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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! (French - "Let The Good Times Roll!")

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, Brass Bands, Jambalaya, Hurricanes (the drinkable kind) and Bourbon St. I fell in love with New Orleans, Mardi Gras, the music, the food, the atmosphere in 1976 and my Mother’s decision to celebrate the Bi-Centennial with travel by Amtrak. The woman had the audacity to drag me from my friends in High School to go to her Nurses Convention. That week I explored the French Quarter and surrounding areas from top to bottom. It was Carnival, but not Mardi Gras. Fortunately the Nurses were in sessions all day, and I was allegedly swimming and studying.

The first day, I sat in Jackson Square absorbing it all like a sponge. The sights, scents, and sounds were greedily devoured, and even hand feeding the pigeons near the fountain was memorable. I walked the entire area from Canal St. in fascination, my Midwestern perspective quickly expanding. Notable memories include a lady of the night perched upon a swing in a second floor window advertising her wares, A Voodoo shop, Pralines, Beignets and the instant immersion into the diverse and rich regional music. An elderly man on the corner played sax every day, and I dropped a dollar in his hat and sat on the curb to listen, before racing back to the hotel, lest anyone discover I was not swimming and doing my geometry. Everyday that week held a new auditory epiphany, including not all Marching Bands were geeky!

The most magical time, was between dusk and late night and the Quarter seemed to come alive with sound that seeped out of alleys, crowded little doorways, street corners and clubs that were jumping with Blues, Cajun, Zydeco, Jazz, Ragtime, Swing and Gospel. I have been back to New Orleans a few times, but nothing will ever match the first time. It added the spicy aspect to an already eclectic music collection.

I was surprised to hear a push to have Mardi Gras declared a national holiday That will provide a good dinner topic discussion as I ease my offspring into a genre not on their iPod this week.

On Fat Tuesday we will cook Jambalaya, bread pudding, and decorate with garish Purple, Green and Gold symbolizing Justice, Faith and Power. We will talk about the intricate process by which the date of the holiday is determined, and the historical context of Mardi Gras. And the music? It is good to expand your children’s horizons, even if they scowl. Lucky for them, was out of “Learn to Cajun Dance.”

I did find a courageous author who covered many facets of this music. Although anyone who starts down this path, find's it turns out to be much longer and wider than imagined.

  • Rick Koster Louisiana Music: A Journey from R&B to Zydeco, Jazz to Country, Blues to Gospel, Cajun Music to Swamp Pop to Carnival Music and Beyond (Paperback)

I think I will break them in gently with some Buckwheat Zydeco and BeauSoleil.

For a great review go to and view it here.

Cajun and Zydeco were included as it’s own category in the 2008 Grammys. Who were these history making nominees? The 2009 entries were equally exciting with best album going to BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet for “Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.”

Fun Listen – Lost Bayou Ramblers

Of course, we live in Chicago and Fat Tuesday is associated with The Polish tradition of Pazcki Day, so we will have those Polish delights enhanced with real lard, sugar, eggs and calories for desert, before closing the night with a discussion on the beginning of Lent. Those darn fattening bismarks, are just like Blues and Roots music, they always leave you wanting more. Here is someone who is a must experience!

Wayne Toups, Mr Zydecajun, can get you moving, as Les Blank's film "J'Etais Au Bal" shows.

I got excited seeing Toup’s tour schedule included a rabbit festival in Iowa. I had the car and pet rabbit nearly packed, a month early, until I realized it was Iowa, LA. March is a good month for a road trip.

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