A trip to French Quarter Fest and celebration of Johnny Dodds

In today’s show, we take an imaginary, real-time visit to French Quarter Festival happening right now and we celebrate the 126th anniversary of clarinetist Johnny Dodds’ birthday. Here’s the edited version of the show which you listen to while reading this.

IMG_1454Overshadowed by the older and more well-known New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which starts later in April, the French Quarter Festival packs over 300 music acts (roughly 1,700 musicians) into four days starting today.  Celebrating its 35th year, this free festival is the largest showcase of Louisiana musicians with stages scattered throughout the French Quarter. Some of the more well-known acts playing this year include Cyril Neville, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, Little Freddie King, the Lost Bayou Ramblers,  and Amanda Shaw.

And while I do play Neville and the Lost Bayou Ramblers later on the show, I start the show with a real time experience. Through the magic of radio and with a vivid imagination, I take you directly to the French Quarter to the stages and play music by musicians who are performing in real time synchronized to the airing of my show (10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays). This requires precision math on my part since I have to convert the Central Standard Time New Orleans-based schedule to the Pacific Standard Time reality of my radio show.

We start by running over to catch the last song of the Panorama Jazz Band performance on the Big River Stage in Woldenberg Park, before heading back toward the Quarter on Decatur Street to hear Tuba Skinny playing on the Jack Daniels Stage.  And because we can run fast in radio life, we can haul butt over to the Hilton Tricentennial Stage to catch the Preservation All-Stars.

After a little break with showcasing other artists featured later in the festival, we go back to real time with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue performing at the River Stage again. And then we dash to Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage to catch Alex McMurray. During this imaginary real-time tour of the first day of French Quarter Fest, we also hear Banu Gibson.

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Johnny Dodds was born on April 12. 1892 and was part of the first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans.

Later in my show, I honor Johnny Dodds, a first generation jazz musician who performed with Joe “King” Oliver. He and his younger brother, the drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds were part of Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven.  In honor of his birthday (April 12, 1892), this show dives into two versions of the same song that feature dual solos by Dodds.  The songs have different titles and different release dates though they were recorded back to back by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven.

S.O.L. Blues and Low Gully Blues feature Armstrong and Johnny Dodds at their peak, doing technically difficult and brilliant solos. S.O.L. Blues was recorded on May 13, 1927 in Chicago for Okeh records but was not released until Columbia Records got a hold of the collection 15 years later. The original release version went under the title of Gully Low Blues and was recorded the next day, May 14.  Both versions have their merits but I play them because I love the amazing tempo shift that Dodds pulls of during his solo. For more on this, check out Ricky Riccardi’s blog.  I also play a favorite, Dippermouth Blues, recorded by  King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in April 1923, because it contains a famous Dodds solo.

I’ve got other fun stuff on this show including Dana Abbott, Yvette Landry, the Subdudes and Eric Lindell, just to name a few.  Thank you for reading and listening. Please consider subscribing.

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Danny Barker saved and challenged traditional NOLA jazz

This week’s show is about how one musician and his funeral managed to reinvigorate brass band music in New Orleans, encouraging musicians to both challenge and preserve the tradition.

Danny Barker was a little young when the first generation of New Orleans jazz musicians  started performing. Born in 1909 to a family of musicians, he grew up listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and the other greats.

And like they did, he moved away from New Orleans to seek his fame and fortune as a musician. Playing primarily guitar and banjo but also other instruments, Barker went to New York and then later California playing with a wide range of musicians, including Cab Calloway, Dexter Gordon, and Charlie Parker.

dannyHe partnered with his wife Blue Lu Barker and penned songs like “Don’t You Feel My Leg” and they toured and traveled the world.  But when it was time to slow down, they moved back to New Orleans where he took a post as a museum curator, He also continued to perform, often at the Palm Court Cafe immortalized by his classic “Palm Court Strut.”

But it was in fulfilling a request by his pastor and later his very own funeral that would contribute to the city’s ability to keep the jazz tradition alive.

I’ve already written about his role in reinvigorating the New Orleans brass band scene and you will hear a little bit about that and the related  music in today’s show.  But if you keep listening to the show, you will also hear how Danny Barker’s funeral helped set in motion an organization that takes great pride in the New Orleans community’s African and jazz heritage.

bmolToday’s show includes excerpts of an interview with Fred Johnson, co-founder of the Black Men of Labor telling the story about how Danny Barker’s disdain for how jazz funerals were being conducted cause him and musician Gregg Stafford to organize a proper jazz funeral for their hero.  And then how that experience then led them to create the social aid and pleasure club Black Men of Labor.

