I have always wondered what life was like back in the day, strolling into a jazz bar in the 60s listening to the live rhythm that filled the streets, dancing to every beat, without a care in the world. Or maybe even learning to play the sax so that I could really join in! Watching a season of Mad Men took me there, not that I wished I was to be part of that chauvinistic era, I just wanted a taste
I recently wrote about the things I loved about New Orleans and said I would touch on the jazz and blues in a separate post – well if you havn´t already guessed, here it is. Anyone you ask will tell you that New Orleans is the birth place of Jazz and if you ask them where the best place is to listen to some live music they´ll send you to Frenchmen street. Thats where we spent our first 2 nights, roaming the busy street – including the more rowdy, less classy bourbon street. This was fun and it is worth seeing, however, it is full of tourists and there never is a place to sit to just appreciate the music.
I love live music, unless its punk rock or heavy metal, but I admit I can´t dance to it unless its RnB or Hip Hop. So then all that´s left to do is to awkwardly stand/ sway/ two step. Another option you have on Frenchmen street, which was actually my preferred option, was to stand on the street corners with your drink in hand and watch the street artist blow away – and boy are they good. It´s like the music runs in their veins!
But I´m not here to talk about the most talked about streets of New Orleans. I want to introduce you to a bar that took my breath away and tell you a little story about it, like I said before, the attraction of New Orleans is it´s many stories.
The first reaction I had while walking to the bar in Treme was a sense of scepticism, realising we were somewhere in the Ghetto and the pub looked so run down I thought it was a trap on three innocent foreign girls ( we were invited by this middle aged guy that my friends met on the first day who said his band was playing that night). But then it took my breath away and gave me a night I will never forget with the synchronized saxophones, trumpets, drums and voices welcoming us to the Ooh Poo Pah Doo!
FYI the walk from down town New Orleans to Treme is completely safe, maybe just not at 2am.
Picture from http://www.nola.com/
When you walk in, all you see is smiles all around from the locals, they even served free food! We only realised a while after finding this drawing below, that there was more to this shabby bar then just good live music. The bar was opened in honour Jessie Hill -Google him, he was quit a big name in the blues world and then you can listen to his famous song Ooh Poo Pah Doo. The bar is owned by Jessie´s daughter and her husband and has such a neighbourhood chilled vibe, I was transported back in time for sure.
The picture of the man below is Trumpet Black (Travis Hill) , Jessie´s grandson, who died in Japan while on tour, after a tooth infection that went to his heart. He was only 28 😦 While we didn´t have the pleasure of meeting Travis Hill in person, his spirit was very much alive through the music. However, we did get to see his cousin, James Andrews, perform – what a talent! He also happens to be the brother of the famous Troy Andrews (nicknames Trombone shorty). Of course I only found out who all these people were AFTER, if only I had known then that I was in a room full of musical legends….
Apart from the amazing talent in the room and the beautiful music, I also learnt how to dance to Jazz music, with a glitzy umbrella!
The Ooh Poo Pah Doo brought my last night in New Orleans to a beautiful close and I will never forget the unity I felt in that one room from so many people with different backgrounds all coming together for their love of music. People would stroll into the bar and just swing out their instrument and join in, I almost felt like the only one who wasn´t prepared or skilled! Jerry, below, was from New Jersey and use to play with the legend Louis Armstrong. Yet there he was, standing humbly by the side like a shy man until he picked his trumpet up, superstar!
So now if your about to visit New Orleans, promise me you´ll visit the Ooh Poo Pah Doo and I promise you, you will have a night to remember with a feeling that you will never forget. And who knows, maybe you´ll get those feet tapping too…