Preserving the relics found in Treme, the birthplace of jazz

"Jazz Fest" kicks off

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival -- better known as Jazz Fest -- kicks off next Friday. It's an annual celebration of Louisiana music and culture going back to 1970. Of course, the roots of jazz go back decades deeper than that.

It's a homecoming when jazz is celebrated in the New Orleans neighborhood of Treme. Jazz was born there. Al Jackson was too.  

When hears jazz, he can hear Treme in it. 

Jazz in Treme, New Orleans CBS News

A sound that became a worldwide musical language. Jackson, now 72, rediscovered its roots in Treme.

He was cleaning out the old Black Musicians' Union Hall, hoping to restore it, when he noticed papers the homeless were using as pillows.

"It was all over the floor, scattered," Jackson said. "Didn't know what we were look at until I reached down and said wait a minute this is 1941. We knew that we found something."

Al Jackson, who started the Treme Petit Jazz Museum in New Orleans.  CBS News

Like a ledger, signed by legends who flocked to Treme to perform in the 1940s. Some of the signatures include Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton. 

But there's one name that is most connected with Treme: Louis Daniel Armstrong. 

Armstrong, the legendary jazz trumpeter, learned how to play in Treme. Jazz historians believed he left his home town for good in the 1920s.

"This is original contract, performance 1954," Jackson said. "He did come back home."

Jackson found even more -- a performance contract for Ray Charles, before he made it big.

Louis Armstrong CBS News

"Ray Charles got $50 a night," Jackson said. 

Jackson opened the Treme Petit Jazz Museum last summer to display all these hidden treasures in this gentrifying neighborhood.  He said "we've got our fingers crossed" that it will also save Treme's future. 

Jackson improvised a solo to preserve a unique part of American culture.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.