Most of my blog this week will be about my brilliant trip to New Orleans. First though, I’ll share a couple events that occurred earlier in the week. This past week began with sailing…the first bona fide sail of the season. We’d been out thrice before (yeah, I just said thrice) and went hither and thither; but under motor since there was no wind to be found. On this sunny Wednesday Captain Paul, Cat, Archer and I had a perfect afternoon sailing through the islands and in the harbour. I look forward to a lot more sailing next week! Also last week David Clayton Thomas stopped by JAZZ.FM91 to talk about his new record. I hadn’t seen him in about a year and he was looking good and excited about the rave reviews he’s been receiving. Despite all the positive feedback, he’s decided to retire “soon” so he can focus on charity work. He says he wants to spent he last ten years of his life making a difference…but of course his music has already made a difference in the world and it’s likely he’s got twenty years to go…at least!
Friday I hosted my fifth International Jazz Safari to New Orleans and it was by far the best yet! I brought my BFF Mary B. with me…and we had a total blast! Mary donates to the station, has volunteered many times (assisting in the production of my radio show, answering phones during the Fund Drive and acting as hostess at some of my events) and we both enjoyed a New Orleans Safari a couple years ago.
She is a real “people person” and her sweetness and manners fit right in and almost make her seem like one of the locals. On this trip, I was joined by Ross Porter (our Prez and CEO) Jess Frohman (JAZZ.FM91 promotions director and pal o’ mine) and a New York-based jazz impresario and industry dude, Jeff Levinson…along with 28 donors! We hit four jazz clubs Friday night and the timing, as usual, was perfect!
It began with Ellis Marsalis Quartet at Snug Harbour. His son Jason played drums (he’s also a great vibraphonist) and one particular solo had the entire room go banana cuckoo. Ellis played Oscar Peterson’s “Wheatland” and talked about his love of Toronto. Then it was off to Palm Court for a traditional jazz band followed by a stop at my favourite place on Bourbon Street, Fritzells. You must go to Fritzells if you are in New Orleans…and if Barry Foulon is leading the band (singing and playing banjo) you are in for a truly memorable time. He always asked me up on stage to sing a song…I do a dance…play Kazoo and the response is always laughs and screams by the end. I love this room so much!
We ended our first night at the Ritz Carlton Hotel to see Jeremy Davenport and his band and then sat out in the courtyard chatting with donors and drinking with Mary till after three. The next morning Mary and I took a dozen donors to Algiers Point for breakfast.
After only four hours of sleep, I got my second wind the minute we walked into a cozy little restaurant called “Toot de Suite”. The vibe in there is so friendly and the food so tasty, everyone agreed it was totally worth taking the ferry over.
Algiers Point reminds me of Toronto Island in many ways. Few tourists ever go there but some Canadian friends have bought houses there and I can see why. It’s a great neighbourhood that wasn’t affected (flooded) by Hurricaine Katrina. After breakfast Mary and I spent most of the day with Kevin Clark and his family.
Kevin lived in Toronto five years and we became best buds right away. Every time I’ve been to NOLA we’ve made time for all sorts of adventures.
We went out for a seafood feast for lunch and that night, Mary and I went to Emeril’s with JAZZ.FM91 Ross Porter an all our safari friends, but truth be told, our appetite hadn’t come back yet and it was a lot of effort to finish the delicious meal.
We strolled down to Frenchman Street (the best area for live music in NOLA) and shopped at an art market. Everyone found something cool to buy and then they hit a bunch of clubs all along Frenchman. Mary and I had a nice long stroll and avoided Bourbon Street as it is really loud and filled with young drunk kids on Saturday night. (Still, it’s worth hitting Fritzell’s of course, but most places are rock, karaoke, DJ’s, etc.) Sunday most of our Canuck crew hit House of Blues for their world famous Gospel Brunch. The food was decent and the music was reminiscent of The Blues Brothers. Mary and I did some more shopping and sight-seeing and then went to Mojito’s to enjoy Kevin Clark and Tom McDermott.
Tom is one of the finest ragtime players in the U.S. (renowned pianists Dick Hyman and Michael Kaeshammer agree) and has been featured in the hit TV show Treme. We had just enough time to go back to our hotel to change and freshen up…and then beeline to The Riverboat Natchez for a three-hour tour (“a three hour tour“) up the Mississippi. All of my guests on board thought it was the highlight of their trip!
The Dukes Of Dixieland are the tightest and most entertaining Dixieland band I’ve ever seen. It was a great party with lots of drinking and dancing.
Mary and I spent an hour at the Carousel Bar (our only quiet time on the trip really) and then Kevin and his wife Meaghan picked us up in his convertible (called “girlfriend”) and took us to some small clubs around town, including a stop to the most surreal place I’ve been to called Market.
It’s a ginormous store filled with groceries, beads and all kinds of food. It was opened after Hurricane Katrina…first, as a place to find healthy food and later beads, clothes, chachkas and so much more. The place seems to go on for a full block!
I had been given a gift (a robot insect-y thing that shoots sparks; a modern wind up toy) from a generous donor on the riverboat and still had it with me. I put it on the ground and a roach ran right into it. Then he took off and I’m sure told all his buds to steer clear of our table. OK, maybe life isn’t like the animated film “Bug’s Life”…but maybe it is…and regardless of that, I doubt the toy maker knew the noble purpose his gadget could be used for!
Again, Mary and I were up early and out the door…this time for beignets at Café Du Monde near the French Market. This area has amazing food…it ain’t no “food court”…and I think my favourite meal of my entire trip was their catfish with garlic potato the previous afternoon. Mary agreed that the little meal was going to leave a lasting impression. I’m craving for more as I write this. So if you enjoy fish, get to New Orleans, check it out and thank me later! It’s called J’s Seafood Dock and it’s Site 25 at 1100 N. Peters St. (French Market)
We got in a little more shopping in the afternoon and my suit was altered in time for take-off. It was great to speak with Gary Oldman for a while in the courtyard of our hotel. He’s a fan of jazz and said I reminded him of a fella who used to sing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.
He took a photo of my suit, (his son wants to be a fashion designer one day) and we took a couple pics together. What a nice memory; I truly believe he is one of the most gifted actors on the planet and it was a great pleasure to meet him. Of course I invited him to Toronto for a jazz safari and an interview on 91.1!
Our flight back was fast and easy. On Air Canada? That’s a first! We boarded with less than fifteen minutes of sitting around, arrived in Toronto early, had no line up at customs and all our bags waiting. All the donors, Ross, Jess Frohman and Mary B. said it was the best trip ever and I have to agree. I’m also happy to announce some friends down in NOLA are starting a krewe for the parades like Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day called Krewe du Kanoe. They are forming a brass band and will have a float made up of only Canadians. If you are down there, or going down for a parade, give me a shout (via my site) and I’ll put you in touch.