What a week! I changed my vacay iTin and postponed my holiday by just one day so I wouldn’t miss Matthew Shipp at Lula Lounge. Talk about smarty-pants-plannin! Matt and his trio were otherworldly…perhaps a bit challenging for some at first…but once you allowed yourself to enter their universe (world would be stinting for this holy trio) it was pure bliss for one epic set. I watched the first half from my seat near the front and the rest from the back. I wanted to talk a little biz with the various promoters who put this together (Lula Lounge, Ron Gaskin from Rough Idea and David Dax from the Music Gallery) but the solos were so mesmerizing that I gladly didn’t get much schmoozing done! The next morn I woke up at stupid o’clock and made my way to the airport for an excursion of the Deep South.
I tend not to put down an entire airline for a few blunders but if Delta aren’t careful they’ll start getting compared to Air Canada; an airline with oh so many horror stories of long waits and sassy service first-hand. I was told at 7:30 that my flight would be delayed by half an hour or so, because they needed an air canister for those makes that drop in case of an emergency. Fine. An hour and a half later they said it would be another hour since Air Canada failed to show up with their air. (Nice…blaming a competing airline for your faulty plane!) At about 10am (five hours since my arrival at Pearson) they said it would be half an hour or so before they got the paper work done. Then another half hour…and finally “oops we have the wrong canister, it’ll be an hour or two”. At this point I walked up to the woman and said “this is unacceptable…I only have one day with my mom and dad in Florida and you are eating it up!” They put me on a different plane but said I had to stay over in Atlanta and leave the following morn. I had a feeling the plane was not going to get airborne in the foreseeable future, so I opted for their “Plan B”. Upon arrival in Atlanta I spoke to a really cool guy (probably the winner of a Sam Cooke look-a-like contest at some point) who knew all about Toronto and the jazz scene back in the sixties. He worked for Delta and gave me the full drill on how to find a shuttle bus to get to my little hotel, plus a coupon for free brekkie the next day. After an a maze-ing labyrinth adventure through the Atlanta Airport I realized my bags were not coming (they were already en route to Orlando) and I made me way to the Best Western. It was pouring and the pleasant woman at the front desk apologized for not having an umbrella I could borrow. As we were near the airport it was a very long walk to the only corner store where I could buy water and some food. I was soaked by the time I found the convenience store, and it was full of what some might consider “dangerous homies”. I saw one dude with serious threads and complimented him. (I was not in my usual garb – and looked more like Kenny Rogers than Liberace.) The man laughed and said “I guess coming from you, that’s a compliment, right?” “Oh don’t let this Ernest Hemmingway image fool you,” I joked, I’ve bought so many suits in New Orleans, pimps are running around naked!” He and his buddies laughed and we ended up talking Canadian rap: who knew Maestro Fresh Wes had such serious fans in Atlanta? The next morn I arrived in Orlando, and beelined to my parents rental property for a visit. My Mom and her old chum Sandy were out by the pool. My parents only became snowbirds in the past few years but this time ‘round they rented a gorgeous house with tons of privacy. Exotic birds and cute rabbits hung out by the pool, separated by a mesh screen, which kept Pedro the cat from spoiling their fun. After a great visit my dad and I jumped in the car the next morning and headed for New Orleans. Like my dad, I don’t do well with lists. I could say our drive to New Orleans was the highlight of my trip, but I prefer to say it was one of the highlights of my trip. Numbering highlights of this nine-day excursion would require graphs and a great deal of concentration.
Upon our arrival to New Orleans, “George” (the name of my dad’s GPS, named after the dog from Bugs Bunny AND George Clooney – the latter being the only male my dad would be likely to ask directions from) went banana cuckoo and sent us in circles. We discovered two things. “George” (and probably 90% of the unnamed GPS’s on the market) wanted to send us to the ferry boat and I thought we were looking for the bridge to Algiers Point…and to make matters worse, I found out later that when you are in an area where bridges meet and pretzel all-about, the GPS doesn’t always know where you are and it often corrects itself sending you in a loopy loop. Live and learn. Funny that a favourite moment of my trip was being lost with my dad! We joked about whether to believe George or buy a map. When we finally decided to stick with George we discovered the ferry WAS the shortest distance and arrived at Kevin Clark’s place. I’m sure most people reading this already know Kevin Clark but in case you don’t; he’s one of the best trumpet players on this planet (sez me and countless others) and has a seriously professional work ethic that keeps him on the Most Wanted List for New Orleans clubs, parties and events; both as a trumpeter and Music Director.
He leads The Dukes of Dixieland and plays all the time on the riverboat Natchez in Nola. His wife Meaghan and kids Cyre and Keller are other reasons I am always so happy to visit. Captain Paul Barbour met us at their place and we all hit a backyard party down the street in his neighbourhood; Algiers Point. We had great fun listening to Stompin Tom Connors recordings while eating seafood Jumbalaya and telling jokes around a campfire. Karen (The Jumbalaya Queen) was originally from Toronto and ran a restaurant called Cajun Corner on Queen East that I used to frequent, so it was a great surprise to see her on her new turf. The time in New Orleans flew by!
I hit a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a ton of live music venues and restaurants – bought some art, and walked my feet off. It was so cool to stay with Kevin and his family, knowing the RV was a block away parked near a café that reminded me of Mr. Hoopers General Store on Sesame Street.
After four days of bliss, I decided I was running too late to hit Austin, Texas (I’d wanted to check out a few nights of live music at the SXSW Festival); so Captain Paul and I jumped in the RV and spent a day on the Gulf Coast in Alabama and then Pensicola, Florida.
I met so many friendly people – there is something so liberating in walking into a place where you don’t know a soul and walking out with names and emails scribbled on napkins. A couple of these new friends are destined to visit me in Toronto soon.
We spent a few hours at the Navy Aviation Museum, which was filled with warplanes from WWI to the present. Paul knows more about planes than anyone I know (who isn’t an actual pilot) so we skipped the guided tour.
We found a beach on a long thin Peninsula, ate some fantastic Seafood (I know some will say I’m nuts for eating Gulf Coast shellfish when BP still have so much ‘splainin’ to do, but it was delicious!) and then took the RV near the airport so I didn’t have far to go on my early morning flight. The main things I learned on this trip: I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. I already knew that but now I am seriously considering buying a place there and renting it out to friends.
I’ve only purchased real estate once in my life (a cottage near North Bay, and it ended well) but now aside from my dreams of property in Costa Rica…I want to make New Orleans my part-time home too! This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but I can dream!
THIS WEEK: I will continue inviting friends to my week-long birthday celebrations April 8-14 (info on all of it at http://www.jaymzbee.ca) as well as host a couple jazz safaris and take in a few bands and events during Canadian Music Week.
Jaymz Bee’s 50th Birthday Bash(es)
Please get advance tickets for the remaining events now!
Especially Monday April 8 at Hugh’s Room and Saturday April 13 at Palais Royale!