Home CULTURE ARTS Arts: May 2018

Arts: May 2018


Dance Party: Big Sam’s Funky Nation releases a new album, Songs in the Key of Funk, tying into Jazz Fest.

Photo by Willow Haley

Local funk band Big Sam’s Funky Nation, which has released five fan favorite albums and quietly developed a devout following in the Big Easy, has released a new track entitled “Buzzin'” about hot and heavy love at first sight on the dance floor. The song shimmies from talkbox into swaggering clean guitars, and it’s the first track off the band’s upcoming album Songs in the Key of Funk (released May 4) tying into the band’s performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

The band consists of “Big Sam” Williams on trombone and lead vocals; Drew “Da Phessah” Baham on trumpet and vocals; Jerry “JBlakk” Henderson on bass; Keenan “Butta Cream” McRae on guitar; Alfred “Sgt Gutta” Jordan on drums; and Kendrick Marshall on keys. Powered by jaw-dropping technical talent and uncontainable energy on stage, the band’s performances have become the stuff of legend. Think of a boisterous blend of funk, jazz, rock and hip-hop — mixed with a lot of Southern charm — and you have Big Sam’s Funky Nation. In addition to playing the likes of Voodoo Music + Experience and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Big Sam’s Funky Nation has also performed at Bonnaroo, SXSW and Austin City Limits.

The band is also gearing up to go on tour, performing at various festivals this summer. In addition to Jazz Fest, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is playing at High Dive in Gainesville, Fla., May 24; Bayou Boogaloo & Cajun Festival in Norfolk, Va., June 22; and Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Aug. 4.

“By playing on these streets, you learn how to work your craft and entertain an audience,” Williams says. “You can go to Juilliard and Berklee all you want, but they won’t teach you how to rock a stage. It comes naturally in New Orleans. I’ve been here my whole life and rocking these streets. Even during Hurricane Katrina, I drove nine hours from San Antonio every weekend for two years just to play live. The sound out here is unlike anything else in the world. It’s not just a figure of speech — there’s music going all night, literally.” bigsamsfunkynation.com

Documenting Local Music: NOMA explores photographer Lee Friedlander’s ties to Louisiana.

A new exhibition at The New Orleans Museum of Art — Lee Friedlander in Louisiana — explores the ways in which Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular, have had a profound impact on the career of one of the most famous living American photographers. It also highlights Friedlander’s significance as a documentarian of the local music community. This major exhibition, on view through Aug. 12, consists of vintage prints and never before seen images. These photographs of jazz musicians, monuments and street life demonstrate how Louisiana has been central to the development of one of the country’s most influential photographers.

Friedlander’s first came to New Orleans in 1957 when he visited the city as an employee of Atlantic Records to produce portraits for album covers. From then on, he frequently visited the Big Easy, photographing second line parades, crowded streetcars and the evolving architecture of downtown. His signature style focuses on reflections, shadows and obstructions that transform the people and places of New Orleans into playful pictures. 
“While everyone is trying to get the perfect picture, Lee Friedlander’s approach seems to declare that photographs should be about how the world exists, not how we want it to be,” says Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs. “Lee Friedlander in Louisiana is, therefore, both a fitting tribute to a great American photographer, but also a tribute to this city’s rich visual and social character during its Tricentennial year.”
Lee Friedlander in Louisiana will be accompanied by a presentation, entitled Lee Friedlander: American Musicians, in NOMA’s Great Hall. On view through June 17, American Musicians includes some of Friedlander’s most dynamic color photographs, many of which were used for famous record album covers and promotional portraits. Also be sure to check out the Spotify playlist created by NOMA curators that includes essential tracks by artists featured in Lee Friedlander: American Musicians. 1 Collins Diboll Circle, (504) 658-4100, noma.org

Midweek Boogie: The YLC Wednesday at the Square concert series continues throughout the month.

There’s only a few weeks left to get out and take part in YLC Wednesday at the Square, which runs through May 30. This popular spring concert series, which takes place at Lafayette Square each Wednesday from 5-8 p.m., is the perfect anecdote to a midweek slump. And there’s only one month left!

The free concert series features well-known and critically acclaimed musical acts from the New Orleans area and broader region. Headliners that are scheduled to play this month include Amanda Shaw with opener Trumpet Mafia (May 2); Bonerama with opener N’awlins Johnnys (May 9); TBD with opener Motel Radio (May 16); Maggie Koerner with opener Naughty Professor (May 23); and Shamarr Allen with co-headliner Robin Barnes and the Fiyabirds (May 30). June 6 and June 13 are reserved as rain dates. ylcnola.org/ylc-wednesday-at-the-square