friend Linda Lesperance was also out there in Contemporary. She had called a couple months back and asked me to create a couple poses for two paintings she was working on. One was a woman holding a basket and the other was a woman walking away and swinging her hips. I didn't see the paintings until Friday at the fest because I was out of the country when they were completed.

Because of their subject matter, color palate and overall compostion the two paitings turned out very differently and while they were both terrific, my favorite by far was the one of the sassy woman walking away. The facial expression of the other woman sitting on the bench is priceless! One was done in an outdoor urban setting and one in an outdoor rural setting. The urban one borrowed its theme from a popular blues song. I am happy to say both paitings now have new homes.

We were fortunate on Saturday to have the weather forecast change and see the rain clear up early on. It was muddy and windy but at least the music was able to continue. I caught a little bit of Bleu Orleans and Terence Blanchard as well as Dr. Michael White. I happened to be passing through Economy Hall in between sets and said hi to Roger Lewis before he performed with the Treme Brass Band.

On Sunday I was able to pass through the Jazz tent briefly for Jeremy Davenport and then later for Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. I caught a glimpse of the Blind Boys of Alabama and passed through Economy for Lionel Ferbos and even managed to see a little of the "Wonderful World of Louis Armstong" set with Victor Goines, Wycliffe Gordon, and James Andrews.

There is so much music going on between the ten stages that there is just no way to get to even half of it. Even if I had been able to spend more time listening I would have had to spend twenty minutes at this stage and fifteen at that one and ten at another.

After visiting my favorite regular food stops (Vietnamese Bun, fried eggplant, shrimp flautas from Taqueria and spinach and plantains from Benachin) by Sunday I was looking for something new. I discovered a spinach bisque with seafood over near the Acura stage that was absolutely yummy!

Of course there is also the social aspect of Jazz Fest for all of us locals who attend year after year. Even though we live right here in town there are a number of people we only see annually at the Fair Grounds.

Coming soon... highlights from second weekend.