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Lundi Gras: Here It Comes… All Before a Carnival Day

5th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

“It had always been a boyhood dream to be a Zulu member,” says Isaac Points. The native of Denver, Colorado not only attained that goal when he was sworn in to the renowned social aid and pleasure club in January 2006 but as the bassist and vocalist of the group, the Jakarta Band, he returns to play at the Zulu Lundi Gras Festival as he did in 2012. Points, who boasts family ties to New Orleans, has also been riding with Zulu on Mardi Gras Day for the past 20 years.

“I consider New Orleans my hometown,” says Points who was able to hold onto his connection to the city and, as he says, “realize my heritage,” by making trips to New Orleans since his childhood.

Jakarta, a nine-piece band, which features the mayor of Denver’s wife, Mary Louise Lee-Hancock, on vocals, performs at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, February 11, on the King Zulu Stage. The ensemble is primarily a party-down, horn-filled, old school funk and soul music group working from the songbooks of artists such as Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, Maze, Usher and the like.

“I don’t forget my New Orleans roots,” Points guarantees. “I grew up listening to Fess, the Neville Brothers, Dr. John – they influenced me tremendously. I still like doing second line songs, a little bit of Professor Longhair and I might throw in a Neville Brothers tune or two. I’m high-energy.”

Points continues on the topic of how his New Orleans experiences shaped him as a musician. “I’m a bass player but I was raised as a classical trumpet player. My mother said you better listen to this Louis Armstrong and get this down. She’d make me play to his records when I was a child.”

The Zulu Lundi Gras Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year opening the event with the organization’s gospel group, the Zulu Ensemble, singing at 10 am. New Orleans favs like trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers (2:45 p.m.), the Grammy-winning ReBirth Brass Band (4 p.m.), saxophonist James Rivers (12:15 p.m.) and vocalist Big Al Carson (4:30 p.m.) fill the schedule with the classic, costumed Zulu characters mingling with the crowd. Anticipation builds throughout the day-long festivities for the arrival by boat of the mighty King and Queen Zulu.

“I go to Lundi Gras every year,” says Points, one of a handful of non-native New Orleanians to play at the festival since its inception. “I’ve been wanting to do it for years. We had such a good time – we just brought it last year; we really brought it,” he adds while recalling the early editions of the event which he described as more of “a little get together.

“It doesn’t matter how broke I am or how rich I am, I’m always going to make it home to New Orleans for the world’s largest party,” says Points of his annual sojourns. His favorite moment when riding with Zulu on Carnival Day is when the float comes around the corner moving from St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street. “When you hear the roar of the crowd, there’s nothing like it. It just send chills through your spine.”

“All Hail Zulu!”

Parading with Red Beans — Fun in the ‘Hoods

Sometimes the Carnival season is all about pacing oneself. Maybe you don’t really feel like staying home the day before Mardi Gras but would enjoy a laid-back, laissez faire event that is in the spirit. The Red Beans Parade, which kicks off at 2 p.m. on Lundi Gras fits that bill. Led by the Tremé Brass Band, the lively procession celebrates one of New Orleans most highly-devoured basics and Monday night staple. It begins in the Marigny at Royal and Port Streets then heads up Royal to Esplanade Avenue to turn left into the Tremé neighborhood on North Robertson Street.

Clever revelers artistically and humorously decorate costumes and trinkets with the beloved red bean and its essential partner, rice for their merry parade. It stops at the Candle Light Lounge before heading down St. Philip Street to turn left on Henriette Delille Street (formerly St. Claude Street) to disband at the Backstreet Cultural Museum.

It’s a participatory event, so everyone is invited to come out and second line with the care-free, have a good time group.

Prime Time at the Prime Example

The word jazz is tossed around a lot in this city yet for those looking to hear modern jazz – or for that matter play modern jazz – there is a scarcity of venues. With that in mind, community radio station WWOZ 90.7 FM is stepping up to the plate to present a series dubbed Thursday Night Swingin’ at Julius Kimbrough’s North Broad Street Club, the Prime Example. Hosted by renowned deejay and ‘OZ programmer Soul Sister, the ongoing series isn’t foolin’ around. It kicks off with the great pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford on Thursday, February 7, and continues in excellence with trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis on February 14, drummer Shannon Powell on February 21 and drummer Herlin Riley on February 28. Wow…

The Prime Example is an intimate spot at 1909 North Broad Street with a jazz-loving clientele. The restaurant will be open during the shows that are presented at an early 7 p.m. (no excuses about late night/early morning woes) and 9 p.m. Admission is a reasonable $15 with a $5 discount for ‘OZ members. For more information, call (504) 944-0940 or visit WWOZ’s or the Prime Example’s websites.

This article was originally published in the February 4, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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