This much-anticipated yearly event at WolfTrap was a winner once again. The Stooges Brass Band, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet and Big Sam’s Funky Nation showcased the breadth of music in New Orleans and its environs. All three bands reflected the move toward incorporating other genres into traditional styles.
Stooges started with a roaring wall of brass created by Walter Ramsey and Lamar Heard on trombone, Javan Carter on tuba, and Gregory Warner on trumpet. Hip hop along with patter and dancing by the front line came soon after. True to their reputation for high-energy and audience-interactive shows, within 10 minutes Stooges had at least three-quarters of both those sitting inside and out on their feet. Few sat down through the rest of the set. Jazz was supported by Michael Jones (keys). During the entire performance, Roland Taylor (drums), Abdule Mohammad (percussion) and Elliot Slater (guitar), wove in and out of the forefront. Twenty-two year old Slater, who looked to be about 14, surprised many during his highly technical solos. The band closed with what production manager, Royce “Flash”Jackson, from WRITE da CHECK Productions, called a “road test”of one of Stooges’latest compositions, “Muses.” Ramsey attributed the desire to incorporate new influences to his high school years at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
BeauSoliel avec Michael Doucet commanded the stage in their usual polished manner. The two-time Grammy Award-winning band represents the music from a unique culture in Louisiana with roots from over 200 years ago when the area was still owned by France and Spain. a fan of the The inclusion of their interpretations of gospel and and blues and their continued integration of a calypso beat are particularly delightful. Michael Doucet clearly is interested in making new music while keeping his roots steeped in tradition. The dancers in the crowd were able to cajun two-step along no matter what the tune. Many in the audience were very familiar with the line-up of David Doucet (guitar), Mitch Reed (bass and fiddle), Bill Bennett (bass), Tommy Alesi (drums) and Billy Ware (percussion). Bennett also manned the soundboard. If there was something I could have asked for, it would probably be a double set and more exposure to some of the band’s newer influences.
“Big Sam” Williams must have the blood type “funk positive.” Big Sam’s Funky Nation, totally changed the temperature and took over the audience from note one. This sound is quite a change from his musical origins including a long stint with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band where he developed a reputation as master of the slide trombone. Trumpet and vocals master Andrew “Da Phessah” Baham called their music NOLADELIC Power Funk. After funk dance instruction warm up by “Big Sam”Williams (lead vocal, trombone) and “Da Phessah,”there was massive trial and error in the audience. Dancers began to creep toward the stage. Williams and Baham never stopped dancing, with “Big Sam”impressing all with his skills ranging from the twist and monkey to the most recent moves. As soon as “Funky Donkey” hit, the front of the Filene Center was filled with hip-popping fans. The thundering bass played by Jerry “JBlakk”Henderson and “Chocolate Milk”Williams’drumming held the beat down tight. “Big Sam”called Joshua Connelly’s guitar ‘the goodtar’ because only good things come out of it. The perfect example of the band’s funked up brass band sound was in “I Want You, You, You.”Both band and some audience members were drenched in sweat by the end of the set.
The annual Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap is always a good time and this 25th anniversary was no exception. It is always a treat to see BeauSoleil perform live. Introduction to Stooges Brass Band and Big Sam’s Funky Nation was a thrill. Check them out!
Running Time: Four hours with set changes.
Louisiana Swamp Romp was a one day event on June 14, 2014 at The Filene Center at WolfTrap Center for the Performing Arts, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA. Wolf Trap’s schedule of events can be found here.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s website.
BeauSoliel avec Michael Doucet’s website.
The Stooges Brass Band website.