Monday, February 25, 2008

Holy Schmidt! The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra

I met New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra band leader and singer George Schmidt at his art gallery in New Orleans during my trip. We dropped in at his Julia Street warehouse, not knowing if he was in, because he wasn't answering the phone. It's a little art gallery showcasing his varied styles, from landscapes to historical murals.
Well it's rather obvious from the first photo that I met the man. He is a bubbly and ebullient fellow, a lively talker full of humor. I introduced myself as a fan of the orchestra and he told me of their history, and some of their future concerts. It seems they'll be in Princeton New Jersey for an alumni celebration in April. I'm going to try to go see them, so hopefully their show will be open to the general public. Princeton's a lovely little college town with a great record shop, The Princeton Record Exchange. The New Leviathan is a revival band that plays ragtime music and earlier, really delightful stuff. I also love their motto:

Art fails where concept outstrips performance.




George Schmidt talks about giclee posters.


They always play at JazzFest, but it's tough to get into town then. It's not quite as big as Mardi Gras but brings in a more affluent crowd who fill up all the hotels. My co-worker Debbie is having a crawfish boil on May 3rd during the festival and invited me down, but I'm not sure I'll be able to make it. I'm going to try, though.

This site has some of Mr. Schmidt's paintings. I told him my friend Emma from Texas was a big fan but couldn't make it out to meet him, so he gave me a signed poster and some pamphlets to give her. He also gave me booklet of an exhibition honoring his 60th birthday where a bunch of friends did caricatures of him. I'll scan them in tomorrow and post them here.


George playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on his banjo.


He's quite a friendly guy and told me that the band rehearses next door to his gallery on Wednesdays at 7pm. I'd like to stop by and see them someday. Maybe on my next trip down to the Crescent City, which has fast become one of my favorite places.


The orchestra plays "Old King Tut" in a private performance.


Here's another clip of them playing at Jazz Fest last year.




To hear music clips, the Louisiana Music Factory has all their CD's.
"Bo-la-bo," from Burning Sands
"It Don't Mean a Thing," from Favorites
"The International Rag," from Old King Tut
"Angry," from I Didn't Mean to Say Goodbye
The title track, from Here Comes the Hot Tamale Man

The band is insistent that the Factory has "From New Orleans to Constantinople on the S.S. Leviathan," but the store is adamant that they do not have it in stock. It's a remaster of an older album that I'd love to have, so I'm going to keep bugging George about it.

2 comments:

sarah said...

you didnt mention you met the dude. How awesome for you! Sounds like a real great guy.

Danielle Bennignus said...

Just bumped into this post - indeed, George is a charming man, and the Leviathan is nothing short of a national treasure. Glad you had such a good time meeting with him - his effervescent character is so like the music he loves! Great post!

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