Celebrating a Century of New Orleans in Southampton on Saturday

The HooDoo Loungers.
The HooDoo Loungers.

By Michelle Trauring

It was something in the sound of the drums. The vibe of the city. The unquenchable zest for life.

It was joyous, a celebration without a cause—other than the joy of simply existing.

Joe Lauro fell in love with New Orleans. He had always known the music, but he had never seen where it came from until two decades ago.

He wandered the narrow streets of the different neighborhoods—with their colorful, “shotgun” houses and wrought-iron detailing—and poked into tiny clubs, where young brass bands were playing music.

“It was right in your face,” Mr. Lauro said. “The way music should be.”

And that is how Mr. Lauro and his band, the HooDoo Loungers, are going to play it on Saturday, December 17, at the Southampton Arts Center, as they walk through the last 100 years of New Orleans music, as part of the “LIVE” music series curated by Claes Brondal.

Starting in the early 1900s, the 10-piece band will explore what makes New Orleans music just that by way of curated retrospective, Mr. Lauro said. “It’s not going to be a stiff event,” he said. “It’s all dancing, fun music. You hear people playing this stuff and you say, ‘They’re from New Orleans.’ Kids that are 10, 11, 12 years old are given instruments and they want to play that music because they see it as more of a social thing.”

Original New Orleans (Dixieland) Jazz Band, 1918.
Original New Orleans (Dixieland) Jazz Band, 1918.

The early sounds of Louis Armstrong’s “Gut Bucket Blues,” pioneering cornetist Buddy Bolden, and the jazz of Bunk Johnson—which happens to be Mr. Lauro’s favorite era—will feed into Dave Bartholomew’s post-World War II rhythm and blues, followed by Allen Toussaint’s Motown-esque scene. Dr. John took over with his psychedelic sound in the late 1960s, which led into rock, soul and where the scene is today: a current brass band style, as heard by Trombone Shorty and the Soul Rebels.

“The music is there for celebration, for partying, for joy. It’s just beautiful, beautiful joyous music. That’s what New Orleans is all about,” Mr. Lauro explained. “Because why not? Life is short and there’s a sense of joy of living and celebrating life, and even celebrating death, too. In most of our culture, this sense of party is a special occasion. In New Orleans, it’s a way of life. It’s that spirit that really makes New Orleans a truly special place in America—and in the world. And we want to try to bring a little bit of that joy to Southampton.”

Now more than ever, Mr. Lauro added.

“We’re at the mercy of a lot of clowns right now and what can a poor man do?” he said. “If anything, everyone should be dancing to this type of music because there’s nothing else you can do. So you’ve gotta hope for the best, you’ve gotta be optimistic, the glass has gotta be half full and you have to celebrate life. Because no matter what happens, they’re not gonna take that away from you.

“You need to understand that there’s a lot America has to offer and has given the world,” he continued. “The main thing is its music. Think about it. Where does jazz come from? Bluegrass, blues, gospel, rock and roll? It all came from here. And it should be celebrated as often and frequently as possible because there’s no need to sit home and brood. You’ve got to go out and have a good time.”

The HooDoo Loungers will present “LIVE from Southampton Arts Center: 100 Years of New Orleans Music” on Saturday, December 17, at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center. Tickets are $10. For more information, call (631) 283-0967, or visit southamptonartscenter.org.