Fact is, Jazz Fest or not, there is always incredible music happening every week in this town. But this time of year seems to encourage over-the-top, only-during-Jazz-Fest night-time eruptions of musical expression Uptown, Downtown and Back o’ Town.
For me, what determines my presence after a hot, dusty, loud but wonderful on-the-Grounds experience is the opportunity to sit down, in air conditioning, in small music-respectful spots, preferably off the tourist-beaten-path and with no high decibel-level speakers to blow me away.
I’ve actually found a spot or two. One almost-hidden space that’s offering this alternate kind of listening experience is in a wine bar, smack in the heart of Mid-City. Pearl Wine Co. in the America Can Building at 3700 Orleans Avenue is owned by a young woman who has channeled all her knowledge of fine wine and all her affection for music performance into an eight-day gig she’s calling Pearl Fest.
Leora Pearl Madden grew up in the Bay St. Louis area, went to college in Mississippi, but came to New Orleans often before leaving for California. After seven years traveling up and down the West Coast for an educational publishing company, Leora returned to live in the CrescentCity. She brought with her a wealth of experience learned from visiting California wineries large and small.
“Every week I would travel (Highway) 101 from Northern California to L.A. looking for professors to write or submit material for text books,” she recalls. “But on Fridays I would work half a day and then go taste wines half a day.”
In 2009, to learn even more, she took herself off to the Chicago Wine School. It was just for fun, she says; she had no intention of making a career change. But when she returned to New Orleans, she did start looking at that possibility. And, in 2013, when she discovered she could take over the former Cork and Bottle Shop in the American Can Building, her life changed. “I was definitely born to do this,” she says.
So from every evening from Wednesday, April 30, through Sunday, May 4, working with internationally renowned clarinetist Evan Christopher, Leora has planned PearlFest appearances of some of New Orleans’ most accomplished acoustic musicians.
“We’re partnering the music with local food trucks and caterers,” Leora says. “All shows start at 8 p.m. and last until about 10:30.” Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door.
Lagniappe: Sweet Lorraine’s is another local spot offering a one-night-only acoustic gig; it showcases local trumpet player Edward Anderson and a couple of his out-of-town talented colleagues. Head to this 30-year-old musical institution at 1931 St. Claude Ave. (504-945-9654) on Friday night, May 2, to hear Anderson and two of his Houston-based buds: Al Jarreau’s music director/bassist Christopher Walker and Jarreau’s drummer Mark Siummons. For information go to bleuorleansmusic.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.