This week’s New Orleans Calling is the second of two very special episodes about the life, work, and legacy of Harold Battiste, one of the greatest musicians and teachers in New Orleans in the late 20th century.
He was born in 1931, and before his death in 2015 he wrote, produced, arranged, or recorded hundreds of songs, toured the world, scored movies and television shows, and pioneered new sounds in jazz, R&B, and pop music. In 1989, his old friend and bandmate Ellis Marsalis convinced him to return to New Orleans to help start a new Jazz Studies program at the University of New Orleans. In this new role he served as a mentor to a new generation of New Orleans musicians, with not just his immense musical talent, but as a role model.
While “The Beat Goes On” told the story of Harold’s career in his own words, this episode, “Keeping The Music Alive,” draws on the recollections of his students and colleagues from his years as an educator.
Our guest scholar for this episode, Dr Brice Miller, is a jazz musician and educator in New Orleans. He worked with New Orleans Calling to gather some of Harold Battiste’s proteges for a roundtable interview at the auditorium of the Jazz & Heritage Center, to sit and discuss what “Mr Batt” meant to them as people and as musicians. The energy around the table was incredible — if we could have included all of the interview in the program, we would have!
Harold Battiste’s autobiography, Unfinished Blues, written with Karen Celestan, and published by the Historic New Orleans Collection, is a fascinating and honest self-portrait by an artist who changes and expands his mind over time.
Steve Masakowski was a young guitarist when he was invited to perform with Harold Battiste and John Boudreaux in 1981, for a live broadcast on WWOZ that until now has gone unheard from the time of its broadcast. That performance on October 30, 1981, was the first time Steve had met Harold. They both went on to teach at the University of New Orleans’ Jazz Studies program.
On a side note, Steve mentioned in his interview after listening to the recording, which he had forgotten all about, that it was the earliest recording of his own performance on guitar.
Harold Battiste – “Opus 43”
Brice Miller – “Night Train”
All That – “Funk With Me”
Harold Battiste presents the Next Generation – “Me & Wille Tee”
Ellis Marsalis – “Mozartin'”
The American Jazz Quintet – “Three Musketeers”
Harold Battiste – “Circle Cycle”
Andrew Baham – “Fuller Love”
The Next Generation Big Band – “Marzique Dancing”
The American Jazz Quintet – “Stephanie”
The Next Generation Big Band – “J.B. Jazz”
Victor Goines – “Genesis”
Harold Battiste – “How High is the Moon?”
Andrew Baham – “Lil’ Drew (for Andrew Jr.)”
The American Jazz Quintet – “Tony” (alternate spelling Toni)
The Next Generation Big Band – “Magnolia Triangle”
The American Jazz Quintet – “To Brownie”
Steve Masakowski – “Three for James”
Harold Battiste, John Boudreaux and Friends, live at the Contemporary Arts Center – “Marzique Dancing”
Harold Battiste, John Boudreaux and Friends, live at the Contemporary Arts Center – “Olde Wyne”
AFO Executives – “That’s All”
AFO Executives – “Lejohn”
The American Jazz Quintet – “Venetian Sky”
Harold Battiste with Ellis Marsalis – “Nevermore”
NEW ORLEANS CALLING is a production of WWOZ, listener-supported community radio in the Crescent City.
George Ingmire is the host, writer, editor, interviewer, audio engineer, intrepid field recorder, and co-producer.
Dave Ankers is the producer.
Melanie Merz is the supervising producer.
National distribution managed by Russell Shelton and Carmen Connor Post.
Web support by David Stafford.
Executive Producer is WWOZ’s General Manager David Freedman.
This special episode could not have been made without the assistance of Rachel Lyons and Dolores Hooper of the Archive of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, where the recorded interviews with Harold Battiste are preserved. Also, special thanks to the research staff at the Historic New Orleans Collection.
Also, very special thanks to Dr Brice Miller, who guided our process and assembled and moderated our roundtable discussion. And thanks to our interview subjects, Jesse McBride, Andrew Baham, Derrick Freeman, Rex Gregory, and Steve Masakowski.
The live recording of Harold Battiste performing “Old Wyne” in this program was originally recorded in 1981 by Steve Pierce and Walter Brock, for WWOZ.
Special thanks to:
Sally Young and Melanie Merz for their voice talents.
New Orleans Calling volunteers Catey Boyle and Doug Marshall.
Photo courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection.