Tag Archives: Nick Ellman


It is May. Yet I am making plans for November 14-16, 2014. That’s the kind of fellow I am, even if it goes against all the good advice about living in the moment.

I learned from Duke Heitger at last weekend’s jubilant Atlanta Jazz Party that the 2014 Steamboat Stomp — a three-day floating jazz festival held on the steamboat Natchez, floating up and down the Mississippi from New Orleans, is going to happen.


It was a glorious weekend in 2013.


And Duke has some of the same people lined up — the Yerba Buena Stompers, Banu Gibson, and Topsy Chapman — with hints of other heroes and heroines to come.

Of course, much of my pleasure was in the glorious music. But some of it was deeper and harder to explicate. Maybe it was looking out at the Mississippi River flowing by after all those years of reading and teaching HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Maybe it was being on an actual steamboat listening to jazz — the way one might have heard it in 1921 when Fate Marable’s band swung out. Maybe it was getting to walk down the streets of New Orleans — those fabled streets — and try different varieties of gumbo. I can’t tell you exactly what parts of the experience made the strongest impact. But I will be there! And I hope some of my friends can join me.

Here’s some musical evidence of the New Orleans Joys available to people at the Stomp. I do not overstate, you will see.


Palm Court Cafe, Part One

Palm Court Cafe, Part Two

Oh, Sheik That Thing!

The Steamboat Stomp itself:

Ms. Gibson’s Singular Cardiological Rhythms

Mr. Thompson’s Indigos

Doctor Pistorius and the Worlds of Love

Rocking the River

Stomping for Joy

Joe Oliver  Is Pleased

If that doesn’t convince the hesitant, I don’t know what will.  For myself, the thought of it suddenly becoming November is terrifying. But as far as the 2014 Steamboat Stomp is concerned, I’m ready.

May your happiness increase!


Portions of this musical self-portrait are not entirely accurate.  The ebullient singer, improviser, and comedienne Banu Gibson has very fine shoes as well as something to eat. So the dramatic lyrics of the 1937 Louis Armstrong song I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM don’t apply in a self-pitying way.

But as this performance shows, the title is absolutely the truth, and Banu makes everyone feel comfortable in a matter of seconds: swing can do that!

Her Swing Band is on the same jubilant wavelength: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Nick Ellman, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums. This brief life-enhancing experience took place on October 12, 2013, at Duke Heitger’s first Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.

Vitamins for the soul:

May your happiness increase!