New Orleans – A City of Plenty
14th October 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
When it comes to festivals and music, New Orleans always jumps. Considering that fact, the amount of activities going on this weekend still boggles the mind. As nobody can do it all, there will be some crucial decisions to be made.
The Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, which is one of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s most popular free events, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at Lafayette Square on the evening of Friday, October 18. The renowned, Grammy-winning harmonica player James Cotton headlines the show at 7 p.m. Beyond leading his own bands, Cotton, 78, has played with all the greats – guitarists Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, pianist Otis Span and even vocalist Janis Joplin – through his 60-plus year long career. Honored by an vast array of blues associations, Cotton finally won a Grammy for his 1996 album, Deep in the Blues. His latest CD, Cotton Mouth Man, that features guest artists including Keb Mo and Delbert McClinton was released last May. A good motto: “Don’t miss the legends.”
The Blues and BBQ Festival enjoys a unique personality as it boasts two stages – one on the St. Charles Avenue side of the Square and the other on the Camp Street side. When a set finishes on one stage, an announcer will often say, “Okay, turn around.” Then the music gets going on the other stage. No decision making at this festival – you can do it all.
On Saturday and Sunday, the music begins at 11 a.m. And, by the way, it’s a “bye week” for the Saints so no conflicts of interest there. A strong artist on Saturday’s schedule is vocalist Shemekia Copeland (5:45 p.m.), whom many consider as the keeper of the crown passed down by the late great Koko Taylor and is the daughter of noted bluesman Johnny Copeland. In other word, Copeland is the real thing and has earned two Grammy nominations for 2000’s Wicked and her latest release 33 1/3. Good motto: Don’t miss the comers.
It’s kind of rough that Cedric Burnside hits the stage at noon on Sunday as his drivin’ hill country blues is usually associated with late night dance parties. As the longtime drummer with his grandfather, the late, great guitarist/vocalist R.L. Burnside, Cedric, whose vocals are also solid, is totally of the tradition. Motto: Don’t miss the real deal.
Vocalist Mel Waiters brings on the more soulful side of the blues on Sunday (7 p.m.) and Monroe, Louisiana native and one-time regular on the New Orleans scene, Mighty Sam McLean does the same as he takes to the Camp Street stage at 5:45 p.m.
For the complete schedule, go to www.jazzandheritage.org/blues/festival
Another Look—Tremé Culture Fest
The Tremé neighborhood is just that but more so. Long-time residents see it as a way of life, a place where you knew everybody – their grandmas, children, their little nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. The musicians were the guys or kids down the street who would say good morning, good evening, goodnight and play their music to everyone’s delight.
The Tremé Culture Fest, which takes place in the historic neighborhood from Friday, October 18 through Sunday, October 20, looks at its various sides through a series of lectures and discussions, a narrated club crawl and, of course music.
Intriguing is Saturday’s event dubbed, “Music from the Streets.” Throughout the day, from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. a variety of bands will perform on Tremé street corners. It starts with the One Sound Brass Band getting down on North Villere and St. Philip streets, showcases the African NOLA Brass Band at 2 p.m. at St. Ann and N. Claiborne, the Kid Merv Band at 3:30 p.m. at St. Philip and Tremé streets and concludes with the Shannon Powell Trio at 6 p.m. at the corner of St. Philip and Tremé streets with lots more in between.
Sunday’s events begin with a 10 a.m. jazz mass at the St. Augustine Catholic Church followed by an all-women, United Second Line at noon. The parade starts at the church on Gov. Nicholls and Henriette Delille streets and makes a circle route around the neighborhood to return to its spot of origin. Since the second line is over at 2 p.m., there’s plenty of time to run down and catch the Black Men of Labor parade.
For the complete schedule of all the activities surrounding the Tremé Culture Fest, go to www.treméculturefest.com.
Big 20 for the Black Men of Labor
When the Black Men of Labor (BMOL) high step out of the door of Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club, 1931 St. Claude Avenue, on Sunday, October 20, it will be in celebration of 20 years on the street. Members of the highly respected group traveled to Africa to obtain the material to create their always stunning, culturally rich attire.
“Thank God that he allowed it to go this far,” says Fred Johnson, who along with snare drummer and Tremé Brass Band leader Benny Jones and trumpeter Gregg Stafford formed the organization in order to keep traditional music on the streets. Conventionally held on the Sunday during the Labor Day weekend, last year, the BMOL changed its parade date to the more weather friendly month of October after having to cancel its event following hurricanes Katrina and Isaac.
The Black Men of Labor’s second line originates at Sweet Lorraine’s at 3 p.m., heads up North Rampart Street and goes into the Tremé before eventually taking off to the A. P. Tureaud and St. Bernard Avenue area and finally returning “home” to the St. Claude Avenue club.
At its inception, the BMOL’s second line was, in part, presented as a remembrance of the Longshoremen who historically paraded on Labor Day. Despite the date change, Johnson has assured that the organization will continue to pay homage to the black men who work. “That’s where the name came from,” he has proudly declared.
“We hope that God’s blessing and mercy will permit us to keep going,” Johnson humbly wishes of the future of the Black Men of Labor and its dignified, traditional and gloriously fun parade.
Endangered Species – Jazz in the Park
“Louis Armstrong has our back,” observantly said a representative from Fleurty Girl boutique, one of the sponsors of the Thursday night Jazz in the Park concert series during a break at a recent show that headlined Cyril Neville. The legendary New Orleans trumpeter’s statue overlooked the wonderfully mixed crowd of neighborhood folks, music lovers and lucky tourists who danced in front of the stage and lounged in chairs on the lawns at Armstrong Park on a beautiful fall evening.
Presented by the People United for Armstrong Park (PUFAP), the very successful, free and one-of-a-kind series that brings together people from all walks of life, is endangered as the City imposes ever-increasing fees to present the shows at what many consider an under-utilized venue. According to Ben Harwood, a co-founder of the non-profit PUFAP, in 2011, the organization originally had to pay $100 a week to present the event. That figure has risen each year and it will now cost the PUFAP $950 weekly to obtain a Live Entertainment Mayoralty Permit to continue its endeavors.
Already the PUFAP has had to cut out the Da Truth Brass Band’s pre-show second line, putting its young members out of a day’s work. There is concern that in the spring only one band will be able to perform, instead of the usual two, because of financial considerations. More lost wages. Cuts in programming will also effect the vendors and those who receive on-site job training in music production through the NOLA for Life organization.
Hearing Neville funkily move from the Meters’ hit “Love Slip Upon Ya” that segued into Sly and the Family Stones’ appropriate “Everyday People,” was to experience the real New Orleans. That can be attributed to the special vibe at the park and that of the people, many of whom in attendance rarely have the opportunity to see Cyril perform live though his music is part of their lives. This series is a treasure and many, locals and tourists alike, were eager to sign a circulating petition concerning the fee increase that were addressed primarily to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Next Thursday, pianist and vocalist Jon Cleary, who has dedicated his life to keeping the music of New Orleans greats such as Professor Longhair, Snooks Eaglin and Earl King vital, headlines the Jazz in the Park show. That’s what we’re talkin’ about…
For more information on the People United for Armstrong Park organization and Jazz in the Park or to sign a petition for the City to wave fees for the use of the park go to www.pufap.org.
This article originally published in the October 14, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.