Walkin' Through New Orleans

A funny thing happened on the way through the French Quarter the other afternoon: I stumbled upon musical brilliance, coming from a rag-tag band of buskers that included a percussionist who was splayed out on the asphalt and a jitterbugging dancer sporting an old St. Louis Cardinals shirt.

They didn't necessarily look like much, but they sure sounded spectacular, proffering brassy, red-hot jazz straight out of the Roaring Twenties. No beignets before pearls here: I stopped dead in my tracks. Couldn't help but be captivated - particularly when the band's singer let loose, sans microphone.

Known as the Loose Marbles, the group created a most marvelous racket. So marvelous that they provided the musical highlight of my mini-vacation in NoLa, during which I also caught the R&B great Allen Toussaint in concert at Tipitina's; soaked in some trad-jazz at Preservation Hall; and took in some of the city's best brass bands during Krewe du Vieux's Mardi Gras parade.

Which is to say that the Loose Marbles aren't just good; they're very, very, very good.

As I've since learned, the Marbles are a semi-famous busking collective that's more likely to be spotted in the streets of New Orleans (or, if you're lucky, New York) than they are in a proper club. They were featured last year in one of Dan Baum's NoLa dispatches for The New Yorker - a pretty fascinating read, though the best part about it is the performance video, which I've, ehm, borrowed below.

Be sure to look out for the Loose Marbles the next time you're in the Quarter. And be sure to bring more than a few spare quarters, too. Their shows are free, but the experience is priceless. And that's gotta be worth something.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  January 23, 2008; 4:50 PM ET Roadies
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New Orleans' hiphop funky Hot 8 Brass Band are playing the Reston Community Center Sat. Feb. 9th and Chick Hall's Surf Club on Kenilworth in Bladensburg on Sunday February 10th. They're worth seeing (I think they have a good youtube video or 2 in addition to their cd that was reissued last year).

Posted by: curm | February 4, 2008 1:34 AM

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