The first stop on the renowned cellist and composer’s music-inspired journey: New Orleans, a city with an extraordinary cultural mix that can be seen, heard and tasted.
By turns vibrant, gritty and serene — and boasting one of the most diverse music scenes in the world — Louisiana’s former capital was a natural starting point for Grammy-nominated musician Tina Guo, who is visiting four Ritz-Carlton destinations and composing original scores inspired by them. Taking in the sights and sounds of New Orleans, she experienced a host of unforgettable moments along the way.
“I’ve been to New Orleans a few times in the past — I took my parents here on vacation and did all the touristy things — so I was really excited about this trip as I’d get to see the real New Orleans. When I was getting ready each day, I’d put on a soundtrack of local jazz to get me into the mood.”
“Our first stop was Armstrong Park. It’s right in the French Quarter, so the energy goes from frenetic to serene in a matter of steps. To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about Louis Armstrong before my visit, but while there I was inspired to listen to his music and learn his amazing story.”
“This is a city of contrasts. The French Quarter is gritty and cool, but there are also places like Armstrong Park and City Park and the New Orleans Botanical Garden, which were all so picturesque. The moss-draped live oak trees at the Botanical Garden [above] were especially beautiful.”
5 Victory Ave., neworleanscitypark.com
“There’s so much elegant architecture and bold color in New Orleans, and Commander’s Palace is a great example of both. Of course, the food is notable, too — I had a blueberry salad with crab, and oysters. And I tried alligator for the first time. It was delicious, but the rumors are right: it tasted like chicken!”
1403 Washington Ave., commanderspalace.com
“We didn’t plan to stop at Café Du Monde, but I just have to go there every time I’m in New Orleans. There was such a long line that we couldn’t get a table, so we took beignets and coffee to go and ate them on a bench nearby.”
800 Decatur St., cafedumonde.com
“The energy walking down Bourbon Street was such a sensory experience. There was music coming out of every club and three to four bands — playing everything from traditional jazz to rock to modern — on every street. I live in Los Angeles and there’s a lot of music there, but this was extraordinary.”
“I stopped at this club because the music coming out of it sounded more brass band or second-line, which is that original New Orleans sound. It was unlike anything else we’d heard that night. The trombone player was particularly amazing.”
“The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans has a headlining musician, Jeremy Davenport, and we spoke on the phone before I arrived and he asked me to join one of his performances. He recommended we play “Second Line,” a well-known tune by Wynton Marsalis, his former mentor.”
For a deep dive on Tina and Jeremy, explore more here.
“While we did rehearse a bit, the actual performance was the first time Jeremy and I played the song together with the full band. I loved being able to improvise and go with the flow.”
“This trip gave me a lot of food for thought — food for music, really — and I carved out some time to sit down at the piano and began to write. There really are no rules with jazz, and that freedom of expression is super exciting. I’m so looking forward to creating a song inspired by my memories of this multifaceted and beautiful city.”