This Year’s Fourth of July – A Cause for Hope?

Today’s show begins with an Allen Toussaint song of unity and tolerance and ends with Delfeayo Marsalis’ erudite dissection of the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Perhaps in this the 244th year of our nation, we can make real progress toward the equitable society imagined in our Declaration of Independence. Let the show begin.

President Obama was only in office a few months when Allen Toussaint took the stage at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and sang “We are America – we are some of yesterday and we are some of tomorrow. . .” as an intro to his “Yes We Can Can.”

Seven years later, trombonist and bandleader Delfeayo Marsalis released “Make America Great Again” with its title song featuring a narration by Wendell Pierce (a high school mate of Delfeayo) that indicts the phrase with “there will always be those of us who long for “the good old days,” either because we weren’t there or we’ve simply forgotten what those days were actually like.

What a difference an administration makes! And yet as even the State of Mississippi finally gets around to doing the right thing, there appears to be room for optimism.

Smoky Greenwell

The show’s first full set is introduced by veteran blues musician Smoky Greenwell, speaking from New Orleans to introduce two songs from his latest album (one of my favorites of 2019) “Common Ground” and “Get Out and Vote.” Smoky celebrates a birthday on Fourth of July.

In addition to Smoky’s birthday, I celebrate four other birth anniversaries. Lee Allen, the tenor sax that brought us New Orleans rock n’ roll, would have turned 94 on July 2. You’ll hear three of his songs and a good argument for why Lee Circle, currently named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee should be renamed after the Lee Allen song “Walkin’ with Mr. Lee.”

New Orleans favorite son Pete Fountain would have turned 90 on July 3. Fountain’s clarinet was the soundtrack of my childhood, a favorite of my clarinet playing father who taught at Tulane in the 60’s. You’ll hear a couple of his songs with his good buddy Al Hirt.

Reggie Houston – Photo by Hunter Paye

Reggie Houston lives in Portland now but is New Orleans through and through. Bless him for making a major move late in life that seems to have been good for him and Portland — as attested by his work with the annual Waterfront Blues Festival. His “Before I Grow Too Old” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” just seemed perfect for the show. Reggie turns 73 this week.

I suspect Matt Perrine is well known in the music industry as one of the world’s finest sousaphone players but its not like that distinction scores you the cover of Esquire Magazine — though it might get you a cameo in The Simpsons. He turns 51 and while I could do a whole show of his performance given his prolific studio work — I limited him to two of his own songs. He turns 51.

Lots of other music to enjoy in today’s show including Leigh Harris with “Make a Better World,” Walter “Wolfman” Washington with “Trials and Tribulations,” and Cowboy Mouth’s new “Oh Toulouse.” Thanks for tuning in. Stay safe this weekend.

No Such Thing As Too Much Funk

Last week’s African-American Music Month show celebrated the many styles of music generated by New Orleans musicians of color. Just about every genre . . .except for funk. Today’s show is all about the funk starting with The Meters’ “The World Is A Little Under the Weather” from 1971. You got two hours of listening so you best get started now.

When you talk about funk, there’s James Brown (who was inspired by Little Richard’s New Orleans sessions) and then there is The Meters –formed in 1965 by Zigaboo Modeliste (drums), George Porter Jr. (bass), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), and Art Neville (keyboards). Allen Toussaint used The Meters as his studio band, supporting Lee Dorsey on “Ride Your Pony” and “Working in the Coal Mine. By 1969, The Meters were doing their own thing with “Sophisticated Cissy” and “Cissy Strut.” In addition to Weather, you’ll hear the band’s “Zony Mash” and “Stretch Your Rubber Band.” You’ll also hear Eddie Bo with an extended version of his big hit “Hook and Sling.”

To continue to honor African-American Music Month, this show features black artists including Sierra Green, Chocolate Milk, Hot 8 Brass Band, Eldridge Holmes, Rebirth Brass Band, Glen David Andrews, George Porter Jr. and his Runnin’ Pardners, Cyril Neville, Mem Shannon, Dumpstaphunk and more. The two exceptions are songs are by Galactic that feature Irma Thomas and Glen David Andrews on vocals.

It’s all about the groove. Thanks for tuning in.

African American Music – What I Love About New Orleans

This week’s show honors African American Music Month which is not much of a reach for a show of New Orleans music. Without the musical creations of African Americans, there would be no Gumbo YaYa program. (See this and that.) This week’s show only features musicians of African descent.

President Carter initially named June as Black Music Month in 1979. President Obama renamed the month with a proclamation that said “Songs by African-American musicians span the breadth of the human experience and resonate in every corner of our Nation — animating our bodies, stimulating our imaginations, and nourishing our souls.” He got that right.

