Over the last five years or so, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) has been through a lot of turmoil [see Jennifer Odell’s story in JazzTimes], but it’s come out on the other side as an active and dynamic organization dedicated to spreading the music of New Orleans to the world. Despite all its recent legal and financial issues, NOJO now has a real home in New Orleans: the New Orleans Jazz Market, a 500-seat venue in the Central City neighborhood. The $10 million building was designed and built just for the orchestra. There they hold concerts (about 8-10 per year), host community programs, and provide educational opportunities for the local jazz and music scene. It was also there that they recorded their most recent album—Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint on Storyville Records—whose focus is self-evident.
Last year Adonis Rose, Irvin Mayfield’s successor as NOJO artistic director, was trying to decide on the theme for the orchestra’s next recording, which would be his first at the helm. He consulted with his friend and former employer Dee Dee Bridgewater, who was a major part of the orchestra’s previous release, Dee Dee’s Feathers, back in 2012. “I was thinking about doing a combination of things by different artists to commemorate New Orleans for its tricentennial, which was last year,” Rose explains. “I thought of the record to chronologically go through the history of New Orleans music.”