James Andrews, who appeared in a 2015 OffBeat cover story, will perform at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival on November 16. Ahead of the gig, we spoke with him about his beloved neighborhood, his grandma’s cooking and more.
Did you grow up in the Treme?
Absolutely! I grew up in the Treme. My family lived in Armstrong Park before they tore it down … it was the old Treme, like the old Caledonia… we lived around that Sewerage and Water Board plant inside the park by the auditorium. Then they tore all the houses down in the Treme and they made the park. Then we moved to Dumaine and Robertson.
Was the first gumbo you ever had Creole gumbo?
The first Creole gumbo I ever had in my life? My Grandmother, Jesse Hill’s wife, she makes the best… oh my god, what can I tell ya’? At one time I could only eat her gumbo, I couldn’t go to a restaurant, it was always like cheating to me, ya’ know? When my grandmother would cook a gumbo she’d put anything in it, chicken feet, pig’s feet. She would put the hot sausage, that’s what gives it a different twist, the hot sausage and she put all the meats in it and it was… aw man! You’d know you was home with family when you taste her gumbo.
Do you cook your own Creole Gumbo?
No, no, I don’t cook gumbo. I let my grandmother and my aunties and everybody make the gumbo. I cook the red beans but… I leave the gumbo to da best.
Did you first start playing music in the Treme?
Yep, We started out tap dancing and shining shoes, that led to the music part of it. Then I start playing music with my brothers and my cousins in the Treme and we used to go out to Jackson Square to play for the tourists and then we started playing with Danny Barker and The Roots of Jazz Band. Then my brothers and me started the All Star Brass Band. We played The World’s Fair when we was young and that led to other stuff.
What’s it like when you play Creole Gumbo Festival?
Aww… when I come back to play that festival… plus, it’s always in Armstrong Park and I always feel some kind of feeling playing in Armstrong Park. It brings me back… to where I come from and it brings me back to a time in my life, just being in that park. I used to do so many things in that park and some kind of way, the music and life always leads me back to Armstrong Park… for some reason.
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival
Saturday, November 16 at 2 p.m.
For more information on James Andrews, click here to visit his official website.