The JazzTown Series explored the contemporary New Orleans jazz scene; from avant-garde to more traditional, and the tensions which change cause. 


APRIL 12TH, 1990 


Kermit knows it’s all about tradition at ‘Jazz at the Sandbar’

11 April 2016

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

It makes sense that when most people think of the University of New Orleans’ music department and its affiliated Jazz at the Sandbar series, modern jazz immediately comes to mind. After all, Ellis Marsalis, a renowned modern jazz pianist, established UNO’s highly regarded Jazz Studies department in 1989 that produced an impressive array of graduates who became well known in the genre.

The university, however, isn’t just for beboppers and post-boppers. It also offers instruction in New Orleans traditional jazz. Students taking part in its traditional combo classes, which are led by sousaphone player/bassist Matt Perrine, will be on hand to back guest artist, trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins at this Wednesday’s edition (April 13) of Jazz at the Sandbar, held at the Cove located on the university’s campus.

“I’m looking forward to playing with all those youngsters,” Ruffins enthusiastically responds. “The last time I did it (performed in the series), I was 28 or 30 years old and now I’m 51. People always ask me, ‘Is the music going to die?’ I say, ‘Man you wouldn’t believe the kids that are coming up and are on stage and can put me to shame at any given minute. It’s always going to be hot.’”

Actually, according to Perrine, this year’s crop of traditional students aren’t all “youngsters.” It’s a more varied group that includes a 60-year-old ophthalmologist on bass, a professional music teacher from Singapore on piano, a musician from Mexico on guitar, a member of a well-known New Orleans brass band on sax and, says Perrine, who will man the trombone, a very impressive freshman on drums.

Previous classic jazz guests at Jazz at the Sandbar include a list of stellar artists such as clarinetists Orange Kellin and Dr. Michael White, trombonists Lucien Barbarin and Craig Klein and pianist Tom McDermott.

“We would be remiss if we sent young musicians into the New Orleans music scene without some understanding of how to play traditional jazz,” says Perrine, who has been teaching the traditional class for six years now. “Every student is required to be in every combo before they leave so everyone is forced to put away their beboppin’ and develop something else. Also, if you are going to learn how to improvise, it is much easier to learn to improvise on “Bill Bailey” than it is on “Giant Steps.”

Ruffins is, of course, most often heard locally with the Barbeque Swingers, a group of musicians with whom he’s shared many a bandstand at many a venue both in New Orleans and while on tour. To hear him with artists he’s never performed with and in a venue that he hasn’t played in for a very long time should be interesting and invigorating for all concerned.

“It’s so easy for me to go with any band in this city for 45 minutes to an hour and really have a good session,” Ruffins offers. “Especially with a bunch of youngsters I have never met before. They are going to play the songs I call so it’s always fun to get up and out and feel a different kind of feel.”

Ruffins says that while at the Axelrad Beer Garden in Houston, Texas, a club where he is a partner and investor and performs every Wednesday minus the Swingers, he and the band mix it up a lot. “I email them a YouTube every week of stuff that I recorded with the Barbeque Swingers,” he explains. “Luckily Darrell Levigne lives there,” he adds of the pianist who, because he’s a New Orleans native, gets Ruffins’ style and knows the tunes.

The material the UNO combo works on, including tunes like “Milenberg Joys” and “Panama,” is primarily classic jazz that is right up Ruffins’ alley. “It’s mostly classic jazz – recognizable songs,” Perrine says. “I’m as interested in teaching about music as I am about teaching about traditional jazz. I want to make sure they have all the skills they’ll need no matter what style they end up playing.”

“Everyone is encouraged to sing,” Perrine adds. “I talk a lot about lyrics. If you learn the lyrics of a song, 20 years later when you’re on a bandstand and someone calls that song and you can’t remember it you can remember the lyrics. Then generally, you can remember the melody and if you can remember the melody, you can remember the chords.”

Perrine, an extremely talented and often called on musician on the New Orleans scene whose sousaphone or bass pops up all over the place in this city’s funk, brass band, jazz and beyond worlds has enjoyed his teaching experience.

“It is a way for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the young musicians coming out of UNO,” he offers. “Then it’s exciting to see those students in the work force as professions and know we might have possibly had a hand in that transition.”

Meanwhile Ruffins, who flies back-and-forth between his hometown and Houston, will spend all of April right here in New Orleans. He’s hosting what he’s calling a 4/20 (April 20) party at his Mother-In-Law Lounge and he promises to play – unlike at the Cove – “a bunch of reefer songs.”

“I told my band we are playing at 4 o’clock so they could be ready at 4:20 to hit,” he says with a laugh. From Monday through Thursday between the Jazz Fest’s weekends Ruffins’ is throwing a “Sweet Lunch Counter Party” starting at noon. He declares that the grill will be smoking and the pots boiling with different food every day.

