Talkative horns, mutes and friendship

This week, Craig Klein joins me on the show virtually from New Orleans to talk about his new sweet record made in homage to his friend, fellow trombonist Lucien Barbarin who died of cancer early last year. In the spirit of his record Talkative Horns – A Musical Conversation with Lucien Barbarin, the show also features other songs with muted horns and trombones.

The opening track is “Lily of the Valley” from a record Leroy Jones produced in memory of the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band — a group that both Jones and Lucien Barbarin performed in during their youth. Craig Klein, who was not part of that seminal band, did play on the record.

Craig Klein

On the show, which you can start up with the player above, Craig talks about his friendship with Lucien, the Barbarin family and the origins of the record that they were to produce together. Craig is a ubiquitous site in the New Orleans music scene. Aside from performing on countless albums and touring with Harry Connick, Jr., he’s a founding member of Bonerama, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers (which just won a grammy) and the Storyville Stompers and performs at Preservation Hall and with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers. After the loss of his friend, Craig landed on a concept of a musical conversation using short solos and mutes to simulate communication — performing with trumpeter Kevin Louis who performed regularly with Lucien at Preservation Hall.

The result is a playful, interplay of long cornet and trombone that sounds very much like a musical conversation held together by Steve Detroy’s casually swinging piano. Molly Reeves on guitar, Michell Player on bass and Gerry Barbarin Anderson (Lucien’s nephew) on drums round out the record’s sound. Stick around for his description of recording “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”

Craig was generous with his time so I’ll include more of his conversation in next week’s show and play a few more from his record which is available on Bandcamp. Also included in today’s show is Lucien Barbarin and the Palm Court Swingsters doing “Just a Little While to Stay Here” where Lucien uses a mute on his trombone.

I also include some other fine trombone performances by Trombone Shorty, Kid Ory, Corey Henry, Big Sam Williams and Russell Ramirez.

Gal Holiday

Later in the show Vanessa Niemann gets on virtually with an introduction to a song she wrote about her grandfather “In My Dreams Again.” You’ll hear two other tracks by Vanessa who performs under the name Gal Holiday.

Thank you for listening to the show. You can subscribe to this blog and get alerts when new shows arrive. By the way, this week’s show is the KMRE version. There’s really no difference between the KAOS and KMRE recordings aside from station identifications.

April 1st Wreaks Havoc on New Orleans Programming

For over six years I have featured music from Louisiana, mostly from New Orleans. This week’s show, however, is a bit of a departure. Not sure what happened, but a check of the calendar might shed some light on the situation. Get it started and I’ll try to explain.

It was a dark and stormy night (actually the show airs in Olympia on Thursday mornings). Still a strange thing happened when I attempted to play Kermit Ruffin’s “Do You Know What It Means (to Miss New Orleans),” and “The City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie played instead.

I twisted a few nobs, cranked the huge lever over my head, held by breath for six and half seconds and then proceeded with the next set of what I hoped would be music from New Orleans and instead I subjected my listeners to some awesome songs by regional bands along the I-5 corridor: Vaudeville Etiquette, Kate Dinsmore, the Righteous Mothers, and the Blackberry Bushes.

Before taking a sledgehammer to my console, I checked the calendar and good thing too. I’m not sure what forces come to play on April Fool’s Day but it was beyond my control. After that first set, I could only muster one song per set from New Orleans area. And I challenged listeners to pick which one it was.

Anna Gordon is featured in this week’s show. No, she’s not from New Orleans. She’s an Evergreen State College grad.

So, in a set loaded with The Beat, Fine Young Cannibals and the Crazy 8s, you had to locate the New Orleans Rocksteady band 007. In the next set with Bruce Hornsby, the Cave Singers, Rockapella and Curtis Harding, you had to catch the Revivalists — a New Orleans based band. Later, you had to find the New Orleans song hidden among Devil Makes Three, Deadstring Brothers and local phenom Anna Gordon. (Here’s her bandcamp site.)

And so it went for the rest of show until the end. I think I’ll have things in proper working order next week but for now you can enjoy two hours of music that is only sort of from New Orleans. Cheers.

