In New Orleans, "Jazz Spills Into The Streets From Music Clubs"—Isn't That A Good Thing?

Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph's CD-release party at Café Istanbul in late August/ photo: Larry Blumenfeld
Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph’s CD-release party at Café Istanbul in late August/ photo: Larry Blumenfeld

According to Stephen Perry, President and CEO, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the spillage of music onto streets from clubs (and presumably of music fans, too, and of “noise”) tops the list of reasons why more than 128,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler ranked New Orleans No. 5 among “Best Big Cities in America.”
In an Oct. 23 press release, Perry was quoted as follows: “New Orleans offers an incomparable experience for visitors – it’s a place where jazz spills into the streets from music clubs, where internationally-renowned chefs bring their inspiration to the table and where history meets the modern-day, from our French and Spanish architecture to our customs. The vitality of New Orleans shines through our hospitality, and this recognition from such a respected and trusted brand reconfirms New Orleans’ position as an authentic, world-class destination.”
Why, then, did I get the following, only a few days earlier, concerning yet more tensions surrounding music venues in New Orleans?

(though these dates are past, the issue is ongoing)
ACTION ALERT: Support Cafe Istanbul at City Hall on Tuesday, October 20 at 1pmMarigny/Bywater community music and arts venue Cafe Istanbul is set to appear in front of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABO / ABCB) on Tuesday, October 20th, at 1:00pm, to defend against allegations–made by a select group of neighbors in conjunction with the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association–of being being a “nuisance bar.”From Cafe Istanbul co-owner (and MaCCNO Board member) Chuck Perkins:”Five years ago, (business partner) Suleyman and I said that Cafe Istanbul was going to be an inclusive venue accessible to all of the people of New Orleans, we insisted that everyone would be welcome with the exception of the hateful and intolerant. Five years later, I am happy to say that Cafe Istanbul is everything we intended it to be and more. Thanks to all of you for helping us make our dream a reality, I look forward to seeing you at 1pm on the October 20th.”
—Chuck Perkins, Co-Owner, Cafe Istanbul
ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20 at 1:00pm
If you have a MaCCNO ‘Music is not a Crime’ t-shirt, please wear it.

Here’s what I wrote recently about Café Istanbul, within, “Resilience Follies,” my coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 2005 flood:

That night, I ended up at Café Istanbul, a club opened four years ago by spoken-word poet Chuck Perkins, within the Healing Center complex on a now quickly developing stretch of St. Claude Avenue. I fugured I’d pick up a thing or two at the Center’s food coop and stop in to wish Chuck a happy 50th birthday.
Then I heard the unmistakable sound of Donald Harrison’s alto sax. But Harrison was supposed to be in Japan. Man, that sound system makes a recording sound good, I thought. When I heard the yet more unmistakable sound of Dr. John’s voice, I realized This was no recording.
It was a CD release party for “Sousafunk Ave,” from Kirk Joseph’s Backyard Groove band. The band is tight, funky and deeply musical on its own, fortified by the power and dexterity with which Joseph anchors the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s sound. At Café Istanbul, as on the new CD, Joseph’s band was joined by guests. Dr. John sang a spirited version of his classic “Such a Night,” with Harrison adding sly asides and a bebop-inflected solo. Harrison, meanwhile, fresh of a flight from Japan, gathered the band’s horn section for call-and-response riffs to Joseph’s tunes. Here was just the sort of gig you couldn’t have predicted and don’t want to miss that New Orleans, more than most cities, still offers. And Café Istabul has been host to its fair share of these.
Yet Café Istanbul is the latest New Orleans venue to be threatened by complaints. As happened with increasing frequency regarding key venues during the past few years, local residents and neighborhood associations have challenged the club. The City Attorney has filed a petition before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board claiming that Café Istanbul should be declared a public nuisance. Perkins told me that a hearing is scheduled for later in September.
Yet this night, as Priness Darrinisha, a foul-mouthed and deeply funny drag queen comic hosted a raucous revue to celebrate his birthday, Perkins wasn’t thinking about such things. He was showing, at 50, “how I do resilience,” he said.

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