It is impossible to separate New Orleans from Jazz. We’re here to visit the national parks in New Orleans. Usually, I go to the park visitor center, get my bearings, and walk through the actual battlefield or preserve. But at the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, the sites are everywhere. They publish a self-guided walking tour but we saw jazz and history in many other places.
First stop, Jackson Park where a pick-up band was playing for tips. A large statue of Andrew Jackson dominated the park. I stopped at the official New Orleans visitor center to ask them where the Jazz visitor center was located. The fellow behind the desk had never heard of it and pulled out his cell phone to google it. That was a test and he failed it.
We walked up Conti St. with map in hand. Two friendly people going into their apartment said, “You look lost.”
“No, we’re looking for the Tango Belt at 1026 Conti,” and I showed them my map.
“There’s nothing there. We’ve been living here for five years, the woman said. “There might be a plaque.”
She was close. There was a sign for The historic parlor house of Madam Norma Wallace.” It had been a brothel and Madam Wallace was the last madam.
Basin Street Station was easy to find. The building had belonged to the Southern Railroad for over fifty years. It’s now a privately owned visitor and exhibition center. One section was devoted to the jazz gumbo that is New Orleans, a mixture of Africans, Europeans, Caribbeans, and Americans.
At Armstrong Park, jazz thrives both in the sculpture and music. In the past, at Congo Square, slaves danced, drummed, sang and traded goods on Sunday afternoon. The dances included the Congo.
Now each Thursday, people set up food and souvenir stalls. A free jazz concert started at 5 pm and a crowd had already claimed their seats. an hour earlier. The Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club weaved their way through the park. We followed them. A huge statue of Louis Armstrong dominated the park.
Not a bad first afternoon in the Crescent City.