Monthly Archives: July 2012

New Orleans Festivals

2012 Satchmo Summer Fest

Satchmo palying the trumpet

Louis ” Satchmo” Armstrong

This weekend, August 3-5, we’ll celebrate the 12th annual Satchmo Summer Fest, a music festival in the French Quarter at the Old U.S. Mint paying tribute to New Orleans’ favorite son, Louis Armstrong.   There are special lectures and seminars on his music and the early jazz of New Orleans, as well as a stellar lineup of performances by brass bands, traditional jazz bands, and jazz bands, all tuned up to show off Louis’ music.  And of course, there’s always wonderful food at New Orleans festivals.

Satchmo was born onAugust 4, 1901 (although he claimed to be born on the 4th of July!) The first Summer Fest commemorated the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Armstrong grew up poor in New Orleans.  His legal father abandoned his mother when he was an infant, and he didn’t see much of her either.  She went to live in the Perdido/Liberty St. neighborhood known as Storyville, home to pimps and prostitutes.  Armstrong’s paternal grandmother and uncle took care of him.  He briefly went to school, but quit when he was 11 and earned money by singing on the streets with other youngsters and working random jobs.

When he fired a 38-caliber pistol on New Year’s Eve 1913 (probably acquired from one of his “stepfathers”), Armstrong was arrested and ended up in a Colored Home for Boys. Its structure and discipline helped him develop, but he got a real start in life when Peter Davis, his professor who taught at the school, introduced him to the bugle and cornet.  He played in the Home’s brass band at picnics, socials, and funerals.  Young Louis rapidly absorbed what he could learn from the New Orleans players who were on the scene in those days–Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Kid Or, and especially “King” Joe Oliver.  He started playing with Kid Ory’s band in 1919, when Oliver left behind New Orleans.   Before long, Armstrong went up to Chicago to play with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, but he soon struck out on his own.  Switching from cornet to trumpet, he became a star.

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New Orleans Attractions

Sunday Evening in New Orleans


In most towns, Sunday nights can be lonesome, depressing times.  You’re not ready to go back to work or school on Monday morning, but the promise of Friday night pizza and a movie, and Saturday barbecues has passed.  What to do?  In New Orleans, though, life really is a Cabaret—what good is sitting alone in your room?  Sunday night offerings are available at various bars, museums, and restaurants, keeping you from staring at the TV screen by yourself.  For example, Buffa’s Bar & Restaurant,  offers viewings of HBO dramas that have a Louisiana connection and that you may have missed last time around.   Past episodes of Treme’, the New Orleans –filmed and themed show about musicians, as well as True Blood,  are screened this Sunday, July 29, alternating at 7, 8, 9, and 10 PM, and you can feast on a famous Buffa’s hamburger while you’re at it.    If you get there earlier in the day, there’s music to listen to as well.

Another chance for company and entertainment is at Siberia on St. Claude Avenue.   An early gig on Sundays at 5:30 PM by New Orleans rhythm and blues band, King James and the Special Men, is a rowdy, joyous place to be, and you can get bar snacks there too, like pierogi or a mushroom and spinach blini  (t is Russian, after all!).    There’s no cover charge, and the drinks are cheap.

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New Orleans Music

A Tribute to “Uncle Lionel Batiste”

Uncle Lionel playing the drum

Treme Brass Band

As everybody in New Orleans knows by now, “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, bass drummer for Treme’ Brass Band in New Orleans, 81, died on Sunday, July 8 after a brief bout with prostate cancer.  “Uncle” Lionel had become a poster boy for the resurgent New Orleans music scene in the last few years since Hurricane Katrina.  Long, lean, dapper, perpetually snappily dressed with a trademark gold cross and wristwatch worn over his knuckles, “Uncle” Lionel sauntered around the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street.  He was the face on the New York City Times Square banner for Spike Lee’s Hurricane Katrina documentary, “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise.”  His image graced the 2010 Congo Square poster for New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, and of course, for the historic Treme’ neighborhood bicentennial poster. It’s 200 years in 2012 since the country’s oldest historic African-American neighborhood was founded.

But more than becoming a visual icon of New Orleans, “Uncle” Lionel was a consummate musician and mentor to many younger musicians.  The Treme’ Brass Band’s weekly gig on Wednesdays at the Candlelight Lounge in Treme’ became a hipster and tourist destination after HBO’s “Treme’” TV show began running in 2009,  but there was nothing touristy about the music, or the joy that the music brought.  “Uncle” Lionel was a direct link to an earlier time in New Orleans, when traditional brass band music wasn’t even especially well-known outside of New Orleans.  It grew out of the neighborhoods, and it was handed down in the old-school way, by the “older” guys teaching the younger ones.  If you want to hear “Uncle” Lionel playing and singing, Treme’ Brass Band records are available at Louisiana Music Factory, 210 Decatur St. in New Orleans, and for download at   Sound of New Orleans,,  recently re-released its 1980s recording of Treme’ Brass Band, “I Got a Big Fat Woman,” and it’s about as authentic as you can get.

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New Orleans Festivals

Bastille Day Celebrations In New Orleans

And you thought the fireworks were over.  Wrong.  So very wrong.  Because in New Orleans, we aren’t just American.  We also are a colonial city, founded by the French and governed by the French and Spanish along the way. That means—another chance for a party, on Bastille Day, July 14!  Yes, that’s right, but since it falls on the weekend, we get a few days of fêtes!  All in honor of the French ideals of libertê, egalitê, and fraternitê.  Which are, after all, ideals we cherish in New Orleans.

The Alliance Française of New Orleans puts on dinner for Bastille Day at Restaurant Galvez in the French Market to start on Friday, July 13, at 8:00 PM.  Today is the last day to order tickets for that gala dinner, but if you don’t make it to the dinner, you can check out the fireworks over the grand Mississippi River in Dutch Alley.  There’ll be a band, of course.  Fireworks start at 9PM.  Watch for sparklers in—red, white and blue, of course!

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New Orleans Attractions

New Orleans Own – The Louisiana Music Factory

logo is a yellow drum with the words Louisiana Music Factory written inside against a red background

Best Place to Purchase Local Music


If you visit New Orleans, chances are you’ll go out and hear some awesome music.  Maybe you’ll hit Frenchmen Street and stop in at the Spotted Cat to hear Panorama Jazz Band on a Saturday evening; or maybe The Three Muses, where you can get some terrific food while hearing the latest neo-traditional jazz band.  Or if you’re Uptown, you might go to The Maple Leaf on Oak Street on a Tuesday night and catch the Rebirth Brass Band; or maybe you’re in the Bywater neighborhood and  you’ll make it Vaughan’s on Thursday night (again, food is involved  as long as Kermit Ruffins has his barbecue truck).

After hearing all that great music, you’ll probably think about taking some of it home with you. That’s when Louisiana Music Factory comes in.  It’s at 210 Decatur in the French Quarter, across the street from House of Blues.  It’s got the best collection of Louisiana recorded music you’ll find in town, and probably in the world.  Owned and operated by Barry Smith and Jerry Brock, it’s been around since 1992 and in its present location since 1996. Barry just happens to live across the street from Southern Comfort Bed and Breakfast

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