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Hometown Heroes 

The Big Easy Music Awards honor New Orleans' musical tradition.

The 20th annual Big Easy Music Awards, held Monday, April 21, at Harrah's Casino theater, recognized achievement in music by Louisiana artists, and the message from many honorees was that there's no place like home. "I went to New York to try to find myself," said Donald Harrison Jr., who was named 2008 Ambassador of Music. "I played with a lot of cats. But I really found myself when I came home." He went on to describe what it was like growing up in a musical New Orleans family. "There was Indian practice at my house. When I was young, I played drums on my crib. When that beat hits you, your feet got to move and heart's got to groove." Harrison and an all-star lineup of Big Sam Williams, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Stanton Moore, John Cleary, Matt Perrine and Shamarr Allen later played the Mardi Gras Indian anthem "Two Pocky Way."

Inspiring both in accepting awards and leading his band, Terence Blanchard was honored as Entertainer of the Year (See "Entrenched Memories," p. 19), won Best Contemporary Jazz Artist, played a piece from his Grammy-winning album A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) and spoke about what went into creating the work. The compositions for large jazz ensemble developed out of pieces he created for the score of Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. In one segment, the film follows Blanchard and his mother as they return to her flooded home for the first time after the levee failures. Blanchard hopes the wrenching scene helps keep New Orleans on many people's minds.

"The thing I tell people is that if you cry for my mom, multiply that by 200,000," Blanchard said. He recounted his efforts to come to terms with the wreckage of his mother's home. "I kept thinking, 'There has to be something better that will come out of this.' It gives me solace that something better will come out of this. It's a testament to the citizens of New Orleans for having the strength to rebuild our city."

The legacy of the city's music scene was on display throughout the evening. R&B pianist Eddie Bo received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Al "Carnival Time" Johnson was recognized with a Music Heritage Award. WWOZ Guardians of the Groove awards were given to Clinton Scott, one of the station's original DJs, and Patti and David Averbuck. The Goin' Home tribute to Fats Domino released by the Tiptina's Foundation and Vanguard Records was named Best Album of 2007.

Winners in other categories included Little Freddie King for Best Blues, Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher for Best Traditional Jazz, Galactic for Best Funk Band and trumpet player Shamarr Allen for Best Emerging Artist. The Best Male Performer was Troy Andrews, and Irma Thomas won Best Female Performer.

Besides Harrison and Blanchard's performances, the evening opened with music by Best World Music winner Michael Skinkus and Moyuba, OTRA and Casa Samba. Best Country Music nominee The Figs, the New Orleans Bingo! Show and Best Zydeco Band Terrance Simien and Zydeco Experience performed, and rapper Cupid finished the evening by leading the audience in his namesake Cupid Shuffle.

The awards are sponsored by Gambit Weekly, Harrah's New Orleans Casino & Hotel, Abita Beer, WWOZ 90.7 FM, the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism and Coleman E. Adler & Sons. Proceeds benefit the Foundation for Entertainment Development and Education.

2008 Big Easy Music Awards

Honorary Music Chairman

Don Marshall

Entertainer of the Year

Terence Blanchard

Lifetime Achievement in Music

Eddie Bo

Ambassador of Music

Donald Harrison Jr.

Music Heritage Award

Al "Carnival Time" Johnson

Business Recognition Award

Downtown Development District and Young Leadership Council

WWOZ Guardian of the Groove Award

Clinton Scott, Patti Averbuck and David Averbuck

2008 Big Easy Music Award Winners

Gospel Choir

Greater St. Stephen's Choir

Gospel Group/Individual

Bishop Lester Love

Blues

Little Freddie King

Rhythm and Blues

Jon Cleary

Rap/Hip-Hop

Lil Wayne

Traditional Jazz

Tom McDermott & Evan Christopher

Contemporary Jazz

Terence Blanchard

Traditional Brass Band

Treme Brass Band

Contemporary Brass Band

Soul Rebels

Roots Rock

Happy Talk Band

Rock

Rotary Downs

Funk

Galactic

Zydeco

Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience

Cajun

Pine Leaf Boys

Country/Folk

Country Fried

Latin

AsheSon

World Music/Reggae

Michael Skinkus and Moyuba

Mixed Bag

Bonerama

Electronica

Quintron

Male Performer

Troy Andrews

Female Performer

Irma Thomas

Emerging Group or Artist

Shamarr Allen

Best Album of 2007

Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino

(Vanguard)

