When you walk around New Orleans, you’ll hear music everywhere. Some of it is accidental. Some of it is intentional. New Orleans is a city that delights the ears of those who have the ears to hear its siren song. New Orleans is a musical city. Some of it is pure. Some of it is remixed. Some of it just comes about, sui generis, from the soil, from the streets, from the kitchens, from the front porches, or from the rooftops.
Music in New Orleans isn’t canned or packaged. Music in New Orleans erupts spontaneously. When you are in New Orleans, dance like New Orleanians do. Dance like nobody is watching.
It isn’t Lawrence Welk. It isn’t Tool. It isn’t KISS. It isn’t David Bowie, the Beatles, Queen, or the Rolling Stones. It isn’t electronica. It isn’t space age bachelor pad music. It isn’t pop. It isn’t rock. It isn’t progressive. It sure ain’t country. It isn’t the blues. Nobody sings the blues in New Orleans. It isn’t a revival. It isn’t elevator music. You’ll never hear New Orleans music piped in over your supermarket aisles. It isn’t swamp pop or folk or bluegrass. It might be funky, but it will be funk played with a tuba backbeat. There will be rhythm but there won’t be blues. It isn’t easy listening, but it isn’t difficult listening, either. It isn’t what you’ll hear on hold when you’re calling your insurance company. It isn’t lounge. In New Orleans, R&B means rice and beans. It isn’t swanky. It isn’t cranky. It isn’t stanky. It isn’t wonky or wanky. In New Orleans, the music is jazz. In New Orleans, the music is improvised. It’s jazz. It’s pure jazz.
Frau Schmitt and I were at L’il Dizzy’s for lunch the other day. L’il Dizzy’s is a Creole restaurant about a ten minute walk from our inn. Like La Belle Esplanade, L’il Dizzy’s is also located on Esplanade Avenue. A lot of charming and delightful secret places are located out in the open along Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. Frau Schmitt said to me, “This is real New Orleans in here.” She is usually right about these things and, since I’ve lived here as long as Frau Schmitt has, all I could do was agree.
While we were eating lunch (I had a bowl of gumbo. Frau Schmitt had a soft shell crab po’ boy, which was the special that day, soft shell crab being in season this time of year) a man at a nearby table dropped his spoon. The waitress was right there and she picked it up before it hit the floor. Seeing that the spoon was clean, she snatched another spoon from an unoccupied table. Guess what she did next.
She played the spoons. She was better than Roger Mason and Tran Quang Hai but it went a little bit like this:
She didn’t need an introduction. She wasn’t performing, per se, but she had all the technique of a pro. She was doing what came naturally to her, caught up in the moment. She wasn’t looking for attention or applause. She was just caught up in the moment after she caught that falling spoon and she launched into a blistering spoon solo that set the room alight. Heads turned. People who were eating put down their forks. They listened, nodding their heads to the sound of her spoons rat-a-tat-tat-tatting in an improvised composition of point and counterpoint and puntra-appeasimato with all the dips and valleys and crescendos that implies.
In New Orleans, there is music everywhere, even where you least expect it. New Orleans is a city dense and richly textured with culture. Our culture is music. There is music everywhere. New Orleans is a musical city. While the waitress played the spoons, a couple of the patrons (not us) got up from their meals and danced. They danced like nobody was watching. No one was watching the dancers. They were watching the waitress play her spoons.
You never know what you’ll encounter in New Orleans. New Orleans is a magical place.
When the inspiration left her, the waitress gave the customer the clean spoon off the other table, tucked the dropped spoon into her apron pocket, and picked up the next order of gumbo and fried chicken to deliver to Table #4.
When are coming to visit New Orleans?
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
…a boutique experience inn where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.
July 22, 2106: It rained today but nobody complained. It’s New Orleans. Nobody has the blues.