Gregory Agid Quartet
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Gregory Agid Quartet

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF
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"Triple-clarinet set puts woodwinds in Jazz Fest spotlight"

Mozart didn't know Jazz Fest, but he knew about the power of the clarinet. He wrote some of his most gorgeous concertos for the instrument, knowing its clear, clean timbre could lift melodies to soaring heights with the right person behind the reed.
Evan Christopher, Tim Laughlin and Gregory Agid all know a thing or two about the clarinet, too. The three musicians, known collectively as "Clarinet Woodshed," led a mid-day Jazz Tent audience through the instrument's full jazz range.
"In New Orleans, brass is well-known, but the tradition of the woodwinds is just as important and long-standing," Christopher said after the set's opening number, Sidney Bechet's "Blues in the Air."
All three jazz men played on that tune, after which Christopher introduced 24-year-old Agid, a protege of Alvin Batiste and graduate of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Christopher tackled a virtuosic number with dizzying runs up and down instrument, buttressed by an equally impressive solo from pianist David Torkanowsky. Agid couldn't suppress a confident smirk as the audience cheered him on.
"Boy, it sucks to be old enough to be his father, doesn't it?" Christopher quipped to Laughlin, who took the front of the stage after Agid's showcase number.
But where Agid brought youthful moxie and vigor, Laughling tempered the set with the restraint and nuance of maturity on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," written by the songwriting duo Manning Sherwin and Jack Strachey in 1940. Agid's rendition, when paired with the smooth electric guitar of Todd Duke, recalled Johnny Smith's "Moonlight in Vermont."
After the ballad, it was time for bamboula on Christopher's own composition, which translates from pidgin French to "Listen to the One Who Makes the Thunder Roar." Taking the lively, syncopated rhythm of the bamboula -- an African beat brought to Louisiana and played in Congo Square -- at an unforgiving pace, Christopher and the backing group got people up and dancing within seconds. Drummer Shannon Powell seemed barely able to contain himself as he closed out his skipping solo with tongue-in-cheek simplicity, prompting one woman to cry out, "Get 'em, Shannon!"
All three clarinetists reunited for the standard "Mood Indigo," which Christopher dedicated to "All New Orleans clarinet players, past and present." With the skill of their supporting players and deft three-part harmony, Clarinet Woodshed pulled off a legitimate, mellow big-band sound -- proving the noble woodwind can do just fine without brass. -

"Life Far from Easy for New Orleans Musicians"

The number 1,500 comes in handy in discussions about the plight of New Orleans' musicians.

That's the number of musicians said to be back in the city and doing reasonably well. Another 1,500 are back but are leading unstable lives, "crashing with relatives" and "cramming into trailers," according to the Sweet Home New Orleans foundation. Yet another 1,500 are still away and may never return.

One of the returnees is pianist and singer Eddie Bo, who is no stranger to the decades of ups and downs in New Orleans' music business.

Bo (real name: Bocage) made his first dollar at age 9, playing in church. He says he could hear his mother play piano while he was still in the womb.

"She played a 'junker' style like Professor Longhair," he says, referring to a banging-around Creole style of playing.

The Dew Drop Inn was a later influence. It was a club with a hotel upstairs that many top-line players used as a home base.

"I remember Ray Charles singing, and he was crying, and his mother had just died maybe a year earlier, and he was playing 'If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again,'" Bo recalls. "The things he was doing — the chord progressions — you can't learn that in school."

Bo went on to release numerous singles that became regional hits. He also worked with Ruth Brown, Joe Turner and Irma Thomas, and even had his own place, the Check Your Bucket cafe, for a while.

The clubs where Bo performed regularly before Katrina haven't reopened or are overbooked. Musicians in town now often work for far less money than before, sometimes for just what shows up in the tip jar.

Bo's only steady work has been at nursing and retirement homes in the area, where sometimes even the oldest and most sedentary residents are known to get up and boogie a bit. A jazz foundation out of New York pays for the gigs.

Bo does have a European trip planned for the fall ("They love the New Orleans musicians," he says) and then it's off to Australia.

Meghan Swartz and Greg Agid are two younger players. They acknowledge that the city's vibrant musical scene has changed, but they say it remains a wonderful place to hang out and learn.

Both are students at the College of Music and Fine Arts at Loyola University; Swartz is a pianist and Agid plays clarinet.

They say they will probably leave New Orleans for the more dynamic modern jazz markets of Los Angeles and New York, but they treasure their Crescent City memories.

Agid even got a chance to play at the downtown club Snug Harbor, with his longtime teacher, the late Alvin Batiste.

"One day he goes, 'Hey, I'm playing tonight, bring your horn,'" Agid recalls. "And he gives this big introduction to me, and I was so scared. He loved me, and he brought me up, and I feel like if you go to New York, and they bring you up on stage, they're doing it to show how immature and how young you are."

Agid also points out a bright spot for musicians in the Katrina evolution. Most of the musicians who used to play at Snug Harbor haven't returned, opening spots for players who needed a break.

Both Agid and Swartz — along with many others in New Orleans — speak of the city with uncertainty, about its recovery and whether there will be other hurricanes.

Bo thinks there will be. With a songwriter's gleam in his eye, he says, "You know, Katrina has a sister, and she's worse than Katrina." - NPR


Courtney Bryant- This Little Light of Mine



Following in the footsteps of jazz master, Alvin Batiste, Gregory Agid is emerging as one of the most unique voices on clarinet. Born in 1987, Gregory spent his childhood living in Honolulu, Hawaii. Inspired by his uncle, Gregory began playing clarinet in the Hawaii school bands at age 11.

In the summer of 2000 Agid was introduced to jazz when he moved to its birthplace, New Orleans, Louisiana. Attending the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp, he was brought up and mentored by jazz artists such as Alvin Batiste, Kidd Jordan, and Clyde Kerr. Under the guidance of Alvin Batiste, Gregory developed a deep love and passion towards music. In 2002, Gregory was accepted into New Orleans’ world famous arts high school, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). Under the direction of Michael Pellera, Agid was given a chance to learn jazz with bright young musicians such as Troy Andrews, Christian Scott and Jonathan Batiste. In 2005, Gregory was awarded a grant to take lessons from clarinet virtuoso, Eddie Daniels. This experience solidified Gregory’s desire to pursue a musical career. In addition to performance, Gregory has a deep passion for teaching. “It’s my duty to repay what Mr. Bat did for me,” says Agid.

Gregory has performed at venues such as: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Snug Harbor, and Sweet Lorraine’s. He also teaches at the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and NOCCA’s summer sessions.