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Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

Rundown of the local jazz and music scene in the Crescent City

Donald Harrison, Big Chief
Kermit Ruffins
Irvin Mayfield at the Jazz Playhouse

New Orleans is always talked about as the birthplace of jazz, but it’s occasionally dismissed as a city without a contemporary jazz scene. This is very much a myth. New Orleans does have a very diverse music scene, with nearly every style of roots music represented by numerous bands and artists. However, jazz looms large on the scene, thanks in part to the brass bands that have nurtured several generations of great horn players, and in part to the multi-generational aspects of the scene. The Marsalis family may be the most famous New Orleans jazz family but there are many others, including the Andrews, Batiste, Jordan, Payton, and Harrison families.

The HBO television series Treme has done wonders to acquaint non-residents with the polyglot music scene in New Orleans. That show demonstrated how a trombone player like the one played by actor Wendell Pierce might play trad jazz, brass band, funk, rock, and modern jazz gigs, perhaps all in one day. Unlike many cities in the U.S., where accomplished jazz musicians inevitably leave town to go to New York City, New Orleans manages to keep its talents close to home, all to the benefit of the locals as well as tourists who come to town for Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, or any occasion whatsoever to catch jazz in all its diversity and glory.

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