New Orleans on the Green

with Dr. Michael White Quartet, MJ’s Brass Boppers Brass Band and Russian River Ramblers  

michaelwhiteDry Creek Vineyard 
3770 Lambert Bridge Rd., Healdsburg (Dry Creek Valley) | 5 p.m.
$45 includes commemorative wine glass


Dry Creek Vineyard wine and New Orleans-style cuisine available for purchase. No outside alcoholic beverages permitted. Lawn seating, low chairs allowed, no dogs.
Healdsburg Jazz Wine Club members can redeem their June Party free ticket for this event.

Dr. Michael White is a scholar who’s made it his life’s mission to explain the importance of New Orleans jazz, and then to prove it with his formidable skills on the clarinet.  On Sunday his quartet, featuring equally dedicated Crescent City musicians/educators Gregg Stafford on trumpet, Seva Venat on banjo and Mitchell Player on bass, is making its California debut, closing out the 18th Healdsburg Jazz Festival at the New Orleans Day on the Green at Dry Creek Vineyard.

White, 61, was born and raised in New Orleans and still lives there despite losing his life’s possessions – including a vast collection of records, historical sheet music and musical instruments dating to the dawn of the 20th century, when jazz was born – to the floods of Hurricane Katrina. As a historian and musician, White has always known what to do – learn the music well, and play it. His quartet and his other bands, including the Original Liberty Jazz Band and the New Orleans Hot Seven, are the world’s greatest living exponents of the genre now known as traditional jazz, whose origins are in the music of King Oliver, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and others. More about Dr. Michael White…

shakazuluWhile Dr. Michael White drills down to the core of traditional New Orleans Jazz to extract the wonders within, MJ’s Brass Boppers Brass Band strives to let everything hang out – “everything” being the various musical strains that have fertilized New Orleans music through the 20th century, starting with traditional jazz polyphony then bringing in the big bands, bebop, jump, Afro-Caribbean and rhythm and blues. Led by New Orleans born and bred Michael “MJ” Jones on snare drum, the Brass Boppers feature Naazir “Naaz” Magbool on trumpet,  Greg Gomez on trombone, Harold “Homeboy” Wilson on bass drum and percussion, Nate “Suave” Cameron on vocals and percussion, Mike “Slice” Waters and Al Lazard on saxophones, Tom Salvatore and Malcolm Stokes on trumpets, Joshua Serotiak on sousaphone and “Big Chief” Ray Blazio as, well, the Big Chief Mardis Gras Indian. All of them will be hitched to a second line so emphatic that resisting the boogie will be impossible. Sturdy shoes or barefootin’ recommended.

russian river ramblers photoThe Russian River Ramblers, a septet of clarinet (Charles Moller), tuba (Carl Elze), trumpet (Steve Schaffer), guitar (Joel Hernandez), banjo (Dave Stare), trombone (John Ray) and piano (Joe Meeker), conjure the spirits of Louis Armstrong, W.C. Handy and Sidney Bechet, among other turn-of-the-century greats, on traditional jazz tunes such as “Gatemouth,” West End Blues,” and “Bogalusa Strut” to polyphonic perfection.  They make it sound easy, which it isn’t, but you won’t notice that while you’re dancing.

What’s on the menu? Download PDF of “Mardi Gras Menu”
Also: Parish Café beignets, made on site and available for sale

This is party music. It’s music for dancing and feeling good even if times are bad.  It’s the blues with a bounce that comes from brass. For it to truly work, it has to come from people who have lived it, studied it, and have a way of moving it forward. Dr. White has developed a style of clarinet that reflects his life, that of a man who lives in the 21st century but who is deeply connected to the roots of his ancestors.  White is descended from the first New Orleans jazz musicians and has studied with New Orleans legends such as Danny Barker and Willie Humphrey.  He played for years in parades and at funerals with Doc Paulin’s Brass Band before setting out on his own.  He earned a PhD at Tulane University and currently teaches Afro-American Music at Xavier University where he holds the Rosa and Charles Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities.  He is a consultant for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, has been a musical director for programs at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and has released close to 20 albums.

White’s clarinet style, full of storytelling and pleading, transmitted to and elaborated upon by his band members, is the reason his groups have played at Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Apollo Theater, and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola– not venues usually associated with traditional jazz.  It’s the reason White has worked with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Marianne Faithfull, and Wynton Marsalis. It is music rooted in the past, but alive right now. It comes from one of the same wells that incredible Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen, performing at the festival on Saturday, also dips into. Northern Californians have always had an appreciation for this form of music, the reason for Turk Murphy’s great success in ’50s and ’60s San Francisco.  Maybe it has something to do with the way the region always changes, while staying largely the same.  Kind of the same with New Orleans. Dr. White gets it. He’s the real thing.