Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders
May 19, 2007
Center for the Arts
On Saturday May 19 at 8 pm the Center for the Arts of Homer brings back New Orleans' own, Don Vappie and the Creole Serenaders, known as the home town premier classic jazz orchestra. This group has attracted a unique following of music lovers that spans the generations with young and old among the eager fans awaiting the first note as the band takes the stage. Across the country the band's performances led by master musician Don Vappie have mesmerized and thrilled their audiences - just as experienced by those who attended the band's "we can't play at home so we're playing in Homer" concert hosted at the Center last June. Samples of this fabulous music can be heard at www.vappielle.com or www.center4art.org.
Jonathan Tabak says of a recent Creole Serenaders' performance " Don't expect to hear stale versions of "The Saints" or "Down by the Riverside" from this band. Banjoist Don Vappie rebels against the notion of a limited traditional jazz repertoire, played in monotonous fashion, with a melody, predictably followed by solos and a final chorus of melody. Instead, Vappie resurrects lost gems from the 1920s and '30s--clever tunes by composers like Jabbo Smith, Sam Morgan, and The New Orleans Owls, as well as charming French Creole songs--and arranges them so he and his capable band can tap into the joyous, danceable spirit of ensemble playing and improvisation inherent in early jazz."
Don Vappie and his Creole Serenaders are returning to the Center for the Arts fresh from performances at NYC's Carnegie Hall and the 2007 New Orleans Jazz Festival. Dedicated to contemporary performance and recording of classic jazz compositions from the 1920s and ‘30s, Don Vappie's Creole Jazz Serenaders provide today's audiences with a glimpse of "the real spirit of early jazz," a period when jazz was the "pop" music of the time. It was dance music and dance music swings. "Several years ago, it became apparent to me that the label ‘traditional jazz' had become more a repertoire of tunes chosen from a short list of familiar titles. What I've tried to do with the Creole Jazz Serenaders, is bring both the spirit and sophistication of classic jazz back to life, presenting neglected songs from that era that are also lively and entertaining. I hope to illustrate the kinds of music played when jazz was young, as well as the complexity of many of these pieces. When we perform, I always try to provide a sense of fun and energy that demonstrates to modern audiences why this music was the dance music of that generation." Don Vappie
Born in New Orleans in 1956, Don Vappie, conductor, arranger, composer, vocalist and instrumentalist (bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo and tuba) is one of New Orleans premier musicians and is considered among the best and most original tenor banjoists in the world. At age 17, he became a member of Dick Stabile's Orchestra based at the French Quarter's Fairmount Hotel's Blue Room. While a member of this group, he backed up artists such as Joel Gray, Carol Channing and Peggy Lee, who was so impressed with the young musician, she offered him a position in her band whenever he felt ready to leave home. In 1988, Don became a regular at New Orleans famed jazz club, Preservation Hall and toured with the group until 2005. Founded a decade ago, the Creole Jazz Serenaders includes some of New Orleans' most respected musicians. Vappie fronts the group on tenor and six-string banjo, guitar, bass, washboard and vocals. Alonzo Bowens plays tenor saxophone; Raymond Moore, alto sax and clarinet; Grant Harris and Charlie Fardella are on trumpets. Rounding out the group are Larry Sieberth on piano, Herman Lebeaux on drums and Mark Brooks on bass. The group breathes fire into the jazz classics. Louisiana folklorist Nick Spitzer describes its delightful sound: "The dignity and flamboyance, the composed and improvised, the past and future of traditional jazz are all in the performances of the Creole Jazz Serenaders." With The Creole Jazz Serenaders (CJS), Don has produced several internationally acclaimed recordings including Creole Blues and In Search of King Oliver. Creole Blues was chosen by Offbeat magazine as "one of 100 essential CD's." Vappie's transcription and recording of Joe "King" Oliver's music became the subject of a Public Radio International Broadcast series.
Having appeared as a guest with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Vappie can be seen on PBS's Live at Lincoln Center Tribute to Louis Armstrong and on Live at Lincoln Center In Search of Higher Ground. Vappie has toured and recorded with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and as a member of Wynton Marsalis' band. Don Vappie's dedication to New Orleans and its music have taken a new urgency in the years since Hurricane Katrina. While the Vappie house in Covington, Louisiana miraculously escaped hurricane damage, half of his bandmates lost their homes. For a time the musicians were spread across five states. Vappie said he's had many moments of despair, trying to find a way to pull his band back together in the aftermath of the hurricane. He and his wife Milly have become a driving force behind Bring It On Home, a new non-profit organization working to create local performance opportunities for New Orleans-area musicians as the city strives to rebuild its famously vibrant live music scene. Not only is the income important, but the opportunity to return to performing because, Don says, "what you need most is to get back to a sense of normality." The documentary "American Creole: New Orleans Reunion," which will be broadcast on PBS on September 7th, focuses in large part on Don Vappie and his family and their experiences in the past year. Tickets for this performance (General admission $20; seniors $16; students with valid ID and children under 12 are free) can be purchased in advance at Jodi's Hallmark and Sheridan's Fine Jewelry in Cortland, Linani's in Homer, Ithaca Guitarworks in Ithaca, through the Center's website at www.center4art.org, or by calling 877-749-ARTS (2787)., or at the door the evening of the performance. The Center Social Hour begins at 7:00 PM offering desserts, coffee, tea, wine and beer for purchase as a fundraiser for the Center.
This performance is supported by The New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This performance is also supported in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and by our season sponsor, Riehlman, Shafer and Shafer and show sponsor, FTZ Consulting LLC. Accommodations are provided by Greek Peak Resort. Don't miss your chance to see, hear, enjoy and dance to a performance that will raise the roof at the Center for the Arts and have everyone talking on Monday morning!
The Center for the Arts in Homer provides the region and community with a broad spectrum of cultural and artistic activities that provide education, enlightenment and entertainment. The Center is an accessible facility for year-round classes, workshops, exhibits, performances, summer camps, and conferences devoted to the visual and performing arts. The Center of the Arts of Homer is located at 72 South Main Street in downtown Homer on the corner of Routes 11 and 90, just off Exit 12 on I-81.