"Up Front and Center- New Orleans Music at the End of the 20th Century" is the first in-depth account of this very important era in the history of New Orleans music. It is filled with vivid descriptions of many of the most significant musical performances in the last two decades of the 20th century. Jay Mazza is an outstanding writer who was a constant presence in the clubs, concert halls, and festivals of the period.
The book begins with a foreword by iconic New Orleans trumpeter and personality, Kermit Ruffins. The first chapters set the stage for a thrilling ride through history by describing in rich detail the New Orleans milieu of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Musicians, bands, and clubs come to life as Mazza skillfully weaves the story. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival serves as the thread tying the tale together. Three chapters discussing the Jazz Fest’s adolescence, developing years, and emergence as the world’s premier music festival bookend the text.
Mazza also provides the reader with a thorough socio-economic and cultural analysis of the myriad changes in the music community and the city at large. The rise of Frenchmen Street, the revival of the brass band community, the expansion of the music educational system, the saga of the 1984 World’s Fair, and the development of the music media are among many of the topics considered in detail.
Fittingly, the book centers on the legendary and the under-acknowledged-until-now musicians who defined the era. The careers of such important artists as the Meters, Galactic, the subdudes, Kermit Ruffins, the Rebirth Brass Band, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews are discussed at length. Lesser-known musicians and bands that had a major impact on the music of New Orleans, including All That, Theryl DeClouet, Tribe Nunzio, the percussionist Michael Ward, Royal Fingerbowl, and Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, are given their due.
Mazza’s scintillating stories put the reader “up front and center” grooving to the music at many of the clubs that defined the time period. Sorely missed hot spots that had a direct role in the development of New Orleans music at the end of the 20th century, such as Benny’s Bar, Dorothy’s Medallion, the Rose Tattoo, and the Glass House, are featured prominently.
He is the chairman of the Big Easy Entertainment Awards committee and blogs at TheVinylDistrict.com