Waiting for The Tremé Brass Band to play at Satchmo Summerfest, August 2011
February 1, 1931-July 8, 2012
New Orleans' shoulders are stooping in grief today. "Uncle" Lionel Batiste died yesterday after a brief illness. I'd read on the WWOZ web site a week ago that Uncle Lionel was pretty sick - I've been holding my breath ever since. I first met him in August 2010 before the Tremé Brass Band took to the stage at the Candlelight Lounge over on North Robertson in the Tremé.
I bent over close to him as he reminsced about growing up around the dirt roads of Tremé in an accent thicker than the humid air that blankets New Orleans in August. A few minutes later, he stepped up to the stage (a corner of the room just inside the lounge) with the other founder of the Treme Brass Band, snare drummer par excellence Benny Jones, Sr., and the band rocked the joint.
The later it got, the more people jammed into the lounge. This gig stays fresh no matter how many times you've seen it. You never know which well known or not so well known musician is going to show up and sit in.
As soon as i read a friend's email that Lionel had passed, i tuned into WWOZ online - what were they playing? Two versions of "Someone To Watch Over Me", both soulful, perfect for the moment.*
It is safe to say that thousands of people from every corner of the music universe are grieving while reminiscing about this man who was the official "Uncle" of record to the ordinary and not so ordinary people of New Orleans.
*Mila Drumke, Someone To Watch Over Me, Hip to Hip
Rufus Reid and Michael Moore,Someone to Watch Over Me, The Intimacy of the Bass
And the last song played on WWOZ morning set today? "Uncle" Lionel's own vocal version of "I'll Fly Away", very moving, to say the least.
+++++++Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
Scenes below from August 4, 2010 at The Candlelight Lounge, North Robertson, New Orleans
Full story here
When Uncle Lionel wades into the crowd with the Tip Jar, the energy level, already in high gear, amps up several notches.
The heck with the Tip Jar - this is the REAL reason Uncle Lionel waded into the crowd!
Poet Chuck Perkins, co-founders of The Treme Brass Band "Uncle" Lionel Batiste and Benny Jones, Sr., and pt at large.