Clarinetist’s Birthday Sets Up Celebration of Dancehalls

The birth anniversary of Israel Gorman, an early New Orleans jazz clarinetist, allows this week’s show to transport us to the high energy of New Orleans dancehalls — past, current and future.

Israel Gorman – Photo by Al Rose – Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum

Once again, I’m humbled by the opportunity to learn more about New Orleans music through this show. Until this week, I did not know about Israel Gorman. Thank you to the 64 Parishes website for starting my education on this early jazz man who was at least four years older than Louis Armstrong. He was born March 4, 1896, making him old enough to perform his clarinet in Storyville saloons before World War 1 ended the red light district and sent him to fight in France. And while Gorman, like many New Orleans musicians, played in Chicago and New York, it was his recording at a dancehall near the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in the 1950’s that solidifies his place in music history. On some of the songs, you can hear the conversations from the audience and diners at Happy Landing Restaurant and Club and the shuffling of dancers feet. As far as music recording quality, it falls short of today’s standards. But it puts your ears in the room.

This listening experience has encouraged me to look more deeply into dancehalls — a source of community identity and historical interest that has spurred symposiums. Every worthy community has had one. I’ll never forget flying out of the Olympia Airport on July 21, 2000 to see a large column of smoke rising up from the Evergreen Ballroom, ending a 70-year history of bringing great music to the area. (An early highlight of doing the Gumbo YaYa show was when a listener called to tell me about seeing Fats Domino perform at the Evergreen Ballroom during his heyday. (Here’s an early post and show about the famous Dew Drop Inn.)

Today’s show includes other dancehall gems such as Jacques Gauthe and his Creole Rice Yerba Buena Band, Kid Thomas (who Gorman played with during the early years of Preservation Hall) and his Algiers Stompers, Champion Jack Dupree and a contemporary quartet that seeks to capture the magic of dancehalls of yesteryear.

Happy Landing – Past Prime. See the picture on the Mixcloud player to see a more stylized shot of the venue.

I continue in this vein for about an hour, aided further by Riverside Jazz Collective, Aurora Nealand and Smoking Time Jazz Club. And perhaps the highlight is Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues.” (How progressive of Satchmo to have avoided the gender tag in the title)

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band provides our transitional link from dancehall to funk, cajun and latin music. Later in the show, I also recognize Jazon Marsalis’ 44th birthday, spinning a couple of tracks with him on vibraphone.

Thank you for tuning in. Please let me know what you think of the music.