Statue of Buddy Bolden in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans

While the first jazz record was by the all-white Original Dixieland Jazz Band — the bandleader and drummer were sons of Sicilian immigrants, the earliest practitioners were mostly of African-Americans. No recordings exist of Buddy Bolden and his band, but many consider him to be the closest that jazz comes to having a father. Close followers Jelly Roll Morton and King Joe Oliver perfected their craft in New Orleans before taking it to New York and Chicago. Meanwhile, Oscar “Papa” Celestin and Kid Thomas were keeping the home fires burning by continuing to perform in New Orleans. You’ll hear music from all these African-American musicians in the first full set of the show.

Becky, a listener and fan of New Orleans, provides an intro for the second full set featuring Roy Brown’s Good Rockin’ Tonight, Dave Bartholomew‘s “Country Boy” and Fats Domino‘s first recording “The Fat Man.” Also in this set are less heard songs by New Orleans singers including one by Patsy Vidalia — a performer who might be a trans woman in this era but who in the 50’s found comfort singing as a “cross dresser” in night clubs.

The third set is New Orleans blues –a genre that is exclusively embedded in the African American experience yet is copied and propagated throughout the world by musicians of all backgrounds. Lizzie Miles, Lead Belly, and Champion Jack Dupree nail down that set.

The New Orleans Spiritualettes and the Treme Brass Band provide gospel numbers in a set that then rolls into two other brass band numbers, including “Who Dat Called Da Police” by New Birth Brass Band.

A few years back while performing on television, Miley Cyrus drew attention to a dance move called “twerking” but the music and dance moves that go with it are very much African American creations and also very much from New Orleans. You’ll hear the first “Bounce” record that could be played on the radio with a set that includes The Neville Brothers, Leyla McCalla, Professor Longhair and James Booker. You might call it the miscellaneous set since I really can’t cover all the styles of African-American music in two hours. Where’s the funk, Sweeney?! (sorry)

I finish the show with songs representing Mardi Gras Indians, the Northside Skull and Bones gang and Zydeco. Thank you for tuning in.

Black Lives Matter!

Photo of the Joy Theater Marquee by Davis Rogan. Photo of Mardi Gras Day participant and his shirt by Mary Groebner.

June-uary and Boswells bring change in the weather

The Boswell Sisters

The Boswell Sisters start this week’s show with “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” a song that begins with the line “Change in the weather, change in the sea. From now on, there’ll be a change in me.” Like many Boswell numbers, the song smartly shifts tempo, and then serves as an anthem for personal change. A fitting song for the times — not to mention the weather. You can listen to that song and the rest of the show right now by clicking the side arrow below.

Earl King follows the opening song with “Love Can Change the World” and Debbie Davis, who once sang with the Pfister Sisters, a New Orleans group inspired by the Boswells, lays down a pointed song called “Your Racist Friend.”

Later in the show, I play a set of contemporary alternative rock by The Revivalists and The Iceman Special. The Revivalists are well known for a number 1 song called “Wish I Knew You” (when I was young). Instead though I play a nine-minute live version of “Soulfight.”

Near the end of the hour, you will hear a set of music handpicked by Mark and Edith, regular visitors to New Orleans but also listeners and supporters of KAOS. You’ll hear these Olympia residents explain why they love New Orleans. I very much appreciated their plug for supporting community radio. Here’s how you can join them in doing that for KAOS and KMRE .

My brass band guarantee for this show is a bit more jazzier than usual with original songs by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Soul Rebels. Later you’ll hear George Porter Jr. doing “Check Out Your Mind” — a nice counterpoint to the Boswell’s “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.”

As usual this show contains a mix of musical genres including vintage jazz, some swing, a bit of blues, rock, swamp pop, and Mardi Gras songs. I hope you enjoy. Please consider subscribing and feel free to leave a comment on the music you like.

Trouble in Mind – The Sun will Shine Again

We are on fire and not in a good way. From the fever of COVID-19 which has infected 2 million U.S. residents to the violent actions that lead to unnecessary death and hurt on our streets, we have “. . .trouble in mind.” To get the sun to shine in your backdoor again, start my show – we’ll make the journey to and from the dark place together.

Police in Coral Gables, Florida, kneel in solidarity with the protesters against the killing of George Floyd. (Getty)

You can’t do a show of New Orleans music and NOT play blues. And the song “Trouble in Mind” is classic New Orleans blues– written by Richard M. Jones, who grew up in New Orleans and played jazz in the city’s red light district, Storyville until he followed the African American diaspora north. He settled in Chicago where he worked with the gang of New Orleans musicians who made jazz an American tradition, including Louis Armstrong and Clarence Williams.

