Fort Worth Culture/Spring 08
he coastal panic of2005 sent many residents ofNew Orleans ranging farafield in advance ofthe onslaught ofHurricane Katrina.Fort Worth,prominent among the earliest Southwestern cities to lend refuge,becameas a result a new home base for the acclaimed percussionist Adonis Rose.Rose – who has worked with such marquee names as Harry Connick Jr.and WyntonMarsalis – returned the courtesy by founding the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra,a 16-piece ensemble dedicated to a combination ofpreservation and newly commissionedartistry.From beginnings in association with Bass Performance Hall’s McDavid Studiosatellite,the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra has performed and recorded extensively whileRose has persisted as a solo artist.His more recent projects include the development of an ensemble known as the N.O.Vaders,in addition to contributions to the musicalscoreofSpike Lee’s recent documentary film about the Katrina disaster,
.Rose,born in 1975 in New Orleans,is hip to it that his town has always generatedmore jazz than it knows what to do with.The haunted Crescent City learned early ontoconsume all it can and then export the rest – a jazz-independent society that has ren-dered the rest ofthe world thoroughly dependent upon jazz.And all the better for it.The old-timers will swear that jazz,blaring forth from the brass and the reeds andthe Talking Drums ofAfrican origin,is the sonic levee that held a phantom menace atbay during New Orleans’Great Axe-Man Scare of1918–1919.Amid a siege ofwhole-sale murder,
fielded a letter-to-the-editor from some fool professing tobe the rampaging Axe-Man – and vowing to spare the jazz enthusiasts.Call it BluesPassover.Did Buddy Bolden,that mighty founding bugler of19th-century jazz,propel NewOrleans into the culture-at-large? Maybe not in a direct sense,although those same old-timelegend-bearers who tell ofthe Axe-Man will aver that Bolden’s horn could beheard for miles away from wherever he happened to be blasting.Certainly,Bolden’sinfluence fueled the passions ofthose Orleanians who would range more freely throughspace and time – King Oliver,Jelly Roll Morton,Louis Armstrong,Sidney Bechét –seeding the music into Kansas City and Chicago and Manhattan and St.Louis andFort Worth.Since early on in the last century,Fort Worth has nurtured a jazz-and-blues heritagecomparable with that ofany other such burg short ofN.O.And how else to explainEudayBowman and Red Connor and Ornette Coleman and Tex Beneke and the arche-typaljazz-in-a-Stetson ofBob Wills? The localized influences have proved too varied,however,to permit one identity as iconic as that which Louis Armstrong has providedtoNew Orleans.A singer from Fort Worth named Milton Brown,who had insinuatedW.C.Handy’s “St.Louis Blues”into Wills’hoedown fiddle-band repertoire in 1929,interlaced Fred Calhoun’s jazz piano with prototypical Western Swing early in the
Adonis Rose & the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra
Astorm-driven merger of traditions
By Michael H. Price
1930s with one crucial song:New Orleans’emblematic “Tiger Rag.”You get the picture.New Orleans,ofcourse,has disseminatedits indigenous music to telling effect since theday ofJelly Roll Morton,though with seldomapressing need to disperse its populace in thebargain.The onslaught ofHurricane Katrinasentinnumerable Louisianans inland to Texas.Adonis Rose,one in a jillion,came aground inFort Worth with his music as essential gear.And as a New Orleanian traditionalist-plus-innovator (or
,to crib from his play-ful terminology),Rose recognized Fort Worthstraightaway as fertile ground for a transplant.New Orleans’loss – Fort Worth’s gain,acknowledged with gratitude.Rose’s establish-ment ofthe Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra mergestheheritage ofboth cities in a striking manner.Rose’s N.O.Vaders ensemble advances theCrescent identity,reaching back and looking forward with nary a lapsed beat.“I miss New Orleans…,”says Rose.“Butnow I feel it’s a perfect time for me to … bring myexperiences here,along with the music of New Orleans.”Ahistoric precedent bears remembering:Malcolm “Dr.John”Rebennack developed hisgreater identity as a musical ambassador fromNew Orleans only after he had sidetrackedhimselfto New York and L.A.in indignantresponse to a 20th-century catastrophe – JimGarrison’s politically motivated campaign tosanitize N.O.’s rambunctious French Quarter.Likewise,in a sense,with Adonis Rose.Bestofboth worlds.
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Since early on in thelast century,Fort Worth hasnurtured a jazz-and-blues heritagecomparable withthat ofany othersuchburg short of New Orleans.