Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide Part 1

This is my fourth annual Buying Guide so named so you’ll be encouraged to give the gift of music. To hear the music click on this week’s show and then read about it below.

Links to all the bands are provided so you can purchase from the source. There’s no pecking order to my presentation (I’ll present my top 10 at the end of the month).  Also, while there is a Part 2 coming, this list is far from comprehensive. Let me know if I’ve left something out you like.

boneramaBonerama -Trombone Shorty was 12-years-old when two trombonists from Harry Connick Jr.’s band decided to move to the front of the stage and create the brass-funk-rock group, Bonerama. With their seventh release, Hot Like Fire, Craig Klein and Mark Mullins joined by a third trombonist, a sousaphone, guitar and drums, are clearly in their element jamming on original tunes as well as a Radiohead cover and Allen Toussaint’s Basic Lady.  Learn more about this cool band, check out my interview with Klein and Mullins.

Stanton Moore  – One of the best drummers in the business, Moore pulled together an all-star cast (Trombone Shorty, Nicholas Payton, Maceo Parker, Donald Harrison Jr. and Cyril Neville to name a few) in paying homage to Allen Toussaint with With You In Mind. Whether you like Toussaint or not (what?!), you’re going to dig this album from “Here Come the Girls” with Trombone Shorty  to Toussaint’s autobiographical “Southern Nights” with Wendell Pierce reading, not singing, the lyrics.

The Deslondes   – The band’s second release, Hurry Home, solidifies the Deslondes reputation as the premiere example of the New Orleans Americana scene. Despite its title, the album takes its time, meandering 13 songs with lyrics that linger in your mind and entice you to sing along.  Why not? Four of the five band members sing as well.

hot 8 on the spot.jpgHot 8 Brass Band – A good brass band can get even the most stiff-limbed old man moving his hips. But what makes this venerable New Orleans brass band special is its great solos, unexpected twists and those sneaky covers you don’t recognize at first.  From the band that has survived to see it all and gave the world the brass version of “Sexual Healing” comes On The Spot — essential to any brass band fan collection.

Tuba Skinny – With its eighth release Tupelo Pine, Tuba Skinny has moved from the streets into institutional status in New Orleans. This band has a deep repertoire of Prohibition and Depression era tunes performed with entertaining and reverent orchestration.  If you’re looking for something special for a traditional jazz fan, you can’t go wrong with this band that has won its audience one street performance at a time. See Pops Coffee for a far more detailed review.

Smoking Time Jazz Club –  Another street-hardened traditional jazz band  that takes you back to another era, Smoking Time has a sultry quality fueled by the band’s mission statement embedded in its name The band started  2017 with a new release Ain’t We Fortunate and finishes the year with Take Your Time and Fly —  they’re both excellent but the second one is strengthened by Sarah Peterson’s vocals.

erica-falls-home-grownErica Falls – With HomeGrown, Erica Falls has demonstrated that hard work, grit and talent can pay off. At least it does for the listener.  While this is her first full release, Fall has paid her dues singing with Allen Toussaint and Galactic and providing backing vocals in the studio for Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Marva Wright, and Bobby Charles — not to mention adding some sweet vocals to two tracks on Rebirth Brass Band’s last release.  But HomeGrown is all hers — eight of the songs are her own composition. She’s soulful, funky, sweet. . .yea, I’m in love.

Naughty Professor   – While Identity does not have a title track, its first two songs go right to the heart of the issue. The rhythmic “Mirror,” choruses with “Give people what they want”  while the second track advises to “be what you want, do what you feel.” And that’s exactly how this jazz-funk sextet has rolled ever since emerging from the New Orlean’s Loyola jazz program in 2010. The band skillfully flows through soul, R&B and hip hop. But underlying it all is a strong jazz sensibility that keeps its fresh and unique. Now that’s an identity.

New Orleans Jazz Vipers  – If you’ve visited Frenchmen Street, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to see the Vipers live. The swing jazz band has been a fixture there long before tourist knew to direct their cab to Frenchmen. “Live & Viperizin” captures the band at its most enigmatic with danceable numbers designed to draw you into the nightclub, except now you can get that live feeling at home.

