Satchmo Summerfest Weekend Picks, 8/3–8/4

PHOTO: PHILIP DUCAP | The Satchmo Summerfest continually innovates by bringing new talent and new band combinations under the big tent that represents the legacy of the great Louis Armstrong. This weekend is no exception with numerous debut performances and a very special set by a new big band set to celebrate the occasion. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

At 12 noon on Saturday the New Orleans Classic Big Band will make its Satchmo SummerFest debut. The group was assembled for the explicit purpose of playing the big band arrangements of the greats from the big band era. They will play arrangements of songs that Louis Armstrong developed for his orchestra in the 1930s.

Trumpeter and vocalist James Williams (pictured at top), an uncanny Armstrong impressionist best known for fronting the traditional jazz band the Swamp Donkeys, will lead the band, which features a bunch of New Orleans a-list musicians. Ricky Ricardi, the curator of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, NY will act as MC and provide context for some of the arrangements that are being performed live for the first time.

The Doyle Cooper Jazz Band follows the big band. Cooper is a trumpeter and vocalist who recently participated in a tribute to the late, great Al Hirt at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He is a music lifer who first appeared in public as a pre-teen and has matriculated through the New Orleans jazz music pipeline.

His band features a number of young musicians who are also beginning to find their places in the musical universe of New Orleans. Expect to see Miles Lyons on trombone, Danny Rubio on tuba, John Saaverdra on guitar, Oliver Bonie on reeds, and Glen Finister on drums.

The Big 6 Brass Band is making their Satchmo SummerFest debut. This hot young band has been tearing it up at the weekly social aid and pleasure club second line parades, which are on hiatus for the summer.

However, there is a chance to participate in a second line on Sunday morning following the jazz mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Tremé neighborhood. The parade features members of various second line clubs and begins at the church and ends at the Satchmo SummerFest.

On Sunday afternoon, the great pianist and musical family patriarch Ellis Marsalis takes the stage at the festival. Marsalis is an erudite performer who is best known as a modern jazz musician. But he can play it all and will no doubt honor the legendary Satchmo. Incidentally, Marsalis was honored this year at the Satchmo Summerfest gala.

Connie Jones was one of those musicians who flew under the radar of most casual jazz fans. But the trumpeter was a highly respected player known by all the traditional jazz musicians in town for his long career, mentorship of musicians, and his magnificent, yet understated presence on stage. Clarinetist Tim Laughlin, who was mentored by the great Pete Fountain, will stage a tribute to Jones.

The Trumpet Tribute to Louis Armstrong is a fitting finale to a weekend celebrating his music and legacy. In the past, dozens of trumpeters have taken the stage to honor and blow for their hero. I expect the same this year.

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