November 10, 2017
The Nouveau String Band Infuses Joy into the Joie de Vivre Café
There was explosion of joy in the Joie de Vivre Café in Breaux Bridge, LA. The Nouveau String Band hit the bandstand with melodic mischief in their hearts and red hot instruments in their hands. OK, the instruments might not have been that hot but the music…well, that’s another thing.
These five middle-aged guys are old enough to have heard the rich cloud of music that floats around Lafayette and southwest Louisiana. We’re talking a stew of Cajun, honky tonk, pop, and blues and, wonder of wonders, jazz.
Most bands around here have range. Put the Nouveau String Band in the ICBM category. Don’t be surprised to hear them cover Hank Williams, Count Basie, Robert Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Martin, and a raft of others. And every damn bit of it makes me want to find a woman and squeeze onto the dance floor.
What makes these guys special? In a small café like Joie de Vivre, their bandstand is a few feet from the tables that surround it and the slice of worn brown wood floor that fills up with dancers. That’s where the nitro meets the glycerine. The energy rush of this band and the nearly involuntary response of the audience creates an atmosphere that can be measured by a seismograph under the old floor boards. And don’t think the guys in the band don’t feed off the energy.
Any one of these musicians could hold an audience’s attention for an evening. Put John Buckelew (fiddle), Dave Trainer (fiddle, mandolin), Jimmie Duhon (bass), Lee Tedrow (guitar) and Danny Kimball (drums) together and you’ve got a killer band.
“I’ve heard these guys play dozens of times, “ says a regular from Lafayette, “tonight they were especially tight and full of energy.” I watched them smile at each other, nod in approval at each other’s solos and play the daylights out of every song.
In this part of Louisiana, you can find music live music performed in bars, restaurants, saloons, dance halls and best of all, tiny places like this café where dancers navigate with the precision of self driving cars around tables, chairs and each other.
Around here music might be a form of therapy from a troubled world. I’ve met teachers, oil field riggers, hydrologists, FEMA workers, nurses, therapists, photographers, waitresses, farm workers, aviation mechanics in places like this. The only politics allowed in the door is party politics, and I mean Party.
The music is the conduit. Sit down where you please, I guarantee someone will ask, “Where you from?”and pretty soon you’ve met a cultural ambassador who makes you feel welcome.
Which is why I’ve kept returning here since my first visit in 2009. There are dozens of places in and around Lafayette where this kind of vibe flourishes. As it turns out, “Laissez les bon temps roulez,” is the ritual that keeps us centered in a fragile world.
Tables have been pushed back a few feet from the raised stage...
so dancers weave through any patch of floor they can find. Creativity is useful.
To quote one regular, " the band is on fire tonight!"
And by the way, this is a café, with a side of great music on a regular basis.
Jimmie Duhan, Lee Tedrow...
and Danny Kimball are rockin' out tonight.
Video courtesy of Bernard Ussher https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e2AukSJRdU
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.