The Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans performs during the "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy" benefit concert last month at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Correction to This Article
In the Oct. 9 Travel section, an article about New Orleans musicians gave an incorrect name for a band. It is Papa Grows Funk, not Pappa Goes Funk. Also, several bands performing at a benefit in Huntington, N.Y. -- Li'l Anne and Hot Cayenne, River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs, and the Doc Marshalls -- are based in New York and New England, not New Orleans.

Nawlins Music: The Beat Goes On

Hurricane Katrina forced many New Orleans musicians, such as Kermit Ruffins, to take their acts on the road.
Hurricane Katrina forced many New Orleans musicians, such as Kermit Ruffins, to take their acts on the road. (Associated Press/michael Murphy Productions)
By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 9, 2005

The day Hurricane Katrina hit, pianos sank, woodwinds floated away and thousands of New Orleans musicians scattered around the country. But the music didn't die.

Instead, it's gone on the road, enriching the musical scene in cities and towns far and wide. The diaspora of New Orleans musicians is bringing blues and Cajun tunes to Colorado, jazz and brass bands to Nashville. Staid businesspeople in Houston are stomping to zydeco. There's R&B in country-western towns, swamp rock along the northeast coast. Funk in addition to punk in Portland, Ore.

In fact, the city of Portland has issued an open invitation, including free transportation, housing and rehearsal space, to any musician from the Big Easy, plus guaranteed performances in the city's February jazz festival. In Houston, local musicians have convinced several clubs and restaurants to regularly host their New Orleans counterparts. New Orleans musicians are also playing in benefits in cities that usually have little in common. Places such as Fayetteville, Ark., and New York City. The annual New Orleans Voodoo Festival, set for Oct. 29-30, has moved to Memphis this year.

It's not just charity.

"New Orleans musicians are also great entertainers. They bring excitement, and their music is definitely loosening up our town," says Houston pianist Paul English, founder of a recently formed nonprofit to benefit New Orleans musicians.

For the traveler, the diaspora might very well mean finding great and totally authentic New Orleans music in unexpected places. If you need a fix and have been feeling bad that you can't fly to New Orleans to get one just yet, don't despair. The music is alive and well. You just need to know where to look.

Where Are They Now?

Where are the musicians in exile? New Orleans Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera begins rolling names off the top of his head.

"Aaron Neville and Art are in Nashville, and their brother Cyril has set up shop in Austin, as have the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indians, sax player Tim Green and four-fifths of the Iguanas," he says.

"Guitarist Jimmy Robinson is in Memphis. Anders Osborne is playing around at singer-songwriter nights in Nashville. Kermit Ruffins and a lot of people are in Houston. There's also lots of different people playing Baton Rouge, but I don't know how long they'll stay there. Pappa Goes Funk was in St. Charles, but that got creamed by Rita, so I expect he's not there anymore."

You also get a sense of the breadth of the split in the musicians' community at the Web site for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the legendary band that for many around the world has long defined the New Orleans sound. The site was recently updated to note: "We are elated to announce that we have now had contact with all musicians associated with Preservation Hall." The last surviving member of the original band -- 96-year-old banjo player Narvin Kimball -- initially refused to leave New Orleans during the city's evacuation, but the band manager forced him into a car just before the storm hit.

The band hopes soon to get back to Preservation Hall, which wasn't badly damaged, but in the meantime is scheduled to play gigs in places as diverse as Danville, Ill., and London.

Major headliners of international stature generally hit the road and post their tour schedules at their Web sites. Finding the thousands and thousands of great musicians who don't sit at the top of the charts is a tougher job.

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