The first week I moved here, Lauren came over to help me place things and she put my radio to a local station, WWOZ. After living in a place where businesses proudly displayed, “Established in 1987” like it was a historical landmark, the music sounded old fashioned to me, like something parents would listen to when I was a kid – and not in a Led Zeppelin kind of way, more like a Barry Manilow way. I let her play it for about half an hour then switched to the 70’s rock station that was playing their entire catalog alphabetically. But, I did add WWOZ to my car radio.
About 2 months ago, I started listening to WWOZ more often when I was driving, but it’s still too pretty to drive – I’ve been walking whenever possible (which is almost always ’til the heat and humidity kick in). The station began growing on me.
In the meantime, I’ve attended dozens of music events, becoming more familiar with the many local rhythms and sounds.
Then, this week, I was walking through my beautiful Garden District neighborhood, enjoying the lovely homes and blooming flowers, when my iShuffle hit a random string of West Coast hip hop – Dr. Dre followed by Snoop. Normally, that would have really put a bounce in my step, a sway in my hips, but halfway through the Snoop song, the elegant mansions and their well-appointed gardens cried out for more soothing tones. The dulcet scent of Jasmine and Sweet Olive jangled against the graphic, aggressive lyrics. I hit skip. The next artist was Tab Benoit and Louisiana’s LeRoux. My whole body relaxed.
Turns out WWOZ 90.7 is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage channel. They are a volunteer organization with listener support. They often broadcast from live events including Jazz Fest. If you’d like to tune in, click the link then the listen now icon in the top left corner.
Or, click this link for live streaming through iTunes (better sound quality).
Some of their music blocks aren’t my favorite and their version of Latin music (11:30 am – 2 pm on Saturdays) is odd for me after being schooled in Reggaeton in L.A., but something in me is changing. Pop sounds more silly and soulless, rock sounds dark, rap sounds hostile – not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just that my level of awareness is making it all sound more jangly, less soothing. Meantime, I find myself driving through the streets of New Orleans listening to Professor Longhair, Neville Brothers and Rebirth Brass Band. And loving it!
Since it’d been so pleasant last week, I decided to wander down to the YLC (Young Leadership Council) Wednesday at the Square.
I was late out of the gate so I missed the first act but arrived in time for Marcia Ball.
I recommend Falling Back in Love with You on the first album (top left), Peace, Love & BBQ. She had an infectious energy and many, many couples began dancing all around me. I attempted to capture it, poorly, in still photos.
Earlier today, I ran over to a new friend’s house and he asked if I’d like to hear a new song he’d written. Sure, why not? Seriously – the why not it because the person may suck and then you’re stuck trying to be supportive and wondering if it’s even kind. But, this is New Orleans, where even bad music is pretty darn good.
The first thing I noticed was he had a command of the instrument, he was definitely teaching it who was boss. Then I realized the guitar was a beat up box-with-strings public high school cast-off type guitar. In L.A., I used to say you could get ANYTHING delivered to your house for the right price. Here, you can see a piece of someone’s relationship with music EVERYWHERE you go. Anyone watching my relationship with music right now would have to see that it is evolving from the inside out, my changing taste is a result of changes in me, in my lifestyle and in the community I choose. It’s sort of sad, scary and thrilling all at once.
A couple years after I moved to L.A., I was driving down Highland and heard Stevie Nicks singing, “Back to the Gypsy that I was…” and I remembered more of who I’d been before my marriage. Something inside me shifted into something more familiar, a return. I feel that happening again, only this time I’m returning to the young woman who had no need to be a gypsy, a girl happy feeling rooted.
I walked home from Lafayette Square just after the sun had set. When I turned into my neighborhood, the thick scent of Jasmine, a name aptly signifying, “Gift from God,” and Sweet Olive, a Chinese tree that smells vaguely of honied ripe apricots or peaches, nearly overwhelmed me with its unique heavenly perfume. Lately, every time I go walking, I wish there were a way to share the evolving smells of the Garden District in Spring on the internet. Words are such a paltry substitute for the lingering memory of a scent.
Enjoy the photos.