AT the Amora Riverwalk Hotel today we were talking with John and Paula Cox who have just come back from a trip to the US. New Orleans was on the itinerary, and amongst the jazz they listened to whilst there, outstanding was the young soprano saxophonist, Aurora Nealand . (She also plays clarinet and piano accordion, and leads her own band – The Royal Roses.)
The Cox’s caught up with her at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmens Street, but here she plays and sings “Comes Love” with Tom McDermott on piano at Buffa’s, 1001 Esplanade Avenue.
Nealand grew up in the 1980s in the California town of Half Moon Bay, listening to her parents’ jazz recordings, including those of Sidney Bechet. The youngest of five, Aurora had no music lessons until high school, “but we always had a few instruments to bang on. Piano was my first instrument. Then I played flute and oboe. It was a small town – only one marching band. My brother played guitar in a rock band. I hung around him a lot.”
As the folk singer Spencer Bohren, with whom she has performed, says: “The soprano sax is difficult for many people to listen to because it tends not to be warm and inviting. Aurora makes one powerless to resist hearing it. She’s such a hot player, when you add her to a band it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire. Moreover, she’s humble, which I love. She has no idea how good she is. She’s filled with a certain grace that a lot of musicians don’t have.”
She moved to New Orleans in 2006 after graduation and spending a year in Paris. She plays with the Panorama Jazz Band, often sits in with Bohre, and is a fixture at the Blue Nile Tuesday night experimental musicians’ jam, whose ranks include Jeff Albert, Helen Gillet, Simon Lott and Justin Peate.
In 2010 she issued a 16 track CD recorded live at Preservation Hall, “A Tribute to Sidney Bechet Live in New Orleans”.
Here Nealand and The Royal Roses play “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” at an unidentified bar in New Orleans.
Visit Aurora’s website for more information about this outstanding young jazz artist.
Postscript: On a more sombre note, while John and Paula were enjoying the music, four blocks away a Mother’s Day second line march was the target of a shooting attack, said to be a gang related, with 19 people injured.