John Boutte
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John Boutte

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"New Orleans' best-kept secret"

by Larry Blumenfeld
May 29th, 2007 8:12 PM

Lake Pontchartrain was calm one recent afternoon as I sat near the water's edge, eating oyster po' boys with New Orleans singer John Boutté. But the destructive potential of the water surrounding him is never far from his mind, nor are the empty promises made by federal, state, and city officials in the long wake of 2005's floods.

"The floods were one thing," he said. "But everything since has been even worse. It's been one indignity after another—a horrible nightmare you just can't wake up from."

A week earlier, bouncing around a stage at the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival, a horn section punctuating his phrases, Boutté sang that sentiment during Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothin' ": "We would not care to wake up to the nightmare that's becoming real life." An apt vehicle for Boutté's reedy tenor, the song became much more: an elegant escape valve for pent-up frustration. Biting into the title line—"You ha-ven't done nothin' "—he lent uncommon power to a familiar complaint.

When Boutté performs at Joe's Pub on June 6, New Yorkers will get rare exposure to the soft voice and fiery spirit that have made his hometown gigs mandatory, cathartic listening. Talk to New Orleans musicians and they'll sing one chorus: He's just about the best vocalist in town. Listen to him perform, and you'll hear the stories of post-Katrina life wrung from a well-chosen repertoire and coy phrasing. At d.b.a, along a boisterous strip of Frenchmen Street, Boutté regularly silences Saturday night conversations, transforming Annie Lennox's "Why" from lover's inquisition to social-resistance cry. At the French Quarter's Café Amelie, he fills the lush courtyard gently, singing obvious standards and lesser-known gems such as Wonder's "If It's Magic." Randy Newman's "Louisiana, 1927," commemorating an earlier flood, has become a focal point of Boutté's gigs, studded with the singer's own topical lyrics. (Newman's account of President Coolidge arriving on a railroad train becomes "King Bush flew over in an aeroplane," along with snide asides to BlackBerrys, Condi Rice, and the infamous "heckuva job" comment.)

The eighth of 10 children, Boutté, now 48, grew up in a small house in the city's Seventh Ward. He sang in church and played first-chair trumpet in public school. After attending Xavier University and serving a few years in the Army, Boutté found himself filing reports for the city morgue. He later worked as a bank account supervisor. But a chance encounter with Stevie Wonder led to an impromptu jam session. "And before Stevie left," Boutté recalls, "he told me that I had my own signature as a singer." Soon after, Boutté's older sister Lillian, who starred in the musical One Mo' Time, invited him to sing on her European tour. He quit the bank gig and never looked back.

In performance, Boutté, who is short, wiry, and bronze-skinned, moves like a flyweight boxer—he hangs back, then thrusts forward, shifting his weight from left to right. His voice works that way, too. It flows in a series of silky moves, all based on rhythmic patterns, now and then bursting into a single piercing note or a devastating flurry of melismata.

Some worthy recorded documents of Boutté exist: a chilling, nearly rubato version of "We Shall Overcome" on 1997's private-issue Scotch and Soda; the jaunty, gospel-inspired title track of 1999's At the Foot of Canal Street; a clever Cubano version of Allen Toussaint's "Mother-in-Law," with members of Cubanismo, on 2000's Mardi Gras Mambo; his stirring "Why" on last year's star-studded Sing Me Back Home. But the great John Boutté album is yet to be made. Maybe that's fitting. Like so much in New Orleans, Boutté's magic is elusive. You have to be there.

John Boutté plays Joe's Pub June 6, - Village Voice

"Boutte’s music is therapy for listeners and singer"

John Boutte
WHEN: Friday, May 4 (4:15 p.m.)
WHERE: New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (AT&T/WWOZ Jazz Tent)

Easter weekend in New Orleans. It’s early evening at d.b.a., a Frenchmen Street bar and music venue. John Boutte and a trio of musicians are playing an intimate show for a rapt audience. Sitting in a chair on the small stage, the intense Boutte is singing and shaking a tambourine. His adds a second line of percussion with his boot.

Despite New Orleans’ reputation for good times, the scene at d.b.a. is serious. This is a place of healing.

