Thursday – April 17th
‘Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.’ – Johnny Depp
My morning routine is set now. Arise sometime between 9 and 10, read my emails and check out the news on-line via the Age while watching the world go by.
Nothing to eat until lunch time. The Matassa’s family Deli has operated on Dauphine St since 1924. John Matassa emigrated from Sicily in 1906. There one son (Cosimo) went on to found one of the most iconic recording studios in New Orleans. Sadly that building is now a laundromat (Rampart St) with only a plaque on the wall to remind people who recorded there. Lucky for me is the Deli is just around the corner from my apartment. It is a throw- back to the past. Tiny little aisles that should have one-way signs as two people canot be in the one spot at the same time. You can get all your grocery needs and liquor plus there is a service bar where you can order hot cooked food. The Deli is still run by the Matassa family. I opted for one of their signature sandwiches the Mufaletta. Olive salad, genoa salami, chisesi ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses on fresh Italian bread. The half sandwich costs $8.95 and the full sandwich $13.95. When I say sandwich I mean a round bun the size of a small pizza and as thick as two meat pies on top of each other. I ordered a half and only managed to be able to eat a half of a half.
I was eating my lunch on the balcony but alas had to retreat inside as an annoying drizzle has set in. I heard Mr. Okra and his battered up tray van coming down the street. Mr Okra sells vegetables and fruit to the people of the street. You can hear him for blocks singing through the loud speaker. ‘I got green beans, I got bananas, and I got okra. You could say that the likes of Mr. Okra may never be seen/heard again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz2K8YPSMy8
I had a Nanna nap in the afternoon and was up and at ‘em at 4 PM. I am heading off to Armstrong Park for the start of the free Thursday night music sessions. Yep I am here at the right time of year all right.
I got to Armstrong Park to be greeted by the ‘One Sound Brass Band’ being ably assisted with the dance moves of the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club. It is true when they say ‘White men can’t dance’. Social and Aid clubs of which there are many in New Orleans came about through the poverty of the black population. People contributed a small weekly amount of their income to their club of choice. This then guaranteed a dignified funeral including a horse and mourning carriage and a brass band. Solemn dirge like music would be played on the way to the cemetery and then on the way back the music would be joyful and be a celebration of the deceased’s life. Mourners and anybody that wanted could join in. Hence the name second-line.
Armstrong Park is situated across Nth Rampart St which is the boundary of the French Quarter. It is situated in the historic Treme district. And only a ten minute walk. Within its bound is the area known as Congo Square where history tells us that the black slaves were allowed to gather and dance on Sundays. The only city in the U.S. that allowed black slaves to participate in traditional drumming and dancing. Of course we all should be thankful for this as out of that music came the likes of Jazz and Blues.
I am here to see Glen David Andrews (a cousin of Trombone Shorty). Glen David as a singer and trombone player extraordinaire and he has the knack of involving all audience members in his performance. The spring and summer sessions are put on by the community group ‘ The People United for Armstrong Park’. There is also market stalls and food stalls. I had a double up, starting with a bowl of Gumbo and some fried chicken. When you eat real Southern Fried chicken it is very hard to ever again eat from Kentucky Fried. I was strong though as I did not buy a serve of deep fried Oriole cookies (chocolate biscuits) although they were a steal at 6 for $5!
First on the bill tonight is an old school rapper named Weebie. Not my type of music but the crowd really got into it.
Glenn David Andrews hit the stage as he always does with all cylinders firing. He sang a number of tunes from his new album ‘Redemption’ as well as some of his classic covers. You are always guaranteed a god time at a GDA show. Like Anders Osborne, Glen has turned his life around in the last 18 months and he is very proud to let people know that you can pick yourself up when and if you want to. The skies have been grey all day and the rain is tumbling down. The crowd don’t care about getting wet, we are partying in the rain and when Glen started singing the Mahalia Jackson classic ‘Didn’t It Rain’ the handclapping got even louder.