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Jazz in the Park is back!

3rd September 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Emanuel Lain, Jr. describes himself as the president, founder and “janitor” of the People United for Armstrong Park organization that kicks off its fourth season of its popular Jazz in the Park series on Thursday, September 5, 2013. He laughs appreciatively when he remembers how a couple of loyal festival goers lounging on their lawn chairs described the experience. “They said, ‘This is like our beach.’”

The event, which this week features the Stooges Brass Band and rockin’ blues vocalist and guitarist Mia Borders, has drawn crowds of neighborhood folks and visitors to Armstrong Park not only for the solid musical line-up but also for the beauty of the setting and the warm and friendly atmosphere.

Stooges Brass Band | Photo courtesy of Vanguard Film & Video Productions and PUFAP

Stooges Brass Band | Photo courtesy of Vanguard Film & Video Productions and PUFAP

“It’s not just another festival in New Orleans,” says Walter “Whoadie” Ramsey, the tuba player and leader of the Stooges Brass Band. “I go out there even when I’m not performing. It’s like a Sunday afternoon second line feeling but on a Thursday. It’s beautiful.”

“The series has taken off beyond my wildest dreams,” says Lain who hires all the bands. “I keep the neighborhood in mind when I’m booking the acts. I’m a regular, average Joe guy so if I like them, I think the audience will like them. The Stooges is one of my favorite brass bands. The thing I like about the Stooges is that they’re professional. They put on a good show and make sure people have fun. I like the way they bring the new and merge the old school together.”

The PUFAP’s initial goal was to try to draw attention to the need to renovate and redevelop the Municipal Auditorium. Seeing that Armstrong Park itself required some “tender loving care” and revitalizing activity, the organization made, says Lain, a transition in its short-term goals by creating the Jazz in the Park series. In the long term, however, it still has its eyes on the auditorium as well as getting the fountain in Congo Square operating again. It is fully functional but, Lain explains, it needs to be cleaned every week. Having observed the process, he says, it is an easy job. “Right now they have an ordinance that you have to be a licensed engineer just to clean out the pipes. It’s a stupid rule because all you really need is a regular maintenance guy.”

Congo Square will be the site for a new element of Jazz in the Park, the Congo Arts and Crafts Market that will open at noon during the series. Every week there will also be a second-line parade beginning at 4 p.m. led by a variety of brass bands and social aid and pleasure clubs.

The Stooges have performed at Jazz in the Park once before and Ramsey looks forward to their return. “The Stooges travel a lot now and when we come home we play different clubs,” he says. “But to play outdoors with the people it’s a different feel. This festival is more intimate.

The group has really been on the move this past year. As U.S. Ambassadors, the Stooges performed in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan this summer and have taken its funky rhythms to New York about once a month. Presently, Ramsey says the Stooges are getting geared up for the second-line season. The band plays regularly at the Sunday afternoon social aid and pleasure club anniversary parades.

“You know how I feel about the second lines,” exclaims Ramsey, whose passion for the tradition began in childhood when his grandfather, folk artist Ashton Ramsey would take him to the second lines. “It’s like our own Super Bowl, our own football team, like our own football game. So we’ve been in rehearsals getting new material to keep competitive with all the other brass bands out there today.”

The Stooges, who in 2010 won the title of “Street Kings” in a brass band competition sponsored by Red Bull, will get to strut their stuff as they lead the Third Division – one of six – in the Young Men Olympian Benevolent Associations 130th Anniversary Parade on Sunday, September 22.

Stooges Brass Band | Photo courtesy of Vanguard Film & Video Productions and PUFAP

Stooges Brass Band | Photo courtesy of Vanguard Film & Video Productions and PUFAP

Following the Stooges show at Jazz in the Park, the group will head over to Spice restaurant and bar at 2005 N. Broad Street to begin a new, weekly gig that starts at 10 p.m. Tipitina’s is the band’s next stop when the guys get going on September 7 as a part of the 4th Annual Black & Gold Uptown Saturday Night event. The Stooges are also celebrating their latest album, Street Music, that was released on vinyl only on the Urban Unrest Label. It will be put out on disc at a later date.

While playing social aid and pleasure club parades is tops for Ramsey, Jazz in the Park holds a special place for him. At Armstrong Park, he’s bound to see friends, family, club members, second line regulars and fellow musicians. “At many other events, I may not know anyone, at least not personally,” he says. “It’s not like I’m going to get a hug. But I know I’m going to get one when I see people next Thursday.”

PUFAP founder Lain gets it right when he says, “Jazz in the Park is so New Orleans — so New Orleans.”

The series continues every Thursday through October 31, 2013. The shows for September include Davell Crawford plus Stephanie Jordan, Sept. 9, Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet, Sept. 19 and Shamarr Allen plus Erica Falls, Sept. 26.

For further information on the Jazz in the Park series and the People United for Armstrong Park organization, go to www.pu­fap.org.

This article originally published in the September 02, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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