Jazz & Heritage Foundation: Music Is In The Air
A grade school battle of the brass bands with more than $30,000 at stake; a free Astral Project performance as part of the Jazz & Heritage Concert Series; and the 11th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival with free admission at Armstrong Park – they are all upcoming New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. events that trumpet the New Orleans music business is booming and blooming.
The foundation is the nonprofit owner of Jazz Fest presented by Shell with a mission to “promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, arts, culture and heritage of communities in Louisiana through festivals, programs and other cultural, educational, civic and economic activities.”
The foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment.
Tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 16, is the deadline for middle and high schools to enter the seventh annual Class Got Brass competition that supports music education and promotes the brass band tradition.
Participating schools’ traditional New Orleans-style brass bands will compete to win a first prize gift certificate worth $10,000 in musical instruments, instrument repair and other supplies, a second place prize of $7,000 and a third place prize worth $5,000.
The second category is for “beginner” brass bands where the top three groups will vie for $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000 prizes.
There will also be additional prizes awarded to schools who don’t place in the top three in either category.
The contest will be held on Sunday, March 4, in conjunction with the upcoming Congo Square Rhythms Festival.
“We want to support music education in Louisiana and to encourage our schools to embrace our traditional music and culture,” said Don Marshall, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s executive director. “We all know how hard it is for schools to pay for music programs. By providing a financial incentive, we’re giving schools and band directors even more reason to join the competition and move our heritage forward.”
The Preservation Hall Foundation will be helping school bandleaders prepare for the competition, providing arrangements and sheet music on its website for trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, bass drum and snare drum. Members of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will also offer free clinics at competing schools for personal instruction.
As part of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Jazz & Heritage Concert Series, Astral Project will perform a free concert on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N. Rampart St., with sets at 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Astral Project has been together since 1978 and features saxophonist Tony Dagradi, bassist James Singleton, guitarist Steve Masakowski and drummer John Vidacovich. The band, known for its cutting-edge improvisation and transcendental performances, has been hailed as one of the “most distinctive and cohesive groups in jazz” by DownBeat magazine.
No tickets or advance registration are required, and there is no reserved seating.
The 11th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival takes place Saturday, March 3, and Sunday, March 4, at Armstrong Park.
The free festival will include live musical performances by Rebirth Brass Band and the Hot 8 Brass Band, a Mardi Gras Indians battle, African dance troupes and the seventh annual Class Got Brass contest.
Organizers said the festival celebrates the New Orleans traditions that spring from the African diaspora, and brings a joyful noise to the spot that those in the know consider the birthplace of American music.
Congo Square has been recognized, since the 18th century, for being the gathering place for enslaved Africans and free people of color who carried on their ancestral traditions of drumming and dance. Musically, many credit the spot as where jazz, gospel, blues and rock grew its American roots. Congo Square is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Congo Square Rhythms Festival celebrates it all, combining live music, a large arts market, a Soul Food Court (The Praline Connection, LaDelyo’s Café, Cocoa & Cream Catering, Boswell’s Jamaican Cuisine, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, Li’l Dustin’s Italian Ice) and special events.
Participating in the annual Mardi Gras Indian battle will be the Wild Magnolias (representing Uptown), the Yellow Pocahontas (Downtown) and the Mohawk Hunters (the West Bank), and four local African dance troupes will collaborate on a routine that will interpret Louisiana history through dance. The piece in its entirety will debut later this year to celebrate the Tricentennial.
Musical performances and events will include:
Saturday, March 3
11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Drum Circle
11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Bamboula 2000
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Fufu Allstars
2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Alexey Marti Quintet
3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Mardi Gras Indian Battle
4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Quiana Lynell
5:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Water Seed
6:15 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. Rebirth Brass Band
Sunday, March 4
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Drum Circle
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Sneak Preview African Dance Performance
• “Bricks: From the River to the Bayou” – a collaborative dance interpretation of New Orleans history in celebration of the city's Tricentennial.
• “Katalis and Seremoni: Dutty Boukman, Cecile Fatima and Charles Deslondes” performed by the Chakra and Omosede Dance Theater
• “Fly With It!” performed by Tekrema Dance Theater
• “Mali” performed by the Culu and N’Kafu African Dance Ensembles
• “Indigenous” performed by Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective
1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. N’Fungola Sibo African Dance Company
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Pinettes Brass Band
3:00 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Class Got Brass Contest
5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. Hot 8 Brass Band
On Saturday, March 3, parking is available for a fee ($5 for 10 hours) at Basin Street Station, 501 Basin St. On Sunday, March 4, parking is free in the large lot of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre (enter via Basin Street).