Trombonist Lucien Barbarin to kick off 20th anniversary Nickel-A-Dance traditional jazz series Oct. 5
The Nickel-A-Dance series of free, all-ages traditional jazz shows on Sunday afternoons in March and October is much different than when it launched in 1994. It is now based at Maison, across Frenchmen Street from the now-shuttered Café Brasil, where it started. Another difference? People actually dance at Nickel-A-Dance now.
In October 1994, the inaugural Nickel-a-Dance concert was presented in conjunction with Jazz Awareness Month and the Jazz Town Awards. Jazz historian Dick Allen suggested the name, based on a tradition from 1920s New Orleans dance halls of men paying women a nickel for a dance (the price apparently went up to a dime in the 1930s). That initial concert featured Percy Humphrey, the trumpeter best known for his long tenure at Preservation Hall (he would pass away the following year).
The show went over so well that the next year, Nickel-A-Dance expanded to a full month of Sunday afternoons. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when the preservation of distinctly New Orleans cultural traditions took on an extra sense of urgency, Nickel-A-Dance expanded once again to feature both a fall and a spring season.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, from 4 to 7 p.m., Nickel-A-Dance kicks off its 20thanniversary season with trombonist Lucien Barbarin's New Life Jazz Band. Barbarin's extensive resume in New Orleans music includes a childhood stint with his uncle Paul Barbarin's Onward Brass Band, co-founding the influential Fairview Baptist Christian Church Band with his cousin Danny Barker, European tours with Wallace Davenport, Lars Edegran and the Young Tuxedo Brass Band and, for the past 20-plus years, an ongoing collaboration with Harry Connick Jr.
Barbarin and the other latter-day Nickel-A-Dance bands are generally called on to fuel a crowd of dancers. Early on, the crowd tended to be older. But after the swing dance revival of the late 1990s, an influx of younger, hot-jazz and swing dance enthusiasts began filling the dance floor.
Every Sunday in October, they'll be swinging around the broad dance floor at Maison, where the series moved after Café Brasil closed in the late 2000s. As many as 300 people sometimes show up, says co-founder Jason Patterson, who also books the music at Snug Harbor. Admission for Nickel-A-Dance is free; a coalition of individuals, small businesses and grants from arts organizations pays the bills, including the musicians' salaries.
The fall 2014 series continues with the New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra on Oct. 12 and trumpeter Gregg Stafford & His Jazz Hounds on Oct. 19. The season concludes Oct. 26 with the Palm Court Jazz Band paying tribute to the late trumpeter and singer Lionel Ferbos, a Nickel-A-Dance regular. Mr. Ferbos died in July, two days after celebrating his 103rd birthday.