January 23, 2006

Best of the Beat. . . and the streets

Toussaint raps

Having been to several of Offbeat’s Best of the Beat award shows pre-Katrina, I feel that this past Saturday's topped them in terms of the quality of the performances and presentation. Not able to gather, due to the evacuation, category votes for members of the music community deserving awards, the publishers and editors of the magazine decided to have their annual show/party anyway to celebrate the renewal-in-progress of New Orleans and honor a number of deserving people for their contributions to New Orleans music culture. As I have mentioned, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas were included in that number, receiving lifetime achievement awards, along with singer, entertainer and educator, Wanda Rouzan, and business owners (GHB Records and Palm Court Jazz Café) George and Nina Buck. 'Uncle' Lionel Batiste of the Treme Brass Band got the Hearbeat Awards for his talent, good-time spirit and elegant style.

The esteemed Mr. Toussaint got off the most memorable line, saying about his work ethic, “Some folks get up in the morning and build cabinets. I get up in the morning and write songs.” Simple and understated, as usual. Irma Thomas said she was glad to be receiving her award along with Toussaint with whom she recorded many of her classic songs, penned, of course, by him. She said, too, that she would be returning to New Orleans. Also presented was a tribute to Stevenson Palfi, who made many fine documentaries, including the classic Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together, featuring Professor Longhair, ‘Tuts’ Washington, and Allen Toussaint. Palfi took his own life several months after the devastation of his home and city and is considered one of the many tragic storm casualties.

While the House Of Blues venue has never been my favorite by any means, the show made good use of it, having acts on the downstairs main stage alternating with the upstairs Parish stage. Over fifteen acts performed short sets during the course of the night; and, though I did not catch them all, I’ll can attest that those I saw played like it meant something and had serious fun onstage, no phoned-in lollygagging that night. I’d say the best sets were Papa Grows Funk, who were joined in their rock and jazz tinged funk by notable guests: guitarist Renard Poche, saxman Tim Green, and singer/guitarist Anders Osborne. I also particularly liked the New Orleans Jazz Vipers set of hot club style jazz/swing. I even enjoyed a small dose of Mr. Quintron’s organ and diabolic beat machine making lounge music a go-go from some alternate universe; and my vote for funniest lyrics of the night (and humor is needed, people) goes to the ever-self-absorbed Davis Rogan.

Prior to the show, I saw Elliot Small performing on the street by Cafe Du Monde and got to see the subdudes do an in-store performance at the LouisianaMusic Factory, right across the street from the HOB. As, always, these guys give roots rock a great name and still have that Band-like down home, inspirational feel. They did mostly tunes from their new CD, Behind the Levee. After the Best of The Beat, I limped (5 hours on my feet at that point) across the Quarter to Frenchmen Street to catch part of a Bonerama set at d.b.a. before calling it a night. The attendance was very good everywhere I went or passed by. There may be a lot fewer places to live; but the places to party and hear some outstanding music are definitely filling up again in the Home of the Groove.

the 'dudes

I’ll have a music post up later. Stay tuned.


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