“I put a huge stage in the backyard so it’s really, really nice back there,” Ruffins says while mentioning that if the weather is too hot, the music will be indoors.

Ruffins plays Jazz Fest twice. The first is on Friday, April 22, at 2 pm for a party-down set with the Barbeque Swingers at Congo Square. The trumpeter is back the following weekend to perform a Tribute to Louis Armstrong on Saturday, April 30, at Economy Hall. His band is loaded to the max with pianist David Torkanowsky, drummer Shannon Powell, trombonist Corey Henry and Kevin Morris manning the upright bass.

The Jazz at the Sandbar show begins at 7 p.m. UNO students and faculty are admitted free. General admission is $5.

This article originally published in the April 11, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.





Jazz at the Sandbar provides nearly 25 years of musical excellence


Jazz at the Sandbar series kicked off March 4 and continues through April 29 (Photo by Willie Marsalis) 

Though there are few pastimes available on campus besides studying and naps, there is one that truly captures the essence of our university as well as the city of New Orleans: Jazz at the Sandbar.

Jazz at the Sandbar is a short concert series, staged on our campus, that features a unique array of talented jazz artists.

Each series is several weeks long and takes place during the fall and spring semesters. The first Jazz at the Sandbar series took place back in spring of 1991, which means the concert series is nearing its 25th anniversary.

Charles Taylor, Chair of the Music Department, explained how Jazz at the Sandbar acquires its guest artists. “We work with Jason Patterson who is also responsible for the talent at Snug Harbor out in the Marigny. He brings in several of the artists who are also performing in the week at Snug Harbor. So he gets them for an extra performance here,” said Taylor.

Musicians from all across the world play at Jazz at the Sandbar, but it wouldn’t feel like a jazz show without local New Orleans artists.

Taylor said, “For those weeks when we don’t have a national guest [Patterson] brings in great local musicians.”

Jazz at the Sandbar usually has a healthy turnout. “I’d say the average attendance is about 100 to 120 [people]. A little bit more, a little bit less depending on who the artist is,” said Taylor.

  Attendance did take a bit of a hit after Hurricane Katrina due to physical damage to the Cove. “For a few years the Sandbar took place over in the UC. But we’ve been back in the Cove now for three years,” said Taylor.

UNO students not only get a chance to interact with renowned guest artists, but also get to perform with them.

“There are students who are performing. We have guest artists but they’re playing with our student combos [a music class for credit]. So for our students it’s a great benefit,” said Taylor. “They get to work with highly esteemed, professional musicians in a real world type of situation. Their performance is a major part of their education.”

“An important part of this is that it’s a direct benefit to our students. Most of the guest artists we’ve had at the Sandbar, if they’re performing on Wednesday night will do a clinic for our students Thursday afternoon, usually, because that’s when our combos rehearsal time is,” said Taylor. “Or they’ll come in a day early on Tuesday. So on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon there’s a master class clinic provided by the guest artist.”

“For the other students on campus, Jazz at the Sandbar provides an opportunity to hear some of the great jazz musicians of our time right here instead of having to go down to Snug Harbor or one of the other places in town,” said Taylor.

This week’s performance is by Aurora Nealand, a saxophonist, clarinetist and California native whose instrumental and vocal talents have been heard extensively in New Orleans as well as various countries. Jazz at the Sandbar is free to all UNO students, faculty and staff with an I.D. and $5 for general admission.

- See more at: Driftwood.UNO.EDU





On Sunday, November 9, 5 - 6 pm the Holt-Burnett Fund of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic & Assistance (NOMC&AF) Foundation Gig Fund & the New Orleans Jazz Celebration presented a free concert of the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra at Trinity Episcopal Church, to honor the memory and legacy of  New Orleans’ oldest & most beloved jazzman, Lionel Ferbos. 




Ferbos first performed with the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra in 1970, playing annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival until his death in July 2014 at the age of 103. In 1971 he performed on the stage with Louis Armstrong at the Newport Festival. He acted and played trumpet in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978) Cannes Film Festival Technical Grand Prize Winner. Mr. Ferbos often chuckled as he told interviewers how the director made him wear black-face as the trumpeter appeared to be white. He toured USA and Europe numerous times, performed in the musical One Mo Time, made many recordings with the Ragtime Orchestra, he and his band were featured each Saturday night at Palm Court Jazz Café.

The Ragtime Orchestra (and guests) performed many of Lionel Ferbos favorite traditional Jazz classics as they share their memories of their fellow musician.

 Photos courtsey of Al Kennedy. 






Lagniappe~ a little something extra

New Orleans Jazz Celebration occassionally produces extra-special events in addition to our regularly scheduled celebrations! 