Jon Cleary – With Live at Chickie Wah Wah, this master piano player follows up his grammy-award winning album featuring his funk group Monster Gentleman with an intimate solo performance recorded live at one of his favorite hometown venues.  It’s just Cleary, his voice and his piano playing some of his favorites, including two from GoGo Juice, as well as some tasty R&B and soul numbers made famous by Smiley Lewis, Jessie Hill and Jessie Belvin.  The only way you can beat this release is if you really catch him live at Chickie Wah Wah.

Sonny Landreth – This electric slide guitar master delivers a much-anticipated live acoustic set performed in his hometown Lafayette and for lagniappe, a second live set with his electric guitar.  If you are fan of this tireless touring professional (he’s in Deming for the Mt. Baker Blues Festival in August 2018), you’ve heard these songs before but not like this. If not, Live at Lafayette is a great way to become a new fan.

debbie-davie-josh-paxton-vices-and-virtuesDebbie Davis and Josh Paxton – There is a magic that derives from the alchemy of a pianist and vocalist who have performed regularly, particularly if they use their familiarity to push each other.  Davis is a lifelong singer who, in addition to her own projects, performs with The Pfister Sisters.  Josh Paxton, who is part of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, is clearly capable of tearing up the keyboards on inspired solos but lovingly wraps his performance around Davis’ voice.  Vices and Virtues puts you in the room with these two creative professionals.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes – The band’s website describes it best: “their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor.” Yea, you right.  And Sketch is the band’s best release yet.  I’m still pissed I can’t play “Fine Time” on the radio but I’ve definitely been playing the dozen other tracks that deliver soul, funk, reggae, and a power violin rock thing (“The Dragon”) that has garnered listener phone calls to the studio.

John Mooney –  John Mooney is a hard act to catch. He has no website and his Facebook and wikipedia pages don’t list his latest CD,  Truth of the Matter. But don’t let that stop you. Mooney’s voice and guitar playing are top flight but its the arrangements and the support he gets that should elevate this release to your shopping list. Ten songs with eight originals.  Most are backed up by a rotating cast of star power keyboardists (Jon Cleary, John Gros and C.R. Gruver) usually on a Hammond B-3.  And his use of male background singers on “Deal with Love” and “Push & Shove” enhance an already strong soul feeling to Mooney’s music.

Egg Yolk Jubilee – To celebrate 20 years of performing, Egg Yolk Jubilee has compiled a retrospective of a dozen previously released songs and three new ones in Crux of the Yolk.  Yes, they are frenetic, irreverent, loud and pretty damn funny, but they also rock. The band provided the brass on Jello Biafra’s New Orleans Raunch All-Stars  release a few years back.  If you have a Frank Zappa fan on your shopping list, particularly if they like horns, literally blow them away with Egg Yolk Jubilee.

Sweet Crude   –  Like many indie acts from New Orleans, Sweet Crude’s music may not make its hometown roots obvious.  Well, except that they sing a lot of their songs in French.  “We are joining a small but fervent group of young Louisianians engaged in keeping the language relevant via art,” announces the band’s website. Soaring vocals (Mon Esprit in particular) and world rhythms place the band’s first full release, Creatures, above the large stack of alternative rock releases we get in the station.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and catch my show on Thursday.

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NOLA trumpters’ friendship spawns beautiful music

My most lasting impression of spending an hour talking with Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield is how much they really enjoy each other’s company.  While it may be a common trait of New Orleans residents to revel in hanging out, these two accomplished trumpeters truly are soul mates.

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Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins

On the occasion of Basin Street Records 20th anniversary, Ruffins and Mayfield collaborated on A Beautiful World released this fall and still climbing on the Jazz Week chart. The album boasts over 50 artists, including Rebirth Brass Band – the band which Ruffins co-founded early in his career and which inspired a very young Mayfield.  Here’s part of the interview dealing with that part of their lives (including a couple of tracks from A Beautiful World):

The two trumpeters may seem like unlikely buddies but as the story goes (and they both tell the same story with their own twist, listen to the more complete interview below) Kermit Ruffins was preparing to perform at the Superdome when a young Mayfield basically challenged him to a cutting contest.  And the relationship grew from there.  A Beautiful World is an audio homage to that relationship with Mayfield producing and performing and Ruffins doing what he does best: being himself.

