A New Orleans-style cornucopia
16th April 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
This period between French Quarter Fest and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival doesn’t mean there’s a musical downtime in this city. Right now, it might not be necessary to run around with a schedule in your hand as is needed at those big, multi-stage events, but this week’s strong offerings would probably look like mega-news in other locales.
First up is the return of Jazz in the Park, the free Thursday evening concerts presented by the People United for Armstrong Park. With an aim of bringing activity and thus people to Armstrong Park and a longtime goal of the renovation of the historic Municipal Auditorium, the non-profit organization presented its first series last spring and another in the fall. Trumpeter and vocalist James Andrews headlines the kickoff of this year’s nine-concert spring series at 6:30 p.m on Thursday, April 18, 2013. He’s double-billed with New Orleans funky Flow Tribe that takes the stage at 5 p.m. The New Skool Brass Band warms up the festivities with a second line beginning at 3 p.m.
Like many people who have experienced Jazz at the Park, Andrews, who as a Tremé native and ultimate entertainer stands as the perfect choice to get things goin’, feels that these concerts hold a certain quality all of their own.
“I think what makes it special is that it’s bringing the music back to Armstrong Park and it’s keeping the park alive,” says Andrews who will be leading the James Andrews’ Crescent City All-Stars, an ensemble that lives up to its name and knocked them dead at the Super Bowl Boulevard Festival. “The concerts are introducing the park to a lot of people who probably wouldn’t otherwise venture off in that direction. I welcome everybody.”
Appreciated too, is the creative booking for these shows that have included rarities at outdoor venues such as the great, one time Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli and sophisticated jazz vocalist Stephanie Jordan. Attention is also given to artists who are significant to the neighborhood. Case in point, on April 25, the double bill boasts drummer Shannon Powell’s All-Star Band and trombonist/vocalist Glen David Andrews – both denizens of the Tremé.
“The people in the (PUFAP) organization that promote it are very nice and they are kind of community people themselves,” Andrews observes. “I think they get it. There’s a different diversity of music too. They’re giving a lot of people a lot of chances to play in the park.
“When you play Armstrong Park in the Treme you’ve got to bring some kind of second line,” Andrews says of what the crowd at Jazz in the Park expects. “We’ll be doin’ a little funk, a little second line, a little Jesse Hill, a little Professor Longhair and some original stuff. It’s just a great time to be back in Armstrong.”
A new feature has also been added to the event. When the show at Armstrong Park is over at 8 p.m., the New Skool Brass Band will lead a second line to the nearby Candle Light Lounge, 925 N. Robertson St., and perform at the club. The $5 cover charge will benefit the Jazz in the Park series.
West Fest Mardi Gras Indian Parade
Almost 30 years ago, gospel notable, the late Othello Baptiste had a vision to bring to West Bank the kind of atmosphere that he experienced at the Tambourine and Fan Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s Super Sunday Parade. He took his idea to Chief Tyrone Casby of the Mohawk Hunters, the only Mardi Gras Indian gang based across the Mississippi River. That vision became the West Fest Mardi Gras Indian Parade that included and still includes rides, music, games and food at the grounds of the L.B. Landry High School.
“It’s a family-type atmosphere that we created for the community,” Big Chief Casby proudly explains of the parade and festival that takes place on Sunday, April 21, 2013. The Small Souljas Brass Band and the Westbank Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Club lead off the Black Indian procession starting at 1 p.m. at the L.B. Landry High School on Whitney Avenue in Algiers. As barbecue grills smoke and people relax on the avenue’s neutral ground, the parade heads down Whitney to Newton St., makes a left and proceeds to Teche St. It continues down Teche to Lamarque St., turns left and heads back to the high school where the festivities continue.
The gathering of families and neighbors enjoying the day and the styles of the houses and yards in the area lends an almost country feel to the West Fest parade when compared to Super Sundays in the more urban setting of the east bank. While both are wonderfully full of feathers and beads, the West Fest Parade offers a contrasting experience.
“Come out and have a good time,” encourages Chief Casby, whose gang, like the event, boasts lot of children and kin.
What time is it? Well, for Al Johnson it’s always “Carnival Time.” The composer of and vocalist on the famous, eternal Mardi Gras anthem adds a new chapter to his legacy by the release of his first CD in almost a decade, Beyond Carnival on the Rabadash Records label. (Maybe it should have been called About Time.) Johnson, whose talents include some fine New Orleans-style piano playing, celebrates the event with many of his musical friends on Friday, April 19, 2013 at the Howlin’ Wolf. Onboard are Big Al Carson & the Blues Masters, Big Daddy O, Wayne Thibodeaux, Omari Neville & the Rejected Youth Nations, Lindsay Mendez and Rabadash owner, John Autin. Showtime for the release party is 7 p.m.
This article originally published in the April 15, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.