He first recorded “Trouble” in 1924 but it was his recording in 1926 with the voice of Bertha “Chippie” Hill and the trumpet of Louis Armstrong that made the song a hit. You’ll hear that version (recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame) on this show. The lyrics have a dark edge.

Trouble in mind, that’s true
I have almost lost my mind
Life ain’t worthwhile livin’; feel like I could die
I’m gonna lay my head
On some lonesome rail road iron
Let the 2:19 train ease my trouble of mine

Trouble In Mind – by Richard M. Jones

Like most blues, the song is as much about hope as it is about despair. When I was listening to this song in preparation for this show, I learned about how Jones cobbled this song from earlier spirituals that date back to slavery — how blues expresses suffering, yet by vocalizing our pain we can find ways to cope. In this show I express the view that we all have our burdens to carry but the most significant one is the imperative to ensure that no person or people have to carry more than their share. It seems to be a simple philosophy to say but difficult to follow.

Trouble in mind, oh, yes, I am blue
But I won’t be blue always
Yes, the sun will shine in my back door someday

the last stanza of Trouble in Mind by Richard M. Jones

If you listen to the whole show, you’ll hear a few renditions some with different lyrics and different styles (Zydeco and Caribbean for instance).

But there is a lot more to the show. You’ll hear the voice of listener “Ron” who introduces a set of music by female musicians and talks briefly about how New Orleans shares its good and bad, making it a real experience. You’ll also hear (and I hope dance to) a 25-minute brass band set. I play a new release by Taylor Smith who still has roots in New Orleans but recorded “Amnesia” in Memphis. Tuts Washington will bring “Georgia on My Mind.” Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band does “Eh la Bas”

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Any Time is Saturday Night – How about now!

If you’re struggling with remembering what day it is, you might appreciate today’s opening song “Any Time is Saturday Night” by Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns. You can make it Saturday night right now by clicking the arrow arrow in the box below

Eric Lindell, Dana Abbott, The Melatauns and Jon Cleary keep the party spirit rolling into the next set.

Mary, a listener and uber fan of New Orleans, hops on the show to talk about why she loves the city and designs a set of music for us that includes Trombone Shorty, King James and the Special Men and Carsie Blanton.

Meschiya Lake sings Any Time is Saturday Night

King James reappears to open the next set by sitting in with Haitian group Lakou Mizik for their New Orleans studio record – Haitian NOLA. The set then provides a couple of Zydeco numbers and finishes with Sweet Crude – a unique Louisiana bilingual band that has a unique pop sound.

Later in the show you’ll hear from the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Aurora Nealand, John Mooney, Guitar Shorty and his mentor Guitar Slim, a new song from Bon Bon Vivant and a couple of brass band numbers.

Thanks for tuning in. The show airs every week on KAOS Olympia and KMRE Bellingham and you can listen to this show on this site any time you like, cause Any Time is Saturday Night. Cheers.

New Orleans helped shape Little Richard’s music and Rock n’ Roll

“Little” Richard Penniman was only 22 when he recorded “Tutti Frutti” in September 1955 but he was already on his third record label, having a hard time finding the right support for his energetic and flamboyant performance style. He died last week at 87. You’ll hear his music and a bit about how New Orleans let his freak flag fly in this week’s show. Get it started and then read on.

“Little” Richard Penniman

Little Richard began his professional career in his teens when he performed with a travelling show. However, he would struggle with the tension between his religious leanings and his sexual orientation through most of his professional career. But when Specialty Records bought out his contract and sent him to New Orleans, he found an accepting work environment that allowed him to be more true to himself. The J&M Studio run by Cosimo Matassa had become a bit of a hit factory, largely as a result of the residency of Fats Domino. With the help of bandleader Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, a native of Seattle, Little Richard found the musical backing that could match his frenetic style.

When Tutti Frutti took off, it was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” which went to number one on the R&B chart. You’ll hear that song along with two others from that era. I’ll also play another set featuring music Little Richard made popular, including a demo tape of Good Golly Miss Molly. All the songs I play were recorded in New Orleans.

Andrew Duhon

But as with most of my shows, I don’t stick to one genre for long. After the Little Richard sets, we make a sharp turn into the soulful songwriting and singing of Andrew Duhon with a greeting by him sequestered in his New Orleans home. Duhon has toured the Northwest including Olympia and when you hear his three-song set, you’ll hope he comes back real soon.

The second half of the show features funk, blues, Latin, Cajun, swing and jazz. So just sit back and soak it up. What else do you need to do?