Jazz Celebration Party and Brass Band Exhibit Debut featuring the Treme Brass Band!!

April 20, 2010 

Jazz lovers from around New Orleans celebrated the creation of our new touring exhibit entitled “The Passing Parade: the Brass Band Tradition of New Orleans” and other new ways to bring America’s original art form, Jazz, to the world. On Tuesday, April 20, 2010 the Board of Directors of New Orleans Jazz Celebration, Inc. introduced the organization’s exhibit, new website and announced upcoming projects. This event was free and open to the public.

The Passing Parade exhibit is a multimedia and interactive display illustrating the rich history of this unique musical genre. Using colorful imagery drawn by illustrator and African American historian Chuck Siler, the history of New Orleans Brass Bands is told  in conjunction with “informances” when possible, which use live brass band  and study materials as educational tools.  A touch screen display on one side of the exhibit offers a detailed history of brass bands with many archival photos, text and sound clips. The screen is surrounded by a beautifully designed display of second line sashes, corsages and umbrellas created by Mardi Indian matriarch Herrest Harrison.

The respected Treme Brass Band performed at this event as the general public viewed the exhibit.

This exhibit is made possible by support from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival & Foundation, Inc. Additional support comes from a grant by the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation. 


The Danny Barker Centennial Festival

January 2009

Danny Barker (1909-1994) was a tireless torch bearer of the unique culture of his home town. Barker's long career spans much of the history of Jazz; he had tap danced in infamous Storyville and later migrated to New York where he performed on more than 1000 recordings with such diverse artists as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Lena Horne and his talented wife Blue Lu Barker. Danny's work with young talent in the creation of the Fairview Baptist Church Band was pivotal in the brass band revival of New Orleans in the 1980s that still flourishes today. His story telling abilities were legendary.

New Orleans Jazz Celebration is proud to have collaborated with the French Market, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, the Palm Court Jazz Café, the UNO Jazz Studies Program and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in presenting a series of events honouring the legendary musician, storyteller and educator Danny Barker, born 1909. All activities took place January 13 to the 18th, 2009. Beginning on his actual birthday, January 13th, an awards ceremony was presented at the Palm Court hosted by Danny's daughter Sylvia and featuring Danny's cousin and former band mate Lucien Barbarian's Jazz band. Next were educational informances on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday by guitarist & story teller Carl LeBlanc doing a tribute to Danny in the New Orleans public schools.

The grand finale was two days of live performances on stages around the French Market on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th, featuring bands including Leroy Jones' New Orleans Finest, the Dirty Dozen, Lionel Ferbos' Louisiana Shakers, Charmaine Neville's Griot Trio, Herlin Riley, Detroit and Juanita Brooks, Carl LeBlanc, Don Vappie and many more. There was also a "Danny's  Jazz Walking Tour" which started at the French Market at 3 each day with certified tour guide and NOJC Board member Susan Wayman. The Snug Harbor also presented master drummer and Danny Barker alumni Herlin Riley on the night of the 17th, and banjoist Detroit Brooks on the night of the 18th, paying tribute to Danny with former members of his bands.

Art of Jazz 

November 29th & 30th,  2008

In a salute to the Prospect.1 New Orleans Biennial, NOJC produced an event at the historic French Market that showcased the Crescent City’s contribution to the world of art - Jazz-  in combination with other art forms for two days of cultural creativity. Dance, musical theater, poetry and even the visual arts were presented during live jazz performances.

Performances included: Martin Krusche & the Magnetic Ear with poet Moose Jackson, the Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet with storyteller Donald Lewis, and Astral Project with dancer Jessica Burke, just to name a few!

Tribute Performance to Benazir Bhutto

January 5th & 6th, 2008

The assassination of two-time Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Thursday December 27, 2007  shook the international community all the way to New Orleans, where there is a large Pakistani community. In respect for the beloved leader, the French Market and New Orleans Jazz Celebration presented two tribute performances of Indian and Jazz music variations by world renowned tablas player Badal Roy and saxophonist Tim Green. The performances were in the French Market's Dutch Alley Performance Tent at St Phillip Street from 2:00 to 4:00pm January 5 and 6, 2008. These were truly amazing performances, free of charge and open to everyone, paying tribute to a very special life and embracing reconciliation through music.

Jazz Feasts

Throughout 1996

Jazz Feasts gave both locals and visitors to greater New Orleans lively lunch hour community concerts in shopping centers, parks and other public areas.  Always free, these concerts presented a variety of jazz styles with support from Freeport McMoran, Downtown Development District, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation and the Arts Council of New Orleans. Outlets included The New Orleans Centre, Lakeside Shopping Center, Rivertown and Lafayette Square.