This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Sylvaine and I are just back from a great weekend in Germany. We took the TGV train to Frankfurt. Trevor Richards met us there and drove us to the charming village or Bad Homburg, a former royal spa. I played a concert that night in the chapel of the local chateau along with Trevor (drums), Colin Dawson (tpt), John Service (tbn), Simon Holliday (pno) and Cliff Soden (bass). The hall was packed, the acoustics were beautiful, and the two sets went by all to quickly.

The next day, Trevor drove us to Frankfurt for some sightseeing in Europe's financial capital, much ravaged by WWII bombing but still presenting some majestic pre-war architecture along with an impressively restored old town center.

We stayed that night at Trevor's house in a small village some 100 km from Frankfurt. He lives in a converted former schoolhouse with his partner Almut, whose talents in the garden and the kitchen (wild boar ragout!) contributed to a delightful visit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I just ran across a picture that brought back memories of the first time I met Japanese clarinetist Ryoichi Kawai. Ryoichi came to town in 1966 with his Osaka-based New Orleans Rascals and impressed local jazz aficionados with his phenomenal ability to copy his idol George Lewis. George had toured Japan in 1963, playing to packed houses of adoring fans, and making friends with Ryoichi and his band. When Ryoichi and the Rascals arrived at New Orleans airport, George was there to greet them with an impromptu brass band. I was at George's side, playing my Albert system clarinet as he had taught me to do it. The Rascals were thrilled by the jazz serenade and broke out their instruments as soon as the exited the plane. This photo shows me (at about age 17), George, and a partially obscured Ryoichi. The Rascals played concerts at Tulane's Dixon Hall, at Preservation Hall and other venues and charmed everyone not only with their music but with their polite reverence for the  jazz tradition that they were spreading on the other side of the world. I met up with Ryoichi and the Rascals years later at the Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In 2010, Ryoichi and I crossed paths again at the Rapperswil Festival, also in Switzerand, and teamed up on a couple of numbers that have since found their way onto youtube. Check them out if you're curious to hear what two George Lewis-inspired clarinets from opposite ends of the earth sound like when they get together. I think George would be pleased by the tribute.

Burgundy Street Blues:

St. Philip Street Breakdown

Monday, May 5, 2014


June 1962: Jim Robinson, George Lewis, Sammy Rimington
Photo by Tom Sancton (Sr.)
In the summer of 1962, a young English clarinet player appeared in Preservation Hall, instrument in hand, and sat in with the George Lewis band. He had learned to play by copying George's records and he did it so well that all the veteran jazzmen at the Hall were amazed by his playing. So was I. I was in the audience that night, all of 12 years old, recently introduced to this music by my father, and enthralled with the whole scene. Sammy was about 20, but looked younger. My father befriended him and showed him around town. When Sammy returned to London, he sent me one of his old clarinets. I hadn't thought of playing an instrument before that, but Sammy's gift put me on the road to becoming a jazz musician myself.

May 2014: Me and Sammy at Economy Hall tent. Photo by Turk Enustun
Sammy and I have met up many times over the intervening years, but our latest encounter, at Jazzfest 2014, was special. Sammy told me he was having trouble with the clarinet mouthpiece he has had for some 20 years. He suspected it had warped and it had a small chip on the edge. Over dinner at our apartment last week, I gave him one of my extra mouthpieces, a Vandoren 5JB model that many jazz players use. Sammy tried it and liked it. When I heard him play at the last day of Jazzfest, I was thrilled by his tone and volume. I was especially pleased by the idea that Sammy had given me my first clarinet and I was able to reciprocate more than half a century later, closing the circle.
Sammy's set at Jazzfest, May 4, 2014: (l to r) Chuck Beatty, Seva Venet, Sammy, Ronell Johnson

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Thursday, May 1:  Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Clive Wilson's New Orleans Serenaders. 8 - 11 pm.

Friday, May 2: Jazzfest, Economy Hall Tent, with Clive Wilson's New Orleans Serenaders. 12:20 - 1:20 pm.

Sunday, May 4: Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St., with the New Orleans Legacy Band, featuring Ronell Johnson. 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, May 7: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Friday, May 9: Brasserie Marigny, Frenchmen Street, with MArla Dixon's Shotgun Jazz Band. 8 - 11 pm.

Saturday, May 10: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St, with Lionel Ferbos Band, 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, May 14: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, May 21: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Friday, May 23: Brasserie Marigny, Frenchmen Street, with MArla Dixon's Shotgun Jazz Band. 8 - 11 pm.

Sunday, May 25: Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St., with Lars Edegran's St. Peter Street All Stars. 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, May 28: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Tuesday, June 3: Columns Hotel, St. Charles Avenue, with John Rankin (guitar) and Charlie Halloran (trombone). 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, June 4: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, June 11: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

June 15: Off to Europe. Have a great summer, y'all!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Kid Ory, surrounded by (l to r) Bonnie Bagley, Jim Klippert, Tommy Sancton
Jazzfest 1971 was an unforgettable occasion for me. My Boston-based Black Eagle Jazz Band was invited to play at the second Jazzfest. We had just recorded for Sire Records (the album eventually came out on the NBEJB label) and were thrilled by George Wein's invitation to play in New Orleans. Three of us almost missed the plane from Boston, arriving at the Jung Hotel at the last minute. We rushed onstage and played our hearts out for an hour and a half. The audience was enthusiastic, and I remember festival producer Wein jumping up and playing with us on the last few numbers. We played "Ice Cream" as en encore and got a standing ovation. As we left the stage, we received an unexpected honor: the legendary Edward "Kid" Ory, who'd been listening from the front row, came up and congratulated us on our performance. As I shook his hand, I marvelled at the thought that he had shaken hands and played with Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, King Oliver, virtually the whole Pantheon of early jazz legends. The moment has lingered in my memory ever since, part myth, part dream, part…did that really happen? Last month during French Quarter festival, I met a man named Dick Hill who not only remembered the moment, but had photographed it. I just received his prints from this memorable occasion. God! The memories, the memories...

