‘Uncle’ Lionel Batiste, Drummer for the Treme Brass Band, Dies at 81

I have such wonderful memories of “Uncle” Lionel welcoming my wife and me to Tremé’s Candlelight Lounge in April, 2010 (http://www.jazzandjazz.com/?p=61). It saddened me immensely to learn of his passing and I simply had to reproduce here The Hollywood Reporter’s tribute to such a huge personality wrapped up in such a modest and diminutive frame. (Peter Butler, Jazz&Jazz).

The musician, who had been a fixture on the New Orleans jazz scene since the 1940s, died Sunday morning after a brief battle with cancer.

“Uncle” Lionel Batiste, the longtime bass drummer for Treme Brass Band, and a fixture for 70 years in the New Orleans jazz scene, died Sunday morning after battling cancer for only a few months. He was 81.

Batiste was an icon for many local musicians, and with his signature sunglasses, wristwatch worn on his hand as opposed to his wrist, and an omnipresent kazoo, he moved to the beat of his own bass drum.

Batiste was diagnosed with cancer in April,according to New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune.

While Batiste rose to fame slowly with the Treme Brass Band, he appeared in numerous commercials and television shows, including Treme on HBO. He was a central figure in Spike Lee‘s Hurricane Katrina documentary, and he was frequently featured as the face of New Orleans for the city’s Jazz and Heritage Festival. According to Treme clarinetistMichael White, Batiste used his drum to stay afloat in the floods after Hurricane Katrina.

While he was known as a bass drummer and began playing the instrument as a child, Batiste occasionally sang for the band, demonstrating a smooth, soft voice. But more often, Batiste danced. While he was a shoeshiner in the French Quarter as a boy, in his younger years he was brought on stage next to Pork Chop and Kidney Stew to show off his tap-dancing skills. He developed his signature slide and hop dance from studying an older drummer, Papa Knox.

After several months in the hospital this spring, Batiste was released June 26, still ill, and attended the Treme Brass Band’s gig that night at d.b.a. According to Nola.com, the club’s owner cordoned off a corner for Batiste to sit in his wheelchair, surrounded by much of his 13 children and numerous grandchildren.

“He was in a wheelchair, very frail, half the size he was before,” Tom Thayer, the club’s owner, toldThe Times-Picayune. “But he seemed to have a great time. He hung out most of the night. He smiled and posed for pictures, and after the first set, he signed every single CD everyone bought. There was a good energy there.”

Mr. Batiste stayed for both sets, “and when they wheeled him out,” Thayer said, “the whole place applauded when he left for the last time.”

A portion of sales of the “Treme 2012” poster, which is a photograph of Batiste, will be donated by the group to help with Batiste’s medical and funeral costs, according to Toni Rice of the Multicultural Tourism Network.

Courtesy of  Jane Kellogg, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 July, 2012

 

Flashback to 2010: “Fans Fill Tremé’s Candlelight Lounge”


One of the most spontaneous and exciting jazz gigs I’ve been privileged to experience was at The Candlelight Lounge in Tremé, New Orleans back in 2010.

Treme Band with “Uncle” Lionel Batiste on drums.

Every Wednesday night at this cradle of jazz, The Tremé Brass Band played for free.
What’s more, we enjoyed red beans and rice before the show started.

[Read more…]

Focus on New Orleans 2010 & 2016 Part 2


Changes in New Orleans: Jazz&Jazz photographer Laurence Cumming visited New Orleans in May this year and captured a series of magical photographs which inspired me to revisit the photos I took six years ago during the 2010 French Quarter Festival.

Part 1 of “Focus on New Orleans 2010 & 2016” was published on Jazz&Jazz in July this year. 

Here is the continuation of our “Then and Now” New Orleans Photo Story.

FRITZELLS

Drums & Bass

© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016

Fristzells-Pianist

© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

Fritzell's-Band

© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

CANDLELIGHT LOUNGE 2010

TrumpeterLeader

© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

Treme Band with "Uncle" Lionel Batiste on drums.

Treme Band with “Uncle” Lionel Batiste on drums. © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euro-Musicians-Pappa-Celestine

European guests starring with Lionel Batiste on drums. © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010


DONNA’S BAR 2010

Leroy Jones and Katja at Donna's Bar, Rampart Street in 2010. Since closed down.

Leroy and Katja at Donna’s Bar, Rampart Street in 2010. Since closed down.© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

I first met Leroy Jones at Donna’s Bar back in 2010 shortly before it’s closure. One of the photos I took on that memorable night later became the reference for my portrait of him, with a touch of artistic license of course.

