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The New Orleans Takeover

As we build up to the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival on Friday 6 – Sunday 8 March, we take a look at the city of New Orleans and it’s lasting impact on jazz.

New Orleans is a city where things were bound to happen! At a time when multiculturalism was still centuries away, New Orleans had French, Spanish, African, English, Italian, Chinese, Irish and countless others all crammed together in a humid and heady melting pot. Add the spice of the city’s Creole culture and yes, things were bound to happen.

Only in a place like New Orleans could jazz have happened and evolved so quickly and effectively. For a long time, a cultural ‘gumbo’ had been simmering away, consisting not only of music, but of language and cuisine too. Among this mix were the jigs and reels of Ireland, the operatic Italian arias, the Chinese pentatonics, the African rhythms and, what New Orleans native Ferdinand ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton described as ‘the Spanish tinge’ – the Rhumbas and Boleros. It’s fitting that the African contingent should rise to become the most celebrated exponents of this new music; demanding, as it does, freedom of expression and a pioneering, carefree attitude to formality.

Jazz eventually gained a foothold in the least salubrious of places; the bars, clubs and bordellos of the Red Light district then known as Storyville. When Storyville was closed down by the government in 1917, musicians had little choice but to look to pastures new and a great migration north occurred; first to Chicago then on to New York and west to California where the new sounds were initially greeted with bewilderment by white and black audiences and musicians alike. Before long though, folk began to respond to and ‘dig’ this crazy form of expression, and by the mid-1920s jazz was all the rage. By the early ‘30s it had spread across the Atlantic and into the hearts and dancing shoes of young people everywhere and by the mid-30s, with the onset of the Swing Era, jazz had become chart-topping pop music!

Throughout the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s jazz evolved at such a startling rate that by 1964, a mere 40-odd years after New Orleans’ own Joe ‘King’ Oliver’s first pioneering recordings, one could purchase a copy of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme!

On Sunday 8 March, the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival present the New Orleans Takeover, a trio of gigs celebrating the musical heritage of the Crescent City.

What better way for Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival to celebrate the lasting legacy of New Orleans music than to present a true living legend from that city – the great Dr. John and his band The Nitetrippers. Dr. John epitomises the approach that New Orleans’ musicians have adopted for over a century with his ‘gumbo’ of rhythmic and melodic styles and his respect for the music of his forebears such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino.

Festival patron and funk legend Pee Wee Ellis will also play the New Orleans Takeover. With Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman Huey Morgan, Ellis will demonstrate how the music from New Orleans evolved and travelled until it reached his young ears in the 1950s. From there, Ellis took the baton and went on to pioneer 1960s funk with James Brown, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker.

Completing our trilogy of Crescent City-flavoured concerts is a special celebration of the music of New Orleans’ most celebrated son, Satchmo – Louis Armstrong. With music provided by New Orleans legends Lillian Boutté, Don Vappie and Evan Christopher, and narrated by renowned actor Clarke Peters.

The Louis Armstrong Story ft. Clarke Peters, Lillian Boutté and guests
Sunday 8 March | 14:00 – 15:15 | Colston Hall | £7.50 to £15.00 incl. booking fee

The Pee Wee Ellis Funk Assembly ft. Huey Morgan
Sunday 8 March | 16:45 – 18:00 | Colston Hall | £8.00 to £22.50 incl. booking fee

Dr. John
Sunday 8 March | 21:00 – 22:30 | Colston Hall | £18.00 to £36.00 incl. booking fee