Shamarr Allen Trumpets The Jewels Of New Orleans

Musician Shamarr Allen played the National Anthem for President Obama, traveled the world for the State Department and lived in Atlanta for three years, but there’s only one place he calls home: New Orleans.

Allen, a trumpeter, singer and songwriter who last month released a new album True Orleans 2, is a perfect tour guide for visitors to the Crescent City. He was born in New Orleans and grew up in its Lower Ninth Ward. He now lives in the Algiers neighborhood and the Upper Ninth Ward in Musicians’ Village, a community conceived by Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis and built by New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

“New Orleans is a very special place,” Allen says. “It’s so unique. I feel like you should need a passport to come here. It’s special to me because my family is here, the music and the vibe of the people are special and the food is amazing! That’s why people who come here multiple times end up here, and people who leave always find a way to come back.”

All tourists head to Bourbon Street, and that famous area should simply be the starting point, Allen says.

“Don’t spend the bulk of your time there, because New Orleans has way more to offer,” he says. “There’s a bunch of brass bands that you should probably see who are changing the game, so I’ll send you to the Jump-Off on Mondays to see Big Six and on Sunday to see TBC. If you want to see some culture from where I grew up and my influences, I’ll send you to the House of Dance and Feathers Museum. You could also see Fats Domino’s house on the way there.”

Allen also has dining suggestions. For a steak, “amazing chargrilled oysters” or other grilled foods, he recommends the cooking of chef Cole Chris. The chef works on Fridays at 209, a bar and restaurant at 209 Decatur St., and on Wednesdays and Sundays at Silkys.

What’s the insider scoop on a po’boy?

”If you want one of the best po’boys, go to the gas station on Broad and Banks,” Allen says emphatically. “You have to trust me. You can get a 32-inch shrimp, oyster, hot sausage, cheeseburger or any deli meat dressed for like $20. Feed your whole family, and it tastes amazing. All my friends come into town and want a po’ boy.”

What about a muffuletta? It’s another classic New Orleans sandwich — made with round Italian bread filled with cold cuts, cheese and olive salad — but not high on Allen’s list.

“These are overrated to me,” he says.

Gumbo, though, is another story.

“If I want a restaurant vibe, I’m going to Neyows for gumbo,” Allen says. “If I’m on the go and want to grab some good gumbo quick, I’m going to Triangle Deli. But, before I do that, I’m asking somebody’s grandmother, mom or aunt to cook this for me. That home-cooked gumbo hits different. A tourist can really ask someone to cook them gumbo, and the person will probably say, “Go get the ingredients.’”

For crawfish, Allen recommends Dat Cajun, “because it’s closer to my house, but not too many places miss with crawfish. Just go to a seafood store and not a restaurant. Get yourself a couple pounds, go sit in city park and go to town.“

So, what’s the President Obama story?

In 2009, he was asked to play the national anthem at a New Orleans town hall meeting featuring Obama. Allen was subsequently asked to play at the Governor’s Ball at the White House.

“Then I started getting phone calls from everywhere about everything after President Obama mentioned my name on TV,” Allen recalls. “After that, almost every summer the State Department was sending me to a different country.”

Like trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie before him, Allen says, he served as an official musical ambassador in Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Congo.

At Tuesday sessions for the past decade, Allen has taught music to local children, free of charge, in his mother’s home. He began his Trumpets Is My Weapon program in 2020 after a 9-year-old boy was killed and two other youngsters were wounded in a New Orleans shooting. Giving away some of his own horns and using donations and money he raised online to buy instruments, he offered a trumpet to any New Orleans youth who turns in a gun — “free of charge, no questions asked.”

So far, 13 guns have been turned in for instruments and two for drum machines, Allen says. Additionally, he has given away more than 100 instruments to children, he says.

Allen was shook up by the 2020 shooting, because he had a son about the same age.

“I just understand kids’ struggle, so I do my part to try to change their perspective and catch their attention to open their mind to what they could do,” he says. “I never want to see a kid throw his future away behind one bad decision.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top