Many of the songs Boutte sings contain layers of meaning they didn’t possess before Aug. 29, 2005. The singer tweaks lyrics, too, making them pointedly relevant to his city’s post Hurricane Katrina troubles.

“You don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know how I feel,” Boutte exclaims during his rendition of Annie Lennox’s “Why.”

“Six feet of water in the streets of the Lower Nine,” he sings in Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.” “Twelve feet of water in your mama’s house and mine. I feel like they’re gonna wash us away.”

He also sings “City of New Orleans,” featuring the line, “Don’t you know me? I’m your favorite son.” And Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing,” Allen Toussaint’s “All These Things” and the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

“Everything is just a different shade to me, a different color,” Boutte said later. “My rose-colored glasses have been broke. Now, I have X-ray vision. I can see through all the BS and, boy, there’s too much of it.”

Boutte had long been an expressive vocalist in the manner of Sam Cooke and other gritty soul men, but his post-Katrina passion reveals a changed man.

“It’s hard for me to be any other way these days,” he said. “It’s hard for me to be lackadaisical about any of the songs that I sing. I’m totally frustrated even with my music. I feel like there’s so many more things I really want to say, that I need to say, but I don’t have the songs to say them.”

The singer’s often asked if he’s writing songs inspired by the past 19 months. It’s too soon for that, he said.

“After the storm, everybody had a Katrina song, which, in a way, cheapened the whole thing. It’s like trying to get the first press out. Sometimes you do that and it gets the whole story wrong.”

It’s not easy these days being a New Orleans musician who’s used to working late nights and sleeping in.

“It’s been over 19 months and I finally found a contractor to do my mother’s house,” Boutte said. “But then this morning, as I’m laying in bed, man, at eight o’clock, the hammer started going. Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Honestly, I was sitting there saying to myself, ‘What can I do?’ At first, I thought about the song, ‘If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning … ’

“When am I gonna wake up and not hear a bulldozer, a hammer or a big truck with Texas plates? Damn! My evil was crawling right up my backside this morning. All of a sudden I stopped. I read my morning prayers and it said true love is long suffering. I had been thinking, ‘Oh, man. I gotta work tonight and here are these guys banging at eight in the morning!’ But then I realize they’re fixing my mother’s house.”

Boutte is a member of a Creole family from the Seventh Ward.

“My family’s in McComb, Miss., and all spread out,” he said. “Easter weekend, I was very depressed, to be honest with you. I knew Easter wouldn’t be like the Easters I was used to. You can’t get everybody around the table in the trailer.”

But his music is a source of consolation, for the singer and those who hear him.

“Mad as I am about things, music is the only thing that really kind of settles me, man. It brings me back to my normal self. A lot of people think I’m doing this for them, but once I get together with my band members, I feel like I’m safe and I’m secure, surrounded by their music. Right in the middle, that sweet spot thing.

“People have a good time, but they have no idea that, for me, it’s total therapy, man. Like a balm to my spirit. If I didn’t have music, God knows where I would be.”

At d.b.a., the emotional connection between musicians and audience was undeniable.

“They love the music as much as I do right now,” Boutte said. “And they need it as much I do.”

John Boutte

Published: May 4, 2007 - The Advocate

"Cultural Traditions Serve Singer's Soul"


Walk down the tree-lined streets of New Orleans' Faubourg Marigny neighborhood on a hot sultry night, and chances are you'll hear John Boutte's voice floating out of one of the area's trendy nightspots. Perhaps he'll be singing soulful versions of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" or Annie Lennox's "Why," or maybe it'll be one of the bayou-blended tunes he's co-authored with Paul Sanchez, his pal from the alt-rock band Cowboy Mouth.

Whatever the song, its soulfulness will stop you in your tracks, for Boutte lives and breathes the heart and soul of New Orleans.

Born into a large Creole family that goes back seven generations in Louisiana, he was exposed to music early in life, soaking up New Orleans jazz, soul, blues and gospel, then adding his own Creole traditions along the way. Today, Boutte works with a wonderful amalgam of styles -- from torchy jazz to aching soul and African-American gospel -- all convincingly delivered.



