Tuesday, July 10, 2012

kermit's Treme Speakeasy in nola

Went to Kermit's Treme Speakeasy last night (Mon July 9). A great slice of New Orleans.

For those of you that don't know Kermit, he's an institution around New Orleans, and even more so since his appearances in the HBO series Treme. 

Kermit has had an ongoing gig on Vaughn's in the Bywater district on Thursdays for years, and has now opened his own speakeasy in Treme, it would seem in the tradition of speakeasies of old. As with many clubs here, they are really a converted house, with the main floor opened up, band shoved into a corner. This is Kermit's own enterprise, and he plays there Sunday and Monday from 6pm until dark (well, an hour after dark). I'm sure the musicians all go off to other gigs after.

There's a killer backup trio, drums, piano, and bass, and Kermit does his schitk (sp?). He comes from the New Orleans tradition that goes back to Satchmo. He even sang Wonderful World (to his mother who was in the audience), but not with a trace of irony, or homage to Louis. It was if this is simply a New Orleans thing, Louis sang it, I sing it, and others will sing it after me. No big deal.

Kermit isn't the most brilliant of players. If anything, his playing is similar in character to Satchmo: lyrical, not technical, playing the tunes the people want to hear. Singing too: again more lyrical than technical.

And it's not just Kermit. The keyboard was killer and was the featured soloist most of the night. Kermit brought a kid who played trumpet who killed a be-bop number. Kermit sat out on that one: stood beside the stage and just beamed at the kid the whole time. The place went nuts when the tune finished. Other featured performers was the 'Old Man' as Kermit called him, who sang some old R & B tunes, Kermits cousin(?) who sang a modern crooner R & B tune, and Kermit's daughter, who played a classical piano piece and sang two R & B tunes. She got the best response of the night. It was an all family affair. The whole place just as thrilled as Kermit at his daughter.

Kermit cooks the food too. He says he gets there early and cooks the red beans and rice and fried chicken. He says that he's a chef and plays music on the side. I missed it, as by the time I got a seat (it was SRO), the kitchen was closed.

The speakeasy name applies. Casual get-together with good music and food, dancing in the aisles, drop-in guests who end up on stage, family based, the New Orleans of a European Salon of old? Hopefully this can continue. Kermit almost forgot to sell his CDs after the gig, but as he said: 'Get me while I'm hot!'.

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