October Ramblings in the French Quarter

Fritzel’s 50th anniversary cake
Fritzel’s 50th anniversary cake (all photos Ken Arnold)

FRITZEL’S TURNS FIFTY! 733 Bourbon – Fritzel’s celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 13th, as not only one of the oldest music clubs but the oldest operated jazz club in the French Quarter. The festivities began at 8:00 p.m. to a full audience with initial performers including Mike Fulton (tp), Bryan Besse (dr), John Royen (p), Tom Fischer (cl), Dave Ruffner (tb) and Josh Gouzy (bs).

Throughout the evening various other musicians found their way to the stage: Chuck Brackman (dr, cnt, bs), Lee Floyd (bj), Joe Kennedy (p), Dave Mahoney (dr), Cassidy Holden (bs), Gerald French (dr) and others. A sumptuous spread in the patio included many Greek specialties as entrees, salads and desserts. A piano-shaped cake made its grand entrance along with dozens of “notes” adorning the many iced cupcakes shared by the crowd.

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Band at Fritzels’s for 50th anniversary
Band at Fritzels’s for 50th anniversary – John Royen (p), Tom Fischer (cl), Bryan Besse (dr), Mike Fulton (tp), Josh Gouzy (bs)

Chef and caterer, Ploumi Doukakis, outdid herself with the abundant trays of Pastitsio, Spanakopita and Baklava served alongside a substantial variety of salads and vegetables. The owners and partners shared their hospitality with their guests and the festive atmosphere created a memorable evening for everyone. Owner Mr. “V”, manager Kate Wimmer and the staff had a lot to do to prepare for this evening and it was truly a success.

Jagermeister handed out small bottles of its liqueur in honor of the anniversary as Fritzel’s was the first bar in the United States to begin serving this well-known botanical elixir. The digestif consists of 56 herbs, fruits, roots and spices and is the flagship product of the Mast-Jagermeister SE in Wolfenbuttel, Germany.

SAZERAC HOUSEat Magazine & Canal Street – As a follow up to last month’s column on the Sazerac House, the venue will begin offering “drink & learn” events and several “tasting” events, too. Check their website for dates and times and plan to attend a few of these offerings in addition to the complimentary self-guided tours, interactive cocktail exhibits and spirit tastings.

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SEIGNOURET-BRULATOR520 Royal – Another follow-up on a past column, this information was just released and will warrant another visit to this recent addition to the Collection sites: The Barbara S. Beckman Music Room on the third floor of the Seignouret-Brulatour building will now have daily organ demonstrations on Tuesdays through Sundays at both 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Each program features a short song and a presentation on the history of the organ from a member of the visitor services staff.

When The Historical New Orleans Collection undertook the restoration of the 1816 Seignouret-Brulatour building, one of the most intensive tasks was to restore the 1920s Aeolian organ that previous owner William Ratcliffe Irby had installed on the third floor. The instrument was disassembled and shipped to Cleveland, where the Holtkamp Organ Company went to work bringing its pipes, keys, and pedals back to their original glory. It is one of a handful of Aeolian organs – electric-powered instruments installed at the beginning of the 20th century – that have not been destroyed, significantly altered, or moved from their original locations. It can also play itself!

PRESERVATION HALL726 St. Peter – A new series beginning November 1st will be held at the Hall on Fridays and Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. “If This Hall Could Speak” will provide insightful information on the earlier days of the Hall and will be presented by some of the Legacy Award winners of the past three years.

The shows will combine a bit of storytelling and history from the musicians’ perspective and will provide historical background in the origins of New Orleans Jazz.

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Guest lecturers in the upcoming matinee program include honorees from the Preservation Hall Foundation’s Legacy Program, the nonprofit component that focuses on community engagement and education. Rickie Monie, Lester Caliste, Lars Edegran, and Joe Lastie are among some of the participants in the program. The Legacy Program honors musicians as Master Practitioners (i.e. Charlie Gabriel, Ernie Elly, Maynard Chatters, Lars Edegran, Clive Wilson, Orange Kellin, Lester Caliste, Tom Sancton, Lawrence Cotton, Rickie Monie) and as Hall Fellows (Joe Lastie & Freddie Lonzo).

