Professor Longhair is one of the true blues greats. Tipitina is his major work, but I like it all. iTunes has various songs by Professor Longhair including Rock ‘N’ Roll Gumbo (or from Amazon Rock ‘n Roll Gumbo), though I like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, too.
‘Fess brought Caribbean influences into the New Orleans blues, the same mixing which made the food and culture in the Big Easy so much fun. He inspired other R&B and blues pianists, including Dr. John.
I first fell for ‘Fess through the Alligator records sampler tapes, and his whistled into to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The funky rhythms, the quirky whistling, and the powerful, full sound of the band were all irresistible. Mix in the sheer joy in his voice, no matter what he’s singing, and there’s no way to avoid having fun while listening to Professor Longhair.
The reason this series (part 1, part 2) matters to me is that New Orleans is one of the few places I dreamed about when I was young. I doubt any young trumpeter doesn’t dream of the jazz scene in New Orleans, just as tales of Paris draw anyone with an interest in the arts.
The idea that this city which filled my imagination and inspired me with the big, happy beat of jazz is standing empty, with the ocean washing through the clubs that made that city stand out, is almost too much to bear. That the people who carry on that tradition are dead or scattered to the winds is sadder than words can convey. And those people are but a fraction of the city, a fraction of its greatness, a fraction of the loss.