Jazz was born in New Orleans. The African and French culture brewing in this highly trafficked port city created the perfect breeding ground for musical evolution. New Orleans is a confluence of influence, with traditions augmented by the influx of trade from seaports and the Mississippi River. Here, the spirituals, field hollers, gospels, and cakewalks of the African American South meld with the ragtime of St. Louis, take bits of inspiration from white, European classical music, and get an infusion from the raucous celebratory tunes and soulful dirges of the Creoles. This all came together to lay the foundation for America’s most distinctive musical invention – jazz.
The Mississippi River, serving as a conduit, would bring this imaginative sound to the rest of the country as it matured and evolved across Kansas City (via the tributary of the Missouri River), Chicago, and New York. But it is New Orleans that possessed the unique and fertile ground to develop the rich and vibrant music we know as jazz.
Fast forward to today and New Orleans is as culturally wealthy as ever. The music that jazz informed – rhythm & blues, soul, and rock ‘n roll – have grown up and spawned sub-genres of their own. The great thing about this city is that it preserves the old while embracing the new. Even some of the most primitive incarnations of jazz still exist and flourish. Groups like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Rebirth Brass Band carry the torch of authentic New Orleans Brass Band music.
A part of Frenchy’s life’s work is capturing this flourishing culture on canvas in his studio creations and live concert paintings. Frenchy’s and Rebirth’s paths have crossed many times.
Rebirth emerged on the scene in 1983. Comprised of Philip Frazier on tuba/sousaphone, his brother, drummer, Keith Frazier, and trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins the band recreated the traditional sounds of the New Orleans brass band that was popular around the turn of the 20th century. True to New Orleans roots, Rebirth adapted modern sounds of pop, rock, funk, and hip hop with their historically correct presentation. The result is a wild, booming party that is a celebration of New Orleans tradition and modern music all at once.
Frenchy’s first painting in New Orleans was at the Maple Leaf Bar located Uptown on Oak Street. Opened in February of 1974, the Maple Leaf is one of the longest running music clubs in New Orleans, boasting live music performances every day of the week, and Frenchy felt right at home. He became a regular fixture at the club, painting Rebirth’s weekly performances, fine tuning his “acoustioptics” – the marriage of sight and sound – every Tuesday night.
Over the years, Frenchy has painted the group at the Maple Leaf and many other places including street festivals, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Mardi Gras, and more. He created live paintings of the group and many solo pieces featuring renowned trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins.
This tradition and friendship is sure to prosper as Frenchy continues to paint in and around his beloved New Orleans. Now that his Oak Street art gallery has moved across the street to a much bigger space, right next to the Maple Leaf Bar and famed culinary experience, Jacques-Imo’s Café, we expect to see much more from Rebirth.