Here are the best parts of the interview held in the Ruffin’s Mother-in-Law Lounge on October 23, 2017.

 

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Bonerama’s latest release is Hot Like Fire

Craig Klein and Mark Mullins might joke they formed Bonerama as a way to give trombonists greater job security but there’s no hiding the enthusiasm they have for their instrument serving as the band’s main voice.  Bonerama’s latest release (it’s seventh in almost 20 years) is aptly named “Hot Like Fire.”

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Bonerama has released its seven album in its 20 year history. Its first with Basin Street Records

I caught up with the two after a band practice at Craig’s house in the Lower Garden District late last month.  The album features seven original tunes by Craig, Mark and Matt Perrine, who plays bass and sousaphone.  The songs range from catchy numbers like “Happy” and “Hot Like Fire” to the complex “High Horse.” The album’s two covers include Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” and Allen Toussaint’s “Basic Lady.”

Reluctant to pick one genre for their music style, Mark and Craig give it three – Brass Rock and Funk.  But “Hot Like Fire” also throws in a little reggae and jazz.  At KAOS, it goes on our Funk shelf where its been getting some good play.

Greg Hicks adds the third trombone to the band with Bert Cotton on guitar and Alex Joseph “A.J.” Hall on drums. Click on the interview above to hear Craig and Mark talk about all nine songs, with samples of the songs, as well as the band’s origins and their connection with Basin Street Records.

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Plenty of music for one all-women show but still an imbalance

This week’s show features exclusively female musicians, vocalists and bandleaders. You can start the show now and finish reading while you listen.

Female-focused shows have gotten easier since my first one in 2015  but there’s still a serious imbalance particularly when looking for horn players.

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The cover photo of The Original Pinettes Brass Band CD – “Finally”

The Original Pinettes Brass Band, as best as I can tell, is still the only female brass band.  And its rare to see a female musician in any of the male-dominated brass bands.

Where the balance tips the other way is in the area of vocalists.  Debbie Davis, Ingrid Lucia, Linnzi Zaorski, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima and Meschiya Lake are featured in this latest show.   I also plays songs with the amazing musicianship (and vocals) of Aurora Nealand (clarinet and saxophone) and Helen Gillet (cello) as well as singer songwriters Kelcy Mae and Gina Forsyth.

This show I was able to add a funk song thanks to picking up Erica Falls album and zydeco with the almost all-female band Bonsoir, Catin.  I reckon these shows are getting easier to do because my library of female-generated music is getting deeper as opposed to any seismic-level gender shift. I may have a taller stack of applicable CDs now but it still pales when placed next to the pile of other NOLA music I have.

In which case, it seems appropriate to continue in the future doing special shows where I feature exclusively women.  Why not keep the thumb on the scale until it doesn’t matter anymore.  And anyway,  I didn’t do justice to a great many other female artists who did not get played today.  I’ll do another female exclusive show soon and meanwhile they all go back into my rotation for my other shows.

Here’s the playlist.  If you got ideas for me, let me know.

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NOLA musicians are on the Veteran’s Day honor roll

In preparation for today’s show (two days before Veteran’s Day), I made an attempt to identify New Orleans musicians who had served in the military so I could play them to start off my show.  Go ahead and click the podcast so you can listen while you finish reading this.

I did not find a source of information that was comprehensive so my list of New Orleans musicians who are veterans is far from comprehensive. If you know of one that I missed, please let me know. I’ll be happy to include them in a future recognition.

Herb Hardesty on Sax

Saxophonist Herb Hardesty served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Herb Hardesty, long-time saxophonist for Fats Domino but also had a solo career, signed up with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941.  While playing with the Army band, Hardesty learned to play the saxophone (he had been playing trumpet). He served in World War II as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen (99th Flying Squadron). I do not possess any of his solo work, so I played Domino’s When My Dreamboat Comes Home which features two fine solos by Hardesty.

