The musical New Orleans neighborhood of Treme showed up to Jazz Alley last week, featuring the likes of the Rebirth Brass Band, saxophonist Donald Harrison, and trombonist Glen David Andrews.
I attended the opening night sold-out first set at Jazz Alley, and right away it was apparent that the musicians had every intention of turning the club into a Pacific Northwest sliver of New Orleans.
I wasn’t sure how the show would be divided up for the performers ahead of time, but as it turned out the Rebirth Brass Band would be the featured performers throughout, sprinkled with guest appearances by Harrison and Andrews.
The energy that Rebirth brought was immediate and throughout. The seven member band, joking around and wearing street clothes, opened with the Fats Domino Tune I’m Walkin, which took about three seconds to get people out of their seats dancing. Rebirth followed that with three songs very different from each other – Grazin’ in the Grass, the Professor Longhair tune Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and a song they called Mexican Special.
I always find myself concerned when the initial band brings such an intense overload of energy, the special guests who join them mid-concert wont be able to keep that energy up. This was not the case.
Donald Harrison joined Rebirth after four songs, showing exactly why he is Big Chief Donald Harrison. While he went on stage with his sax, he spent the majority of the time on vocals, starting with an emotional and intense Mardi Gras Indian chant before the band joined in with song. When he did play his sax, we were all reminded why he is both a New Orleans musician and a national recording artist, blowing the roof off of the alley with exploding improvisation.
Harrison was followed by Glen David Andrews, who is not only a good New Orleans trombone player, but at 6 foot 4 inches tall, a massive stage presence and performer. Starting his performance from his dressing room, Andrews performed Down in the Treme (written by John Boutte, the theme song for the HBO television show Treme), everywhere from on stage, up the stairway, on the second floor, on tables, and everywhere in between.
With a show featuring as much talent and excitement as this, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that Glen David Andrews stole the show, but the endless line of people wanting to meet him following the show might suggest that he did.
Seattle needed to have this neighborhood of New Orleans brought to it. It wouldn’t have been right if waiters and waitresses had open walkways to deliver food. Instead the staff fought through the sold out crowd on the first floor, all of which was up on their feet dancing and waving their napkins, needing little encouragement to do so. Seattle not only got a slice of true New Orleans culture, but were given an opportunity to get up, dance, and smile. No doubt many audience members left wondering how soon they could make their next trip to NOLA for more dancing and smiling.