New Orleans Sojourn – Wk 2

The inspiring journey continues. This week, I tried to keep my inspirational fire lit and stoked by:

  • Listening to New Orleanians’ stories about life here – their experience of the city, what they suggest I listen to, where they suggest I visit
  • Going to as many live music events as possible – mostly trad jazz and swing shows, but a few straight ahead jazz gigs, a Brazilian show, a country night
  • Interviewing musicians here about their experiences of being a musician in New Orleans (stay tuned to the Podcast section of this site where I will eventually be posting these interviews)
  • Playing gigs in the French Quarter
  • Going to bars, cafes, galleries and restaurants
  • Writing and drawing in my journal about what I’m experiencing
  • Taking photos of what’s speaking to me

Catching The Wave

There are so many incredible musicians playing beautiful music here. On any given night, it can be difficult to decide what to check out. My housemate Andrew Willens suggests I use the “catch a wave” method. The same way that surfers will head up the coast looking for a great wave and ride it to see where it takes them, I will head to a venue early in the evening and jump on board with the people at that venue. Inevitably, I stumble upon a new band, or a new venue or a new group of interesting people.
“Catching the wave” led me to an improvisation workshop led by New Orleans legend Wendell Brunious at The US Mint. It led me to see a backyard film screening of the brilliant animation “Over the Garden Wall” chez Nahum Zdybel and Molly Reeves. It led me to hearing Meschiya Lake playing some original arrangements of new material at Carnival Lounge. It led me to witnessing the original jazz compositions of Steve Walch at the Hi Ho Lounge. It led me to busking with some new friends in front of Cafe Rose Nicaud.

Gentle Giant

Of everything I’ve experienced since I arrived in New Orleans, I need to shine a light on the times I heard Aurora Nealand play. One critic wrote that “Whatever style she is playing, she becomes the Music”.

I heard her in two completely contexts and each was uniquely inspiring. At the Spotted Cat, Aurora Nealand and the Reed Minders played a mix of traditional music and modern music. The group was made up of bass, guitar, drums and two reed players. Aurora commands the attention of her audience in a gentle way. She does it by telling musical stories charged with intensity and intrigue. Her singing is soulful and smooth so when she picks up her clarinet or soprano saxophone to play it can knock the wind out of you – her sound is fierce and exciting. I have yet to hear her play one note that isn’t packed full of meaning and intention.

Aurora Nealand and the Reed Minders at The Spotted Cat

Later the same week, I heard her play at The Maison with her group Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses. I’ve been inspired by this band ever since Michael Bourgeois put me on to them when he showed me Aurora’s original composition “Ferry Man” (The LookBack Transmission, 2014). For all the excitement I get out of listening to the recording of this group, the live show was twice as moving! The Royal Roses are a well oiled musical machine who endeavour to take risks with the music and push one another to play with ferocity. I’m writing a song right now about Aurora called Gentle Giant because I see Aurora as a Gentle Giant of the musical world in New Orleans.


I had a great time playing gigs this week at a few venues around town. On October 11 I played alongside the New Orleans Swinging Gypsies -at Maison this band has a great book of tunes spanning trad jazz, Django jazz and be-bop repertoire. Their arrangements are a lot of fun to play!

from L to R – Connor Stewart, Matt Rhody, John Saavedra, Nobu Ozaki, Andy Mac

On October 12, I played with Giselle Anguizola at Frizel’s European Jazz Pub; the music was fantastic and Giselle is a great bandleader… but I still don’t understand what’s ‘European’ about it.

On October 16, I played alongside guitarist Leo Ford and sax player Connor Stewart at Bamboula’s. The afternoon was low key but Leo and Connor are two incredible players in their own rite – check them out!



This week, I was fortunate enough to conduct interviews with some wonderful musicians! For each of the interviews, we did about 30 minutes of talking before playing a tune or two together.
Guitarist Georgi Petrov
Saxophonist Connor Stewart
Violinist Matt Rhody
Guitarist Alex Belhaj
Bassist Andrew Willens
Guitarist Russell Welch


As usual, I took photos along the way to document what was inspiring me. Here are a few from the roll:


Thanks to The Canada Council for the Arts for helping support the album that will come as a result of the inspiration I derrive from this trip.
Canada Council Logo

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