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Its Carnival Time: Krewe du Vieux where brass bands reign

10th February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Most Mardi Gras parade goers have experienced being in the limbo of music. It sometimes seems as if a band marching down the street stops playing right before it gets to you. Then, disappointingly, the ensemble walks by just to start up again a block away.

That doesn’t happen during the Krewe du Vieux parade that loads its procession with some 19 bands – one for each of its quirky, often politically provocative, sometimes lurid and highly amusing sub-krewes – that keep the party goin’ as it travels from the Faubourg Marigny to the French Quarter and back again.

Krewe du Vieux Photo by Demian Roberts

Krewe du Vieux Photo by Demian Roberts

The Krewe du Vieux parade, titled “Where the Vile Things Are,” is headed by this year’s monarch, environmental activist King John Barry. Relying on mule-driven floats rather than tractors, the procession rolls on Saturday, February 15, at 6:30 p.m. starting at Chartres Street and Elysian Fields.

The parade offers a great opportunity to hear the range of styles of brass band music that live side-by-side in New Orleans today. The Paulin Brothers Brass Band, founded by patriarch, trumpeter Doc Paulin, represents the tradition and the important role families have played in the continuum of the music. As tradition holds, the guys will be wearing their black-and-whites. Established groups like the Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band bring the sound of more recent decades as the group tells its story, griot-style on its 2013 album, The Life and Times of the Hot 8 Brass Band. Brass. Brass bands like the TBC and the Free Agents show how it’s done on the streets at the Sunday afternoon social aid and pleasure club parades and up-and-comers like the One Mind have the opportunity to strut their stuff.

The party isn’t over when the parade ends as the spirit keeps flowing at the Krewe du Vieux ball that happens at The Trash Place at 619 Frenchmen Street. They’ve got it goin’ this year with the great Mardi Gras Indian Chief Monk Boudreaux sharing the stage with the incredible talents of keyboardist/vocalist Ivan Neville backed by the 101 Super Jam.

Now that’s the way to kick off the Carnival season right.

For more information on the parade and bal,l go to www.kreweduvieux.org.◊

Celebrating ‘Uncle’
Lionel Batiste

“Uncle” Lionel Batiste loved celebrating his birthday, February 11, 1932, with his family, friends, fans and fellow musicians. He’d often make at least a week of it. The much-loved, gregarious bass drum player and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band, who passed away on July 8, 2012, would undoubtedly rejoice that the tradition of marking his birthday is being carried on.

Appropriately, Batiste’s life-long friend and bandmate, Benny Jones, snare drummer and leader of the Tremé Brass Band, is dedicating a week’s worth of performances to the memory of Batiste. The tributes kick off at 5 p.m. on February 9 at the Tremé’’s now regular Sunday night gig at the newly re-opened Kermit’s Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge. They continue at Frenchmen Street’s dba on Tuesday – Uncle Lionel’s actual birthday – and head to the Candle Light Lounge on North Robertson Street on Wednesday for a show that begins at 9 p.m. The Treme Brass Band’s celebration of Uncle Lionel Batiste wraps up back at the Mother-In-Law Lounge on Sunday, February 16.

“Oh, he was always the same — always jolly “ Jones once affectionately said of Batiste. May his legend and birthday parties roll on.

Dianne Reeves
Beautiful Life
(Concord Records)

Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves explores some of today’s new musical territory with the help of Terri Lyne Carrington who produced the album and provided much of the electronic programming. Reeves also features a host of guests who, like vocalist Gregory Porter, keyboardist Robert Glasper and bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, are red hot on the scene. Beyond contributing her own, self-penned or collaborated material, Reeves also turns to tunes written by popular artists such as Stevie Nicks and Ani DiFranco.

The result is an updated version of Reeves though her core style on which she’s built her reputation and superior vocal abilities remains intact. The programming does give the album a moody atmosphere though older fans should appreciate the change of pace offered by one of her works, “Tango.” Reeves brings a certain earthy feel to the tune and a taste of other lands using superbly delivered vocalization rather than singing lyrics. Her a cappella introduction lures one in. There’s also a New Orleans connection here with native Reginald Veal on bass and previous resident Peter Martin on piano. They appear often throughout the album with Martin also collaborating with Reeves as writer on several tunes.

The instrumentation also changes through the disc thus adding a variety of flavors. The opening cut sways romantically with a large ensemble that notably includes the recently deceased pianist George Duke. The trumpet of Sean Jones gives it a greater jazz edge that urges on Reeves’ passionate delivery. The rhythm is enhanced by the percussion of Munyungo Jackson. The pairing of the voices of Reeves and Porter on Carrington’s ballad “Satiated (Been Waiting)” works wonderfully and they make good use of a call-and-response approach.

At all times, Dianne Reeves impeccable and unmistakeable voice is at the center of Beautiful Life. For her fans, except perhaps those who disdain programming, that should be enough to make them smile.

This article originally published in the February 10, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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