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Gumbo and Good Times: Treme Creole Gumbo Festival

Treme Creole Gumbo Festival shines a light on the figurative and literal flavors of the city.

One of the Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s cultural enrichment programs, the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 12, and Sunday, Nov. 13 in Armstrong Park. The festival pairs some of the city’s top brass bands with a wide variety of gumbos — plus po-boys, jambalaya, yakamein and more — from kitchens around New Orleans.

Treme Brass Band is one of many performers at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. (Photo: New Orleans Online)

Creole Delicacies

Gumbo in all its forms, including vegan and Gumbo Z’Herbes, occupy the starring role on the festival’s menu lineup. But vendors like Brocato’s Po-Boy and Catering, Miss Linda, Lil Dizzy’s Cafe and Dunbar’s Soul Food also offer options like crabmeat stuffed bread, crawfish and shrimp mac and cheese, barbecue ribs, and fried chicken with beignets for hungry festival-goers looking to branch out beyond the roux.

New Orleans Brass Band Roots

Seafood gumbo with shrimp, crawfish, and fried okra croutons from Criollo Restaurant. (Courtesy photo)

This year’s music lineup shines a light on the history of New Orleans brass bands, featuring sets from some of the key players who helped usher in a new era of popularity for brass band music. The Treme Brass Band, which performs at the festival Saturday, Nov. 12, and the Sunday, Nov. 13 headliners, the Rebirth, share important historical connections to one another.

In the late ’60s, guitarist, banjo player and teacher Danny Barker organized a group of talented young players to form the Fairview Baptist Church Band. The group’s early roster included trombonist Lucien Barbarin, who leads the group today.

Any gumbo worth its salt starts with a good roux. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

The Fairview Baptist Church Band grew popular quickly, making a name for itself on the second line parade circuit, thanks to its skilled lineup, which included trumpeters Leroy Jones, Gregg Stafford, Wynton Marsalis and Gregory Davis; tuba players Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen and Kirk Joseph; saxophonist Branford Marsalis and drummer Herlin Riley, among others.

In 1974, the Fairview Church-based ensemble morphed into a group called the Hurricane Brass Band, now under the direction of Leroy Jones. Within a few years, however, a handful of musicians from the same group split and formed the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which pushed the music’s stylistic boundaries into new territory by adding elements of bebop, soul, and funk.

This year’s music lineup shines a light on the history of New Orleans brass bands.

That push for change, in turn, caught the ear of brothers Philip and Keith Frazier, who formed the Rebirth Brass Band with their classmate Kermit Ruffins when the three were still in high school.

Meanwhile, Benny Jones Sr., another founding member of the Dozen, opted to go a more traditional route with his music and left the Dozen to form the Treme Brass Band, which performs in Armstrong Park on Saturday.

Arts Market

Browsing the work of local artists is always a draw at other Jazz and Heritage events, be it Jazz Fest or Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. The Treme Creole Gumbo Festival is no exception.

Browsing the work of local artists is always a draw at Jazz and Heritage events.

Cooking Demonstrations

Some of the most iconic chefs in the city will be doing their thing — you’ll definitely want to watch, and you might even want to take notes. On Saturday, Susan Spicer and Leah Chase show off their culinary prowess at 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m., respectively. On Sunday, Li’l Dizzy’s’ Wayne Bacquet takes the stage at 1:30 p.m., and Tanya Dubuclet of Neyow’s Creole Cafe closes things out at 2:45 p.m.

Admission is free, and the festival runs from 11 a.m. until 7:15 p.m. both nights. Check out a complete list of performers, food and activities at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival.