Mondays in Louisiana have always been all about the red beans.
Now, thanks to Michael Foster, Baton Rougeans can enjoy a free evening of live jazz with their free meal from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday at the Roux House, 143 Third St.
The event, “Red Beans and Rice Mondays” or RBRM, started in November as an initiative by Foster — a 23-year veteran musician best known as the band leader of The Michael Foster Project — to not only celebrate Louisiana culture, but also foster the young musicians in Baton Rouge.
“I wanted to bring back our culture of jazz,” Foster said. “There’s something about Mondays that has a rich history to it with red beans and rice, so I decided to bring the two together to experience my two passions of food and music and to have other people share that experience.”
Sponsored in part by Louisiana Fish Fry and Mayday Drum Company, each week features a house band that regularly includes only one or two veteran musicians like Dr. Charles Brooks and David Hinson.
Foster has also planned out the weeks so that patrons have an idea what to expect on any given Monday. The first Monday of the month will feature a renowned artist, second and third weeks are for local acts and every fourth Monday is a jam session where diners are likely to see Foster’s bandmates John Gray and Rod Jackson.
This helps to tide over Foster’s fans, because when they see his name on the marquee, they expect to see his seven-piece brass band. According to Foster, the full band will play there only about once a quarter, since he want to feature up-and-coming acts.
“I consider the Project to be the elder statesmen of the game — we’ve been around the world and we experienced it,” Foster said. “My main goal is to make sure that the veteran musicians are able to pass the torch to the young musicians who are coming up after us, so hopefully they’ll be able to travel around the world.”
While giving a stage to younger musicians, Foster has also formed the initiative “Keys to Life” to nurture budding musicians-in-the-making. Each month, he and a well-known artist purchase a keyboard for a school in need. This month, Foster and Big Sam Williams (Big Sam’s Funky Nation) donated the first keyboard to Westdale Middle School.
But RBRM isn’t just all that jazz; each week also features a different chef. While Foster sometimes cooks the beans, he relies heavily on the help of 20-year veteran chef Celeste Gill to organize the schedule of chefs and insure all supplies gifted by Louisiana Fish Fry are readily available. He also has a go-to guy in chef William Wells of Culinary Productions.
“Whenever we have a big tourist season or know there’s going to be some dignitaries in town, William Wells will be the one whose red beans I want them to taste,” Foster said. “It’s authentic and is the representation of red beans and rice that I would want anyone who’s not from Louisiana to experience.”
Mardi Gras tourists, and locals as well, can see Foster kick off the Carnival season Monday with his full band and lots of giveaways for patrons who register through eventbrite.com.
Upcoming acts include:
n Feb. 9: Jazz trombonist Charles “LC” Williams
n Feb. 16: Jazz trumpeter John Gray
n Feb. 23: Vocalist Christian Bold
n March 2: Big Sam Williams
n March 9: Patrick Bordelon
n March 16: Universal Language
n March 23: Mike Esanault