Live Shows Return to NOLA and Celebrate Sweet Emma

Get a first hand impression of what it is like to be a musician as live music moves back indoors in New Orleans, learn about the New Orleans drummer who brought the blues backbeat to Chicago and celebrate the 124th birth anniversary of a pioneering African American female pianist, vocalist and bandleader who once shared the silver screen with actor Steve McQueen. All this and more when you listen to this week’s show (right below)

Welcome to another edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa – the home recorded series is about to hit its one-year mark. Just last week, at the direction of the Mayor of New Orleans, live music came back inside — with some restrictions. Jeremy Kelley, saxophonist and co-leader of Bon Bon Vivant joins us at about the 70-minute mark to talk about what its like to be getting back to doing live, in-person shows (both the joy and horror of it). As promised on the show, here’s a link to outdoor New Orleans venues that are considered safer than going inside.

But before we hear from Jeremy, we catch songs by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Corey Henry, Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses, Galactic and Leyla McCalla.

You’ll also hear three songs featuring Sweet Emma Barrett who was born this week 124 years ago and was a pioneering Jazz woman who taught herself on piano, led her own band and was a highly recognizable character with her red outfit crowned by a skullcap with leg garters that jingled with bells when she played the keys. You might recall a few shows back, I featured dancehalls, including the Happy Landing Club. During the 1950’s, she and her band played there regularly. She also was a regular with the early Preservation Hall Jazz Band and you can see her play and sing briefly in the 1965 film Cincinnati Kid starring a brooding Steve McQueen. Here’s the clip.

Performing on two of the Sweet Emma songs is another Preservation Hall regular of the time Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau. I mention this mainly as an excuse to play Helen Gillet’s song dedicated to the stand up bass player who made his own instruments out of old barrels and who you might recall was depicted in the play and Netflix show Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Another birth anniversary celebration takes us up to Chicago with Armand “Jump” Jackson, a New Orleans drummer, who was also a bandleader who got into record producing. He’s noted for emphasizing the blues backbeat and you’ll hear one song that perhaps over-emphasizes that beat — “Midnight Shuffle.”

The show meanders on in the last 30 minutes with tracks by Joe Krown, Harry Connick Jr., Charlie Dennard, Charlie Halloran, Kid Eggplant and The Electric Arch. I think it works but let me know if you think differently. Cheers!

Celebrating “Frogman”, Grammy winners & Irish Heritage

This week’s show is crammed with stories and recognitions, starting with the opening track by Louis Armstrong – “Irish Black Bottom” and carrying on with Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s 84th birthday, and grammy wins by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers and Bobby Rush. Go ahead and get it started and then read on.

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five – Irish Black Bottom

I’m not sure what possessed Louis Armstrong to do Percy Venable’s “Irish Black Bottom.” Some have surmised that it was part of his act at the time he recorded it in November 1927 with his Hot Five. Certainly the song’s novelty fits with the sense of humor many associate with Satchmo. It helps to know that Black Bottom refers to a dance craze of that era — which was likely begun as a result of a Jelly Roll Morton song recorded a bit earlier called “Black Bottom Stomp.” Black Bottom refers to a neighborhood in Detroit which was occupied predominantly by African Americans but was named for its fertile dark soil.

The song opens the show and I follow through with a token set of Irish-like songs in honor of a day in which some celebrate Irish Heritage. Marc Gunn, Gina Forsyth, the Zydepunks and the Valparaiso Men’s Chorus represent in that set. I then keep the folk vibe going for one more set with the Tom Paines, Luke Winslow-King and Theresa Andersson, among others.

But then I repeat a short clip from my interview with the New Orleans Nightcrawlers who just won a grammy for their album Atmosphere. In the clip, Matt Perrine talks about how the band mediates between honoring the rich New Orleans music culture and incorporating new elements of interest to the nine members of this band. I follow that up with a couple of songs by Bobby Rush who also just won a grammy — his second in three years. He’s 87 years old.

Speaking of octogenarians, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, who was there when it all happened during the New Orleans R&B boom, turns 84 on Friday. I celebrate his birthday with three songs (the limit according to federal streaming rules).

The real Clarence “Frogman” Henry (left) in a scene from the HBO show “Treme” where he notes how like other early R&B artists, he did not reap the financial benefits of his songs. He turns 84 Friday.

But wait! There’s more. Allen Toussaint sings “Brickyard Blues” a song that was recorded by five different artists when he wrote it in 1974. But Allen recognizes Scottish soul singer Frankie Miller as his inspiration. Here’s the Miller version of Brickyard Blues.

