January 13, 2005
When the spunk had rolled out of the open mic after Andrei Codrescu's poetry reading at The Gold Mine Saloon, a friend of a friend suggested I go with Chris Champagne to a "real New Orleans" party down the street. So, I put my beer down and ran past the arcade games and book display case to catch up to Champagne, already on his way to Tony Green's apartment.
After a nice stroll through the Quarter, we entered Green's home and ascended four levels on a very old, wooden spiral staircase. Before partaking of champagne, tortilla chips and people, I examined Green's painting of a Venetian canal which sat at the beginning of a corridor that connected the front and back rooms. On the wall was an old tour poster for Green's gypsy Jazz band.
The women at the party were intelligent matrons who wore hats. They were conneisseurs of conversation and certified in flirting. Firecrackers, they were. The men--well, the men were the musicians.
They were in the main room playing sweet, European-tinged midnight Jazz. Green was on guitar, playing with another guitarist, bassist, and saxophonist. Legendary jazz trumpeter Jack Fine was also sitting in.
When self-described clarinet savant Tim Laughlin played with the band, the songs bursted with color. I've only heard Pete Fountain do a better good job of playing a clarinet live. Laughlin played with a crystalline tone. His sound was unique because it was clean, clear and subtly forceful. He swung well while focusing on lyricism and melody. He could hold a note alright, but he made the song better by creating an original story of some sort, instead of killing the instrument with force.
If I'll see musicians like Laughlin every time, I need to go to more "New Orleans" parties.