Like Hardesty, guitarist Edgar Blanchard was stationed in Europe during World War II before coming back to form the Gondoliers and be the bandleader at the Dew Drop Inn. I played his Stepping High recorded in the Cosimo Matassa studio in honor of his service.

Paul Gayten led an Army Band in Biloxi for his military service before migrating to New Orleans and kicking off his musical career. Arguably his greater accomplishment was his work as an A&R man for Chess Records but my show has him singing Just One More Chance.

lloyd price korea

Lloyd Price’s music career was interrupted when drafted and sent to Korea.

Lloyd Price had  five top 10 R&B hits under his belt including the number 1 song  Lawdy Miss Clawdy when he got drafted and sent to Korea in 1954.

In an interview with Bill Forman of the Colorado Springs Independent, Price argued that the military draft policies were racist, applied disproportionately on Black Americans.  “I never was supposed to go because I was my family’s sole supporter, and it was against the law to take more than four boys from the same family.”

By the time he returned, the field had gotten more crowded with singers like Little Richard. But he bounced back with hits like Stagger Lee and Personality and later he started his own record label. On the show, I  play his 1953 song, Tell Me Pretty Baby.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Al Hirt was a bugler in Army during World War II.  He plays Diga Diga Doo on today’s show which would have been a much cooler way to wake up soldiers than Reveille.  I also play songs by Dale Hawkins and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to recognize their service.  And I finish with “Working in the Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey who spent World War II in the Navy before starting his music career in New Orleans.

Two other NOLA performers who didn’t make it in the show but have military service are Ellis Marsalis and Ernest Joseph “Tabby” Thomas.

Today’s show also features a lot of other great music and two more clips from my interview Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins including one where Ruffins demonstrates the differences in brass band beats by banging on the bar at his Mother-in-Law Lounge on Claiborne.

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Recent NOLA trip inspired latest show

One of the great aspects of doing a show on New Orleans music is the impetus it provides me to get my butt down there regularly.  My latest trip was an epic one. Go ahead and get yesterday’s show started while I tell you a bit more.

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Me and Visa have a long-term relationship after my trip to the Louisiana Music Factory. The good news is I’ll be digging deep into these and other releases in weeks to come on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa

I stayed the first week with members of Olympia’s Artestian Rumble Arkestra not far from the nightclubs on Frenchmen Street.  I also used the opportunity to see some high school buddies who didn’t need much encouragement to drive in from their homes in Florida and Georgia to spend some time with me in New Orleans.

But there were many other great highlights, one of which is featured in yesterday’s show – an interview with trumpters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield about their latest release, A Beautiful World.   They were generous with their time and stories and the whole experience was enhanced by our location — the Mother-in-Law lounge which for many years was the home and business of patron saint of my show and blog, Ernie K-Doe.

I’ll have more to share in the weeks to come including interviews with Bonerama band leaders Mark Mullins and Craig Klein, co-founder of Roots of Music and Rebirth Drummer Derrick Tabb and co-founder of the Black Men of Labor Fred Johnson with Treme Brass Band leader Benny Jones.

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Artesian Rumble Lands on Frenchmen Street

Thank you Anch for covering my show yesterday.  I’ve been in New Orleans with some of the members of the Artesian Rumble Arkestra. This activist Olympia band is a regular participant in HonkFests and I’ve had the honor of being allowed to tag along with them as they journey into the birthplace of jazz.  Two band members in attendance are also air show hosts on KAOS – Juli Kelen and David Moseley.

One of the highlights of the trip here is to experience the Black Men of Labor parade this Sunday and this afternoon we will meet with two of the founders – Fred Johnson and Benny Jones.  Some brass instruments were brought down to donate to the youth music programs, Roots of Music but before handing the instruments over, some of the band members took the instruments on a test run outside where we are staying which just happens to be on Frenchmen Street. Other band members accompanied them with instruments they brought from home or improvised with trash can lids and a bicycle bell.

