Music, Travel

Feeling Jazzy 

Houses in New Orleans
Houses on Esplanade Avenue

There’s something about New Orleans…

I don’t travel as much as I want to — or maybe even should — but it’s one place I LOVE to visit. It’s hard to describe the feeling that washes over you as you cross the massive Lake Pontchartrain as you make your final approach to the city.

There’s so much to enjoy about the city from the food (you haven’t lived until you’ve had a goat cheese and crawfish crepe from Tomas Bistro), to the people (especially those distinctive accents), but it truly is the overall vibe that sets it apart.

View of Lake Pontchartrain from the Airplane
View of Lake Pontchartrain from the Airplane

The Crescent City embraces celebration as much as it seems other places try to quell it. Though the city still is facing its share of hardships nearly 10 years post-Katrina, the jubilation that runs free keeps people clamoring for more time there.

The allure of the city goes beyond the world famous French Quarter. I like the neighboring Warehouse District. I have also enjoyed City Park on my visits, which is actually bigger than Central Park in New York City. I’ve only been able to (briefly) explore a fraction of the park, but that small segment was home to the Botanical Garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the quaint Morning Call Cafe.

Even its perceived imperfections give the city charm. For example, because of their age, the houses in some wards are visibly leaning to the left or the right. In most other cities you would be trying to find another real estate agent, in New Orleans it’s just part of the deal. Keeping on the real estate note, where else are you going to find houses that you can describe by the phrases “shot gun” and “double barrel?”

Plus, where else are cemeteries and mausoleums a regular part of tourist tours, and it actually not feel strange? New Orleans. That’s where.

Bridge in New Orleans' City Park
Bridge in New Orleans’ City Park

All of this and I haven’t mentioned one of the biggest draws of the city — the music. While the city is home to numerous genres of music, there’s one that stands out from the others. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Back in the 1800s, New Orleans was the only place in the New World where slaves were allowed to own drums. So called “VooDoo rituals” were openly tolerated, and enjoyed by not only the black and the poor, but the whites, the rich, the influential, and the powerful as well. Music was truly a unifying force — if only for a little while.

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music
In the Musicians’ Village (Upper 9th Ward)

My favorite classic jazz artist from New Orleans is Louie Armstrong. The oldest artist to have a #1 song on Billboard (“Hello Dolly” in 1964 when he was 62), “Satchmo” (short for “Satchel Mouth,” an ode to his trademark smile) put New Orleans on the map throughout his long and illustrious career, even serving as a special envoy for the U.S. State Department during some of his international travels. He’s so beloved in New Orleans that the airport is named after him.

If traditional jazz isn’t your thing, try listening to artists that perform modern interpretations such as Nikki Yanofsky. She infuses R&B and pop styles, but it still holds true to the common characteristics of jazz.

 

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