At the Starlight Lounge
At the Starlight Lounge – Craig Klein (tb), Earl Bonie (cl), Mitchell Player (bs), Joe Braun (sx), Molly Reeves (gtr), Norbert Susemihl (tp), Steve DeTory (p)

THE STARLIGHT817 St. Louis – A 1779 Creole Cottage is now the site of an intimate music venue a bit off of Bourbon. The beautiful rooms are available for private events but the main floor has all the activity needed for an “after hours” adventure. We saw The New Orleans Jazz Vipers with Joe Braun (sx), Norbert Susemihl (tp), Molly Reeves (gtr), Earl Bonie (reeds), Mitchell Player (bs), Steve DeTroy (p), and Craig Klein (tb) several times and the pleasant atmosphere made it a special treat. Earlier in the day/evenings, the Avila Grill serves authentic Venezuelan food in the covered back courtyard. Check out their website for listed performances that start on time and with considerable enthusiasm!

MAHOGANY JAZZ HALL BURLESQUE & ABSINTHE HOUSE125 Chartres – A small, narrow club with a very long name (!) this stage offered the debut of The Assunto Dukes… A Dixieland Tribute. Although the band was originally presented at the New Orleans Jazz Club annual meeting this past May, the Sheraton Hotel did not allow them to perform more than one song due to some managerial decisions at the time as I noted in a previous column. However the band now has prepared themselves for additional bookings and can be contacted at www.assuntodukestribute.com. It was fun to be present at this unique performance with some dear friends and other patrons.

HOTEL PETER & PAUL2317 Burgundy – Located in the Marigny a few blocks off the Quarter, the Hotel Peter & Paul has gained quite a reputation for its stunning renovations and attention to detail. A $22 million dollar, four year project has transformed the four buildings on site into a destination resort.

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Elysian Bar menu
Elysian Bar menu

After sitting vacant for over a decade, the former church building built in 1860, now has various exercise classes including yoga and Pilates; scheduled recitals, artistic programs and music events. The original bell is still in the tower. The former school house has 59 rooms with a reception and lounge area and the former convent has 7 rooms, all of different sizes and character. The former rectory has not only an additional 5 rooms but the Elysian Bar serving exquisite libations and small plates.

Deliciously eccentric, it is definitely worth a visit to behold the spectacular conversion from a house of worship to a commercial and retail space worthy of many “oohs and aahs” – it is beautiful and breathtaking. We all enjoyed the small plate menu and the aura surrounding the facilities was somewhat reverent. Chef Alex Harrell and the wine team from Bacchanal have partnered to create this exciting menu. The project should serve as an example of how to incorporate the many vacant churches that are found in cities across the land and preserve the history of the architecture and its influences on the surrounding neighborhood.

At the Spotted Cat
At the Spotted Cat: Leo Forde (gtr), Tom Fischer (cl), Tyler Thompson (bs), Marla Dixon (tp), David Boeddinghaus (p) (photo by Ken Arnold)

THE SPOTTED CAT623 Frenchman – not far from the Hotel St. Peter & Paul, the Spotted Cat on Frenchman is one of the original clubs in the Marigny. We had the chance to see the Shotgun Jazz Band with Marla Dixon (tp), Tom Fischer (cl), David Boeddinghaus (p), Leo Forde (gtr), and Tyler Thompson (bs). Although a “stand-up bar” the crowd drifts in and out so you can usually find one of the few available seats if you are observant. Marla is also a strong vocalist and is involved with a few other bands around the area. She welcomes the crowd and is very entertaining with an engaging personality.