I hope you enjoy the show.

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Nice mix of blues and jazz close out March

This week’s show features a track from Marcia Ball’s new CD and “Roll With It” from Rebirth Brass Band’s classic 1997 release We Come to Party.  Which is what the iconic New Orleans brass band will be doing in Seattle and Portland in April.  Marcia Ball just finished a two-night engagement at Jazz Alley in Seattle.  Here them in more with this edited recording of my March 29 edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.

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You all should check out “Back Down the Bayou”

Happy Spring!  I didn’t record last week’s show because it was the pledge drive and I always seem to booger up the sound level when I do a pledge drive.  And because of other complications, I won’t be recording tomorrow’s show either.

So I think this is an excellent time to introduce you to Bill Boelens and his wonderful show “Back Down the Bayou” on Baton Rouge community radio WHYR.  Bill’s show airs on Sundays and features roots music with a distinct Louisiana and Southern flair.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill on my last trip to New Orleans. We shopped for music at the Louisiana Music Factory and had lunch at the Camellia Grill on Carrolton. Bill’s quite knowledgeable about regional scene and has excellent taste in the music. I get lots of ideas for my show by listening to his.  Here’s a couple of his latest programs.

By the way, its no coincidence that Bill’s show is also on a community radio station. If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your financial support of community radio whichever one you listen to in your community. If it happens to my station, KAOS Olympa, here’s the link to pledge.

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You Can Fill Your Bucket with New Orleans Music

This post doesn’t have a hole in it but your bucket might. This week’s show has a few stories to it, including one about the first record where you hear Louis Armstrong’s voice, a bloody New Orleans nightclub that gets renamed in song and the birthday of a first rate R&B star whose career was disrupted by the draft and served in Korea.  Start the show (Earl King kicks it off) and then keep reading.

Last weekend during a Northwest sun break, the song “That Bucket Has a Hole In It” came to mind while tossing weeds in the five-gallon buckets we use to garden. Unable to shake the tune, I rolled with it and assembled a two-set program of “bucket” songs for today’s show.

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Louis Armstrong was 25 when he recorded Gut Bucket Blues

The set starts with “Gut Bucket Blues” — the third song recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five but the first to be released and the first to showcase his exuberant stage presence. As Ricky Riccardi eloquently explains in his blog post, the song “contains the first ever glimpse of Louis Armstrong’s personality, in all its glory.”

Recorded in Chicago in 1925, this Hot Five recording includes three other New Orleans expats (Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet an Johnny St. Cyr on banjo) and the future Mrs. Armstrong (Lil Harden) on piano.  As each band member takes a solo, Armstrong yells out encouragement.  By the time he recorded Gut Bucket Blues, Armstrong was a veteran performer on stage and in the studio, having recorded with bandleaders Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson.  But with this Hot Five recording, Louis Armstrong steps out for the first time, demonstrating the style he would take to an international level. There’s more fun details about this song and how it was recorded so I’ll give another plug to author Riccardi’s entertaining blog: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong.

I round out the set with Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s “The Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” and Eddie Bo’s catchy “Check Your Bucket” which while very different from the Prez Hall’s song is certainly connected by lyrics.

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Mixed Bucket of Blood is a bonus track on this album of Little Freddie King;

The second set starts with a gory story involving an early Little Freddie King gig that went horribly wrong. As he explains in this YouTube video, he got a gig at a nightclub for the weekend. And every night, an incident occurred that resulted in someone losing a lot of blood.  At one point, he described taking cover from gunfire behind a juke box.  He memorialized the experience in his song “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”  The song is followed by Dr. John’s very different take of “Gut Bucket Blues” and the Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Bottom of the Bucket.”

Later in the show I do a long set of drinking songs that in song title form reads like this:  Liquor Pang, Drinking Days, Drunk Too Much, Still Drunk, Drink a Little Poison 4 U Die.

Finally, I close with a rousing tribute to Lloyd Price who had five hit R&B songs in the early 50’s before getting drafted into the Army and had to serve in Korea.  I tell more of this story in my Veteran’s Day post. I play one of his hits he cut after returning from the military (“Stagger Lee”) along with “Rock N’ Roll Dance”  and “Come Into My Heart.”

Thanks for listening.