And finally, near the end of this week’s two-hour show, I talk briefly about the Leroy Jones documentary “A Man and His Trumpet” streaming on Netflix. I play two songs by this exceptionally talented and dedicated trumpet player and band leader — perhaps the first member to be recruited by Danny Barker for the famous Fairview Baptist Marching Band. If you love New Orleans music, you should catch this documentary with great stories delivered by Jones as well as Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Greg Stafford and Herlin Riley. As promised on the show, his goofy trailer.

Thanks for tuning in. Please subscribe and drop me a note to let me know what you think of the show.

Funk & a Parade of R&B Masters Make the Gumbo

Johnny Adams could and did sing just about anything and thanks to a wide assortment of recordings, you can hear him masterfully handle blues, gospel, funk, r&b and country. Today’s show demonstrates his upper register as he accompanies a driving guitar riff backed up by organ and horns from a B-side funk recording at the Sea-Saint Studios in 1978, called “Chasing Rainbows.”. It does a great job of introducing the rest of the music that you will hear when you start the player right below. (You can do it now and still read the rest of this.)

Cosimo Matassa, who saw thousands of singers stream through his French Quarter recording studio in his day, believed Adams to be the best because of his range. But I also suspect Matassa liked him because Adams was genuinely a good person who had to work hard for every bit of success he had. Jay Mazza in Up Front and Center describes how Adams would almost run off the stage after each set into the audience to thank people for coming to see him sing. Adams died in 1998 of prostate cancer.

The cover of Johnny Adams After All the Good is Gone. The title track was paired with “Chasing Rainbows” and released as a single in 1978.

Another gospel-trained singer, Chuck Carbo, sings a soulful number called “Black Widow” shortly into the first full set. He’s followed by Jon Cleary with “Unputdownable.” Paula and the Pontiacs and Big Al & the Heavyweights also weigh in on that set. Stay with that first set long enough and you’ll hear Arsene Delay cover the Stones “Miss You” backed up by the Charlie Wooten Project. (I like her interpretation.)

A reminder that Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa plays music from New Orleans but I make exception for other fine Louisiana musicians, including Carol Fran and BeuoSoleil who you’ll also hear later in the show.

Another R&B highlight is Joe Diamond singing Gossip, Gossip – an Allen Toussaint production where you can hear Toussaint talking briefly in the beginning and end in a simulation of gossip.. (He does it well!)

The Hackberry Ramblers bring on “Poor Hobo” and I pair that song with Gal Holiday’s “Last to Leave.” I also throw in a side of Creole String Beans in that set along with the Radiators making sure that we “Never Let Your Fire Go Out.”

To cap off the parade of R&B senior statesmen, you’ll hear Lee Dorsey with “Wonder Woman” along with a genuine 60’s throwback by Lydia Marcelle “Everybody Dance.” I think you’ll like it.

The show finishes with Bon Bon Vivant’s “Pinkerton” in recognition of the band’s one-year celebration of streaming live weekly shows from their Facebook feed — which also appears on my Facebook page as well every Sunday at 6 p.m. (PST)

Bon Bon Vivant performing from their “living room” as they’ve been doing almost every Sunday for a year. Catch their one year retrospective show this Sunday at 6 p.m. on their Facebook page.

Clarinetist’s Birthday Sets Up Celebration of Dancehalls

The birth anniversary of Israel Gorman, an early New Orleans jazz clarinetist, allows this week’s show to transport us to the high energy of New Orleans dancehalls — past, current and future.

Israel Gorman – Photo by Al Rose – Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum

Once again, I’m humbled by the opportunity to learn more about New Orleans music through this show. Until this week, I did not know about Israel Gorman. Thank you to the 64 Parishes website for starting my education on this early jazz man who was at least four years older than Louis Armstrong. He was born March 4, 1896, making him old enough to perform his clarinet in Storyville saloons before World War 1 ended the red light district and sent him to fight in France. And while Gorman, like many New Orleans musicians, played in Chicago and New York, it was his recording at a dancehall near the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in the 1950’s that solidifies his place in music history. On some of the songs, you can hear the conversations from the audience and diners at Happy Landing Restaurant and Club and the shuffling of dancers feet. As far as music recording quality, it falls short of today’s standards. But it puts your ears in the room.