When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Tickets: $15
Call: (773) 525-2508

"John is the embodiment of all that's good about New Orleans," Sanchez said. "His voice is the poetry of the language of New Orleans. It's uncanny but he makes whatever style he's singing completely believable."

Boutte has performed all over the world -- but never in Chicago. Thanks to Sanchez, he is making his local debut Monday night at Schubas as part of an acoustic show fronted by Sanchez and also including John Thomas Griffith and Sonia Tetlow, also of Cowboy Mouth.

One of the hightlights of the show is sure to be Boutte's rendition of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," a song that's gotten a lot of mileage since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last August -- and possibly the best American song ever written about a flood. At this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Boutte brought the crowd to its feet when he sang his wrenching version, which he reworked with Sanchez to describe Katrina's devastation, substituting "Lower 9" (indicating the city's flood-wrecked Lower 9th Ward) for the word "Evangeline" and closing with the plea: "Don't let them wash us away."

As evidenced by the song's biting lyrics, Boutte never has been shy about voicing his beliefs about New Orleans and its problems, which he says "began a long time ago." When the flood waters hit, he was performing in Brazil and didn't return home until October. Everyone in his family survived, but houses were lost, including those built by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

"Katrina never actually hit us," Boutte said, emphatically. "The failure of the levees is what hit us, and they were designed to fail. 'Louisiana 1927' is about just that sort of situation."

Music in the city's DNA

Boutte lives in the French Quarter, not far from the home he grew up in. The plant-filled balcony of his apartment overlooks Rampart Street near Congo Square, ground zero for the birth of New Orleans' music. Down the street is a non-descript laundromat -- once the home of J&M Studio, where the New Orleans sound of the 1950s was born; Little Richard, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Guitar Slim and Clarence "Frogman" Henry are just a few of the artists who recorded there.

"In the '50s, those guys were recording some of the biggest records in America down there," Boutte said, with a resigned sigh. "Now it's the place where I wash and fold my clothes."

One of 10 children born to a mother who believed in education ("We might have been poor, but we were always smart"), Boutte says anyone growing up in New Orleans gets a music education -- whether they like it or not. For example, he remembers a neighbor, Miss Belle, who every day belted out Mahalia Jackson songs while cooking greens and hanging her wash.

"Music was an integral part of everyone's life," Boutte said. "It was part of the socialization, from church to the barrooms to the cemetery. It was simply second nature to be in a brass band or participate in a second-line funeral parade. Avoiding it was not an option."

Boutte's stubborn mother, Gloria, had no intention of raising her children to a career in music. However, she did believe that children who understand music also do well in other subjects. So when Boutte was 8, she gave him a coronet, which led to a stand-out role in his high school marching band.

Yet despite his love of music, Boutte entered Xavier University intent on pursuing a business degree. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, where he worked as a statistician while also directing and singing in Army gospel choirs. Returning to civilian life, Boutte's sister Lillian invited him to tour Europe with her, which led to a final decision: Music it would be.

"It was the best career move I could have made," Boutte said.

Musical brothers

Boutte found a kindred spirit whe - Chicago Sun-Times, July 23, 2006

"Short quotes"

“He’s like a combination of Sam Cooke and Harry Belafonte.” - Louis Meyers, Director, The Folk Alliance

"Mardi Gras man: The New Orleans vocalist known for his work with ¡Cubanismo! sings A Change Is Gonna Come in such a sweet, soulful croon, you’ll swear it’s Sam Cooke himself gone gumbo."
- People Magazine

“John is the embodiment of all that’s good about New Orleans. His voice is the poetry of the Language of New Orleans.” – John Sanchez, Cowboy Mouth.