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With Mr. Okra’s death, an end of an era

In Uptown New Orleans where I grew up, the horse-drawn Roman Candy Wagon rolling by was a big occasion.  But that was 50 years ago and rolling street vendors, a long tradition in New Orleans, are pretty much gone.  Before reading the rest of this story, click the arrow below and get Louis Jordan and rest of my show going.

 

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Mr. Okra, aka Arthur J. Robinson, died this month.

My family used to frequent a vegetable vendor who would set up near McMann School at the corner of Claiborne and Nashville.  But apparently over the years, the tradition had died out until all that was left was Mr. Okra. And now he is gone.  Here’s an excerpt from an article by Ann Maloney for the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Family, friends and customers filed through the Marigny Opera House on Ferdinand Street on Sunday (Feb. 25) afternoon to say good-bye to beloved street peddler Arthur J. “Mr. Okra” Robinson, who was laid out dressed just as they might remember him, with his suspenders and, in his hands, a straw hat topped with plastic fruit. His truck keys were looped around his little finger. . .

. . .Arthur Robinson was often called the last of the New Orleans Street vendors because he upheld a tradition of shouting out his wares with “I’ve got apples. I’ve got mangos…,” as he drove through the city streets. It was a tradition that was popular into the mid-1900s in New Orleans. By 2005, Robinson said of himself: “I’m about the only one that really goes around anymore. Most all the old peddlers are dead now, just about.”

It wasn’t just vegetables and fruit.  Louis Armstrong got his start as a musician working with an owner of junk wagon. At age 7, he would blow a tin horn to attract attention as the wagon rolled through the streets of New Orleans.

And apparently the Roman Candy Wagon is still operating (though these days most folks see it on display at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.)

In this week’s show, I include a short interview with Craig Klein, a founding member of Bonerama ,who co-wrote a song dedicated to Mr. Okra.  You’ll hear that song about 15 minutes into the show.  I also feature Louie Ludwig’s wonderful ode to fake news “Troll Factory.”  I have a set on drinking bourbon and whiskey and a Latin-inflected set featuring Los Hombres Calientes, the Iguanas and Los Po-Boy-Citos. And much more.

Thanks for listening.

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New Orleans loaded with African-American musical history

Today’s show honors African-American History Month (February) with a musical tour through jazz, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras Indian, hip hop and bounce music from New Orleans.  Start the show by clicking the arrow below and then read the rest of my show notes.

New Orleans may have been founded by the French, rebuilt by the Spanish and bought by the U.S., but its the African ingredients that make the New Orleans cultural gumbo so rich.

King Oliver

King Oliver’s Creole Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong.

The very short story is that the rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean blended with European instruments in New Orleans to create jazz.  But it was African-Americans, many who were descendants of slaves, who made the music happen.

 

The show’s first set features Sidney Bechet who came from a musical middle-class family that lived in the Marigny neighborhood. I follow him up with a quick race to contemporary times with Dr. Michael White and Doreen Ketchens.  It’s a strong set of clarinet solos.

The second set kicks off with Louis Armstrong and follows with two of his mentors King Oliver and Kid Ory.   Jelly Roll Morton, who started playing the New Orleans brothels at 14, starts off my last set of jazz. Morton is followed by Kid Thomas who was faithful to the New Orleans jazz tradition throughout his career that spanned from the 1920’s to 1970.  But 100+ year old Lionel Ferbos wins the longevity award and sings “Pretty Doll/Ugly Child.”

The show moves into R&B with a rollicking three-piano version of Boogie Woogie with Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint. But its Deacon John’s “Jumpin’ in the Morning” that gets your ass shaking.   Somewhere in there, I talk about the Dew Drop Inn and include an excerpt from an interview of Kenneth Jackson about his grandpa, Frank Pania who started the Dew Drop Inn and was part of a civil action that ended arrests for racial mixing.

dew drop inn

The Dew Drop in during its heyday.

Which made that a good time to play Fats Domino, whose concerts were the site of at least four major riots. Some blame the music, some blame the alcohol but Rick Coleman who wrote a biography of Fats Domino contends that the riots were at least in part incited by racial mixing in a time period when much of our country recognized and practiced “apartheid.”

The show rolls on with only African-American musicians and vocalists, including a set of Black Creole music of South Louisiana, which is often called “Zydeco.”  And I closed the show with “Get Lucky” with bounce artist Big Freedia performing with the Soul Rebels.

I hope you enjoy the show and consider subscribing to keep getting my latest shows.

