I suddenly realised I knew a few famous people in the jazz world so digging deep down I came up with these two.
First up is the great Adelaide Hall and a photograph that I think was taken sometime in the 1970’s on a visit to her flat in London. She was a lovely lady.
2. For the next one I go further back, to the late 1950’s when I was on holiday in the Netherlands with Britain’s own Beryl Bryden who sang with most of the UK jazz bands and the top Continental groups, especially the Dutch Swing College Band and the Fatty George Band in Germany. In the UK, apart from the many bands she worked with, she played washboard on Lonnie Donegan’s famous Rock Island Line, the first skiffle success.
Their fame never rubbed off on me but their friendship was valued.
Ain’t nothin’ more fun than Second Lining in New Orleans behind some of the best jazz bands in the world. They usually happen on a Sunday morning, just for fun, or maybe to honour someone who has just died, to raise money for a family in need, or “to let the man know we here”!
Allen Toussaint died of a heart attack on November 10th last. Aged 77, he was one of the great Jazz and Rock and Roll legends that influenced many of today’s household names, including Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas and Ernie K-Doe. He collaborated with Paul McCartney, LaBelle, Robert Parker and Elvis Costello over the years and he was also a talent scout, record producer, studio owner, singer and arranger. He left New Orleans for New York in the wake of Katerina and it was when he returned to New Orleans that his career as a performer really took off.
Piano-player/Bandleader Jon Cleary, born in the UK but long-time resident in New Orleans and considered a native of the city, has long been a fan of Toussaint and in 2012 he recorded Occapella, a mix of popular and less familiar pieces penned by the legendary songwriter.
Jon was one of the musicians asked to play at the Tribute Concert held in the Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans on November 20th, just prior to the internment.
The casket was placed at the front of the stage and friends, fans and fellow stars joined together to mourn the legend, then stayed to cheer his legacy. This legacy was celebrated by an all-star lineup of singers and musicians who took to the stage to perform his songs in genres that covered his work in pop, R&b, gospel and even funk. The recently re-opened theatre rocked.
For the finale, all the musicians, along with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, piled onstage and blew the roof off with a frantic rendition of I’ll Fly Away with Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
After Oh Didn’t he Ramble the pall bearers carried the coffin out of the theatre to the hearse, followed by the family and everyone who’d been on stage, as the band played Just a Closer Walk with Thee in slow tempo.
Outside, crowds had been waiting since the small hours to pay their respects. They waited almost silently as the slow march continued and as the coffin was placed in the long stretch limo hearse. Then they erupted, singing and dancing, twirling their umbrellas, and in general, giving one of New Orleans’ favourite sons, a joyful send-off. The family hadn’t intended for the traditional Second Lining, but they gave in to the crowd’s wishes and the place went wild.
New Orleans will continue, as it always has, but it will never be quite the same.