Armstrong Park has generated controversy since its beginnings. But a recent series of concerts aims to change that. Thursday night, a benefit is being held to keep the program, “Jazz in the Park,” free.
When the city carved up a huge swath of Tremé to build the park in the 1960s, they displaced hundreds of residents and destroyed many important elements of the musical culture of New Orleans including homes and businesses. The insults continued through the administration of Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s last minute attempt to burgeon his legacy with a sculpture garden. The park was torn up twice, and the statue of Louis Armstrong was damaged.
But last spring a new group, People United for Armstrong Park, created a free music series that was repeated over the last couple of months. The concerts featured some of New Orleans’ best musicians including John Boutte and Corey Henry’s Tremé Funktet (both pictured performing during the series).
Thursday night the group is charging $20 for an allstar concert that will raise funds to keep the free concerts coming. Expect to see MyNameIsJohnMichael, an indie rock band, open for an only-in-New-Orleans supergroup featuring Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, Bill Summers, Renard Poche, James Andrews, Michael “Soulman” Baptiste, Shannon Powell, Derrick Moss, and Edward Lee, Jr.
“The park, Rampart Street and the Tremé should be considered destinations of choice by both New Orleanians and our city’s visitors. Jazz in the Park is one means by which to accomplish that, and we’re on our way,” says PUfAP co-founder, Ben Harwood. “We need the help of our friends and fans to make this vision a reality.”
The goal of the benefit is to allow the group to present 30 concerts next year. The series will be extended and include spring, summer and fall events.
Photos: Josh Brasted