The Little Gem Saloon, located on the ground floor at 445 S. Rampart Street, effectively restores a nationally significant historic jazz landmark into a spectacular restaurant and jazz club. At the same address upstairs you'll find The Ramp Room.
The Little Gem Saloon was first opened in 1903 on the 400 block of South Rampart Street, which has long been considered the birthplace of Jazz. Early progenitors of Jazz such as Jelly Roll Morton, Freddie Keppard and Buddy Bolden performed at Frank Douroux’s Little Gem Saloon in the historic “Back O’ Town” neighborhood that borders the infamous Storyville red-light district. As Jazz became one of New Orleans’ greatest exports, this block of South Rampart, also known as “The Ramp,” was a teeming commercial district that included the Karnofsky Tailor Shop, where Louis Armstrong reportedly worked in his youth, and numerous Jazz clubs including the legendary Eagle Saloon, and The Iroquois Theatre.
Between 1926 and 1949, the building was home to David Pailet’s Loan Office, a combination pawn shop and hang out for musicians. By the 1950s it had turned into Pete’s Blue Heaven Lounge, an R&B club where members of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club began and ended member funerals. By the 1960s, the once thriving district was demolished in order to build a new City Hall, office towers and parking lots. The Little Gem Saloon was boarded up for close to 40 years until its rebirth in December 2012.
The Bazan Family set out to restore The Little Gem in 2012. The group transformed The Little Gem Saloon into a multi-level restaurant and live music venue that harkens back to the days when the venue was truly the jazz corner of New Orleans. More than a century since it first opened its doors, the restoration of The Little Gem Saloon marks the resurrection of this historic area as the new epicenter of New Orleans’ jazz.
The set that was turned into this live album is available now to view, for the first time ever, here on WWOZ. It features a mix of new and old original material from Marsalis. It is available now as an instant digital download or CD from Basin Street Records.
- Jason Marsalis: percussion
- Oscar Rossignoli: piano
- Jasen Weaver: bass
- Gerald Watkins: drums