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Nice review of our Jazzfest set on Saturday, April 26. Always nice to be appreciated, especially in New Orleans's official daily newspaper: 



April 27, 2014

Traditional New Orleans jazz is alive and well at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s Economy Hall Tent. Saturday’s lineup included the Dukes of Dixieland, Treme Brass Band, Don Vappie with his Creole Jazz Serenaders and, one of Preservation Hall’s regular acts, Tommy Sancton’s New Orleans Legacy Band. Sancton is a music professor and performing pro. His introductions to songs included quick music history lessons.

The Legacy Band’s front line starred clarinetist Sancton, trumpeter Clive Wilson and trombonist-singer Lucien Barbarin. Sancton made of point of noting that Barbarin, whose credits include Harry Connick Jr.’s big band, is a member of one of New Orleans’ talented musical families.

Barbarin sang and played his trombone for a charming “Girl of My Dreams I Love You.” Another of New Orleans’ natural entertainers, Barbarin obviously modeled his gravely but warm vocals on those of Orleans jazz pioneer and star Louis Armstrong.

Jason Marsalis, another member of a great New Orleans music family, played the Legacy Band’s drums. He wowed the crowd with his lively, polyrhythmic solo.

— John Wirt

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Had a great time at Jazzfest today. Our New Orleans Legacy Band got a nice reception from the packed house in the Economy Hall tent. Thanks to Clive Wilson, Lars Edegran, Lucien Barbarin, Kerry Lewis, and Jason Marsalis for their stellar performances.  Apart from our own heady moment onstage, I particularly enjoyed the sets of the Shotgun Jazz Band, Don Vappie's Creole Serenaders, Bob Wilbur with Wendell Brunious, and the Tremé Brass Band. There was incredible energy in the tent today, good vibes from the audience, and a lot of hot music from the bands. Standout performances that stick in my mind: Tom Fischer's clarinet solo on the haunting waltz "Abandon," Marla Dixon's vocal on the Buddy Holly ballad "Raining in my Heart," Gregg Stafford's hot trumpet on "Lord, Lord, Lord." Can't wait to return next Friday with Clive Wilson's Serenaders. Keep the faith, y'all!

Friday, March 7, 2014


Tuesday, April 1: Columns Hotel, Classic Jazz Trio featuring John Rankin and Charlie Halloran. 8- 11 pm.

Wednesday, April 9: Preservation Hall with Seva Venet String Band, 4 - 6 pm. Palm Court with Lars Edegran Band and vocalist Topsy Chapman, 1206 Decatur St, 8 - 11 pm.

     500 Bourbon Stage, with Clive Wilson's New Orleans Serenaders, 1:45 - 3:45 pm
     600 Bourbon Stage, with Lars Edegran All Stars, 3:45 - 5:45 pm

     Old U.S. Mint, with Society Brass Band, 11:15 - 12:30 pm. 
     600 Bourbon Stage, with New Orleans Legacy Band featuring Shannon Powell, 1:30 - 3:30 pm/

Wednesday, April 16 Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Saturday, April 19: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St, with Lionel Ferbos Band, 8 - 11 pm.

Sunday, April 20: Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St., with the New Orleans Legacy Band, 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, April 23: Palm Court, 1206 Decatur St., with Lars Edegran's Palm Court All Stars, featuring vocalist Topsy Chapman. 8 - 11 pm.

Sunday, April 27: Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St., with Wendell Brunious Band featuring Tom Hook. 8 - 11 pm.

Wednesday, April 30: National Jazz Park (3rd floor auditorium in Old U.S. Mint, with Clive Wilson's New Orlens Serenaders, 2 - 3:30 pm.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Heard a superb piano recital at Tulane's Dixon Hall last Monday by Armenian pianist Sergei Babayan performing a breathtaking program of Liszt, Mussorgsky and Chopin. His touch on Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" was all force and energy. On the six Chopin pieces, he managed to evoke all the intensity of feeling without succumbing to the excessive romanticism that often (to my mind) mars interpretations of this great Polish composer. The evening was part of Tulane's (free) Concert Piano Series. Bravo l'artiste!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


The gig at Preservation Hall last Sunday was something special. Trumpeter Wendell Brunious led the group and really took charge on the bandstand, calling great tunes, making the announcements, telling jokes, and singing a bunch of songs (including two of his own compositions). He even did the whistling part on Professor Longhair's "When You Go to New Orleans." His trumpet playing was smart, slick, and swinging—at one point he departed from his usual style to imitate the staccato bleats and jabs of Kid Thomas Valentine on "Old Gray Bonnet." Other tunes included "Royal Garden Blues," "Bye and Bye," "Burgundy Street Blues," "When You're Smiling," "Whoopin' Blues," and "Please Don't Talk About Me" (featuring the irrepressible Ronell Johnson on trombone and vocal). A special treat was the piano work of Tom Hook, who also sang three Louis Prima songs from his "Jump, Jive, and Wail" show at the World War II museum. By the end of the night, I was energized and ready to go another three sets. I had so much fun I'm planning to go sit in with Wendell and Tom Hook tonight on their regular Tuesday gig at Dos Jefes on Tchoupitoulas.