By Stephen J. Kotz
The Parrish Art Museum’s second annual Sounds of Summer series will get off to a decidedly, if unseasonably, Mardi Gras theme when the HooDoo Loungers take to the stage on the museum’s covered terrace on Friday, May 23.
“It’s all New Orleans-inspired stuff. It’s all in that vein,” said bassist Joe Lauro, the co-founder of the nine-piece ensemble and a self-described aficionado of American roots music. “We started off doing covers, but now we do about half originals. It’s a stompin’ band.”
The concert, which takes place at 6 p.m., is the first in a series of five that have been scheduled over the next three months. Also appearing in the series will be the Next Level Band, which performs steel drum and reggae, on June 6; Mambo Loco, which performs Latin-inspired jazz, on July 4; Edith and Bennett, who perform old-time folk music, on August 1; and the Ebony Hillbillies, a bluegrass band whose performance will include a barbecue for attendees, on September 5.
The concerts are free with museum admission, which is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and free for children under 18 or students with an identification card.
“On Friday nights we are open late and we have this beautiful, west facing terrace …that can be used for live music, films, that sort of thing,” said Andrea Grover, the Parrish’s curator for special projects. “This program is really geared toward reveling. It’s the kind of music that is intended to get people up and dancing. Or, if you like, you can go out on the lawn with your kids and let them run around and jump up and down.”
Mr. Lauro is well known among Sag Harborites for the occasional music film series he hosts at Bay Street Theatre, using footage owned by his company, Historic Films, as well with his past, and still occasional, performances with the Lone Sharks, Gene Casey’s rhythm and blues-based band.
Besides Mr. Lauro, the Loungers’ lineup includes a pair of vocalists, Dawnette Darden and Marvin Joshua (who recently joined the band), David Dietch, on keyboards and accordion, Michael Schiano on guitar, Dave Giacone on drums and a three-member horn section made of Brian Sears on tenor and baritone sax, Ed Leone on trombone and Gary Henderson on trumpet that, Mr. Lauro said, handle the majority of the solos.
“Every band out there—all they have is guitars,” he said. “We said, ‘Let’s do something different!’”
Mr. Lauro said that Mr. Dietch handles the group’s arrangements and tries to keep fresh the classics the group plays as well as provide an authentic New Orleans feel to its original songs. “We write to the theme,” he said.
A documentary filmmaker who branched into the world of film archiving, amassing an incredible collection of vintage music footage, from Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, through Elvis Presley, the Beatles and later rock groups, Mr. Lauro said he was bitten by the music bug at an early age.
“The Beatles,” he responded when asked his inspiration for taking up the bass. “But I had two lives as a kid. I also had this secret life of loving vaudeville singers like Al Jolson and Eddie Kantor. So I was listening to that and completely loving the Beatles and all the stuff that was coming up.”
Thanks to groups like the Beatles that covered ’50s R&B and rockabilly, Mr. Lauro said he learned about the likes of Carl Perkins, Fats Domino and Little Richard by working his way backward. “Eventually you learned that Paul McCartney could scream, but not like Little Richard.”
After moving east more than 30 years ago, Mr. Lauro hooked up with an old high school bandmate, Mr. Schiano, in the Moondogs. Later, he joined Mr. Casey’s Lone Sharks for several years.
He and Mr. Dietch formed the HooDoo Loungers about four years ago. “When I left the Lone Sharks, I wanted to do a New Orleans project. But I thought we’d be more of a show band, and do a whole retrospective show for corporate parties and that sort of thing. Pretty soon we started doing original stuff, but we still do lots and lots of old New Orleans stuff.”
Mr. Lauro said he hoped that some of the infectious joy that imbues the spirit of life in New Orleans comes through in the band’s playing.
“Partying isn’t something they do on Saturday night. They live that the whole year,” he said. “They celebrate joy through music. That kind of works for me.”
For more information about Sounds of Summer and other Parrish events, call 631-283-21118 or visit parrishart.org.
Jazz en Plein Air Series at the Parrish
The Parrish Art Museum will also once again hold its Jazz en Plein Air series, on the first Friday of each month from May through August.
The series starts on Friday, May 30, at 6 p.m. with an appearance by jazz drummer Eliot Zigmund, who has played behind the likes of Chet Baker and Bill Evans. The series continues with Nilson Matta on June 27, Iris Ornig on July 25, and an act to be announced for August 29.
Seating is limited and reserved for guests ordering food and beverages from the museum café. However, guests are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the music from the terrace and lawn.