If you have a story of New Orleans or would like to share with me your love for the city and its music, let me know. I’d like to get your voice on my show. You’ll hear an example of what I’m talking about near the end of the first hour of the show. Contact me through my Facebook page and we’ll work it out.

Jazz Pioneers, House of Dance and Feathers and the Ghost Next to You

On today’s musical journey of New Orleans, we celebrate the birth anniversaries of two Jazz pioneers and we visit the House of Dance and Feathers to hear the voice of the museum curator and recent COVID-19 victim Ronald Lewis talk about his passion for preserving his community’s culture. We’ll also hear from Helen Gillet and Shawn Williams whose music evoke a passion in very different ways. Go ahead and start the show and I’ll tell you about the ghost . . .eventually.

After Danny Barker gets the show rolling with “Rose of Picardy,” I kick up a set featuring two songs with Sidney Bechet and James “Zutty” Singleton — early jazz pioneers who followed the Great Migration out of New Orleans to larger venues. Singleton would participate in Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recordings and Bechet, would find his comfort zone in Europe where he would innovate with clarinet and saxophone. They were born near the end of the 19th Century but their music lives on.

Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet joins the show around the 15 minute mark. One of her last performances before a real audience was in Olympia at Octapas Cafe. She will introduce a song from her latest Helkiase followed by two from her Bangkok Silver record. She references two organizations that are working hard to support the community during the COVID closures in New Orleans – Letters from the Porch and Krewe of Red Beans . She’s doing shows on Mondays starting at 5 p.m. Olympia time on her Facebook page.

At about the 40-minute mark, Shawn Williams comes on to talk about serenading her neighborhood and expressing her hope to be able to tour the Northwest soon. I’m hoping it happens and you will too when you hear her sing two songs from her Motel Livin’ record.

My visit with Ronald Lewis, founder of House of Dance and Feathers. Photo by Kim Vu-Dinh.

I wasn’t happy with my recording of Ronald Lewis when I had the pleasure of meeting him in his lower Ninth Ward backyard museum, House of Dance and Feathers, a few years back. The hammering of nearby construction made me reluctant to use it. But with the short voice clip I share (for the first time) you’ll identify the enthusiasm in this special man’s voice. He was one of the Nine Lives by Dan Baum — a wonderful book that introduces you to some of the many facets of the New Orleans social diamond. The fact it was made into a musical by many New Orleans musicians is an indication of how spot on it was. Sadly, Lewis died in March, possibly from complications of COVID-19. I play two songs by Shamarr Allen, Lewis’ uber-talented nephew, that depict the role of his uncle as curator of his neighborhood’s unique culture. If you want to skip to that, it all starts around the 57 minute mark. As lagniappe, here’s a video of Mr. Allen performing in his uncle’s museum for the NPR Tiny Desk contest. It’s a winner particularly when Shamarr shows us his footwork near the end.

Now about that ghost, its been weird shopping at the Olympia Food Coop. I love that store (I’m an Eastside customer) and I love my regular shopping routine. But, like every other grocery, its different now. We put on gloves and masks and we move haltingly through the aisles sometimes making eye contact and recognizing (maybe) the driver of the next shopping cart. When I heard this opening lyric “I saw your ghost at the grocery,” I had to include the Hurray for the Riff Raff’s song “Is That You?” I’ll say no more except that the last hour is basically two long sets of great New Orleans music including a new window-pane rattling number by Cowboy Mouth.

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Quarantine and Chill – With Some of New Orleans’ Finest

Shamarr Allen wants to keep you in shape for when Second Lines return. This means today’s show kicks off with”Quarantine and Chill” and Allen’s exhortation that “just because you’re stuck in the house, don’t mean you can’t . . .show me that footwork!”

Get my show started and I’ll fill you in on the rest of the program’s line up.

Four more fine New Orleans artists help me out with calling the music this week, starting with Debbie Davis, former member of the Pfister Sisters. Davis has just released her second record with pianist Josh Paxton t– Interesting Times. She introduces us to her new album (about 5 minutes into the show) with “Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great” and “Will It Go Round in Circles.” She sings two more times in the set — David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” from her latest record and Lou Reed’s “After Hours” from an earlier project — Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers.

Lena Prima has produced and distributed over 200 masks.

Lena Prima comes on (at about 38 minutes into the show) to talk about how she’s been doing during the quarantine. As you can see from the picture, she’s been busy making masks. In her set, you’ll hear songs from three of her albums — the title track “Since the Storm”written by her husband who leads her band, “Jump for Joy” from her album of original songs Starting Something and a live recording of a classic pulled from her father’s songbook, “Scuba Diver.”

