SFJAZZ IN NEW ORLEANS
February 27, 2017 | by Erin Putnam
If jazz has a holiday – aside from the recently created International Jazz Day (est. 2012 by UNESCO) – it is undoubtedly Mardi Gras. Historically, Mardi Gras has been a day of excess: the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lenten fasting. Mardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday” in French, was the time to eat, drink, and dance like it was going out of style… because it was. Some cities, however, have come to define themselves year-round by this celebration – cities such as Venice and Rio de Janeiro. Few places though, are more synonymous with Mardi Gras, jazz, and with letting the bons temps roulez than New Orleans.
In January 2017, the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Combo traveled to New Orleans, performing original compositions and arrangements for educators, students, and professional musicians at the annual Jazz Education Network Conference. The All-Stars Combo – a shadow octet of SFJAZZ’s own Collective – also got to meet and hear other talented young players from across the globe, including a special concert with students from Havana’s Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.
The jewel in the crown of the All-Stars’ trip however, was a visit to a local high school’s jazz program to play with their band. Accompanying the All-Stars was SFJAZZ Collective trombonist, Robin Eubanks, who talked about finding his way into the professional jazz world. The groups performed for one another, then joined together on a funk groove both had prepared – Robin drilling down on the essentials of improvising the entire time. The exchange wrapped with a Q&A in which the All-Stars got to learn more about the kind of playing (and listening) that comes out of being steeped in New Orleans’s one of a kind musical traditions.
So whether you call it Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Carnival, we hope you’re able to take a minute today to savor the incredible confluence of culture that made New Orleans’s version of this holiday unique – jazz surely wouldn’t be the same without it.