music clip of the day


Tag: Lionel Ferbos

Wednesday, 8/3/11

The other night, as we headed home after having dinner at a Mexican restaurant I first went to when I was about his age (Nuevo Leon, 1515 W. 18th St., Chicago), my (23-year-old son) Alex slid these guys into the dashboard CD player.

TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light (2011)

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What an unexpected delight it was to receive, in yesterday’s mail, a note from New Orleans trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, the world’s oldest performing jazz musician (previously mentioned here and here), thanking me for the card I sent him for his 100th birthday.

Sunday, 7/17/11

The right music, heard at the right moment, can change your whole day.

The Staple Singers, “I’m Coming Home” (Vee-Jay), 1959

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Happy Birthday, Lionel!

Today trumpet player Lionel Ferbos, who was born when William Howard Taft was president and tonight can be heard at New Orleans’ Palm Court Jazz Cafe, turns 100.

The Lionel Ferbos Band, “When You’re Smiling”
Live, New Orleans (Norwegian Seamen’s Church), 8/28/09

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For some years, trumpeter Lionel Ferbos has been touted as the oldest active jazz musician in New Orleans. Come this weekend, he’ll qualify for another honorific: The only active jazz musician in New Orleans whose age has crossed into triple digits.

lionel ferbos 2011 portrait.jpgJohn McCusker / The Times-Picayune
Lionel Ferbos, photographed in May 2011.

Ferbos first learned trumpet in 1926, at age 15, inspired by seeing Phil Spitalny and his All-Girl Orchestra at the Orpheum Theater. He played in 1930s bands led by Captain John Handy and Walter “Fats” Pichon. He worked on a crew digging a City Park lagoon before getting hired for a Depression-era Works Progress Administration band, making around $13 a week.

Sheetmetal work eventually paid the bills, even as he continued to moonlight as a musician. He joined Lars Edegran’s New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra in the early 1970s, which toured in Europe, and in 1979 played trumpet and sang in the touring musical “One Mo’ Time.” He has maintained a regular gig at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe on Decatur Street for more than two decades.

—Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune, 7/13/11

Tuesday, 7/12/11

John Luther Adams, Inuksuit (excerpt)
New York (Park Avenue Armory), 2/20/11

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More? Here.



Scored for a flexible ensemble of between nine and ninety-nine percussionists, “Inuksuit” is intended for outdoor performance, and it had its première on a mountainside in Banff, Canada, in 2009. Adams at first resisted the idea of taking the piece indoors, because the interaction with nature was integral to his conception. After inspecting the Armory, though, he grasped its possibilities; the space is more a man-made canyon than a concert hall. He settled on a corps of seventy-six musicians, including five piccolo players. Arrays of drums, gongs, cymbals, bells, and numerous smaller instruments were set up on the main floor of the Drill Hall; atop catwalks on all sides; and in the hallways that connect to smaller rooms at the front of the building. In any rendition of “Inuksuit,” the performers are given four or five pages of music—the notation imitates the shapes of the Inuit markers—which they execute at their own pace. Musicians with portable instruments are instructed to move about freely. Prearranged signals prompt a move from one page to the next. The result is a composition that on the microcosmic level seems spontaneous, even chaotic, but that gathers itself into a grand, almost symphonic structure.

At 4 P.M. on a Sunday, thirteen hundred people assembled in the Drill Hall to hear the piece, variously standing, sitting, or lying on the floor. First came an awakening murmur: one group of performers exhaled through horns and cones; others rubbed stones together and made whistling sounds by whirling tubes. Then one member of the ensemble—Schick, perched above the entrance to the Drill Hall—delivered a call on a conch shell. With that commanding, shofar-like tone, the sound started to swell: tom-toms and bass drums thudded, cymbals and tam-tams crashed, sirens wailed, bells clanged. It was an engulfing, complexly layered noise, one that seemed almost to force the listeners into motion, and the crowd fanned out through the arena.


It is tricky to write about an event such as this. Because both ensemble and audience were in motion, no two perceptions of the performance were the same, and no definitive record of it can exist. Furthermore, anyone who ventures to declare in a public forum that “Inuksuit” was one of the most rapturous experiences of his listening life—that is how I felt, and I wasn’t the only one—might be suspected of harboring hippie-dippie tendencies. The work is not explicitly political, nor is it the formal expression of an individual sensibility, although John Luther Adams certainly deserved the ecstatic and prolonged ovation that greeted him when he acknowledged the crowd from the center of the Drill Hall. In the end, several young couples seemed to deliver the most incisive commentary when, amid the obliterating tidal wave of sound, they began making out.

—Alex Ross, New Yorker, 3/14/11


Happy Birthday, Suzanne!

As I mentioned on this date last year, the first time my wife Suzanne and I went out together (September 1974, Chicago’s Jazz Showcase), we saw the man who put the sui in sui generis.

Sun Ra, Space Is the Place (1974), excerpt

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More? Here. And here.


speaking of birthdays

How often do you get to say “Happy 100th Birthday”?

Well, here’s your chance.

As I learned the other day from WKCR-FM’s Phil Schaap, who’s been encouraging folks to send this guy a birthday card (I mailed mine yesterday), the oldest performing jazz musician, trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, who plays at New Orleans’ Palm Court Jazz Cafe, turns 100 on July 17th. Birthday greetings can be mailed (remember mail?) to 5543 Press Dr., New Orleans, LA 70126.

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