On the grounds of The Old U.S. Mint
400 Esplanade Street
New Orleans, LA
July 31-August 2, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
The 15th Annual Satchmo Summerfest is a weekend of of music, food, and sypmposiums in honor of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Twelve bands played under two pavilions each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Six symposiums were held each day in the air-conditioned comfort of the Old U.S.Mint on Esplanade Street at the edge of the French Quarter.
A few of Fridays bands...
1:45 PM – 3 PM Sharon Martin, Cornet Chop Suey Stage (see note below about stage names)
New Orleans jazz singer Sharon Martin can sing signature Ellington/Strayhorn songs like“Take The A Train” and have fun with the Armstrong Song Book and give it a bluesy or very swinging roll. Check this out to see this original stylist at work, and show you how Louis Armstrong's innovative "scat style singing" is alive and well in New Orleans https://vimeo.com/123146875
3 PM – 4:15 PM The New Orleans Jazz Vipers. Red Beans and Ricely Yours Stage
Faithful interpreters of New Orleans jazz and Louis Armstrong's catalog. They play Armstrong’s "Sugar" and suggest finding the YouTube version of that song. Here is one version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQQ1MDXyNfE
This band really swings and, like many other bands on the bill, is made up of young and very talented musicians for this day dedicated to honoring the legacy of Louis Armstrong by playing their versions of his music or music that his music inspired. They're one of the only bands with no percussion section.
3:30 PM- 4:45 PM Doreen’s Jazz - Doreen Ketchens,Chop Suey Stage
Doreen Ketchens is a renowned clarinet player, who plays regularly at the corner of Royal and St. Peter Streets in front of Rouse's Market and has played at a slightly more elevated location, Carnegie Hall. Her singing voice is singularly distinctive and her accent is a peculiar New Orleans variation which she employs with great flair. New Orleans...you can hear first rate music on the street corners of the French Quarter and around the edges of Jackson Square every day of the week.
4:30 PM – 5:45 PM Ellis Marsalis, Red Beans and Ricely Yours Stage
The venerable piano player is still going strong.at 81. He’s not known for Dixieland or rhythm & blues but for his association with more modern musicians like Cannonball and Nat Adderly. The closest he gets to traditional New Orleans jazz was his playing with Al Hirt. Marsalis is backed by local musicians.In Marsalis' case, everyone will be younger, although on Saturday, an 88-year-old piano player will accompany Jane Harvey Brown's Trad All Stars.
Marsalis may be best known here as a teacher of musicians like Terrence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Harry Connick, Jr., and Nicholas Payton. The tent is packed with people in lawn chairs or on blankets and the entire perimeter is lined two or three deep with people looking in and listening. If you’ve heard of Wynton, Branford, Delfeyo, or Jason Marsalis, you know the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
5 PM – 6:15 PM Leah Chase, Cornet Chop Suey Stage
Big woman, big voice, New Orleans born, Juilliard and Loyola University trained, like Satchmo, Leah Chase is as adept at communicating with her audience as connecting with her band. She sang scat infused jazz and slow down low down blues. High school senior John Michael Bradford played trumpet with several bands, fit right in soloing on "When You're Smilin'". Bradford is the product of one of the many free music programs offered to aspiring musicians, "that's the way New Orleans brings its musicians along," she says.
True enough, as nearly every band today is made of players in their 20s and 30s mostly and in the case of Donald Harrison who will play later, teenagers, who are studying with him.
6 PM – 7:15 PM Deacon John Moore, Red Beans and Ricely Yours Stage
I catch the end of the set, the tent is packed, people three deep around the sides, the usual adulation for a New Orleans fave. “Do you know about this guy?” a fellow asks. “He’s been playing since the 60’s, he played at my high school prom in 1968 in Covington. And he plays mean lead guitar.” Next song, his last, he straps on a guitar kills it. When he does a ‘duck walk’ across the stage, the place explodes. “He’s a sought after session guitar player, played with Alan Toussaint, Dr. John, and Ernie K. Doe. You’ve got to come to the French Quarter Music Festival to hear more of these local bands. And come to Jazz Fest to hear local bands and big time name musicians at the Fairgrounds!” the man says.
