Friday, November 30, 2007

NOLA Report from Banks Street

Note to readers: Blogging will be erratic for the next four days. I am in New Orleans for sales conference and bolting as soon as possible in the evenings to hear some music. What I have seen of the city has been limited so far, but it is true that if you stick to the Quarter, you would never know how hard Katrina hit.

Walter “Wolfman” Washington is a NOLA legend that I was strongly recommended to check out. He has a regular Thursday night gig at the Banks Street Bar, which is somewhat off the beaten path. It’s only a ten or twelve dollar cab ride from the Quarter. The cabbie did his best to dissuade me, but despite passing some distressed buildings, the general area looked like respectable lower middle class Queens to me.

Washington puts on a great show. His blues is of the jazz-influenced, soulful variety, with trumpet and tenor giving it a real funky kick. Ray Charles’s “I’ve Got a Woman” was a perfect song for his style, and his band tore through a honking and wailing take on Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloup Island.” Washington exudes cool, one of the few people who can really make a red suit work.

Banks Street is off the tourist circuit, or at least it was last night, with some real local characters hanging. It is actually one of the more comfortable bars I have patronized in recent years, along with Arthur’s Tavern in New York, where the great pianist Eri Yamamoto plays when she is not touring. In addition to his regular Thur. night at Banks Street also has a regular Wed. night gig at d.b.a. on Frenchman, which probably won’t require as arguing with your cabbie.

There is still a vital music scene in New Orleans, but Katrina certainly did not do it any favors. More reports to come as I’m able to satisfy company commitments.