For an event that speaks so clearly to tradition, the eighth annual Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival has no problem adapting to the times.
“We’ve always re-evaluated always see if there’s something we can improve,” said Scott Aiges, director of programs, marketing and communication for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the festival’s producer. “As you get eight, nine years of experience under your belt, you figure out a formula that works for you.”
For this year’s festival, held Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 14-15) in Armstrong Park, there will be nods to both the past and present.
All 12 of the food vendors will have gumbo prepared in several different styles. The vegan gumbo component — which last year included a contest — will be on a voluntary basis.
While there won’t be a contest this year, there will be plenty of gumbo: gumbo z’herbes, shrimp and oyster, chicken and andouille, Creole filé, dark roux and of course vegan. (Sample-size portions will be available for those hoping to span the spectrum of styles.)
The food vendors, who will feature more than just gumbo, are Brocato’s Po Boy & Catering, Carmo, Direct Select Seafood, Dunbar’s Soul Food, J’s Seafood Dock, Li’l Dizzy’s Café, Miss Linda’s New Orleans Soulfood Co., NOLA Foods, Palmer’s Cuisine, Praline Connection, Tiger’s Creole Cuisine and Tee Eva’s. Bayou Brew will provide drinks.
For the second consecutive year, organizers will merge the Kids Area with the Arts Market (which features more than 30 vendors) and will include enclosed areas for diaper-changing and nursing. PlayBuild NOLA, and its huge, foam-rubber building blocks, also returns to keep kids occupied.
Brass band musicians provide the foundation of the musical entertainment. Headliners are the well-known Hot 8 at 6 p.m. Saturday and Rebirth Brass Band at 6 p.m. Sunday. There’s also an appearance by the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. The group, formed in 1970 by the legendary musician/historian Danny Barker in 1970, is credited for helping fuel a brass band renaissance that’s continued today.
Sunday also will see an appearance by the Original Hurricane Brass Band, led by trumpeter Leroy Jones, who got his start in the Fairview band.
“My involvement with historic brass bands has been and still remains relative to my musical development, technical proficiency on my instrument, along with gaining a broader understanding and appreciation of New Orleans music,” said Jones by email from Europe, where he’s touring until returning to New Orleans for the festival.
He recalled, at the age of 12 and still a novice on the trumpet, being asked to lead the Fairview Band.
“The formal training I’ve received has coincided with the experience I’ve gotten from performing with other traditional jazz outfits and professionals.”
The emotional resonance of performing in a brass band, especially for the celebrated jazz funeral, hit him at an early age. In the early ’70s, he recalled performing a song (probably “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”) when the daughter of the deceased collapsed in grief as the song played and toppled the open casket. “Adrenaline pumping, we continued to play through till the end,” he said.
But organizers this year are looking forward at the same time. Hence, an appearance by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Band (11 a.m. Sunday) the recently formed Magnetic Ear (led by saxophonist Martin Krusche), and trumpeter Shamarr Allen collaborating with DJ Chicken.
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival Music Schedule
Saturday, Nov. 14
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Lagniappe Brass Band
12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Treme Brass Band
1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Original Pinettes Brass Band
3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Onward Brass Band
4:15 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. To Be Continued Brass Band
5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Shamarr Allen & DJ Chicken
6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Hot 8 Brass Band
Sunday, Nov. 15
11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Band
12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band
1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Class Got Brass Winner
2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Magnetic Ear
3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Class Got Brass winner
4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Leroy Jones’ Original Hurricane Brass Band
5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Class Got Brass Winner
5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Second Line Jammers Social Aid & Pleasure Club
5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eureka Brass Band
6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Rebirth Brass Band