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The recent history of New Orleans is fraught with tragedy and triumph. Both are reflected in the city's vibrant, idiosyncratic music community. In Keith Spera's intimately reported Groove Interrupted, Aaron Neville returns to New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina to bury his wife. Fats Domino improbably rambles around Manhattan to promote a post-Katrina tribute CD. Alex Chilton lives anonymously in a battered cottage in the Treme neighborhood. Platinum-selling rapper Mystikal rekindles his career...
The recent history of New Orleans is fraught with tragedy and triumph. Both are reflected in the city's vibrant, idiosyncratic music community. In Keith Spera's intimately reported Groove Interrupted, Aaron Neville returns to New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina to bury his wife. Fats Domino improbably rambles around Manhattan to promote a post-Katrina tribute CD. Alex Chilton lives anonymously in a battered cottage in the Treme neighborhood. Platinum-selling rapper Mystikal rekindles his career after six years in prison. Jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard struggles to translate Katrina into music. The spotlight also shines on Allen Toussaint, Pete Fountain, Gatemouth Brown, the Rebirth Brass Band, Phil Anselmo, Juvenile, Jeremy Davenport and the 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. With heartache, hope, humor and resolve, each of these contemporary narratives stands on its own. Together, they convey that the funky, syncopated spirit of New Orleans music is unbreakable, in spite of Katrina's interruption.
Uneven, intermittently compelling series of portraits of New Orleans musicians.
As the veteran music critic for the Times-Picayune (and a writer for a New Orleans music monthly before that), Spera would seem to be in a great position to provide a comprehensive narrative concerning the effects of the devastating hurricane on a city with such a musical lifeblood. Yet these 13 profiles, many of which have been expanded from newspaper pieces, might better serve as source material for a more ambitious book. The author plainly has access to subjects who trust him and an appreciation for younger styles of music (metal, hip-hop) that figure more strongly in contemporary New Orleans music than in most books about the city's musical legacy. But some of the profiles are only tangentially related to Katrina and its aftermath, while too many others fall into a formulaic rhythm: opening anecdote, extended biographical chronology, effects on the subject of the devastation and destruction of Katrina. The chapters on Aaron Neville, Fats Domino, Jazz Fest director Quint Davis and formerly incarcerated rapper Mystikal are particularly pointed and revelatory. The chapter on the late cult icon Alex Chilton, however, is a missed opportunity, in which the author writes about how rare such an interview was and how articulate and intelligent the subject was, but then offers few quotes from that interview. The chapter on a recording session with Jeremy Davenport, a jazz lounge singer and trumpeter who may be well known in New Orleans but little known beyond it, does a fine job capturing the studio interplay but seems out of place given the book's supposed focus on Katrina. "Katrina changed everyone, at least temporarily," writes Spera, but his reporting barely scratches the surface of those profound changes.
Six years after Katrina, too many of these pieces have a warmed-over feel.
"In Groove Interrupted, Keith Spera captures both the elation and the heartbreak of post-Katrina New Orleans through the stories of some of the city's best musicians. Spera knows New Orleans and its music inside-out, and he lived through the disaster and saw it all for himself. Anybody who loves the Crescent City and its music will experience shocks of recognition, humor, sadness, and intense beauty throughout. This is a terrific book."-- Tom Piazza, "author of City Of Refuge and Why New Orleans Matters"
“With Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood that followed, New Orleans suffered a near-death experience. Eighty percent of the city flooded. Musicians suffered along with everyone else, and in the weeks and months after the storm it was unclear if they, and the music would ever return to the Crescent City. Keith Spera's invaluable book brilliantly chronicles the experiences of some of New Orleans', and America's, most important musicians -- Fats Domino, Aaron Neville, Allen Toussaint, among others -- before, during and after America's worst man-made disaster.”-- Eric Overmyer, Executive Producer Treme (HBO)
Chapter 1 Gatemouth Brown's Last Ride 9
Chapter 2 Aaron Neville's Hardest Homecoming 27
Chapter 3 Quint Davis and the 2006 Jazz Fest Revival 47
Chapter 4 Allen Toussaint Comes Alive 75
Chapter 5 Fats Domino's Excellent Adventure 87
Chapter 6 Terence Blanchard and a Muse Named Katrina 108
Chapter 7 Alex Chilton Undercover 124
Chapter 8 Jeremy Davenport Makes a Record 143
Chapter 9 Mystikal Versus Michael Tyler 172
Chapter 10 To Hell and Back with Phil Anselmo 198
Chapter 11 Mr. New Orleans: Pete Fountain 216
Chapter 12 Bouncing with Juvenile 232
Chapter 13 Rebirth, Now and Forever 248
Posted February 15, 2012