Tuesday, May 12, 2009
And Now ... The Rest of the Story(?)
Lattimore Brown - Little Bag of Tricks
My man Red Kelly has posted his chronicles of Sir Lattimore Brown's return to the stage and related events over at The B-Side. I wanted to wait until Red had told his tale, because I knew he would have some awesome stuff to share. He's got the story, great pics, outstanding video and more, so go check it out. But come on back to read my account, okay? Okay.
[Awaiting your return.]
When Red informed me that he had managed to put together Lattimore's performance at the Banks Street Bar in New Orleans, I knew I just had to be there. Since the Jazz Fest was also going on, and since neither me nor my wife had ever been to New Orleans, we decided to make a mini-vacation of the trip.
We went to the Jazz Fest on Sunday, April 26, and after a long, exasperating walk from the final streetcar stop to the fairgrounds, we encamped at the Blues Tent, arriving just in time for the New Orleans R&B Revue. Eddie Bo was supposed to be part of the Revue, had he lived, and his absence was noted by Deacon John Moore, who did a set and served as the bandleader and emcee of the program. I won't go into a full concert review here, but the show was quite enjoyable. Wanda Rouzan (of the Rouzan Sisters, of "Men of War" fame) lit up the stage with a good-timey set of songs, including a version of "Mama (He Treats Your Daughter Mean)." Al Johnson, who was profiled in the Times-Picayune that weekend as the recipient of a home in "Musicians Village," a development designed to provide housing for New Orleans msusicians affected by Hurricane Katrina, did a quick set capped off with his Mardi Gras perennial, "Carnival Time." (I didn't get any pictures of the crowd, but once "Carnival Time" started out came the umbrellas and handkerchiefs among the crowd!) Robert Parker, who I had been most interested in seeing, came out and did a perfunctory, if not exactly electrifying, set of blues and his classics "Where the Action Is" and "Barefootin'." Allen Toussaint was the headliner, and he did a fine set which featured "Here Comes the Girls" (which was slightly marred by the inability of Deacon John's drummer to accurately combine the military and funk elements of the tune) and a great extended take on "Yes We Can."
After the Revue, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings took to the stage and gave up the funk as only they know how. The crowd was full of people who were not familiar with the high-octane show, but Sharon made converts of them all. (Their set also kept the Jazz Fest security busy, as they had to continually shoo dancing people out of the aisles!
After the festivities ended, it was time to get to the mission at hand: Red had invited us to join him and Lattimore for dinner at Mother's, a no-frills New Orleans landmark known for its po' boys. Joining us for dinner was filmmaker Chase Thompson, who has documented the entire Lattimore Brown story, WWOZ personality Allan "Alski" Laskey, and graphic designer Paul Pollman and his wife, Honey. Lattimore was a bit tired, so he stayed fairly quiet, but the conversation buzzing around the table was as good as Mother's food!
Lattimore, Red, Chase and me; Alski and Paul.
The next day, my wife and I decided to do some sightseeing, but we managed to hear Lattimore's appearance on WWOZ. Although, as Red noted, Lattimore's singing of "It's a Sad Sad World" didn't exactly "click," I was very excited by Lattimore's storytelling and promotion of his show ("we're gonna do like Koko Taylor and pitch a wang dang doodle," he proclaimed several times), and when he sang "I Know I'm Gonna Miss You" (Red, who sang the Roscoe Shelton part?) it was very nice. After sightseeing and a trip to Louisiana Music Factory for some record digging, I hustled over to the Banks Street Bar for the rehearsal.
Red has chronicled the rehearsal, so I won't go into a lot of detail. In addition to meeting Wraquel and Wanda, I got to meet Cies from the Just Moving On gospel website and blog, and we had a great conversation. When Lattimore took to the stage at around five-thirty, I saw a fire in his eyes that thrilled my soul. Although the Banks Street Bar stage at that time of day is not exactly the most thrilling sight, to watch Lattimore work the stage made the place feel like the Apollo Theater! (I put up a video a few days ago from the rehearsal.) I left for dinner knowing that the evening was going to be special.
Red has adequately described what went down that night at the actual show. Like Red, I did not get to take any pictures, since I was working the door. Yes, the show had moments that were great, some not-so-great, and some that were somewhat cringeworthy, but all in all it was clear that Lattimore Brown had made a triumphant return, and everyone from Jazz Fest visitors to WFMU deejays to music journalists had witnessed it.
I didn't have time to stay in New Orleans for the Ponderosa Stomp and the second weekend of the Jazz Fest, although I would've loved to, so I was as upset as I was pleased to get a text message from Red the next say saying that Lattimore was going to be appearing at the Stomp with Wiley & The Checkmates, and then to get a text message two days later saying that Lattimore had "tore it up"! Wow!
When the Lattimore Brown story first appeared on Red's blog and on mine, the phrase "this ain't nothing but God" captured the spirit of what had happened. I am glad to report that the phrase is equally meaningful after the New Orleans weekend: Lattimore met his daughter after nearly forty-one years (and to think that she found out about him via the internet, just like the kind nurse did when she contacted me so long ago); Lattimore made a triumphant return to the stage (and a debut in the New York Times); Red, Cies and I, brothers-in-arms online, got to meet each other in person for the first time, and we got along as if we hung out regularly; and I got the see how my relatively insignificant act of writing about Lattimore on my blog served as a catalyst for all of this. I am still on a "high" from it all.
I must take a moment to give major "props" to Red Kelly, whose hard work in finding Lattimore, chronicling his story and getting Lattimore back on stage proves that God is truly with him. I have a feeling that, although the New Orleans weekend makes for a great closing to a "movie-ready" story, that more is yet to come - the Man Upstairs has a "bag of tricks" of His own!