…to miss New Orleans? [Written Wednesday night, March 30th, edited today.]
Honestly, I haven’t left yet, but I imagine I’ll know pretty soon. These last two nights have been among the best ever. Everyone I know is missing out. Last night, I went to Preservation Hall and met Shannon Powell (drummer for Harry Connick, Jr, for six years (not anymore) and on what I consider to be his three best albums), and tonight I saw Mr. Powell play at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe with some awesome New Orleans musicians AND Jerry Weldon and Wendell Brunious, both of whom have played (and do play) with Harry Connick, Jr. Jerry Weldon plays tenor saxophone, and I swear I recognized his tone (not his face) the minute he started playing. Have you heard him play “A Nightingale Sang on Berkeley Square”? I have, at least a thousand times. I’d recognize that sound anywhere. (Branford Marsalis plays it on the album, but Jerry plays it on The New York Big Band Concert video, which I unfortunately only have on VHS. That will change soon.)
Here’s how it went: Last night, Shannon told me he’d be playing at the Palm Court tonight at 8. I made plans with a coworker (that would be Crazy) to go there for dinner. She got waylaid by our clients, so I went there by myself, still expecting her to show up once she got rid of them. (She never did.) I walked in the door a little before 8, and when the hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar, I said (a little excitedly), “I’m here for the band. And the food.” She laughed a little (at me, I’m sure), and gave me a table for two right at the edge of the stage.
The band came on, Shannon popped over to say hi, and they were great. At the first break, I stopped the bass player (Richard Molton) to tell him how much I enjoyed his playing (he was really good). He said he hadn’t been playing this kind of music lately (since Katrina), and he felt out of his element. I told him it didn’t show. He asked me if I was local. I said no, and he said he thought I knew Shannon. (!) I explained. Nice guy. Then I left him alone to take his break. Shannon came by to say hi again, sat down at my table. (Wait – it gets better.) He said, “Your favorite trombone player is here.” “No…” He nodded. “Introduce me?” He did. We walked over to a table near the back of the restaurant, and I met Lucien Barbarin, hilarious and fantastic trombone player for Harry Connick, Jr. SO cool. I went back to my table and texted Corey, “I just met Lucien.” His response: “This is epic. Get pictures!” Pictures! Of course! I went back to Lucien’s table and said something like (I’d had two hurricanes, so I’m not sure exactly what I said), “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt you again, and I know this is a bit fangirl-ish, but could I get a picture of the two of us?” He’s a gentleman and all-around nice guy, so of course he said that would be fine. I handed my phone off to I don’t know who (maybe Richard?), and got my picture of me and Lucien.
And then I got a picture of me and Shannon.
I have a picture of me and Richard, too, but it’s way worse than those two. We’re backlit and you can barely make out our fuzzy faces.
The band went back on for their second set, but this time, they had a few people sit in. Wendell Brunious on trumpet, Jerry Weldon on tenor saxophone, and some guy whose name I didn’t catch on guitar joined in. It’s amazing to me that these guys can sit in with a band used to playing together and pick up on all the arrangements. Or, if they don’t, everyone can handle it. They’ll all figure it out, play well together, handle any hiccups, and the audience will never know. Professionals. So cool.
Did I mention the singer? Topsy Chapman, who was fantastic, did “At Last” and I nearly cried.
After the second set ended, I told the trombone player how much I enjoyed his playing (that might have happened after the first set – he looked like he was having SUCH a good time), I talked to Richard the bass player again (found out he’s been playing his second best bass since Katrina because his first one was destroyed after sitting in something like nine feet of water), said goodbye to Lucien and Jerry (Lucien hugged me!), talked briefly with the younger guys who were with Lucien (both playing in Harry’s orchestra – one subbing for a couple of weeks, one who’s been with him for ten years – oh my god!), and then Shannon offered me a ride to my hotel. We were walking out with him and his trumpet player (not Wendell). I told him that wasn’t necessary, he didn’t need to drive me home. He asked me if I’d rather walk. ‘Not really.” (It was late and it would have taken me at least half an hour.) So he dropped me off at my hotel. I have the date and time of his next gig (tomorrow night), and I will be there.
I was there, it was awesome, and I will tell you about it very soon. But first, a couple more pictures from that night.