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Up Front and Center: New Orleans Music at the End of the 20th Century 

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As he declares in the preface to Up Front and Center, local writer Jay Mazza is a particularly dedicated music fan. While there are legions of self-described hardcore music fans, Mazza has a journal to attest to his devotion. It begins April 1, 1989 with notes on a Snooks Eaglin show at Muddy Waters, with Jon Cleary on piano and Kevin Blevins on drums. The diary of concerts, festivals and all sorts of local musical events is currently 900 pages long. (He used post-Hurricane Katrina FEMA aid to have five handwritten composition books restored by a document recovery specialist in Chicago.) Some of the tremendous detail in Up Front and Center comes from that compiled journal, but the book is not a diary. It takes a focused look at certain trends in the local music scene from the late 1970s, when Tipitina's was founded, through the end of the millennium (an admittedly arbitrary endpoint). Mazza also spent hours in Tulane University's Hogan Jazz Archives researching the decade prior to the initiation of his journal. The book looks at the growth of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, from when Mazza and other fans could get an advance ticket for $5 and bring their own coolers to the festival, to its emergence as a international event. He also details the birth of the Frenchmen Street scene. "When I first came here, there were two clubs and no restaurants on Frenchmen," he said in an interview. "It was a pretty sketchy place. A lot of people didn't go there at night." He also covers the end of The Meters' career and the wave of funk bands that appeared in its wake. It's a detailed, often first-hand account of musicians, clubs (many of which no longer exist) and local musical traditions. Mazza self-published a history of the Radiators (I've Got the Fish in the Head: A Radiators Retrospective), and he blogs for Threadhead Press provided a grant to publish this book, and the terms of the deal call for Mazza to use proceeds from the book to make an equal donation to a local nonprofit group. He has chosen the Roots of Music program as a beneficiary. He signs Up Front and Center at NOLA Brewing and the event includes a brewery tour. Free admission. — WILL COVIELLO


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