Jazz double bill brings funk, zydeco
Oh, the irony.Zydeco zealot Terrance Simien, a Louisiana native, was playing the Bourbon Street Music Club in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. “We dodged the bullet,” he said. “We watched it all unfold on TV out there. We couldn’t believe what was happening. It was quite an emotional experience for me.”The band plays at 7 p.m. today for what should be a rousing Summer of Jazz double bill following the Wild Magnolias, who’ll play at 6 p.m. at Two Rivers Park.”The guys who own Bourbon Street go to Jazz Fest (in New Orleans) every year,” Simien said. “They serve Creole food and play jazz at their place, and we were playing their festival that draws between 25,000 and 30,000 people.”Although Simien and his family, which includes wife and manager Cynthia and their 15-year-old daughter, did not lose their home to Katrina, many of his musician friends did.”A lot of people I know want to go back to New Orleans, but can’t,” he said. “There are still parts of the city that nothing’s been done.”In April, Simien and the band returned to the Crescent City for the New Orleans Heritage Jazz Festival.”I never thought I’d see New Orleans like that. The city of New Orleans is not the same – it’s going to take some time,” he said. “But the people down there, they’ll put it back together. The music will never die.”
Born and raised in a southwest Louisiana prairie town called Eunice, Simien first started playing music at the age of 9 and his first instrument was the trumpet.”There was all kind of music around. The local music was zydeco and Creole,” Simien said. “That’s the music of the Creoles, some of the first people to settle in Louisiana. My family has been in that part of Louisiana since the early 1700s. The people in my community, the musicians, they play the accordion and the fiddle.”Simien’s siblings, along with his high school band teacher, played a major role in influencing his musical pursuits.”My brother and sister were in the church choir – actually they were the church choir. We come from a small church,” Simien said. “My sister played the organ and my brother sang. My cousins all played. I wanted to play an instrument like everybody else.”Simien has been a professional musician for 25 years.
In the last few decades, Simien has hit some high career notes. He and the Zydeco Experience have played with the Dave Matthews Band, Paul Simon and the late Robert Palmer.”I’ve been very fortunate to play some very big gigs,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to play with all my heroes. I’ve had so many beautiful moments on stage.” One gig in Washington, D.C., is especially memorable.”I did one of the balls for President Clinton’s inauguration,” he said. “While we were performing, Stevie Wonder was in the audience and he came on stage and played the harmonica.”Simien and the Zydeco Experience have played all over the U.S. and the world, including the East Coast Blues festival in Australia. That’s where Simien and Wild Magnolias manager Glenn Gaines established their friendship in the late ’90s. The bands recently met up at Jazz Fest.”Louisiana musicians are like family members. We know each other through being on the road, especially post-Katrina because people are so scattered everywhere,” Gaines said. “Jazz Fest is a big family reunion.” The seven-member Wild Magnolias, who play Mardi Gras Indian funk, and Simien’s Zydeco Experience have also recorded albums together. “It’s a high-energy funk party when we’re together,” Gaines said. “It’s such a natural match – it’s all similar jammin’ music.”Gaines holds Simien in high regards for their decade-long friendship – and his masterly musical talents.”Terrance has the voice of an angel. The two voices of New Orleans are Terrance Simien and Aaron Neville,” Gaines said. “He is the one of the warmest cats you’ll ever meet. He goes beyond to make you feel at home.” In the spirit of Mardi Gras and Creole music passed down though generations, tonight’s lineup should transport the Summer of Jazz audience to New Orleans, said Gaines.”Be ready for a party, because the nighttime is the right time for us,” he said. “We’ve got the beads, the tambourines, the peace pipes. We hope Glenwood will never be the same.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518aclark@postindependent.
Every Wednesday, the Summer of Jazz concert series hosts free concerts from 7-9:30 p.m. at Two Rivers Park. This year, Summer of Jazz is in tribute to New Orleans music and its heritage. Each week the Post Independent profiles the featured musicians and acts. For more information on Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience and the Wild Magnolias, visit http://www.summerofjazz.com.Name: Terrance Simien and the Zydeco ExperienceType of music played: New Orleans funk, zydeco and reggae fusionName: The Wild MagnoliasType of music played: Mardi Gras Indian funk
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