POSTED Thu. Jul 16, 2015


An Evening With Antoine Diel
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN

I think we all have a Platonic ideal of a New Orleans musical experience. For some, it’s a Second Line that bumps up and down city streets accompanied by dancing and heavy percussion. For others, it’s an evening of zydeco and dancing. And for some, it’s a small, sultry club pierced by the voice of an excellent jazz crooner.

My mom falls into the latter category. She loves a good set of pipes, and when she visited New Orleans last week, I wanted to take her to the sort of show that indulged some kick butt vocals. This usually involves seeing female singers; maybe I’ve just been acculturated by too many smoky film noir scenes, but it feels like there’s something about a woman’s voice that naturally lends itself to jazz singing.

This is a town that doesn’t lack for excellent female vocal acts. But the male jazz crooner feels like more of a rarity. With that said, there’s a few notable exceptions to this rule: the obvious acts, like John Boutte, and the lesser known, but equally impressive Antoine Diel.

Diel was raised in Los Angeles but born in Manila, in the Philippines, a country that has a strong track record of producing some of the finest tenors anywhere. Diel is clearly a torch bearer of this tradition; his vocal range is incredible, ranging from high octaves that he can sustain with impressive breath control to low registers that glow with a lovely rich warmth.

Both sides of this musical coin fit the slow jazz croon bill: those high notes really punctuate and spice up the languorous rhythm of his sets, while the low tones provide a comfortable sonic road for listeners to follow. Long story short, my mom loved it.

That’s not to say Diel does the kind of show only a mother could love. We caught his set at Buffa’s (which, aside, is truly a great, criminally underrated food and music venue. Go there. Now) and a crowd that cut across all demographics – old, young, white, black, tourist, local – all rocked quite pleasantly out to Diel’s music.

Long story short: Antoine Diel is a worthy inheritor of the great vocal traditions of New Orleans music, and he seems like a nice guy to boot. He plays regularly around town with his band, the New Orleans Misfit Power. Find him online, and in the city the next time you head out.

POSTED Nov 4, 2019


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