"Boutté's voice is the star. On Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," he testifies, "There've been times when I thought I could not last for long/Now I know that I'm able to carry on," digging deeply into the soul of the song, the city and himself." –The Times Picayune

"John Boutte was the surprise hit of our festival this summer. . . He is my new favorite singer. NOBODY sings like that anymore!"
-Doug Cox, Director, Vancouver Island Music Festival

"John Boutte was great in both concert and the sessions. He really made an impact here and was well-loved by the audience. There was no better artist to do a 6-song tweener on mainstage before Macy Gray. Artists with great chops and attitude are key to the sessions working. We enjoyed having him at the Festival."
-Kerry Clark, Artistic Director, Calgary Folk Festival
- From Various Sources

"From Top 10 Musical Events of 2006"

John Boutte at Schubas -- On a hot July night, the longtime New Orleans singer made his Chicago debut. Backed by his friends in Cowboy Mouth, he displayed his wonderful amalgam of styles -- from torchy jazz to aching soul and African-American gospel. His altered version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" brought down the house. -Mary Houlihan - Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 24, 2006

"NY Times: Singing His Heart Out for the City of New Orleans"

June 8, 2007
Music Review

“I’m not going to dwell on it; I’m tired of talking about it,” the singer John Boutté said at Joe’s Pub on Wednesday night. He was referring to the state of affairs in New Orleans, where he was born and reared and where he still resides. And while the second part of his statement seemed true enough, the first part quickly proved otherwise.

In fact, it would be an understatement to say that Mr. Boutté (pronounced boo-TAY) dwelled on New Orleans in a rare and suitably crowded New York performance. He reveled in it, grappled with it, made it seem like a state of being. In his banter as well as his singing, he steadily exuded New Orleans feeling: the bonhomie and pride along with the heartache and frustration.

He was backed only by an electric guitarist, Todd Duke, and the stripped-down format put some strain on them both. But strain is a welcome condition for Mr. Boutté, whose clear yet raspy tenor can suggest classic soul singers like Sam Cooke and Earl King. The set included a couple of songs associated with Mr. King, and a couple by Steve Wonder — “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and “You Haven’t Done Nothin’ ” — that Mr. Boutté took pains to connect to a faltering recovery effort since the levee failure of nearly two years ago.

Rhythm is a strong suit for Mr. Boutté, who kept spirited time on a tambourine through much of the show. On ballads and love songs he veered toward overstatement, imbuing Annie Lennox’s “Why” with a grating insistence that wasn’t helped by the stark setting. (He fared better with the song on a recent album by the New Orleans Social Club.) Singing “Skylark,” the Hoagy Carmichael-Johnny Mercer standard, he was more subdued but less self-assured.

By contrast, there was both authority and magnetism in his version of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” Mr. Boutté recorded it several years ago with a bluegrass band called Uptown Okra, and his arrangement with Mr. Duke preserves a similar rollicking feel. Of course the lyrics also suit Mr. Boutté handsomely. “Good morning America, how is ya?” he sang, grinning at his vernacular twist. “Don’t you know me? I’m your native son.” At the next line, “I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans,” he gestured toward the floor, which was rumbling with the passing of a well-timed subway train.

He pushed even harder toward resonance in “Louisiana 1927,” the Randy Newman song that became an anthem in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Its lyrics, which depict an earlier flood, don’t really require elaboration to evoke recent events. But when Mr. Boutté sang about “six feet of water in the Lower Nine,” and then alluded to someone named “King George,” a cathartic cheer arose. If he was dwelling on it, he wasn’t the only one. - New York Times

"Big stars won't outshine New Orleans talent at Jazz Fest, USA Today 4/22/08"

Big stars won't outshine New Orleans talent at Jazz Fest: Jazz vocalist John Boutté is a local favorite who also has built a rabid Jazz Fest following. "It's fine that they bring in big names from outside, but a lot of people want the real stuff," he says.

"You get people in the audience who might not know much about jazz, and they just freak out: 'We never heard it like that!' They're amazed by the originality, the mixtures of styles."

The pillars of jazz, blues and gospel represent the backbone of Jazz Fest from its earliest Congo Square days, "when music emanated from the folk of the city, and there were great performers like Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson," says Boutté, 49, who performs May 2. "If you lost that stuff, you'd have to change the name of the festival. The musical forms of New Orleans are beautiful and magic, you dig?

"It's spiritual, and it transcends countries in a way that can heal the world. All the money in the world cannot bring you a satisfied mind, and that's what New Orleans music gives you."

