As I was walking down Bourbon Street near the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, I finally came upon what I had been looking for all afternoon, a brass band, although it wasn’t one I had heard of, but rather a new band called the Legacy Brass Band. One of the signs that New Orleans’ brass band scene is healthy is the constant appearance of new brass bands in the city, and the relative youth of the members. The Legacy proved to be a good-sounding band with good arrangements, and the ability to attract a crowd. I was impressed with the slogan on the back of their shirts, “Music Is Not A Crime”, a reference to the city’s recent crackdowns on live music that have made brass band appearances rarer outside of night clubs or second-line parades. Far sadder was a handwritten eulogy on the bass drummer’s drumhead, in memory of someone named Big Whoop who presumably was killed, an all-too-often occurrence in New Orleans. The good news is that brass bands and the opportunity to become musicians are significant lures to young men and significant deterrents to crime and violence.
With no second-line, I spent the afternoon browsing in the French Market, and walking around the French Quarter. I was vaguely hoping to run into a brass band somewhere, but the city government has been discouraging that of late. A band had been playing in Jackson Square, but they had taken a break and left their instruments piled up on a park bench while they relaxed on the steps of the Cabildo nearby. The other spot where brass bands used to be common was at the corner of Bourbon Street and Canal next to the Foot Locker, which had been a sort of proving ground for new young bands, but the city has fenced the whole area off, on the pretext that bricks have been falling from the nearby building, so bands can no longer play there. In reality, the city had suppressed the brass bands there before the area was fenced off. So I did some shopping at a couple of book stores, and then started walking back east toward where I had parked my car on elysian Fields.
New Orleans hip-hop artist and activist Truth Universal may not be one of New Orleans’ most popular rap artists, but he is certainly one of the best. He appeared at the Recording Academy celebration in conjunction with cultural guardian and percussionist Luther Gray and with notable New Orleans DJ E.F. Cuttin. His amazing show opened with a libation ceremony for the ancestors, including poet Amiri Baraka who died recently.
Robin Barnes is a relatively new neo-soul singer in New Orleans, backed by an excellent band known as the Soul Heirs. Her performance at the Recording Academy event on January 13 at the U.S. Mint was especially impressive, as was the musicianship of her band members.
Immediately after Black Water Bride, Valcour Records’ artists Bonsoir Catin appeared. They are an all-female band playing traditional Acadian music from Lafayette, Louisiana, and like all Valcour artists, they are really good.
The service region for the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy also includes Shreveport, which is a city with a recording past and which seems to be experiencing something of a musical rebirth since the opening of Brian and Brady Blade’s Blade Studios. Black Water Bride is one of Shreveport’s hot up-and-coming new bands, blending elements of country, rock, soul and other Louisiana music styles, and they were a natural opening act for our Recording Academy party at the Old Mint.
The Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy (formerly NARAS) is a large, regional chapter that includes the city of New Orleans, so one a year our chapter board meeting is held in New Orleans. This year, after the meeting on January 13, we held a Membership Celebration at the Old U. S. Mint in the French Quarter, which featured food, drink and great live music from several bands and artists. Attendees included the chapter’s executive director Jon Hornyak, chapter president and legendary Memphis producer Boo Mitchell, chapter trustee and Memphis artist Susan Marshall, board member and producer Scott Bomar and folk artist/board member Shannon McNally.