You will meet Sierra Green at about the 50 minute mark. Sierra Green & the Soul Machine recently received Offbeat Magazine‘s Best Emerging Artist award. You’ll hear two tracks from her self-titled debut record and, just for fun, I finish that set with Glen David Andrews powering through a Galactic number (You Don’t Know). If you were waiting to dance, wait no more!

Davis Rogan on piano performing a packed house in Olympia.

Davis Rogan was scheduled to perform at Octapas in Olympia next month but obviously those plans are no longer. Like just about every professional musician with a mortgage, Davis has been learning how to get his music and his tip jar out on the Internet. You can catch his live performances on his Facebook page Sundays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 4 p.m. (Left Coast Times). Rogan joins the show about 65 minutes in and introduces his latest single “Mardi Gras Chicken” followed by “No Blues” and “Fly Away.”

I throw in a set of Zydeco and Cajun along with a long string of brass band music kicked off by Chuck Carbo’s “Hurt Coming On.” But before I do that, I make a pitch for supporting community radio. My show airs on Thursdays on KAOS and Fridays on KMRE. Listener support is essential to these stations continued survival.

As for me, I just want to smile and you can make me smile by subscribing to this blog. I’ll be back next week.

A Trumpeter, Trombonist, Guitarist and Keyboardist Walk into . . .

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This week’s Gumbo YaYa features the voices and music of Marla Dixon, Craig Klein, Billy Iuso and John “Papa” Gros plus a birthday anniversary and more. Go ahead and play the show which starts with a live Wild Magnolia performance in recognition of the 2020 JazzFest that didn’t happen.

Each week, I’ve been including recorded messages from New Orleans musicians and playing a set of their music as a way for me and listeners of the show to learn a bit more about them. What comes out clear from this week’s set of artists is how passionate they are about their profession and the music they make.

Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band – Marla Dixon is second from right

After the Wild Magnolia song, we hear from Marla Dixon (at about 8 and half minutes in) who sings and plays trumpet for the Shotgun Jazz Band and the all-female Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band which has played festivals in Europe. You’ll hear her perform with both those bands, including a live performance at the Dew Drop Dance & Social Hall (not to be confused with the old Central City Dew Drop Inn) plus a lagniappe spin of her request, Captain John Handy’s “Panama.” I unfortunately got mixed up and did not play her request “Streets of the City” so I will get to that one in my next show. Dixon is fully embedded in New Orleans and its music scene but Northwest listeners attuned to Canadian speak will recognize her origins when she pronounces “out” as in “out-choruses.”

Craig Klein is very much a native of the city. A former member of Harry Connick Jr.’s big band, he formed Bonerama with Mark Mullins over 20 years ago but is also on a long list of other recordings and involved in a string of New Orleans bands. He will tell you a bit about it (starting around the 26 minute mark), as well as fill you in on the New Orleans Nightcrawlers’ latest release Atmosphere and the New Orleans Jazz Vipers new record, Is There a Chance for Me. You’ll hear tracks from both plus the title track from Bonerama’s Hot Like Fire.

Billy Iuso on guitar performing with Bonerama flanked by trombonists Mark Mullins (left) and Craig Klein.

Billy Iuso caught my attention at the 2015 Freret Street Festival — an event I attended for two reasons. First, to check out my old elementary school — the former Our Lady of Lourdes on the corner of Freret and Napoleon — and to see Bonerama live for the first time. As luck would have it, we got to the Bonerama stage early and caught Iuso’s show. His songs have a way of pulling me in and holding me. You’ll hear his greeting at about the 52 minute mark followed by tracks from four of his records, including one under the name of Brides of Jesus.

John “Papa” Gros was the bandleader of the funk group Papa Grows Funk which held down the Monday slot at the Maple Leaf for a decade. When the band broke up, funk fans all over the world were heartbroken. And the story of the band was retold in a highly entertaining documentary called “Do U Want It.” Now, Gros is doing his own thing but years of helping others with their gigs and recordings pays off with quality support in his latest record – Central City. Starting at the 73 minute mark, Gros talks about his line up and the origins of one of its tracks “Old Joe’s Turkey” – a song you’ll hear along with another track from that new release. I also spin one from his previous solo effort Rivers on Fire and I couldn’t resist including one from his funkier days, “Pass It!”

Near the end of the show, I celebrate the birthday anniversary of Bobby Marchan, recognize the passing of Big Al Carson and close with the Funky Meters performing live at a previous JazzFest.

Please consider subscribing to this blog (upper right hand side of page) since it not only clues you into when my shows are available but provides this great little endorphin boost when I see it come through. Cheers.