Before Congo Square hosted the first Jazz Fest, before it became the spiritual center of Jazz Fest’s celebration of Afro-Caribbean influences on American art, it was America’s original musical melting pot. Its core position in the development of Louisiana’s cultural gifts to the world is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the interplay that birthed Zydeco. Zydeco is the modern embodiment of Southwest Louisiana’s Creole music, which originated in the mid-1800s on plantations around St. Charles Parish and migrated the short distance to the historical Congo Square. Modern Zydeco evolved a half-century later, in those same Creole communities on the Louisiana prairies during the 1920’s, drawing from blues, Jazz, R&B and Cajun influences. Congo Square thus served the extraordinary role in Zydeco’s development of both hosting the music’s earliest expressions and influencing its modern form in a virtuous two-step feedback loop that set the world dancing.
In the 1950’s the great Clifton Chenier took those infectious roots, added a hot R&B rhythm section, and delivered its frenetic beat to a broader audience. Lafayette native Stanley Dural, Jr., known since the age of four as “Buckwheat” because his braided hair was reminiscent of the Our Gang movies character, was more a fan of R&B than of Zydeco. As a keyboard prodigy he backed major roadhouse acts including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (Congo Square 2005 by George Hunt). But in 1976 his father persuaded him to join family friend Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band as an organist. By 1979, fully smitten by - and tutored on - the accordion, he re-launched himself as Buckwheat Zydeco and the Ils Sont Partis Band. By the 1980s, he had reached an even larger audience than Chenier, becoming the first Zydeco act signed to a major label. Grammy nominations became a regular occurrence for his innovations, culminating in a 2009 Grammy for “Lay Your Burden Down” as well as an Emmy for his TV music. On his climb to the top, the New York Times pronounced him the leader of “one of the best bands in America,” and USA Today called him a “Zydeco trailblazer.” Zydeco’s most popular ambassador has shared his propulsive roots music on record and on stage with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robert Plant, U2, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and the Boston Pops among many others. He played the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympics and for both of President Clinton’s inaugurals.
Artist R. Gregory Christie traces his own Southwest Louisiana Creole roots to his mother’s family in New Roads where still returns to see his aunts, uncles and cousins. For over two decades, he’s been pushing brilliant hues into warmly expressive frontiers. His overt influences were Romare Bearden, Picasso and Jacob Lawrence, but his folk-inspired synthesis makes his shrewdly structured, intellectually fresh pieces accessible and compelling.
Christie grew up in a house with a jazz soundtrack and has crafted covers for multiple jazz albums including “John Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings.” From 1996-2009, he was a New Yorker magazine illustrator. The most recent of his 44 books are “When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat” (Chronicle) and “Jazz Baby” (Harcourt). Christie is a four-time recipient of Coretta Scott King Honor Awards in Illustration and writing. His most recent museum shows are at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, Florida and the Art institute of Chicago.
3,000 Numbered prints on archival paper, 20” x 35”, $69
500 Artist-signed & numbered prints on 100% rag paper, 21” x 36”, $179
350 Artist signed and pencil remarqued, signed by Buckwheat Zydeco & numbered Remarque prints on 100% rag paper, 22” x 39”, $329
100 Artist-overpainted and signed, signed by Buckwheat Zydeco & numbered C-Marque canvas screen prints, suitable for stretching, 24” x 40”, $595