After lunch, the Cutting Edge NOLA Music Business Conference held a rap and hip-hop summit at Cafe Istanbul in the St. Roch neighborhood sponsored by Shive Magazine. There were several preliminary presentations, including speeches by the owner of Shive Magazine, and by local rap CEO and activist Sess 4-5 of Nuthin But Fire Records, followed by a number of rap performances, including one by St. Louis-based hip-hop group the A-Team.
When I got to the Intercontinental Hotel, the Cutting Edged NOLA Keynote Speech was going on, followed by a legal panel about sports and entertainment law. At the end of that, I headed out to the lakefront and ate dinner at Landry’s Seafood House. Even though Landry’s is a chain, it is the restaurant nearest to Lake Pontchartrain and has the best view of the lake, and the food was very good, at least on this particular day.
My first stop was at the jazz showcase of Cutting Edge NOLA, which was going on at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club on North Claiborne Avenue, a neighborhood venue that also serves as headquarters for the social aid and pleasure club known as the Black Men of Labor, whose logo is prominently displayed on the premises. Though not as well known as the city’s other jazz club, Snug Harbor, Sweet Lorraine’s proved to be a beautiful and spacious club for live music, with a large stage and a beautiful grand piano. The band that was performing was that of Jairus Daigle from Lake Charles, a young jazz violinist with two albums under his belt already who is about to head to the Berklee School of Music in Boston this fall. Many of his band members are family members, as the Daigle family name is well-known in Lake Charles for jazz, soul and funk. Although the jazz style Jairus performed was fusion and contemporary jazz rather than traditional, straight ahead jazz, I was still very impressed by the young man’s facile mastery of the violin.
The kickoff party for this year’s Cutting Edge NOLA Music Business Conference took place in the upstairs Ramp Room of the Little Gem Saloon at South Rampart and Poydras in the CBD of New Orleans. After a historical presentation about New Orleans’ community radio station WWOZ, there was a guitar summit sponsored by T-watt amplifiers, co-hosted by blues guitarists Jonathan “Boogie” Davenport and Guitar Slim Jr. Downstairs in the restaurant, a straight ahead jazz trio was playing, featuring the vocalist Nayo Jones. But Cutting Edge showcases were also going on at other venues in the city simultaneously, so after hanging out at the Little Gem for about an hour, I decided to head to other venues.
For 22 years, the Cutting Edge Music Business Conference has been going on in New Orleans, giving new artists and musicians an opportunity to showcase their music, and giving music industry professionals a chance to network and adjust to changes in technology and the climate of our industry. The first day was largely registration and panels, including a demo listening session where I was one of the judges. I was especially impressed by Jackson, Mississippi southern roots rocker Jason Daniels, whose song “You’re an Angel” had a definitive New Orleans aura, as well as the world-music/indie fusion group Pans Permia, from Miami, Florida who opted to perform an acoustic song for us rather than merely play a CD.
My homeboy Travis and I grabbed a dinner at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen on Saturday night with a couple of his clients, and then afterwards, we poked our heads in the Cutting Edge showcase at Vaso, and checked out the happenings on Frenchmen Street, which is always a cool place to hang out. It was kind of a great way to end this year’s Cutting Edge event.
Saturday was the day of the marketing and distribution panel at Cutting Edge, so I grabbed an early breakfast at Surrey’s Cafe on Magazine and headed up to the Old Mint for what was to be the first panel of the day, featuring myself, Rico Brooks from Atlanta who had been Gorilla Zoe’s manager, and Travis McFetridge from New York representing a publishing firm called Great South Bay Music. Although our panel began at 10 AM, it was better attended than I had expected, and we managed to get quite a bit of useful information into it. Afterwards, Rico and Travis and I headed over the river and south of Marrero to Restaurant des Familles in Crown Point for a seafood lunch. The restaurant backs up to a bayou, and we saw at least three alligators in the water or sunning themselves on the bank.
The second full day of the Cutting Edge NOLA conference opened with a series of panels at the Old U.S. Mint at the foot of Esplanade Street in the French Quarter, and ended with showcases at three locations in the city, including Little Gem Saloon in the Central Business District.
Although the city of New Orleans put a stop to the tradition of brass bands playing in the first block of Bourbon Street near Canal, brass band music can still be heard in and around Jackson Square on some afternoons, played by a band known as the Jackson Square All-Stars. This band is geared to the out-of-town visitors, and therefore doesn’t play the hood-infused youthful style that used to prevail at Bourbon and Canal, but a lot of the members of this band are young musicians from the city’s best brass bands, including the TBC.
Originally based in Birmingham, Alabama, the Yisrael Trio has been making a lot of noise in New Orleans where they are now based, and in the afternoon of the first day of Cutting Edge NOLA, they were across the street from our conference at the patio of a club on Esplanade called Mojitos. Quite a few people from Cutting Edge were over there on the patio, and the trio was playing an exciting mix of jazz and neo-soul, sort of the perfect soundtrack to such a beautiful afternoon in such an attractive location.