At the Nickel-A-Dance
At the Nickel-A-Dance – Orange Kellin (cl), Harry Mayronne (p), Norbert Susemihl (tp), Kerry Lewis (bs), Craig Klein (tb) Benny Amon (dr)

NICKEL-A-DANCEthe Maison at 508 Frenchmen – This continues to be a fun and free event on the Sundays of October (also in March) and our two visits were no exception. The first weekend we visited offered Norbert Susemihl’s (tp) Tribute to New Orleans’ Dance Hall Years with Orange Kellin (cl), Craig Klein (tb), Benny Amon (dr), Kerry Lewis (bs), and Harry Mayronne (p) and lots of tunes to keep the many dancers in a variety of steps. The following Sunday afternoon Orange Kellin was on stage with the Deluxe Orchestra’s Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton and Tyler Thompson (bs), Steve Pistorius (p), Charlie Halloran (tb), Benny Amon (dr), John Gill (gtr), Harry Hardin (v) and Shaye Cohn (tp) also providing many of Morton’s signature pieces suitable for dancing.

This delightful venue is a terrific way to start your late afternoon and prepare for another evening of even more music –grab a bite between sets and begin your own happy hour!

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At Palm Court
At Palm Court – Pete Roze (gtr), Will Smith (tp), Norbert Susemihl (tp) Freddie Lonzo (tb)

PALM COURT JAZZ CAFÉ1204 Decatur – Always a mainstay for traditional jazz, the Palm Court is open Wednesday through Sunday. The line-up is consistently remarkable and the chance of seeing one or more of your favorite musicians is never a challenge. We are there as often as we can and managed nine evenings this visit, enjoying 39 musicians and 2 vocalists. Some of the musicians who stop by the bar are also asked to join in for a song or two if they have their ax with them. Of course, they usually do and adding another reed or trumpet or guitar to the band is always welcome. Since the music ends at 10:30 p.m., there is time to visit one of the later clubs and enjoy even more music after a wonderful meal and a few drinks. It is my favorite place and my little piece of heaven!!

At the Bourbon"O"
At the Bourbon “O” – Danny Rubio (tuba), Doyle Cooper (tp), Josh Marrotta (dr), Connor Stewart (cl), guitar not identified

THE BOURBON “O” – at Bourbon & Orleans – This venue carved out of the corner of the main bar at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel is quite popular. The Doyle Cooper Jazz Band plays there on Friday nights with Josh Marrotta (dr), Connor Stewart (cl), Danny Rubio (tuba) and a few others. It is directly across Bourbon from Fritzel’s so you can start at the “O” at 8:00 pm and weave back and forth to catch the breaks. Doyle is a very good trumpeter and vocalist who grew up in a musical New Orleans family. He epitomizes the young musicians who are making music a career with his warm, easy going attitude and no-nonsense leadership. He plays in brass bands, on the streets and in other clubs around town. His distinguishing characteristics – that red hair and beard! – make him stand out in a crowd but his expert playing and showmanship make him an outstanding musician!

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ MUSEUM400 Esplanade – we saw Kris Tokarski (p) for a free 2:00 p.m. performance with a later chance to view the exhibits. Check out the daily programs, many are free or some will include the price of the exhibits so you can spend several hours there and then walk over to the French Market for any shopping or snacking. The New Orleans Jazz Historical Park at 916 Peters also has free performances and provides a base for some lessons on the history of jazz.

At Palm Court
At Palm Court – Tom Fischer (cl), Josh Gouzy (bs), Mark Braud (tp), Gerald French (dr), Craig Klein (tb)

October is usually a pleasant month in the Quarter, although when tragic events such as the Hard Rock Hotel collapse create chaos, the impact was felt throughout the Central Business District, the French Quarter and the local community.

The loss of lives and loss of business for some of the establishments in the collapse area was unimaginable. An extensive evacuation area and exclusion area within a few blocks surrounding the site disrupted many restaurants, retail stores, hotels, workers, and tourists. When the one crane was finally brought down from the top of the building even more disruptions occurred and the blocked intersection will continue to cause local distress. Events were cancelled at both the Saenger Theatre and the Orpheum although some performances were relocated to various other venues. It was a sad note in an otherwise lovely visit.

At the Nickel-A-Dance
Also at the Nickel-A-Dance following week – Tyler Thompson (bs), Harry Hardin (v), Orange Kellin (cl), John Gill (gtr), Shaye Cohn (tp), Benny Amon (dr), Charlie Halloran (tb)
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