The Satchmo Club Strut has become an intrinsic part of the Satchmo SummerFest celebration of the life of Louis Armstrong. It begins tonight at 6 PM and goes into the wee-wee hours. You can purchase a wristband for $30 that allows access to all of the participating clubs on Frenchmen Street. The money goes to a good cause—the New Orleans Jazz Celebration’s community outreach programs.
My favorite part of the Club Strut is literally the strutting portion. The Tremé Brass Band marches up and down the street playing their lively brass band music and second liner dancers join in and inspire the musicians to jam even harder.
There is a new addition to the schedule this year and it’s a great idea. The driveway next to the Spotted Cat has been turned into a performance space dubbed “Jane Alley” (Armstrong trivia buffs know that is the street in the black Storyville section of downtown New Orleans where the young Louis spent his childhood). The outdoor stage will feature Allen Toussaint, Davell Crawford and Donald Harrison.
The daytime part of the Satchmo SummerFest begins in earnest at 12 noon on Saturday with Seva Venet and the Storyville String Band. Venet is a guitarist and banjo player who has re-imagined classic traditional jazz tunes, which usually feature horns, for a band of musicians playing stringed instruments. It’s a winning idea.
Following Venet is the Jason Marsalis Quartet. Of course, the Marsalis name is synonymous with jazz in these parts, but the family is usually associated with modern jazz. Here’s another tidbit of information that you may not be aware of—Jason is now playing the vibraphone in addition to the drums. This should be a very interesting set.
Begin your day on Sunday with the Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine’s Church in the Tremé neighborhood at 10 AM. Following the mass is a massive second-line parade along Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue that winds up at the festival site. This is too much fun and for fans of the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Sunday parades, which are on summer hiatus for a few more weeks, it is a welcome drink of water during the parade drought.
Once you’re back at the Old US Mint, check out the Bone Tone Brass Band. Though they are not yet household names, this group has a new record coming out (full disclosure—yours truly wrote the liner notes) which will establish them as one of the best traditional ensembles on the scene.
Two of our more established brass bands, the New Birth and the Hot 8, are also on the schedule on Sunday making it the unofficial “brass band day” of the fest.
The biggest conflict of the two-day event emerges when the Preservation Hall All-Stars are scheduled opposite Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown during the four O’clock hour. The All-Stars need no introduction, but Brown, who is mostly known as a modern jazz player, has a new album out that is a tribute to Louis Armstrong.
As is the tradition at this tradition-minded festival, Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers lead the finale—a Trumpet Tribute and Louis Armstrong Birthday Celebration, which will feature at least a dozen trumpet players paying homage to the one true king of New Orleans jazz.