“ Life is a lot like jazz…it’s best when you improvise…” (George Gershwin)
Ruth and I finally took some time to see “Hamilton”, the musical, in a matinee performance at the “Broward Center For The Performing Arts” in Fort Lauderdale last week. As a former history teacher, I settled into into act one wondering mostly about how accurately the events of the American Revolution would be presented then with this youthful cast. In doing so, it became obvious to me at the onset that this high energy play took on an improvisational tone reminiscent of a jazz combo performance as this diverse array of talented artists utilized their fast flowing lyrics to electrify the crowd that afternoon.** By continuing to observe this historical perspective into act two, I ultimately concluded that as each scene elapsed with such spontaneous ease during these dialogues, these creative depictions of the actual events that happened in early colonial America felt believably real. In support of that conclusion, I observed notably plausible characterizations of a stately George Washington, an impulsive Alexander Hamilton, a diabolical King George and the deep thinking Thomas Jefferson that afternoon.
So it stands to reason that last week‘s vacation to New Orleans similarly provided for us plentiful, “spur of the moment” action involving jazz musical infusion as we explored on our own this historic American city. Know then I found myself reflecting back to my college years as a former musician myself, knowing that jazz music heavily relies on the spontaneity of skills, emotion, and the environment. So allow me to suggest a one day tour of several New Orleans sites in the similar jazz vein of “making it up as you go along”.
I therefore suggest you begin your “Big Easy” tour with a short ferry ride to the quiet neighborhood of Algiers on the opposite bank of the Mississippi River from the bustling French Quarter downtown. As you saunter serenely along the designated walkway of the “Jazz Walk of Fame Trail”, I recommend you utilize a convenient audio guide app to hear pleasing sample soundtracks at seventeen statue landmarks memorializing legendary jazz musicians who earned New Orleans fame along the way. When the mood strikes you at any point along this route, feel free to take some photographs of your favorite downtown setting across the river as well.
I know it’s only day time, but don’t assume you’ll be obligated to wait for a scheduled jazz show on touristy Bourbon Street tonight. For you can easily head back over the river now and let your ears guide you to any street band performances or an outdoor cafe “gig” around popular Jackson Square or the French Market where most likely you will not be obligated to pay. Too bad you missed jazz themed Mardi Gras this year, but you’ll get the idea of this immediate burst of jazzy excitement then by either doing some window shopping along Canal Street, staring at French latticed balconies along Bourbon Street, or perhaps engaging in some serious statue gazing at Music Legends Park further uptown.
I figure you might be getting tired of walking so much now. So go ahead, it’s still early, and instead get on a local streetcar back on Canal and head northeast toward Frenchman Street where the “locals” might go to experience a quality jazz band performance when desired. While there are several venues to choose from, I would highly recommend the “Spotted Cat Club” early show at 6:00 pm. As you will likely be fully loosened up now by this intimate live performance, show your appreciation for this fun filled day of New Orleans jazz with a striking photo by a favorite statue. Enjoy the photos.
** Note that videos and photos were strictly forbidden at the Hamilton performance.