The last few nights, we’ve been going to the Frenchmen Street clubs to catch music both in the clubs and on the street.  Well, today, about 10 blocks from that scene but still on Frenchmen Street, the Artesian Rumble Arkestra made its New Orleans debut.

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Pledge drive show is all about money

This week’s show is about money. . .because despite community radio being free of commercial pressure it still depends on hard green cash to run. You can start the show now while you finish reading this.  (Don’t worry, I’ve edited out the lengthy pledge appeals.)

As a 12-year-old, I would turn the radio on instead of going to sleep and from the shadows of my bedroom in Norman, Oklahoma, I would listen to deejays from Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas.  The deejays would tell me about the weather, describe the music, and talk about their day while their commercials would hail the virtues of car dealers and appliance stores in their communities. Snuggled in my bed, I would envision what it would be like to live there.

Kicking Ass Olympia Style

KAOS is re-issuing a classic t-shirt as part of its premium for members. Your support keeps real radio alive.

I’ve always loved radio for its ability to ground me in the moment while also transporting me to other places. Unlike the constructed mass appeal of television, radio is a personal  and live experience.  One person speaking into a mike, sharing music and stories, talking to me wherever I might be.

While much of commercial radio has changed to a more decentralized and impersonal experience, community radio, particularly KAOS, 89.3 FM, Olympia, has moved in the other direction.  Housed and supported by The Evergreen State College, KAOS trains its volunteer deejays, works with them on developing a show, provides them the studio platform and then cuts them loose to do their thing. The result is some inconsistency in delivery and mechanics but because of that diversity, the station preserves the spontaneity and joy of being in the moment.   I tell that to myself every time I push the wrong button or cue up the wrong song or stammer through some sort of transition.

We’re not slick, we’re real

And though we wouldn’t exist if not for the generous support of the college and its students, we do need to show that the station has listeners.  Listeners who appreciate the station’s existence enough to help underwrite its cost. It’s a different model from the commercial era, but worth it if you love real radio.

Here’s how you can support KAOS. (It will open a new link so your music will continue)

(Today’s show – see above podcast – starts with the New Orleans Suspects, features two songs by Chubby Newsome recorded in New Orleans, a vinyl track of Huey “Piano” Smith, the Tin Men, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Roddie Romero & the Hub City All-Stars, Ingrid Lucia, James Andrews and much more)

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Hot Poop music shop in Walla Walla made for a worthy stop

Go ahead and click the arrow to get my show started before reading the rest.
Okay, so we actually went to Walla Walla to check out the town and the wine scene. But I had spent a pleasurable afternoon at the Hot Poop music store on Main Street several years back so I was anxious to see if it was still thriving.

Hot Poop store

Hot Poop owner Jim McGuinn peering over the counter loaded with items

When I noted how much stock was in the store, the owner, Jim McGuinn, joked that it could all be mine for three easy payments.  The store does suffer from a lot of clutter but its fun clutter to poke through, including autographed guitars and 8-track tapes if you make it all the way to the back.

I found some NOLA CDs that weren’t already in my collection, including a 1991 release by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band that I hadn’t seen before.  They also had some Radiator releases — always a positive indicator that I should dig deeper into a store.

Today’s show features choice cut from the music I found there along with some other gems such as a Wynton Marsalis take of Layla (Eric Clapton does assist on that one). with Charmaine Neville performs the eclectic “Leave Room for the Dancers” and I follow that up with Diablo’s Horns’ original Bending Like a Willow Tree.  If you can hang in there through those songs, stick around for a charming version of Don’t Worry, Be Happy with Glen David Anderson doing some humorous vocal responses.

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Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield team up for A Beautiful World

basin stret.jpgToday’s show features the new Basin Street release by Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield.  Just the tonic you were looking for after the late summer rains.  Ruffins and Mayfield have a lot in common. Same town, same label, same instrument.  But there styles are very different.  Lot of help though including Cyril Neville and some cameos by native NOLA actor Wendell Pierce.  Other new releases featured as well including the Stanton Moore send up of Allen Toussaint.

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