Benefit concert to save birthplace of jazz to be held Thursday night at Joy Theater

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RETURN TO FLIGHT- The Eagle Saloon Initiative aims to raise funds for renovating the unused New Orleans landmark located on the 400 block of South Rampart Street that is credited as the birthplace of jazz music. (From bringbackeaglesaloon.com.)

By Jesse Brooks

On Thursday, December 28, a group known as The Eagle Saloon Initiative is hosting a benefit concert at the Joy Theater in New Orleans to raise funds for the planned renovations of a building that many historians credit crucial site in the development of jazz music.

It was in between the years of 1900-1907, Charles “Buddy” Bolden and his band performed in halls on the 400 block of Rampart street in Downtown New Orleans, then known as “Back of Town.”

Witnesses and critics say the cornetist introduced a loud improvisational style to ragtime music, also adding elements of the blues and African-American gospel to the performances. Though some parts of Bolden’s life are well documented, his musical development and upbringing remains somewhat of a mystery. Though he was rumored to have made audio recordings, none of them have been discovered. Bolden also suffered from mental illness and was institutionalized for the remainder of his life by the time he was 30 years old.

Bolden band.gif
The Bolden Band around 1905 (top: Jimmy Johnson (bass), Bolden (cornet), Willy Cornish (valve trombone), Willy Warner (clarinet); bottom: Brock Mumford (guitar), Frank Lewis (clarinet). From Wikipedia.

The level of myth around Bolden makes his life and contribution to jazz comparable to Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson, who is highly credited with the early development of rock-n-roll. Now, The Eagle Saloon Initiative hopes to bring historic legend into our breathing present.

Headlining Thursday’s concert is the The Perdido Street Legacy Band, featuring an all-star city lineup of musicians including: Donald Harrison, Delfeayo Marsalis, Germaine Bazzle, Charlie Gabriel, Sasha Masakowski, James Andrews, Detroit Brooks, Brandon Lewis, Joe Dyson, Sullivan Fortner, John Michael Bradford, Jasen Weaver and Bolden’s great-grandson Big Sam Williams. Dr Michael White & The Liberty Jazz Band are scheduled as the opening act.

The Initative, a collaboration with The New Orleans Music Hall-of-Fame, has a goal of raising enough funds to return the saloon to its former glory as a live music venue, and add a musuem space and youth education center on the second and third floors. If accomplished, not only will a building built in 1850 be credited as the ground floor for Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and others, it will be the producer of the future generations of New Orleans musicians.

Doors for the show open at 8 p.m. with a show start time at 9 p.m. on Thursday night, and ticket prices range from $30-$150. They are available for purchase at bringbackeaglesaloon.com. All ages are welcome to attend.

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