New Orleans Jazz Orchestra presents a tribute to drummer-composer James Black

Due to popular demand, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) will perform an encore of a tribute to james Noir Friday, January 14 at the New Orleans Jazz Market. Doors will open at 8 p.m. for the free concert.

james Noir was an accomplished drummer and composer capable of performing everything from complex modernist jazz to gritty funk. He was little known outside of New Orleans and never recorded an album under his own name. Noir had the reputation of being an irascible conductor, intimidating by his personality as much as by his talent.

Born in New Orleans on February 1, 1940, Noir became imbued with the city’s characteristic second-line rhythms from an early age, and by the early 1960s he was already engaged in work sessions for the likes of Fats Domino. His main interest, however, was jazz, and Black played in a band with young Ellis Marsalis on piano and Nat Perrilliat on sax. Nat Adderley – along with his brother Cannonball – used all three in his 1962 session In the bag, to which Noir contributed two compositions.

The following year, Marsalis recorded an underrated modern jazz album titled Monkey puzzle. This dead time, Noir managed four of the seven compositions, including the complex 5/4 piece “Magnolia Triangle”, which is perhaps his greatest work.

Noir then played with Yusef Lateef and Lionel Hampton in the mid-1960s. However, his career was cut short by a stint in Angola State Penitentiary where he played in a prison band with a blues pianist. james Booker and saxophonist Charles Neville.

At the end of the 60s, Noir played R&B gigs around New Orleans, and in 1968 he joined the Scram label as a house drummer. He performed on Eddie Bo’s “Hook and Sling,” helping to make it one of New Orleans’ great funk singles, and quickly took his place alongside Smokey Johnson and Ziggy Modeliste of the Meters as the one of the best funky drummers in town.

During this time he continued to play jazz on the side in Ellis Marsalis’ band ELM Music Company. They took up residence with Lu and Charlie from 1972 and became local favourites.

During the 70s, Noir also led his group, the james Noir ensemble, which often featured his longtime girlfriend “Sister Mary” Bonette on vocals. He made several attempts to record a full album, including once for the Sound of New Orleans label and another time at Allen Toussaint’s Sea-Saint studio, but the sessions never progressed beyond a few. parts.

Noir continued to perform in New Orleans into the 80s, still playing with Ellis Marsalis and Marsalis’ teenage pupil Harry Connick Jr. He was also the drummer for the 1982 album Marsalis Family. fathers and sons.

Noir died August 30, 1988.

In 2002, the Night Train label put together a compilation of mostly unreleased tracks, including many Noiraborted LP sessions. I Need Altitude: Rare and Unreleased New Orleans Jazz and Funk, 1968-1978 ran the gamut from heavy funk and psychedelic soul to soul-jazz, and featured many of the drummer’s own vocals. In the spring of 2003, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis presented a program of Noir compositions as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center series.

For more information on NOJO and the New Orleans Jazz Market, visit here.

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Henry R. Wright