Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Treme Brass Band's 'Uncle' Lionel Batiste readies for Jazz Fest

By Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune


"Uncle" Lionel Batiste gives off a certain kind of joy, whether he's playing his drum or singing or dancing down the street in a rollicking second-line.

"I just like to entertain, " he says. "I like to make people smile."

He is impeccably dressed, down to his shiny shoes, and wears gold jewelry and his signature dark glasses. He wears his watch stretched across his hand, just below his knuckles rather than on his wrist.

"It's just part of my style of dressing, " he says. "It lets you know I have time on my hands."

As we sit talking, I try to calculate in my head how many smiles he has brought to people's faces in his long musical life. Millions, I imagine.

Batiste, 78, is bass drummer, assistant leader and occasional kazoo player for the Treme Brass Band, which is led by snare drummer Benny Jones, a longtime friend.

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