More Smiles Makes For More Music

We are all seeing more smiles these days as the vaccinated unveil their beaming faces. And more live music is getting scheduled! This week’s show gets into all that and much more. Let’s start with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “Smiles” which you can hear right now with the player below.

Over the last year, we’ve had to do it all with our eyes and eyebrows (. . .and ears for those with that kind of dexterity). Now we can add our mouths to our nonverbal repertoire. That can be good for those who are ready to strip off the cloth, but, not so good for those who appreciated, and benefitted from, having literally a “guarded” expression.

Eric Lindell knows what I’m talking about and you will too when you hear his “The Look.” Dr. John with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band follows up with “When You’re Smiling;” Buckwheat Zydeco, with Dwight Yoakum chiming in, sings “Hey, Good Lookin'” and the set ends with Chester Zardis and the New Orleans Footwarmers doing “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” a song that first appeared in a 1931 Merrie Melodies cartoon short. Zardis was a pioneer in the slap stand-up bass and probably would have been better known had he done the Chicago-New York thing. Instead, he stayed close to home. He was born 121 years ago this week.

From the cover of the New Birth Brass Band Second Line record cover.

I play a full set, nearly 20 minutes, of New Birth Brass Band songs — largely because of tumbling onto Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Milwaukee Fat” which is dedicated to Kerwin James, the sousaphonist for New Birth. James was both a survivor and victim of Hurricane Katrina. He escaped the flooded city in 2005 with his instrument but suffered a stroke a few months later. His death set off a spontaneous musical parade in his old neighborhood, the Treme, which in turn resulted in an invasion of police cars to shut the unpermitted event down. Rebirth Brass Band snare drummer Derrick Tabb and trombonist/singer Glen David Andrews were arrested for disturbing the peace. Many have argued that this conflict signaled a sea change in post-Katrina New Orleans as newcomers moving into the city clashed with historic mores of the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States.

The important thing to know for your ear is that some damn good brass band music is played. In all the New Birth songs, you can feel the power of Kerwin James’ horn.

I’ve been diving into the KAOS vinyl vault and coming up with some gems. I do a Balfa set starting with the brothers in New York, then one by Dewey and his group and then finally one by his daughter and her group. The first two are on vinyl. All three feature excellent Cajun fiddling.

From the back cover of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band “Voodoo” record.

I also play the title track from Dirty Dozen’s third record “Voodoo.” The Dirty Dozens will be touring the Northwest so it was my delight this week to put my first new entry in over a year to my Northwest live New Orleans music page. I see Shamarr Allen is touring too but not up here yet.

I play a track of the just-received Tuba Skinny record — well its really Maria Muldaur’s record but the Tuba Skinny musicians are prominently feature. I also dive deeper into new releases by Monk Boudreaux, Kid Eggplant and Jon Batiste.

Thanks for reading this. I hope you’re listening to the show and if you like it, subscribe to this blog so you’ll get notices of fresh shows (pretty much one a week.)

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.

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