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Time-honored traditions of New Orleans

10th March 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Indians – Here Dey Come

The wet, cold and dreary weather on Carnival Day was hard on revelers but even more so on the Mardi Gras Indians – feathers and rain just don’t mix. Some, like Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. and the Congo Square Nation got out early and had some fun before being forced back inside in a few hours. Other gangs made their way to the North Claiborne Avenue and used the overpass for protection as they headed towards Orleans Avenue. For the most part, however, the Black Indians, with undoubtedly great reluctance and sorrow, gave up any thoughts of taking to the streets.

But another opportunity for them to strut their stuff and for observers to see the Indians’ beautiful, artistic creations is coming right up. The Mardi Gras Indian Council presents its Indian Super Sunday on Sunday, March 16. The event includes a festival that kicks of at 11 a.m. at A.L. Davis Park, at Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street, and a Black Indian parade begins right there at 1 p.m. It should, weather permitting, satisfy the desire of the Indians to put on their suits that they’ve been working on all year as well as those desperate to lay eyes on their magnificence.

INDIAN ROYALTY - BIG CHIEF BO DOLLIS and MONK BOUDREAUX from last year’s Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday

Indian Super Sunday

Black Indians from throughout the Nation from uptown, downtown and across the Mississippi are invited to participate in the procession that will also include the Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band and the younger generation’s Da Truth Brass Band along with members of the distinguished Young Men Olympian Benevolent Society and the Lady Buck­jumpers. The parade makes a “circle route” as it travels down LaSalle moves on to Simon Bolivar, turns left on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, left on South Claiborne Avenue, left on Washington Avenue and ends at the park where the festivities continue.

Entertainment at the park, where the Indians often lay out their suits and have tambourines ringing, includes DJ Captain Charles, DJ Jubilee, Big Al Carson, Jo “Cool” Davis, BRW, Dave Lemon Fleaux and the Step Out Step Up dance group.

Spring Series Gear Up

The ever-popular Nickel-A-Dance series began its residency at the Maison Club, 508 Frenchmen Street, on Sunday, March 9, with bassist Mitchell Player leading an all-star ensemble. It continues every Sunday evening from 4 pm to 7 pm throughout the month. Coming in on March 16 is clarinetist Orange Kellin’s Deluxe Orchestra, a large ensemble that boasts violinist Mike Harvey, trombonist Ronell Johnson, pianist Steve Pistorious, bassist Tyler Thomson, banjoist John Parker, trumpeter Ben Polcer and drummer Benji Bohannon. On March 23, guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks will take the stage with the Syncopated Percolators and as tradition holds, trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, still blowin’ and singin’ at 102 years old, closes out the series on March 30 heading the Palm Court Jazz Band.

Thanks to some devoted fans of New Orleans classic jazz and grants from several organizations, these shows are free and open to the public. Dancing is encouraged and children – hopefully the next generation of traditional jazz devotees – are welcome.

The Jazz at the Sandbar series is also back on the UNO campus with one of modern jazz’s finest tenor and soprano saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman, coming in on Wednesday, March 12, to share his knowledge and talent. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master will perform with the students from the university’s jazz studies program. Liebman, whose credits include working and recording with jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis, drummer Elvin Jones and keyboardist Chic Corea is no stranger to the academic setting. In 1989, he founded his own educational institution, the International Association of Jazz Schools (IAJS). The saxophonist once explained to his students the importance of playing jazz standards. “That is how we communicate with each other – it’s not corny,” he offered. “This is the way we say hello. Jazz has a transformation power. It’s giving, it’s caring – it’s a positive thing to show kids. You can’t lose. I know it made my life richer than it would have been without it – even outside of my career. And that’s how I feel about any young musician regardless if they are going to be a professional musician or not.”

At Snug Harbor on Tuesday night, March 11, Liebman will be reunited with several of his old musical friends from New Orleans. Onboard will be drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton and guitarist Steve Masa-kowski, all guys he played fairly regularly with when in the early 1980s he was brought into town by the non-profit Xenia Foundation to hold workshops at area universities and play at the Faubourg (now Snug Harbor). If things go true to form, the group will likely explore classic jazz from the 1960s and ‘70s era from the likes of Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane.

“That’s where I found my way,” says Liebman, who vividly remembers the impact of first hearing Coltrane blow in February 1962.

“When you get together with guys on a one shot {gig} you play standards,” he once said before an earlier Snug Harbor show. “You walk in and say ‘All Blues’ – it’s the collective consciousness of jazz musicians. That’s where we meet. There’s a spontaneity and there’s also a common bond.”

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

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