The Crescent City and Yet More Rain

1951 Dis & Dat1954 Maison Bourbon1957 Hot 8 Brass Band1959 Hot 8 Brass Band1961 Hot 8 Brass Band1962 Hot 8 Brass Band1963 Hot 8 Brass Band1964 Hot 8 Brass Band1965 Hot 8 Brass Band1969 Hot 8 Brass Band
When I headed out from Monroe on Sunday morning, it was still raining. Although I had hoped the rain would end, it really did not, and was still going on when I arrived in New Orleans. I stopped and ate lunch at a place called Dis & Dat on Banks Street, a burger concept opened by the same people who started Dat Dog. From there I made my way over to the Treme Coffeehouse, and enjoyed a latte, as the second-line I had hoped to see was not being held due to the rain. Instead, I called my homeboy Darren from the TBC Brass Band, and we ended up riding out to Pizza Domenica with him, and then to the Maison Bourbon for live jazz. Ultimately, we ended up at the Howling Wolf in the Central Business District, where the Hot 8 Brass Band plays every Sunday night.

SXSW Day 5: Enjoying the @Hot8BrassBand at the SXSW Hackathon Championships

After being somewhat perturbed at the Hot 8 Brass Band performance the other evening which had been marred by the comedian, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see them again at the SXSW Hackathon Championships, not having to share the stage with anyone else. There was a still a smaller crowd than there should have been for this concert, but at least those that were there began to get a little more lively and involved as the Hot 8 played. After all, it’s impossible to resist the grooves of New Orleans-style brass band music.

SXSW Day 4: New Orleans’ @Hot8BrassBand Live at @Soundcloud House at @LustrePearl

I walked from the Convention Center to Lustre Pearl and arrived in what I thought would be plenty of time for the Hot 8 Brass Band performance, but when I got there, nobody was being allowed in because there was already a significant crowd inside. People were allowed in as others left, but while we were still waiting in line, the band started playing. Fortunately I got inside soon afterward, but it turned out that the Hot 8 were booked alongside a comedian, which I could have done without. He was funny, to be sure, but I came to hear great New Orleans brass band music, not jokes. Still, the Hot 8 were excellent as always, and it was fun being outside in the early evening.

Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund Brass Band Blowout: @Hot8BrassBand Live at @Howlinwolfnola @DSEF_NOLA

Dinerral Shavers was the snare drummer in the Hot 8 Brass Band, so it was very appropriate that the Hot 8 closed out the night of entertainment in his memory at the Howlin Wolf in New Orleans. The largest dance crowd of the night piled into the area in front of the stage, and it was touching to see Shavers’ mother dancing with his picture. But best of all was to know that not only did we have a good time, but that the proceeds from our fun will go to help young people in New Orleans avoid the pitfalls of the streets. That’s worth paying the price of admission ten times, in my opinion, and means that Dinerral Shavers still lives in his city, and continues to have a major impact on youth.

Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund Brass Band Blowout: Most Wanted Brass Band @Howlinwolfnola @DSEF_NOLA

Dinerral Shavers was a snare drummer for the popular Hot 8 Brass Band in New Orleans, and a well-loved teacher at a local high school when he was abruptly murdered in early 2007 by a teenager who had been feuding with his stepson. Out of the tragedy has come an organization set up in Shavers’ memory by his relatives, a foundation that supports the arts, music, culture and anti-violence initiatives in New Orleans, and so on Saturday, January 11, 2014, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund sponsored a “brass band blow-out” at the popular Howlin Wolf music venue in the Central Business District. The evening began just after 9:30 PM with a new band, the Most Wanted Brass Band, many of whose members have come from other area bands, such as the Stooges. As such, the band is new, but the members are seasoned veterans and it is a good and tight aggregation overall. What started as a sparse crowd soon filled up, and eventually, the dancers took over the area nearest the stage.

Catching the @Hot8BrassBand at Joe’s House of Blues Uptown

A few blocks away from Charlie’s Steakhouse, the Hot 8 Brass Band were performing at Joe’s House of Blues on the corner of 7th and Dryades, a spot I knew from Uptown second-lines, where it is usually a route stop. Although I had seen the Hot 8 perform at the Howlin Wolf in the Central Business District, I expected there would be a different vibe to this performance in a more neighborhood-based setting, and I was right. Cars lined the streets in all four directions from the intersection, and a man was barbecuing steaks on a grill under a tent outside the entrance. The club was surprisingly small inside, full of people, and there was really no stage, just a clear space for the band to set up and perform, while the other room contained a pool table and a buffet area where food was available. When the band began playing, their big sound filled the small room, and the floor in front of them soon filled up with dancers. At the first break, people walked outside to escape the heat, but it had begun raining outside, and I ducked under the awning with one of the musicians. After a half-hour or so of break, the band struck back up for an energetic second set to close out the night, and the rain ended as suddenly as it began.

Donald Harrison Jr (@donharmusi) and the Congo Square Nation Live at Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans

New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park was rarely open prior to Hurricane Katrina, and has been pretty much closed since, so this year’s Thursday Jazz in the Park concerts sponsored by the People United for Armstrong Park have been a welcome opportunity to experience the park and to enjoy New Orleans’ musical heritage on the historic ground of Congo Square where it was arguably born. Thursday May 23rd’s line-up was the Hot 8 Brass Band and Donald Harrison Jr, and while I missed the Hot 8 performance due to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway being closed, I managed to get to the park in time for Donald Harrison Jr.’s performance with his Congo Square Nation tribe. Harrison is a jazz saxophonist and New Orleans native, the son of a chief in the city’s Black Indian masking tradition, and a musician starting to become fairly well-known due to the television series Treme. Starting out as a traditionalist in the post-bop jazz style, he has begun to fuse jazz with soul and R & B, and he has also begun to incorporate the traditions of Mardi Gras and Black Indian music. I was amazed to see the large crowd that had gathered in Armstrong Park for the performance, as well as the large number of food and craft vendors throughout the park. Halfway through his performance, Harrison brought out members of his Congo Square Nation in their elaborately beaded costumes that can take over a year to make and cost thousands of dollars. Such “Indian suits” used to not be seen after St. Joseph’s Night, but now they can occasionally be seen at music performances in New Orleans year round. I also noticed that Harrison’s percussionist was none other than the legendary Bill Summers of the New Orleans-Latin fusion group Los Hombres Calientes.
While the music and fun in the park were first-rate, sadly the same cannot be said for the park itself. The first thing I noticed upon entering was a worn and dilapidated complex of wooden buildings that looked like ruins of a failed amusement park. A sign in a window identified part of the complex as the former studios of New Orleans’ great community radio station WWOZ. One would think that the buildings could be restored and put to good use, or else torn down. Their presence in the park adds to the image of a park that is rarely used and which has never lived up to its potential. However the Jazz in the Park concert series seems a step in the right direction.