Heart of Louisiana: Online Jazz Tour

Updated: Apr. 28, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s now easier to do a deep dive into the history of Jazz and you don’t have to leave home to do it.

Information from a number of different historical sources has been combined into one website.

The website is called “A Closer Walk NOLA”. And not only does it take you on a virtual stroll through some of New Orleans’ older neighborhoods, but it also wakes you back in time to the very beginnings of Jazz.

“The idea was to bring attention to the physical structures that were part of the development of New Orleans music,” says Jordan Hirsch.

Hirsch is one of the developers of the broad immersion into the city’s musical history.

“It’s not only the birth place of Jazz, it’s the birth place of Rhythm and Blues. It’s the birthplace of Bounce. It’s the way that these movements interacted with social movements interacted with social movements like civil rights There’s a whole lot of a value to making these sites more visible,” says Hirsch.

One of the most musically historical blocks in New Orleans is the 400 block of South Rampart Street.

You still have a few of the original structures left that were part of the early beginnings of this music.

“Smithsonian famously called that block one of the most significant blocks in all of Jazz history,” says Hirsch.

On one corner, there is the Eagle Saloon, a popular hangout for early musicians. In the middle of the block is the Iroquois Theater.

“Where Louis Armstrong was. He was just a kid. He won a talent show there by putting flour on his face and performing in white face,” says Hirsch.

A young Armstrong befriended the Karnofsky family who operated a tailor shop here. He got a job delivering coal.

And there’s a reason the old photo of Buddy Bolden’s band is painted on the side of the Little Gem Saloon.

“The Little Gem on the corner was a place where musicians like Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton would hangout and drink before and after their gigs,” says Hirsch.

Bolden is credited as the creator of Jazz music. His house still stands in another neighborhood, Central City. A few blocks away is the home of another Jazz great, King Oliver.

“If Central City was in any other city in America, it alone would make that city a destination for music history buffs,” says Hirsch.

Also in Central City, the dilapidated Dew Drop Inn, a must stop on the Chitlin Circuit of the 1940s and 50s.

“Ray Charles spent time there, Little Richard spent time there. And during segregation, it was a place where touring black artists could find a hotel room and a barbershop in a restaurant and basic services that were denied to them when they were just driving across Louisiana between shows,” says Hirsch.

These stories and hundreds more are tucked away on the website where you can explore musical history and take a virtual walk along the streets where it all began.

To take a tour, visit https://acloserwalknola.com/.

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