FRENCH QUARTER PARADE AND BANDS 2010

2010 UK Southern Sounds Contingent with Barry Martin

2010 UK Southern Sounds Contingent with Barry Martin. © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

Rick Trolsen's Po-Boys in the French Market

Rick Trolsen’s Po-Boys in the French Market. © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

Mo Stars with Steamboat Willie at Cafe Beignet

Mo George (Southern Sounds Group) stars with Steamboat Willie, Burt Butler and Don York at Cafe Beignet.© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

2010 UK Contingent serenaded at the Intercontinental

2010 UK Contingent serenaded at the Intercontinental. © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz 2010

 

Caption

The Music Factory circa 2010 © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz

Street Musician 2010

Street Musician 2010 © Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz

Grandpa Elliot plays a tune for Ginny (

Grandpa Elliot plays a tune for Ginny (© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

2010 Pool Party Band

2010 Pool Party Band (© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

Duke Hertgers Band

Duke Hertger’s Band (© Peter M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

 

FLASH FORWARD TO LAWRENCE’S  2016 PHOTOS

Enthusiastic 2016 Southern Sound UK Contingent. © Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016

Enthusiastic 2016 Southern Sound UK Contingent. (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

… beginning with the very essential Marching Band

… beginning with the Marching Band (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

New on the block since 2010 - The Spotted Cat" (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

New on the block since 2010 – “The Spotted Cat” (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

Laurence goes for close ups, ideal for capturing “Street Shots”. Heads, shoulders and instruments. Many of the photos below are of musicians from “recently emerged”
New Orleans Bands. Some of them I know – some are members of my
Facebook “Jazzers Group”.
But it would be interesting to see how many of them readers can identify.
You can answer this in the “Comments” Section at the foot of the post.

Trumpet Man

Shaye Cohen

Full Face

Full Face 2

Dr Michael White

Clarinet Sax

Banjo Man

Bearded Trumpet

Trumpet Close Up

Street Dancing 1

Street Dancing 2

Recognise anyone reflect in the bell?

Recognise anyone reflected in the bell?! (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

That's it folks! (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

That’s all folks! (© Laurence Cumming, Jazz&Jazz 2016)

Peter M Butler
Editor & Proprietor Jazz&Jazz

Bob French 1938-2012 – A Fleeting but Memorable Acquaintance

Longtime Original Tuxedo Jazz Band drummer and leader Bob French who died on Monday, 12th November, 2012. (Photo © Peter M Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

There are so many great jazz musicians with whom I have made only fleeting acquaintances over the years, made all the more memorable when I learn of their passing. Earlier this year I covered the death of “Uncle” Lionel Batiste who so warmly welcomed my wife and I to Tréme’s Candlelight Lounge. And now I want to pay my respects to another great New Orleans drummer, Bob French, who died age 74 on 12th November.

It’s not my place to add to the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s wonderful obituary for Bob. But I do wish to mention how pleased I was to brush shoulders with him in The Palm Court Jazz Cafe back in April, 2010. To mark that occasion I’ve included a photo I took of him in his typical low key style on the drums. “His drumming technique was extremely efficient; his arms hardly moved as his wrists and hands did all the work.”

Of his fans Bob once said: “They can do anything they want except mess with the musicians’ instruments. If they’re having a good time, Bob’s having a good time. If you’ve got a dancing audience, they’re easy to play to — they’re entertaining themselves.”

Perhaps clubs and bands could learn something from that as we enter 2013.

Fans Fill Tremé’s Candlelight Lounge

Just a section of the Treme Band and guest musicians. “Congestion” restricted my full focal view. (Photo by P.M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

One of the most spontaneous and exciting jazz gigs I have ever witnessed was at The Candlelight Lounge in Tremé, New Orleans. Every Wednesday night at this cradle of jazz, The Tremé Brass Band plays for free. What’s more, there’s free red beans and rice before the show starts.

On that magical night during the 2010 Ken Colyer Trust French Quarter Festival Tour, a host of ardent fans from around the world, all packed in like sardines, witnessed a spectacle never to be forgotten. The show began at 9.30 sharp with just seven playing. Then more joined in. Then more… then even more, as musicians from around the world joined in with the Tremé band. Three trumpeters, three clarinets, two drummers, three sousaphones, at least two banjos and trombones – after a while I lost count but altogether there must have been at least 30 musicians crowded onto that tiny stage.

And in the narrow space between the audience and the band, dancers of all shapes and sizes strutted their stuff so vigourously that Barry Price and I, seated in the front row, moved back a row for safety lest we should have been toppled like dominoes! Such was the melee that I couldn’t quite wield my camera to full effect and got fewer shots than I would have liked.

Band leader Kenneth Terry lets rip on trumpet. (Photo by P.M. Butler, Jazz&Jazz)

“Uncle” Lionel Batiste on drums strove to maintain a calming influence but how trumpeter Kenneth Terry held the host together was beyond me.

I had heard said from a very reliable source that Jools Holland, along with Sammy Rimington and a couple of other jazz musicians, put on a totally unannounced impromptu jam session during a meal in a pub in deepest Kent not so many months ago. So whilst still reeling during that evening at The Candlelight Lounge, it struck me what wonders it could do for a massive jazz revival if Jools could feature such a spectacle on his “Later with Jools Holland” BBC2 spectacular. It could instil the same kind of inspiration for young jazz musicians as does the Tremé experience.

Peter M Butler
Editor Jazz&Jazz

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