I’m scribbling notes. “I’m a member of the Krewe of Thoth. About 1500 of us, founded in 1949. We do charity work for children and the elderly and parade on the Sunday before Mardi Gras.” People here are natural boosters of their music. They’ve probably heard it since they were floating around in amniotic fluid.
Musicians are accessible at this small festival. They take time to talk with fans who, in this man's case, have been dancing to his music since the 1960s. In the 1950s, Deacon John Moore grew up listening to Bo Diddley, Etta James, Bill Doggett and Howlin' Wolf. Everyone in his family played music. He was a session player in the studio of recording pioneer Cosimo Metassa. Music drapes around the shoulders of places like New Orleans and southwest Louisiana like moss on live oak trees. Having made music since 1960, it feels like Moore is in the same category. In the last decade or two, Moore has been hired to play at weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs and birthdays for men and women who first heard him play for their own special days from the 1960s onward.
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM James Andrews, Cornet Chop Suey Stage
New Orleans second line type music which is fun but not for partner dancing. New Orleanians prefer to freestyle to this kind of music. James Andrews does pour it on real good.
7:45 PM – 9:00 PM Donald Harrison's All-Star Louis Armstrong Tribute, Cornet Chop Suey Stage
This is one of the highlights of the weekend... this musician spans the past, the present, and the future of New Orleans jazz.
Donald Harrison is the quintessential New Orleans musician. Dynamic and creative, he honors and respects New Orleans music history and the men and women who forged it. Deeply involved in its present day iterations, he can range from swing, to bop, post-bop, modern, smooth, avant-garde. A Mardi Gras Indian to boot, he could probably lead a pretty rambunctious second line parade. Harrison carries the torch of New Orleans music and is one of the most influential musicians actively involved in passing it on (although at 55, he’s in no hurry). His band tonight is Exhibit A. Many of them are teenagers, all of them are under his tutelage.
A hard-working, intellectually curious, musically adventurous, unflaggingly energetic saxophone player, singer, storyteller, showman, a modern day Satchmo, he’s a perfect role model.
"We're going to do this the hard way," he says of the first number the band plays, "that's the only way we do things." Harrison dives into Scott Joplin's "Make-Believe Blues." What follows can only be described as watching history unfold. Trumpeter John Bradford is 18 years old. Standup bass player Max Moran is in his mid twenties. Trumpeter Christian Scott is barely 30. The teenage drummer is Harrison’s nephew. When one takes a solo, there’s their mentor standing next to him, listening intently, nodding, occasionally blowing a riff in his saxophone, a master class in motion. His gestures signal to them when their solos begin and when they end. He may be the alpha dog, but he is there to showcase the up and comers. The group is complete with veteran guitar/banjo player Detroit Brooks.
The next 75 minutes are a tribute to the depth of New Orleans jazz book and the dedication and white hot energy, a mix of improvisation and tradition, with which it is played at the highest level.
"King Oliver wrote hard music," Harrison says, citing the structure of the number his band will play, "High Society". Actually he and his band don't play anything easy all night long. It is astonishing that after listening to an entire afternoon of Louis Armstrong influenced music that this can seem the freshest, most inventive and expressive set of the day. They may not play anything easy but they sure play it with conviction and make it sound easy.
During his nephew’s drum solo, Harrison stands right next to him, his body language and occasional grunts undoubtedly sparking energy to an already blazing bonfire. Every listener in the packed Cornet Chop Suey Stage feels there is something special going on here… And they're damn well is. We are watching the future of New Orleans jazz take shape before our eyes.
Harrison and band finish with an all-out version of “Eiko Eiko.” No one working, playing, or singing harder than the bandleader himself who finishes the song standing next to an upright percussion set pounding out enough rhythm strong enough to get everyone of the people who've been listening to eight straight hours of music get up on their feet and shout for joy.
"When I tell them to jump 6 feet and they do, that means I want them to do 7 feet."
Harrison closes by saying, "See what happens when you take care of your kids," he says at the close of the set. Music in New Orleans creates its culture. It also saves lives.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
Names of Satchmo Summerfest stages: Armstrong loved food, often signed his letters "Red beans and ricely yours." He loved Chinese food. Once he hunted down the only Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya! http://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2011/08/04/138991954/red-beans-and-ricely-yours-the-culinary-habits-of-louis-armstrong