This listening experience has encouraged me to look more deeply into dancehalls — a source of community identity and historical interest that has spurred symposiums. Every worthy community has had one. I’ll never forget flying out of the Olympia Airport on July 21, 2000 to see a large column of smoke rising up from the Evergreen Ballroom, ending a 70-year history of bringing great music to the area. (An early highlight of doing the Gumbo YaYa show was when a listener called to tell me about seeing Fats Domino perform at the Evergreen Ballroom during his heyday. (Here’s an early post and show about the famous Dew Drop Inn.)

Today’s show includes other dancehall gems such as Jacques Gauthe and his Creole Rice Yerba Buena Band, Kid Thomas (who Gorman played with during the early years of Preservation Hall) and his Algiers Stompers, Champion Jack Dupree and a contemporary quartet that seeks to capture the magic of dancehalls of yesteryear.

Happy Landing – Past Prime. See the picture on the Mixcloud player to see a more stylized shot of the venue.

I continue in this vein for about an hour, aided further by Riverside Jazz Collective, Aurora Nealand and Smoking Time Jazz Club. And perhaps the highlight is Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues.” (How progressive of Satchmo to have avoided the gender tag in the title)

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band provides our transitional link from dancehall to funk, cajun and latin music. Later in the show, I also recognize Jazon Marsalis’ 44th birthday, spinning a couple of tracks with him on vibraphone.

Thank you for tuning in. Please let me know what you think of the music.

It’s Not All About Lil’ Liza Jane

This week’s show has no overarching plan, just another two-hour showcase of New Orleans jazz, funk, R&B, brass, and old time swing by contemporary groups as well as more classic recordings. The first tune you’ll hear when you start the player below is “The Joint is Jumpin'” by the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.

The headline for this post is a reference to another rendition of the New Orleans standard “Lil’ Liza Jane” – this time by All That including a prologue by the band to drive home the point that the song is a standard for many New Orleans bands — even the pizza delivery guys knows that. (By the way, some background on Liza in a previous post.)

In the first full set you’ll hear George Porter Jr., the aforementioned All That, Hot 8 Brass Band, Kristin Diable and a rambunctious number by Egg Yolk Jubilee (“Kingfish”).

Frog and Henry 2018 Record Cover

The second set takes a different direction with John Mooney, Papa Mali, Guitar Slim, Snooks Eaglin and Jean Knight. Later in the second hour, I have a set of old timey songs starting with contemporary band Frog and Henry doing a number made famous by King Oliver in 1923 called “Buddy’s Habit.” Oliver’s band of New Orleans musicians were living and performing in Chicago and they picked up the song from Charlie Straight’s Orchestra which had a tipsy tuba player who became a local legend when he tumbled off the stage backwards while playing his instrument. You’ll also hear the Boswell Sisters singing their number 1 hit “The Object of My Affection” along with the Big Dixie Swingers (“A Little Picture Playhouse”) and Danny Barker singing a novelty song called “Nagasaki.”

If you make it all the way to the end, Jon Batiste does his beautiful song “Don’t Stop.”

Well I hope I have given you enough reason to listen to the show. You can listen to it directly from this page, on KAOS on Thursday mornings starting at 10 a.m. (PST), KMRE on Friday evenings starting at 7 p.m. (PST) or go to my Mixcloud profile. My best to you until next week.

Celebrating Irma Thomas’ 80th Birthday

When you hear Irma Thomas called the Soul Queen of New Orleans, its natural and correct to assume its a reference to one of her singing styles. But I think it also can refer to her role as a sustainer of the city’s soul. Happy 80th birthday to Irma Thomas!

She “had four children by age 19” adorns just about every write up of her and my guess is that this repeated fact helps establish that nothing has come easy for Ms. Thomas. She has worked for her success, raised (more than four) children, held down day jobs, lost her home to Hurricane Katrina and performed music through six decades that have not always been kind. Here’s a short bio from the Delgado Community College Women Center — an empowerment center she’s been deeply involved in since she earned her associates degree in business from Delgado – – – at the age of 60. Oh, and the center bears her name.

Irma Thomas at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2016.

This week’s show features songs to show off some of Irma’s range, starting with her version of Fats Domino’s “I Just Can’t Get New Orleans Off My Mind.” I follow that up with “Cry On” recorded when she first started with Minit records (during the Allen Toussaint heyday). Also “Back Water Blues” and “Thinking of You.” There’s a few other gems in this set, including her vocals with Galactic (“Heart of Steel”) and her harmonizing with Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson from their Sing It! record.

