Maryland Fais Do Do: The Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band at the Greenbelt American Legion Hall, May 28
On almost every Sunday for the past 25 years, the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band has played for the afternoon Fais Do Do dance at Tipitinaâ€™s in Uptown New Orleans. In a club named after Professor Longhair (and featuring his bust in the foyer), in a club where the Neville Brothers recorded their breakthrough live album, Daigrepont has proven that an acoustic music based in the cane fields and crawfish ponds of southwest Louisiana can hold its own on that legendary dance floor.
For the past 15 years, Daigrepontâ€™s quartet has included fiddler Gina Forsyth and bassist Jim Markway; for the past eight it has included drummer Mike Barras. Thatâ€™s the line-up that made a rare visit to the mid-Atlantic region Friday night for a dance sponsored by Dancing by the Bayou at the Greenbelt American Legion Hall. The floor may have been buffed, beige linoleum rather than beer-stained cypress, but the twirling couples covered the floor with a similar density and agility.
The quartet is based in New Orleans, but it can handle Cajun and zydeco rhythms as well as any of its up-country cousins. Whether it was the two-step stomp of John Delafose’s â€śPere et Garcon Zydeco,” the breezy uptempo Cajun of Daigrepontâ€™s â€śNonc Willie,â€ť or the minor-key blues of â€śThe Balfa Waltz,” all four musicians reinforced the syncopation with a minimum of fuss and admirable precision. Better yet, they avoided the unchanging monotony of minor-league Cajun bands by adding secondary melodic figures that they executed in perfect unison.
And few Cajun bands enjoy a lead singer as strong as Daigrepont or a soloist as inventive as Forsyth. The leader’s tenor, with its rounded tone and sure grasp of pitch, not only avoided the nasal whine that sometimes afflicts the genre but also lent welcome warmth to the French lyrics. Forsyth took the hummable part of whatever tune she was playing and transformed it into a new variation that was just as hummable, even when she was reeling off 16th notes with seeming nonchalance.
The organization Dancing by the Bayou usually sponsors its dances at Glen Echo Park on the Potomac River, and the Daigrepont show was its first in Greenbelt. For Baltimore dancers, the spacious, comfortable room was much closer, and for all dancers it was more accessible to good restaurants.
The next Dancing by the Bayou shows are both at Glen Echo Park: the Magnolia Sisters June 26 and the Pine Leaf Boys July 1.