- USA Today

"A Flood of Emotion in a Song, New York Times, 4/27/08"

. . . The song’s ("Louisiana 1927") most dramatic recasting was by Mr. Boutté during his memorable set at Jazzfest in 2006. Backed by horns and a rhythm section and wearing a straw hat with the front brim turned up, he sang Mr. Newman’s lyrics straight through once, then changed things around. The line “Clouds roll in from the north” became “Clouds rolled in from the Gulf.” The line “President Coolidge come down in a railroad train/with a little fat man with a notepad in his hand” became “President Bush flew over in an aeroplane/with about 12 fat men with double martinis in their hands.”

“The city had been empty, but the whole world would be coming for Jazzfest,” Mr. Boutté recalled. “We’d have a soapbox to talk about our loss and about the unconcern others had for us. But I had to find the right song.”

His friend Paul Sanchez of the rock band Cowboy Mouth suggested “Louisiana 1927.” As Mr. Boutté rehearsed it, he unconsciously changed “crackers” to “Creoles" and “what the river has done” to “what the levee has done.” When they realized what was going on, the two men decided to rewrite the song.

Mr. Boutté saved it for last at his Jazzfest set, and when he started dropping local references into the lyrics, older women rose from their plastic folding chairs, waving their hands over their heads and egging him on as if they were in church.

“First the women started crying,” recalled Mr. Boutté, who performs at Jazzfest on Friday. “Then the men started crying. Then the children started crying because their parents were crying. Then I started crying. I can’t sing that song too often because it takes too much out of me. It reminds me of the needless loss — and the loss never seems to end.” - Geoffrey Himes

"Get into that New Orleans groove at home, USA Today 5/1/08"

Can't get to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival? Create your own. USA TODAY selects two dozen current discs by a diverse cross section of regional favorites playing this year's fest, which wraps up Sunday.

John Boutté, Good Neighbor. The popular New Orleans singer, who recalls Jimmy Scott and Jackie Wilson, takes on SouthernMan, Accentuate the Positive and a batch of originals. On the libidinous title track, he croons, "If I lived next door, you'd bang on my wall to make a Boutté call."

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY - USA Today

"Jazzfest: Going Crazy With John Boutté"

May 3, 2008, 2:02 pm
By Nate Chinen

John Boutté is one of those New Orleans entertainers who can seem like a force just barely contained. He’s a jazz singer and a soul singer, though sometimes not in that order, and a wickedly effective communicator. He works hard to connect with his audiences, and more often than not he succeeds mightily. Yesterday he had the jazz tent packed, and going crazy.

A small, wiry man with a high, grainy voice, Mr. Boutté can often evoke the sound of Sam Cooke. (He doesn’t seem to discourage the comparison.) But his stage manner, his choice of repertory and his rapport with musicians all point back to New Orleans. It’s hard to imagine him settled in anyplace else.

Since Hurricane Katrina, he has weighed social commentary against his natural good-times effervescence. Three years ago he performed a semi-legendary version of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927″ at Jazzfest: it’s one of the tracks he has featured at, along with “Why,” the Annie Lennox song I saw him sing at Joe’s Pub in New York one night last year.

Mr. Boutté has a new self-released album, “Good Neighbor,” that looks to be a winner. (I’ll be picking it up at the Louisiana Music Factory today.) One of the highlights of his set yesterday was the title track, a study in mischievous innuendo. The first verse sets the tone:

If I lived next door
If I lived next door
We would sleep less
But you’d see me more
If I lived next door

And then comes a line about a “Boutté call,” which is so bad it’s good. Especially the way he delivers it.

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* jazz, Jazzfest, pop

5 comments so far...

May 3rd,
4:40 pm

Something people may not know about John Boutte is what a loving and real person he is. He is everything good about New Orleans. His stage persona is as thrilling as it is honest. I am fortunate to know him as a friend and a fellow musician. On many occasions, when he spots me in the audience at d.b.a., a club and bar on Frenchman Street, he will call me up to sing a number. Saturday nights at d.b.a. are special events. The place is packed with adoring fans. We are blessed with such talent and humanity.

— Posted by Donald Waits
May 4th,
8:07 am

I was at the first weekend but since hearing his take on ‘Louisiana 1927′ on a WWOZ compilation CD I have become a fan though still have yet to see him. If I was at Jazz Fest this weekend I would have been at the tent.