So that first 20 minutes is all about Irma and good reason to listen to the show, but there’s reason continue to listen as well! What with The Crooked Vines “Everything New” from their latest, the New Orleans Suspects covering James Booker’s “Classified” followed by James Booker covering Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog.”

A little more name dropping: Henry Gray, Leyla McCalla, Larry Garner, Lost Bayou Rambler, Arsene Delay, Free Spirit Brass Band, Mindi Abair rocking with Trombone Shorty and the New Orleans Johnnys.

Thanks for tuning in, supporting New Orleans music and subscribing.

Mardi Gras Gumbo-Pendium

If you’re looking for Mardi Gras music to celebrate Fat Tuesday, I have assembled some of my Mardi Gras shows from the past starting with the most recent and running in order to the oldest. Click the sideways arrow in the player and it will play the show without you having to leave the page.

Last week’s show started with Valentine’s Day inspired songs but ends with a full hour of Mardi Gras tracks.

The 2020 Mardi Gras show is almost all Mardi Gras music

The Mardi Gras show from 2019

From 2018

And from 2016

Love, Beads & Mardi Gras Chicken

Valentines Day and Fat Tuesday are once again closely aligned to allow for a show of bittersweet love songs and songs for a bittersweet Mardi Gras. And for good measure, a chicken named “Renard”tossed into the radio show pot.

Once again, the nomadic Easter, which moves around based on the proximity of the full moon to the spring equinox, has caused Mardi Gras to land close to Valentine’s Day. So I’ve mashed them together with an hour of love songs and hour of Mardi Gras tunes. Read on and listen on (player is above) for another mash up story.

Charlie Gabriel, vocalist and clarinetist, on “I Think I Love You.” (Photo – American Routes, WWNO Public Radio)

Love songs, like their subject, can have a sharp edge – as evidenced by my opening track from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Clarinetist Charlie Gabriel sings the band’s original song “I Think I Love You” which at least starts off sounding like love is reciprocated. But then, the flowers die. Fortunately, Camile Baudoin, guitarist for the Radiators, follows up with the more optimistic “It’s You I Love.”

This Valentine show seemed like a good time for a rare Gumbo YaYa airing of Aaron Neville’s big hit “Tell It Like It Is” — the song that turned his career around and an anthem for those who no longer wish to have their heart stomped on. The theme carries on with Yvette Landry & the Jukes (“I Need Somebody Bad Tonight”), Ingrid Lucia (“My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms”), Shotgun Jazz Band (“I Love You So Much It Hurts”), Clarence “Frogman” Henry (“I Don’t Know Why But I Do”), and Donna Angelle’s crush song for Boozoo Chavis, “Old Man’s Sweetheart.” And somewhere in there, you’ll hear an excellent cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” by Gal Holiday.

The turn toward Mardi Gras happens after Louis Armstong and Lil Hardin do “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” – a love song despite the damage done by lyrics written over a decade after the recording that actually made “barbecue” barbecue.

Aaron’s brother Art was 16 when he sang with the Hawkettes on the classic “Mardi Gras Mambo” — the song that kicks off the second hour of the show. All the songs in that set are great but I want to draw attention to the less-often heard “Hey Mardi Gras, Here I Am” by Chuck Carbo who grew up in the Zion City part of New Orleans in 1930’s and sings about Mardi Gras in an R&B swinging style.

Another highlight is the voice of Davis Rogan who comes on at about 90 minutes into the show to introduce a song he wrote with his wife Stephanie, “Mardi Gras Chicken.” Rogan, who earlier in his musical career formed a band that blended hip hop with New Orleans brass and funk, checked another item off his mash-up bucket list with “Mardi Gras Chicken”– portraying the Cajun/Creole Mardi Gras tradition known as Courir de Mardi Gras or Grand Courir with a New Orleans Mardi Gras brass band sound — including a bass line originated by Tuba Fats and performed by fellow Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band alumn Kirk Joseph. The song follows the fortunes of “Renard” the chicken who is chased by Courir revelers led by “Louie.”

Davis Rogan as “Louie” and Stephanie Rogan as the wily “Renard” re-enacting their “Mardi Gras Chicken” song during last year’s Mardi Gras celebration. (Courtesy of the Rogans)

The show finishes with a few songs depicting and honoring the highly original cultural phenomenon that can be witnessed in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day (If you’re lucky) – Black Masking Indians.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras to you all. Thanks for tuning in. Let me know what you think of the show and consider subscribing using the widget in the right hand column. Cheers!