Day 95: Basin Street Blues
Thelonious Monk once said "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." It's a funny thing, trying to experience the sights and sounds of live music through the lens of words. As writers, we only hope to do it justice, bringing the venue to your imagination. As bartenders, we just want to help further your experience through flavor, while those sights and sounds take over. Regardless of your vantage point, none of this would be possible without the truest American art-form, jazz.
Hello once again, my thirsty readers, and happy Juneteenth! On this nineteenth day of June, we remember when the last enslaved people in the southern states were freed. For some reason, this day has gone unnoticed for so long, that many people haven't even heard of, let alone celebrate the day. History books do tend to choose the more "comfortable" parts of history for our children to learn after all.
On September 22, 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by president Abraham Lincoln. This document declared that as of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thence forward, and forever free.”
Sadly, there were remote areas in the southern states, where news of the proclamation had not spread. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in such an area. General Gordon Granger stood in Galveston, Texas, and he read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” It took two and a half years for so many people to even know they had been freed.
The following year, the freedmen of Texas organized the first annual celebration, then known as "Jubilee Day," to be held on the historic day of June 19. As news of Juneteenth spread from Texas to the rest of the country, many states have honored the holiday. Unfortunately though, Congress has yet to declare Juneteenth a national holiday. We can only hope this will soon change.
I didn't' even know this holiday existed, until I was in college, and that makes me very sad. Perhaps, if we gave as much focus to "everyone's history," as we do to the history of the privileged classes, we could all learn to love one another. Our children would continue to see everyone as human, without the learned bias and hate which so commonly takes place. I once heard someone say "History books were written by those who've hanged heroes," and it's always stuck with me. There's so much talk about "erasing the past," when we want to tear down certain monuments, which serve as a painful reminder to many of a dark time in our nation's history. Why then, shouldn't we honor the triumphs instead, just as Juneteenth honors them.
Now what does this have to do with Jazz? The simple answer would be everything. Without the African-American communities of New Orleans, jazz may have never been born. If it had, then it definitely wouldn't have looked or sounded the same. New Orleans native, Spencer Williams, wrote "Basin Street Blues" in 1928. Later that year, it would be recorded by Louis Armstrong. It tells the tale of a place which can cure your "blues," and that land of dreams was Basin Street, New Orleans.
This is the place where jazz was born. This is where music, as we know it today, took that evolutionary crawl out of the mud, and the world became a brighter place. So I can't write about jazz without honoring days like Juneteenth. The world would have missed out on so many great gifts, had that proclamation not been issued. The world would be much less bright, and we would never be able to lose our Basin Street Blues.
Basin Street Blues
.75oz Rye Whiskey
.75oz Medium-Body White Rum
.75oz Green Chartreuse
.75oz Blue Curacao
.75oz Banana Liqueur
.75oz Lemon Juice
Shake and strain into chilled glass.
Top with Freshly grated Cinnamon.
Garnish with parasol.
*There was several versions of this equal-parts cocktail, before settling on the final. If you're a fan of fruit, spice, and fun, I think you're really going to enjoy.*
I sure would love to talk about jazz and cocktails all day, but duty calls. If you only do one thing today, support a black-owned local business. Everyone is still trying to get back on their feet, but I think you can be a bit more selective today. I'd say it's the absolute least we can do. I'll be back tomorrow, so until then, keep shaking.