Corner of Royal and St. Peter: The Sidewalk Swing Band Airs It Out
Thursday afternoon August 3, Friday night August 4, 2017
Thursday afternoon August 3...a man of the street steps up to sing impromptu verses of "What A Wonderful World." He'd been clapping time as he listened to the music and sidled up in front of the band to sing the first choruses of the song. "I've been singing all my life," Rodney says when I chat with him afterward, "someday I'd love to sing with a group on the street."
It's a fair bet that he's never studied music but, like just about everyone in this city, feels entitled to express himself with a voice that makes up in conviction what it might lack in finesse. When you think about it, Louis Armstrong's own voice was honed in the streets, not the choir, and he made his gravelly voice one of the most distinctive in the world.
"Sing it, man!" says the trombone player as the fellow steps up to sing, and later, "Let's hear it for the man!" Only in New Orleans.
Friday night August 4, same corner, 9:30 PM. The last act at the Satchmo Summerfest at the old U.S. Mint concluded at 8:00 PM but music around here hardly ever takes a breath. Lo and behold, here's The Swing Band holding court in front of Rouse's Market again.
One by one, New Orleans' siren call drew members of this band into the streets of the French Quarter and Jackson Square last year. Kismet and a stew of years of the tradition of busking in the street collided by happenstance when they met and found a groove together.
"We met in New Orleans last year, played on the streets for about three months, then the trumpet, guitar, and drummer traveled the country in an RV busking tour around America. The band all met up again in February." So says Sarah Shaffer, wife of the trumpet player and artist of their lovely CD cover, as she chatted with me and kept an eye her three-year-old daughter.
All of them have moved to New Orleans, some share living quarters, and they're here to stay. Some of New Orleans' best known musicians got their start on the streets. It's hard to fathom this from afar. I would never have understood the power music has over this city had I not witnessed it myself.
Jim Shaffer, trumpet; Rob Montgomery, drums; Tyler Hotti, guitar; Vincent ?, trombone; name?, tuba player.
It may not be an easy life style but for young men and women like this, it's all about the music, and it's all that matters.
"Summertime," with an extended solo by the tuba player whose bass lines pace the song with deep, resonating, syncopated riffs.
"Bourbon Street Parade" written by Paul Barbarin
"Bourbon Street Parade," composed by Paul Barbarin, a staple of bands of every stripe in New Orleans.
Photos and videos by Paul A.Tamburello, Jr. and one photographer with a gift for photo bombing