We are well into February, and Mardi Gras will be upon us before you know it. It’s a holiday that has special meaning for me, musically. I wasn’t raised Catholic (though my grade school did the fish on Friday thing), and up in New England images of Carnival and Mardi Gras were glimpses of some exotic Other. In Boston we just got through the winter and waited for the Easter Bunny to show up.
But once I got to Texas things changed. Touring with Marcia Ball to New Orleans was a revelation. Missing pieces of my jazz education got filled in, mainly with poboys and beignets. For seven years I got to play in Nola during Mardi Gras, soaking up the music and the energy. Those memories are with me every time I play a Professor Longhair song, or join in a Second Line on When The Saints. It’s music of the people, by the people, for the people, and it’s powerful and joyful. Sure, it can get turned into a touristic artifact like most local culture, when it is replicated around the country. But it doesn’t have to lose its life-affirming power, if we try to play the music right. So that’s what I’ll try to do.
This week I have two shows before Mardi Gras proper: Wednesday 2/19 we’ll have a Mardi Gras Warmup Party at the Skylark Lounge. Then, Sunday 2/23 my Interactive Concerts for Creative Aging will have a fun show at the Center for Spiritual Living. We’ll mix in some New Orleans grooves with classic American Songbook and familiar songs that folks can sing along with. It’s free and open to all.