At any given moment, there are sounds of New Orleans in New York City’s air—lately, a little more than usual.
Last week, pianist Jon Batiste, who will lead the band for Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” come September, had melodica in hand as he led something like a second-line parade out of Union Square Park (see my account and an interview here.) He’ll hold court during what he calls a “social music residency” at Manhattan’s NoMad Hotel June 23-26.
On Saturday, June 20, the Rebirth Brass Band, who pretty much authored present-day brass-band style, brought their parade-honed sound to the mainstage of a festival called “Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World” in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Around that same time Saturday, the New Breed Brass Band, full of bright young upstarts, performed on Governor’s Island, within the Nalofunk Crawfish and Music Festival. On Friday, June 26, the Soul Rebels, who’ve slid brass-band tradition comfortably into Afro Latin and hip-hop territory during the past two decades, make their debut at the Blue Note jazz club with a late set featuring rappers Rakim and Slick Rick.
For those who didn’t let Saturday’s persistent spray of light rain dampen their enthusiasm, the “Wonderful World” festival brought Armstrong’s spirit and legacy to life in several ways not far from the legendary trumpeter’s former home, which is now a terrific landmark, the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Ricky Riccardi, that museum’s archivist and the author of an essential book on Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years,” was over at the nearby Queens Museum, sharing insights and pleasures from his research.
The day’s highlight, the essential heartbeat of the event, was a set from drummer Shannon Powell’s Traditional All-Star Jazz Band. Powell, who headlines too infrequently in New York City, is rightly revered in his hometown, where he’s known as “The King of Tremé” for his prominence in a neighborhood that has nurtured traditional jazz culture and which he still calls home. Continue reading “Drummer Shannon Powell's Brilliance Shines in Louis Armstrong's Light”