- Q & A with Nou Dadoun
Q & A with Nou Dadoun
Nou Dadoun is the host of CFRO’s A-Trane radio program, and a seriously bona fide music lover. His pre-show talk on Saturday, February 27 (free for concert ticket holders) will guide you through the back alleys of the birthplace of jazz to the doorstep of the party hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.
Here’s a sneak peek!
What sparked your passion for music?
ND: I like to say that I have “curious ears”! I grew up in the 60s when music was an central part of teenage social life and had the opportunity to hear and see many great musicians of that era live. Curious ears had me looking for connections – Led Zeppelin covered Willie Dixon and Leadbelly, The Cream covered Skip James, Robert Johnson and Blind Joe Reynolds. While tracking down old blues recordings, I discovered recordings of Duke Ellington from the 1920s like The Mooche and Black and Tan Fantasy and I was hooked. But I love listening to and discovering all kinds of music – I’m always looking for connections and the story behind the music.
What is it, in your opinion, that’s so alluring about jazz?
ND: Jazz is alluring to me because it’s such a big umbrella and covers so many different styles and forms of expression. Jazz was born in New Orleans as a mongrel music – a combination of ragtime piano, John Philip Sousa brass band marches, light opera imported from Europe, and African rhythms – and spread across America after 1917 when the Storyville red light district was essentially shut down by the US Navy. In every decade since that Jazz has reinvented itself through Swing, Bebop, Cool, hard bop, free jazz, fusion and so on. This is sometimes through musicians exploring new avenues of sound and expression like improvising on modes like Kind of Blue or improvising freely building musical structure on the fly and sometimes by absorbing influences of other music like the soul of gospel music, the energy of rock or the rhythm of hiphop. As jazz has traveled around the world, every country has absorbed its lessons and transformed it again – Brazil, South Africa, Italy, India, Jamaica, Indonesia and many others all have distinct flavours of jazz.
Jazz was (and continues to be) the original “world music”. How could one fail to be intrigued by that?
You have a very impressive record collection. We are dying to know how you organize them all.
ND: Organization is a dream towards which I aspire but fear I will never attain in this lifetime! My route there has to be alphabetical because I listen to and enjoy all kinds of music and I enjoy the serendipity of finding Al Green next to Grant Green, John Carter next to the Carter Family or Ray Brown next to James Brown. For doing radio, I have a “working stash” of three or four hundred recordings through which I rotate new releases, recent discoveries or acquisitions, current interests, recordings for upcoming performances, musician birthdays and (sadly) memorials. Unfortunately refiling recordings that are rotated out is a daunting task (for space, time and energy) and that contributes to the overall entropy (and my continuing lament)!
How did the New Orleans tribute Dee Dee’s Feathers as a collaboration between Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irvin Mayfield with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra come about?
ND: Dee Dee Bridgewater had been invited to the groundbreaking of the People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market – a purpose build performance space and jazz community centre sponsored by NOJO. Afterwards, Bridgewater and Mayfield talked about putting together a tribute to the resilience of New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina had taken a terrible toll on the city. Mayfield had suffered personal tragedy in Katrina – his father drowned in the disaster. In the next few weeks they worked out the themes and the tunes and a month later, sessions at Esplanade Studios – located in a historic church restored from its extensive damage in Katrina – produced the music for Dee Dee’s Feathers. Originally planned for sale only at the Jazz Market, they were so pleased with the results that they decided on a general release (and a subsequent tour!).
How does Dee Dee’s Feathers pay tribute to the great musical legacy of New Orleans?
ND: The legacy of New Orleans runs all the way through the project running back to the greatest musician to ever come from the city, the legendary Louis Armstrong. Louis is celebrated in a song he originally recorded in his Hot Seven featuring Earl Hines back in 1927, “St. James Infirmary Blues”, as well as his 1967 late career hit “What a Wonderful World”. Other nods go to the legendary Professor Longhair and his collaborator Earl King in “Big Chief” (with a guest appearance from Mac Rebbenac – better know as Dr. John), Lionel Batiste from the Treme Brass Band with the band’s theme song “Treme” all the way up to Harry Connick Jr.’s “One Fine Thing”!
Dee Dee’s Feathers features a collection of repertoire with foundations in New Orleans. How does the music evoke a feeling of place?
ND: I’ll give two examples – in the 18th century before New Orleans became part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase, African slaves were barred from congregating in public places. In the early 1800s, the city set aside a space where slaves were allowed to gather, to have markets, to sing, dance and play music which became known as Congo Square. As legend has it, the African-based rhythms and music performed there became famous and eventually was absorbed into the amalgam of early jazz. The song Congo Square evokes the drum, dancing and spirit of the only freedom that the slaves would ever know.
New Orleans is famous for its Carnival, the celebration that precedes the fast of Lent (farewell to meat) with a (Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) Mardi Gras party. The Mardi Gras parades date back to the middle of the 19th century when African Americans were not allowed to participate. To get around the restrictions, African Americans dressed as Native Americans (who were allowed to participate) in elaborate costumes and named their teams (or krewes) after Native American tribes like The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The song “Big Chief” is named for the krewe leader who would decide on the day of the celebration where to lead the parade around the streets of the city.