Friday, April 25, 2014

Festival Hits High Note with Entertainers and Entrepreneurs

by Maniko Barthelemy

It's the one place in the world where you'll always find peculiar entertainment. New Orleans is always festive, hot, humid and full of high notes from musicians imitated but never duplicated. In Louis Armstrong Park, named in honor of one of the city’s most beloved musicians, it’s time again for a festival unlike most in the city.

“Jazz in the Park,” a free music festival offering a gumbo of artists that are popular local favorites and who have traveled the world shining an international microscope on their talents, kicked off its fifth season, April 17. Every Thursday, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., until June 2, the hypnotic sound of great free concerts, affordable, unforgettable food, and unique handcrafted souvenirs will welcome thousands.  “A lot of people forgot about this park,” said ????, referring to the years the park set abandoned, following Hurricane Katrina.


On this cool and perfectly calm day, there was no hint of sadness. A New Orleans second-line parade set the tone. High-steppers from the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club, wearing red and yellow flashy costumes, jubilantly danced around the park, to hypnotic tunes blaring from a brass band’s horns complimented by thunderous beats from the drum, and of course people smiled, took photos and joined in on the fun.  “We don’t practice our dance moves because it’s just in our blood,” said Wendell Carter, a member of the Sudan Social Aid & Pleasure Club.

5th Ward Weebie Works the Crowd with his song "Let Me Find Out."
The dancing moved from the park’s entrance to center stage when local rapper, 5th Ward Weebie took the microphone. Weebie seemed like a choir director with his call-and-response style. He barely got a word out before the crowd began clapping their hands, dancing and shouting the hook to “Let Me Find Out,” the artist’s latest hit song. The lyrics are laced with crass criticism, jokes at the expense of others, and quite honestly will cause you to move your hips and chuckle a few times. “It’s a self-check song for people who love to talk about other people but know they have their own issues,” said Weebie. To see 5th Ward Weebie’s video of “Let Me Find Out,” visit YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0StwM-YDNc.

The next artist who electrified fans with his testimony, raspy voice, and bold declarations was Glen David Andrews. He’s a member of the almost uniquely unbelievably talented and gifted Andrews family. The Andrews clan is as respected and adored musically as the Jacksons. Andrews joyfully entertained everyone with highlights from “Redemption,” his newest CD. It’s a rousing candid lyrical road trip into his life, giving fans all of the ups, downs and turnarounds that have landed his album on the top 40 jazz charts within the last week.  

Andrews launched onto the stage clapping his hands, dancing and bobbing his head easing into  “Movin' Up.” The song reconfirms his renewed love of self, appreciation of his family, fans, and celebration of his career’s rebirth. Here’s a glimpse of Andrews performing “Movin Up,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCKSrAHBl70.

Robert Piazza, owner of Bayou Leather and Jewelry, stands near his special hand-designed beer holsters
Musicians aren’t the only ones who welcome the invitation to be part of Jazz in the Park. Robert Piazza owns Bayou Leather and Jewelry. He’s one of more than a dozen vendors at the festival. “We sell a lot of our merchandise but the best thing about this is it's unlike other festivals because it’s two seasons, lasts about eight weeks in the spring and again in the fall, so we meet people from around the world,” said Piazza.

Maniko Barthelemy grabs a strawberry snowball at Jazz in the Park
People from around the world looking to get their hands on something cool, like crushed ice drowned in sweet syrup, stop by and visit the festival's unofficial cooling station. “I have the best snowballs in the state,” said Aquanette (Ackie) Singleton, owner of Mrs. Ackie & Keimika Snoballs, Food and Catering Service. Singleton sells hundreds of the cold cups but another big hit is her twist on cheesy nachos, topping them off with jalapeƱo peppers and spicy crawfish. Give her a call for your next event, (504) 250-4996.
Crawfish Nachos by Mrs. Ackie & Keimika Snoballs, Food and  Catering Service
Jazz in the Park is every Thursday until June 5. Here’s a look at the festival’s schedule, http://www.pufap.org/. Every week you'll see at least two live bands with a little lagniappe sliced in as a special treat. 

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