Also good to hear a reviewer says he is going to buy a recording.

— Posted by Ron Weinstock
May 4th,
1:00 pm

No one person is more emblematic of NOLA than John Boutte.

— Posted by Colby
May 4th,
8:17 pm

John Boutte is a national treasure. Why he is not an international superstar is completely incomprehensible. He is a wonderful performer and makes Frank Sinatra sound like Bill Murray. I couldn’t be at the fest this year but I am thrilled to hear about so many people enjoying themselves down there.

— Posted by Dave Kay
June 22nd,
4:13 pm

I still have my copy of At the Foot of Canal Street that John autographed for my hubby saying he was going to run away with me! Nevermind I’m old enough to be his Mom, I’d almost be tempted to go! He is an absolutely beautiful man with an absolutely wonderful voice. Cannot wait to hear him in person once more.

— Posted by Katherine
- NY Times Arts Beat


Carry Me Home
Mardi Gras Mambo
At the Foot of Canal St
Scotch and Soda
Through the Eyes of a Child



On Sundays as the red beans were soaking for Monday's dinner, John Boutte was awakened by the sounds of his New Orleans neighborhood. Voices carried over the fence from the church behind his home in the Seventh Ward, the home where his mother Gloria still lives, where most of his Creole family still lives and sings. Past the front yard, second-line parades rolled by, matching the madness of Carnival season and the transcendent joy of the jazz funeral. This roux of influences created John Boutte, and serves him to this day.

During his school days John played coronet and trumpet, those clarions of life in New Orleans, in his junior high and high school marching bands; he was a section leader, no less, in a town where marching bands duel like decked-out demons in the street. School also gave John the chance to sing, first at talent shows and then with street a capella groups, groups named -- listen -- "Spirit" and then "Remnant." Linger for a moment on those names, and then let them resonate an instant longer, street bands singing on the bricks of a town where "street singer" is still a respectable job title.Take another moment and stir in the spices of the music that was on the turntables of his older brothers and sisters, the music that ruled the street and raised the spirits: Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. During these years traditional jazzmen like Paul Babarin, Louis "Big Eye" Nelson and Danny Barker became both John's friends and mentors. John's sister, Lillian Boutte, introduces the young stylist to local legends like Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and James Booker.

After high school, John studied at Xavier University, a black Catholic institution known in New Orleans and indeed the entire Deep South. After graduating John was commissioned as officer in the U. S. Army, and provided with the opportunity to direct and sing in the Army gospel choirs in Virginia, Texas and, eventually, Korea. It was in Korea, ironically, when sinqing gospel and deep, deep blues after hours in restaurants he'd only accidentally entered, that he began to know himself as an American, an artist and a person. Not long after his return to the States, John was invited to tour almost the entirety of Europe with his sister Lillian. Europe was a set of lessons in languages and cultures and customs, which gave John a chance to meditate on the very idea of a life led as a jazz singer.

When John eventually got back home to New Orleans he continued singing. But now there was a new generation, a new breed of musicians available; musicians like Herlin Riley, Shannon Powell, Nicholas Payton and Bryan Blade. He began to open shows for the likes of Mel Torme, Lou Rawls, Rosemary Clooney and, most recently, Herbie Hancock. In recent times he has recorded three CD's. Through the Eyes of A Child , Scotch and Soda, and the remarkable Jambalaya, recorded for Bose. Yet another CD entitled Gospel United, a concert recording arranged in Denmark, contains his remarkable solo arrangement of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", which has achieved Gold Record status in several European markets.

John still lives in New Orleans, down in the French Quarter, a mile or so from the home in which he was raised. When he's in town he can be seen on his overgrown tropical balcony overlooking Rampart Street and Congo Square. Sometimes you can hear him singing, sometimes whistling, or sometimes you can hear him faintly from the street as he sits at his piano singing a Korean lullaby. John's job is to sing -- to sing jazz, to sing it with such style and grace that no one ever mistakes him for anything other than a master. John is one of those remarkable cases where the art arises from the true heart. To know John is to hold onto the coattails of a butterfly. To hear him sing is to feel a brief touch of the wing.