Getting ready for this year's Satchmo Summerfest with posts from the archives, written in 2016 but for some reason, never posted!
Satchmo Summerfest: Jackson Square, Friday, August 5, 2016
With the reconstruction going on at the former U.S. Mint, home of the previous Satchmo Summerfest, the French Quarter Festivals Inc. had to get creative and fit the whole shebang into Jackson Square.
16th Annual Satchmo Summerfest
12 PM Friday, August 5, 2016
Red Beans and Rice Stage, the Preservation Hall Brass Band.
This is the most widely known and popular traditional jazz band in New Orleans. As with brass bands, the rumble of the bass drum and the oomph of the tuba laid a foundation for the harmony of the trombone, trumpet, clarinet, banjo, and saxophone.
The 2016 Satchmo Summerfest has officially begun. Every band today will play songs made popular by Louis Armstrong. The last song of the Preservation Hall Brass Band is a salute to the legacy of Louis Armstrong with the unique flavor, often imitated but never quite matched - quite the same way as it is played in the bars, parks, and dancehalls from Frenchmen Street two out-of-the-way places all over town.
1 PM Chop Suey Stage: Miss Sophie Lee, popular singer at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street accompanied by piano, guitar, piano and bass serves up a wonderful tapas of traditional songs.
"That's When The Heartache Begins," slow tempo; "Blue
Skies," up-tempo, with a great guitar solo, remind me that the guitar and banjo have status in traditional New Orleans music. The whole set features the usual tight New Orleans arrangement.
"Why Must You Be Mean to Me," slow swing. Sophie introduces the band. During the entire day I cannot write fast enough to remember the names and instruments of musicians.
"I Will Love You" followed by "I'm Just Found" followed by an upbeat "A-Tisket A-Tasket". By the time she gets to an upbeat "When You're Smiling,” we are all smiling and sweating and feeling the Louis Armstrong vibe.
Next, an upbeat "It Don't Mean a Thing.” No drum set on the stage, the standup bass, deep and resonant, sustains the beat. The sound system for this act and all similar bands is just the right volume, no need for your plugs and the standup bass and guitar do a great job of pulsing the beat.
A taped announcement by trumpeter Leroy Jones acknowledges a long list of sponsors, takes two minutes to read. The weekend is supported by organizations of all stripes all over town.
About 26,000 attended from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon.
1:45 PM Red Beans and Rice Stage, Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
When you get near New Orleans brass bands you don't just hear them, you feel them right down to the marrow in your bones. I could feel The Dirty Dozen Brass Band all the way across Jackson Square as I entered the park. Trumpets are king down here but those big ass bass and snare drums and tubas are alpha instruments. Trumpets feed off them. Brass bands down here don't feel they're doing their job unless they see you dancing.
"Get up, you're in New Orleans!" The leader says to the crowd, many of whom are sitting on the grass or in camp chairs, as he peers from the stage. It's 90°F and the humidity is so high that when you walk if feels like you're wading through a bathtub. No matter, this guy wants us to get up and shake our booties. All of a sudden, we are in a call and response mode and for all the world we could be testifying at a Sunday morning church service.
"Say Satchmo," he shouts over the ratatatat of the drums and pealsof trumpets. "This is New Orleans! We make music in the hot! We make food in the hot! We make you know what in the hot!" Not long after that the music inexplicably stops – there's a call for a doctor, a musician has collapsed. Later, the leader says, “Kurt has been with us since he was 16, it's 100° out there, make sure you all drink water.”
“The Rebirth Brass Band can blow the shingles off of a house, “ says the leader with chuckle. "We call this the quiet band," he says as a way of introduction.
Their songs included smooth versions of “Wonderful World,” “You Are My Sunshine.”
When it comes to "When the Saints Go Marching In" this band is not so quiet. The repartee between the band members between numbers is hilarious sometimes even during the songs. This kind of banter is one of the endearing things about music in this town, at least between traditional bands like the Tornados.
3 PM Bill Summers and the JazzSalsa Band, Red Beans and Ricely Yours Stage
An Afro- Caribbean Latin funk band switches genres with great elan. They finish with "Caravan" and Carlos Santana’s "Jingoloba." The African call and response chants incorporated into the music gave the performance a resonance that must have been familiar to many in the audience.
4:45 PM The Shotgun Jazz Band at the Chop Suey Stage. OOPS NO PHOTOS!
If Odetta Sang is kind of music she might sound like band leader Marla Dixon. In a city with hundreds of female singers, Dixon has a style all her own. Dixon on trumpet is accompanied by trombone, clarinet, banjo, bass. “Breathe,” easy swing tempo; "I'll Take You Home Cathleen" an old Irish reel that has been around a long time and this kind of genre jumping is one of the reasons Dixon is in a league of her own.
“How about some blues?” Dixon asks rhetorically, “I think it was by Tampa Red,” and indeed it was. Old time lyrics, it swings low and hard and Dixon’s got the lip to torch these songs into embers. If this did not get your hips moving you might be dead. I can probably say that for most of the music I heard today. There is no linear set list, Dixon glances down at a list then takes a stab.
Along comes ‘In the Gloaming” Stand up bass player Tyler Thompson sings "My Old Kentucky Home." “We might be running a little late, I think it will be OK, they probably already cut the check."
Next, an awesome sax solo (I wish I could remember the song), the bass player and the banjo player hold the baseline and underpin the beat. Next, "Shake It and Break It," the original version, Dixon says. She directs solos and signals the end with a wave of her hand. Next, "Whenever You're Lonesome, Telephone Me." With that, she concludes by thanking Louis Armstrong, the sponsors, and us in the audience. She’s the bomb.
5:30 PM The Soul Rebels, Red Beans and Ricely Yours Stage
Cross a New Orleans traditional brass band with a side of funk and you get the Soul rebels. By now we’re bathing in a blanket of humidity at about the same temperature as our own bodies. All day long people have found respite in the shade and one of the positive assets so Jackson Square is that there are plenty of trees under which to get it. A given in New Orleans is you just never hear them complaining about the heat.
Spectators fan themselves the old fashioned way As they stand around the stage or sit in the ubiquitous camp chairs or spread out on blankets all over the park. My hands are so wet with perspiration that ink is smeared all over my notebook.
Can you imagine a brass band like The Soul Rebels can sing a song like "sweet dreams are made of this" and that by the end of the song, the bandleader as us all singing along. It is beyond me how the band can switch gears and tempo and play as tight as they do – brass, reeds, percussion– The bandleader flashes his hand with different number of fingers, sort of like a quarterback, and a band sees what he wants and who is going to solo and when the song is going to end.
Who are these guys? Here comes "Down the Mississippi to New Orleans" in four-time?
Yolanda Winter begins to solo, totally awesome. She introduces "Shine," the lyrics are important, the bandleader said it was one of Lewis favorite songs. Louis was ahead of his time with this not so subtle song about his skin color, one that he certainly felt and certainly lived.
This band is having fun, they joke around when they mess up an introduction, The leader says "We haven't worked together for a week. It's a good thing you can't hear what we're saying appear off mic!”
Bandleader says they're going to play a Louis Armstrong classic but with a different groove and play "What a Wonderful World" with a Rumba beat…really fetching.
“The next song is one of my favorites, my grandfather wrote it,” says the leader and here comes "Why Don't You Go down to New Orleans" upbeat almost with a waltz beat.
Wonders never cease around here.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.