Dispatch, New Orleans: Immersed in jazz history

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Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran is on a Tauck jazz tour in New Orleans. Her first dispatch follows.

It would really be much more appropriate if I sang this dispatch. Pretty much from the minute I got off the plane in New Orleans, I’ve been singing, clapping and tapping my feet, thanks in large part to the musical medley of performances put together as part of the Tauck Jazz Event, a Ken Burns American Journeys experience.

Assembling this itinerary has been a long process at Tauck, beginning with the question: “What are some ways we can enhance our tours?” explained Tauck CEO Dan Mahar at the welcome performance on Wednesday night.

Tauck’s idea was to approach documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about assembling itineraries based on his series about jazz, the Civil War and the national parks.

The result was Ken Burns American Journeys, a collection of Ken Burns-curated itineraries, as well as events where Burns makes a personal appearance.

The Tauck Jazz Event is a five-day exploration of the story of jazz as told through the sights and sounds of New Orleans.

Mahar told a crowd of 223 people participating in the event that Tauck has for years used a word that derives from Louisiana French — lagniappe — which means a little something extra. Tauck tries to incorporate it into all of its tours.

But after a private jazz performance at the historic Preservation Hall in the French Quarter, I’m wondering how much lagniappe can be squeezed into five days. Donald Harrison, “the king of nouveau swing,” performed in a show that climaxed with a surprise appearance by a group of Mardi Gras Indians.

The tour teaches jazz history with participants walking, clapping and dancing through its birthplace.

It’s experiential learning at its finest, and even if we aren’t all able to recount a chronology of jazz on par with Burns, we’re going to walk away from New Orleans with memorable musical moments under our belt.

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