Live venues need our love if not our attendance

“How long can New Orleans survive without live music? ” That’s the headline of a recent Slate article and it makes me wonder how we’re going to work through this in the long run. Cause, we’re gonna have to figure something out! This week’s Gumbo YaYa is dedicated to the venues and their operators around the country who are wondering if they will ever open again.

But first we take a trip to one of the more venerable of the New Orleans 130 plus music venues, Preservation Hall. Listener Sam Cagle shares his story of stumbling onto the place just off Bourbon Street just as it was getting established in the summer of 1961. Sam had just gotten out of training camp, preparing to a be an Air Force officer with six weeks to kill before he started his senior year in college. Taking a tip from a cadet who lived there, he decided to spend his last few free weeks in the August heat of New Orleans. His story is right after the first song and for mood setting, I throw in some Preservation Hall classics with George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma, Percy Humphrey and others. By the way, I wrote up a longer piece on Preservation Hall a few years back.

The Slate article makes the point that New Orleans has a unique ecosystem for developing music artists and its large number of small music venues is an essential part of that biology. But the stickiness of COVID-19 is making it likely that many of the venue proprietors, who mostly do not earn much of a profit even when open, may not survive.

The same concerns hold for venues in my neck of the woods and anywhere else where COVID is keeping us mostly at home. I don’t have a solution other than we all should be thinking about how we can keep live music alive. And for inspiration, I play sets of music that were recorded live including songs by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Mem Shannon, Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, Rebirth Brass Band, Marla Dixon and the Shotgun Jazz Band, Professor Longhair, Billy Iuso, Kermit Ruffins, Sonny Landreth, the Roamin’ Jasmine and others.

To help musicians in New Orleans, consider supporting the Feed the Second Line group. Thank you for listening and please consider subscribing. It’s Free!

Hard Way to Live When You Live Like You’re Dead

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing with a show until its all put together. Then it’s like a musical version of a Rorschach test. Except there’s no need for a psychology degree to interpret the opening song by Bon Bon Vivant with “It’s a hard way of living when you’re dead. . .when you’re living like you’re already dead.” (You can hear that song right now when you start the show in the box below. )

It’s not surprising that the longer the COVID period stretches on, the more I think about Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. Not that I’m ready to leave the castle. Or give up on masks and hand sanitizer. But the castle doesn’t have to be a prison.

The New Orleans Suspects catch that spirit of escape with “Neighborhood Strut” followed by All That, a band featuring Kirk Joseph and Davis Rogan, taking us back to the 1970’s with “Roll With It.” Sunpie Barnes declares”I don’t want no more of dem black beans, cornbread, molasses” in “Down in the Bottom.” Later, after Irvin Mayfield’s “The Elder Negro Speaks” serves as a recognition for the late Congressman John Lewis (who fortunately didn’t accept the status quo), Cyril Neville and the Royal Southern Brotherhood sing their protest anthem “Stand Up.”

With the ability to gather in front of live music gone for the time being, we live in the era of virtual festivals. Which does have the advantage allowing us to experience New Orleans without getting on a plane. I plug the upcoming Satchmo SummerFest which will be doing Louis Armstrong inspired cooking demonstrations on local television and musical performances shared on the festival’s Facebook live page  on Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2. The annual festival is in honor of Louis Armstrong’s birthday. “Yes, I’m in the Barrel” a 1925 Armstrong Hot Five recording heralds this event in the show.

Other highlights of this week’s program include a 10-minute plus version of “Hold ‘Em Joe” featuring bluegrass and New Orleans musicians and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux – performing before a live audience at the Maple Leaf Bar. Spencer Bohren covers Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business.” Allday Radio directs us to “Get Over Me, I’m Over You.” Terrance Simien and his Zydeco band performs “Johnny Too Bad.” And much more. It’s two hours of music from New Orleans. Thanks for tuning in.

A COVID Hatchet Not So Deep in our Heads

If the line “There is a hatchet not so deep in my head” from Dr. John’s “Holdin’ Pattern” speaks to you, then this is your show. The persistence of COVID-19 feels like a holding pattern which is a problem for all those whose livelihoods depend on our ability to gather –such as brass band musicians. I’ll tell you about the show and more once you get it started. (click sideways arrow in box below and it will play while you continue to read.)

The uptick in COVID-19 infections and its impact on our health care system has slowed down the possibility of having live shows and congregating. I’m not an advocate of rushing this process but I do worry what impact it will have on our culture — particularly the unique New Orleans brass band culture.

The New Orleans Brass Band Musicians Relief Fund is currently crowdsourcing funding through GoFundMe and seeking larger donations to provide emergency cash grants to musicians. The relief fund was started by the Save Our Brass Culture Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for the city’s brass band musicians, with Seth Bailin, a saxophonist who plays with New Orleans brass bands, and Joanna Farley, who used to work in disaster response.

From the Save Our Brass Culture Foundation website

You’ll hear me make a plug for this foundation in the second hour as I play a long set of brass band music that includes the following: Lazy Boyz Brass Band with “Come and Dance,” The Hot 8 Brass Band with “War Time,” The To Be Continued Brass Band with “Numba2 (We Dem Folks)” edited for radio, The Original Pinettes Brass Band with “We Got Music,” The Soul Rebels with Trombone Shorty with “Sabor Latino,” Treme Brass Band with “Tuba Fats,” Rebirth Brass Band with “Dilemma,” and the Forgotten Souls Brass Band with “The Second Half.” It’s about 45 minutes of brass music.

Before that you’ll hear a set of blues and some jazz and I finish with three very unique songs by Elizabeth Joan Kelly, Helen Gillet and Aurora Nealand operating under the name The Monocle.

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Galactic Drummer Drives the Beat for Today’s Show

This week’s show is carried by the rhythms of Stanton Moore who turns 48 on the day the show airs on KAOS (July 9, 2020). You can listen to it now though by clicking the sideways arrow below.

Over its 26-year history, the New Orleans band Galactic has been adept at funk, R&B, rock, soul and hip hop, performing with an ever changing cast of singers ranging from Boots Riley to Irma Thomas. And driving the beat throughout that quarter century is the only hometown member of the band, Stanton Moore. On today’s show, you’ll hear songs from his own albums, as well as from Galactic and two other bands that perform his songs.

But its a two-hour show so you’ll hear a lot more if you stay with it. Here are some highlights:

A song by Dragon Smoke – a group that includes Stanton and Robert Mercurio from Glactic as well as Ivan Neville and Eric Lindell.

Larry Williams singing “Bony Moronie” — original recording from 1957.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys performing “Les Vigilants” and joined by Pine Leaf Boys, Bonsoir Catin and Jesse Lege for a full set of Cajun music.

Hackberry Ramblers rocking out with a cover “Proud Mary.” You need to hear it to believe it.

Twerk Thomson Trio doing a robust version “Oh You Beautiful Doll” recorded two years ago but sounding like a 78 rpm record from 1938.

There’s more but I’m tired and got things to do. Why tell you about it when you can listen to it for yourself.

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.