For ten days in August, one corner of southern São Paulo will be transformed into a slice of Louisiana, or to be more precise, of the state’s cultural and musical capital, New Orleans. With ten years under its belt, the Bourbon Street Fest features a set of free gigs as well as a raft of shows that are well worth paying for.
A total of ten bands will be bringing the US city’s vibrant musical styles to São Paulo from 10 to 19 August, with free performances on 11 August in Parque do Ibirapuera, and again on 19 August, this time on a stage set conveniently at the crossroads in front of the Bourbon Street jazz and blues club.
Inspired by New Orleans’s Jazz & Heritage Festival, the idea is to demonstrate the US city’s broad range of musical genres, which goes far beyond jazz. Packed with musical idiosyncrasies spawned by the encounter between French and African immigrants, New Orleans continues to produce flavourful and authentic rhythms such as dixieland, zydeco and others derived from Creole culture, blues, funk and soul.
‘The goal of the festival is to present a musical panorama of New Orleans,’ says Edgard Radesca, Bourbon Street’s director and one of the curators of the festival, in which prestige is favoured over novelty – most of the bands have appeared in previous editions of the festival, and been a hit, so they’ve been invited back.
From trombones to banjos, 2012’s selection ranges from the contemporary jazz of saxophonist Donald Harrison, who plays Bourbon Street on 16 August at 9.30pm, to the Dixieland sounds of Orleans St. Jazz Band, which opens the festival at Parque do Ibirapuera on 11 August at 3.30pm.
It also takes in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s trad jazz, showcased over three shows: a free concert at the park on 11 August at 4pm, and two paid shows at Bourbon Street (14 August at 10.30pm, and 19 August at 1pm).
Among the festival’s highlights, listen out for the booming voice of Grandpa Elliott, the frontman, blind in one eye, of the Playing for Change Band (15 Aug at 10.30pm at Bourbon Street, and at 6.30pm on 19 August at the street party on Rua dos Chanés). The group, composed of former street musicians from around the world, staged a campaign that swept the internet with a moving ‘work in progress’ version of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’ (watch it on youtube.com).
Another of the curator’s top tips is Bonerama, a brass band that takes a unique approach to the genre, to say the least. The band plays rock songs, such as Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, with three trombones, each tuned in a different key. Catch them for free at Parque do Ibirapuera on 11 August at 5.30pm, or at 4pm in the 19 August street show, or at the gig at Bourbon Street, at 9pm on 15 August.
It’s not all about the music, though. A jazz brunch on 19 August brings Cajun cuisine to Bourbon Street in a perfectly spiced menu prepared by chef Viko Tangoda. Food will be served from 11am, with music from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from 1pm. It’s not cheap, though, at R$295 for the whole package.
Later on the same day you can get a taste of the festival’s music for free at the Mardi Gras-style street party, wrapping up the festival from 4pm until 9pm.
Bourbon Street Music Club, Rua dos Chanés 127, Moema, 5095 6100
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 14 August at 10.30pm, and 19 August at 1pm (as part of the fixed-price Cajun brunch).
Bonerama, 15 August at 9pm
Playing for Change Band, 15 Aug at 10.30pm
Donald Harrison, saxophonist, 16 August at 9.30pm
Parque do Ibirapuera, Rua Pedro Álvares Cabral
Free concert on the evening of 10 August, and on 11 August from 3.30pm, with music from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at 4pm and Bonerama at 5.30pm.
Rua dos Chanés, Moema, outside Bourbon Street Music Club
Free Mardis Gras-style street party on 19 August from 4pm, with music from Bonerama at 4pm and the Playing for Change Band at 6.30pm.