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New Orleans music for Lent

With Mardi Gras over, we enter Lent and confront 40 days of reflection and deprivation. Don’t deprive yourself of the music, get my show started and then read on.

After the fun of the holidays and partying of carnival season, true believers in Lent settle down to a period designed to eliminate distraction and focus mind on prayer and connection.

lentWhile I’m not exactly a true believer, I am fascinated with the ability of religious practices to focus the mind on self-reflection.  So today’s show displays that theme through music.

Alex McMurray sets the tone with “The Day after Mardi Gras Day.”  I follow up with a rocking, bluesy set of reflection featuring Kevin Sekhani (“Wrong Direction”), Anders Osborne (“Echoes of My Sins”) and Honey Island Swamp Band (“No Easy Way”).

The ashes placed on the foreheads of Catholics speaks to our mortality. We are dust and to dust we shall return.  Leyla McCalla’s “Let It Fall” beautifully captures that feeling as does Howard Fishman’s gospel like “When I Die.”

Other traditional songs with new twists include Aurora Nealand’s “His Eye is On the Sparrow,”  Shotgun Jazz Band “Down by the Riverside,” and the Neville’s revision of a Steve Miller hit renamed “Fear, Hate, Envy, Jealousy.”

There’s lot more to explore in the show. Thanks for listening!

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Beads, Love and the Real DJ Davis

This week’s show is the last one before the 2018 Mardi Gras Day and Valentine’s Day so I mix Mardi Gras party music with love songs in this podcast. Go ahead and get it started and then read about the Davis Rogan interview

This is my fifth show during the 2018 Mardi Gras season and I’ve started each one with a different version of  Professor Longhair’s Mardi Gras anthem – “Go to the Mardi Gras. ”  For this, the last show before Fat Tuesday, I play ‘Fess himself.  You have permission to whistle along.

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I reach back into the heyday of New Orleans R&B for the Hawkettes’ “Mardi Gras Mambo” and, as is the tradition, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson performs the song that gave him his middle name.  Cha Wa and The Wild Magnolias make appearances to represent Mardi Gras Indians, Louis Armstrong performs “Zulu King” and I play the rarely heard “King of the Mardi Gras” from the Nine Lives musical. The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Papa Grows Funk and Galactic add a party-level amount of funk. Marcia Ball, the Radiators and Slim Harpo contribute love songs.

I play three songs by Davis Rogan, one from each of his albums, and then he calls in and we talk about his upcoming performance in Olympia, trade some stories about neighborhood schools, hear his idea for creating a Museum for Southern Racists and learn more about the connection between his music and his work on the HBO “Treme” show where he served as songwriter/technical consultant and the inspiration for one of the lead characters, D J Davis played by Steve Zahn.  If you just want to hear Rogan’s music and interview instead of the whole show, here it is.

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As Mardi Gras heats up so does immigration songs

This weekend, the Mardi Gras parade season heats up so I start today’s show with like-themed music.  In fact, the opening Cowboy Mouth song kicks ass.  But this show was more inspired by the recent State of Union address.  Go ahead and get it started and read on.

Earlier this week, I was put off by the President’s State of the Union remarks about immigration. In particular, comments that used a very broad brush to suggest that all immigrants are gangsters.  I’m so glad Trump wasn’t in charge of immigration when my great grandparents immigrated from Cork, Ireland.  News reports of Irish thugs and gangs in New York during the mid-19th Century might be considered threatening enough to block Irish immigration under his standards.  immigration

New Orleans music is very much a melting pot of cultures. Today being the first day of February, African American month, I’ll start with the role of slaves and their descendants in creating jazz, blues, funk and every other kind of music I love and listen to.  Nicholas Payton’s “Jazz is a Four-Letter Word” says its better. “All of this exemplifies the genius of Black creation.”  Definitely hang in for his eight-minute wonder later in the show..

The migration of French-speakers from Acadia (political refugees who refused to pledge loyalty to the English King) to southern Louisiana gave us Cajun culture.  Listen for the three-song set on Cajun music.

Haitian refugees, Cubans, Central Americans who helped rebuild the city after Katrina and musicians from all over the world continue to stir the Gumbo Ya Ya pot. And this show has a taste of all that and some.

I even play Davis Rogan’s allegorical song about New Orleans newcomers which argues that unless we’re Native Americans, we’re all immigrants.

I hope you enjoy the show and consider subscribing to be alerted when I post new shows.

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