click to enlarge Marva Wright and Wanda Rouzan - EUGENIA UHL
click to enlarge Entertainer of the Year Terence Blanchard and radio host Garland Robinette. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Entertainer of the Year Terence Blanchard and radio host Garland Robinette.
click to enlarge Terence Blanchard performed work from A Tale of God's Will - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Terence Blanchard performed work from A Tale of God's Will
click to enlarge BMI's Shelby Kennedy with Best Rock Band Rotary Downs and Vanessa Niemann (aka Gal Holiday) - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • BMI's Shelby Kennedy with Best Rock Band Rotary Downs and Vanessa Niemann (aka Gal Holiday)
click to enlarge Honorary Chairman Don Marshall with Music Heritage Award honoree Al "Carnival Time" Johnson - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Honorary Chairman Don Marshall with Music Heritage Award honoree Al "Carnival Time" Johnson
click to enlarge Best Zydeco winner Terrance Simien performing with his band Zydeco Experience. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Zydeco winner Terrance Simien performing with his band Zydeco Experience.
click to enlarge The Recording Academy's Jon Hornyak (left) with Best Country Band winner Country Fried and Cynthia Simien (front right) - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • The Recording Academy's Jon Hornyak (left) with Best Country Band winner Country Fried and Cynthia Simien (front right)
click to enlarge WWOZ's Dwayne Brashears with Guradian of the Groove honorees Dave and Patti Averbuck, Clinton Scott and WWOZ Executive Director David Freedman - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • WWOZ's Dwayne Brashears with Guradian of the Groove honorees Dave and Patti Averbuck, Clinton Scott and WWOZ Executive Director David Freedman
click to enlarge Best Country Band nominee The Figs - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge The New Orleans Bingo! Show performs at the Big Easy Awards. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • The New Orleans Bingo! Show performs at the Big Easy Awards.
click to enlarge Shamarr Allen, Matt Perrine, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Big Sam Williams, Jon Cleary and Ambassador of Music honoree Donald Harrison Jr. played "Two Pocky Way" at the Big Easy Awards. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Shamarr Allen, Matt Perrine, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Big Sam Williams, Jon Cleary and Ambassador of Music honoree Donald Harrison Jr. played "Two Pocky Way" at the Big Easy Awards.
click to enlarge Roots Rock winner Happy Talk Band with Tipitina's Mary Von Kurnatowski - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Roots Rock winner Happy Talk Band with Tipitina's Mary Von Kurnatowski
click to enlarge Business Recognition Award winners Sabrina Smith and Kurt Weigle of the Downtown Development District, Gambit Weekly Publisher Margo DuBos, Editor Clancy DuBos and Amy Boyle of the Young Leadership Council - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Business Recognition Award winners Sabrina Smith and Kurt Weigle of the Downtown Development District, Gambit Weekly Publisher Margo DuBos, Editor Clancy DuBos and Amy Boyle of the Young Leadership Council
click to enlarge Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, Lifetime Achievement honoree Eddie Bo and 2007 Entertainer of the Year Allen Toussaint - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, Lifetime Achievement honoree Eddie Bo and 2007 Entertainer of the Year Allen Toussaint
click to enlarge Brazilian percussion and dance group Casa Samba kicked off the evening. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Brazilian percussion and dance group Casa Samba kicked off the evening.
click to enlarge Best Female Performer Irma Thomas and Best Male Performer Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Best Female Performer Irma Thomas and Best Male Performer Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
click to enlarge Rapper Cupid concluded the evening's performances by leading the audience in the Cupid Shuffle. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Rapper Cupid concluded the evening's performances by leading the audience in the Cupid Shuffle.
click to enlarge Actor, comedian and Big Easy Master of Ceremonies Harry Shearer and Gambit Weekly Publisher Margo DuBos - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Actor, comedian and Big Easy Master of Ceremonies Harry Shearer and Gambit Weekly Publisher Margo DuBos
click to enlarge Bonerama won in the Mixed Bag category. - EUGENIA UHL
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