Moving into a Bluesier, Funky Fall

A fall freshet of rain (almost two inches) has slaked the thirst of my drought-stressed landscape and brushed off the dust of summer. We’re in that sweet spot where the sun shines enough to ensure the oncoming chill and damp doesn’t quite over stay its welcome. Well, at least for now. And the other harbinger of Autumn? The arrival of students on the Evergreen State College campus starting Monday.

This week’s show was captured, as usual, during its original broadcast on KAOS and edited for rebroadcast on KMRE. Since returning to producing live shows in the KAOS studios in May, the campus of the Evergreen State College has been rather ghostly. Empty parking lots, an occasional distant body scurrying across the square, the quiet yet freaky noises of previously unnoticed machinery in the College Activities Building where the studio resides.

But this week, there were some stirrings. More cars in the lot, students animatedly chatting in pairs on the square and after 20 months, this four-year college appears to be coming back to life with in-person classes and activities. Next week, the studio, which has been empty every time I’ve come in for my show over the last four months, will be a lot more active. I’ll have to get used to other people working near me again.

Why this description? Well, this milieu can affect my show, even though it features music from a city over 2,600 miles away. You’ll hear a good example when I break tradition and start the first set with a song that is by Jonathan Bree a New Zealander whose song, “You’re So Cool,” is very different than what I usually play. But given that it was a request by a student who was listening as my earlier morning show was ending, I wanted to be welcoming and play the song. It was followed by good company – Clayton Doley‘s “Disbelief.” This piano-playing Aussie went to New Orleans and jammed with some of its best horn players, creating Bayou Billabong. Preservation Hall Jazz Band follows with its Cuban-influenced original “Santiago.” Before the set ends, I get back on message with The Melatauns’ “Day of Sunshine” followed by Dr. Brice Miller’s poignant yet jammin’ “You are my Sunshine.” And that’s just the first full set — which you can listen to right now by using the player above.

Other show highlights include:

  • The Shiz which bills themselves as “New Orleans conscious, hippie, lesbeaux Folk-Rock and Soul”
  • A nearly 8 and half minute rendition of “Let Me Do My Thing” by The Hot 8 Brass Band — edited for radio but not to be confused with the radio version of this song which is half as long. Here’s the site to donate to help the family of bandleader Bennie Pete who died from COVID-19 earlier this month.
  • Sarah Quintana performing with a kazoo.
  • Greetings and songs by Sonny Landreth and Andrew Duhon.
  • Dozens of other great New Orleans songs.

Thanks for tuning in, subscribing, listening, being kind, helping others and cleaning up after yourself.

George Wein’s influence in New Orleans will live forever

I cannot imagine what the New Orleans music scene would look like today without the half century legacy of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. So it should be no surprise that I give a nod to the recent passing of George Wein, one of the founders of the festival in this week’s show

First though, Fats Domino kicks off the program with one of his less well-known hits “I’m Ready.” A song that charted in the spring of 1959 with Domino cautioning: “Talking on the phone is not my speed. Don’t send me no letter, ’cause I can’t read. Don’t be long, ’cause I’ll be gone. We’ll go rock and rolling all night long.”

George Wein was a jazz pianist with his own nightclub and record label when he was hired in 1954 to organize a music festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The Newport Jazz Festival was a smash and he was invited to replicate that success in other communities, including New Orleans. While it took several years for the New Orleans festival to manifest, it appears that Wein was pivotal in helping to develop the concept of an affordable event with multiple stages where audiences were free to roam about and sample a variety of music. In short, the modern music festival. (though the affordability issue today is debatable.)

Wein was a regular performer over the years at the festival and I feature in this week’s show his 2003 performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana” from the Smithsonian Folkways 50th anniversary JazzFest compilation. You’ll also hear Beausoleil from that same compilation in recognition of that band’s upcoming performance in Olympia. See my calendar page.

But before Wein and after Domino, I feature a different kind of New Orleans music set starting with Quintron & Miss Pussycat’s “Shoplifter.” The distorted organ post-punk dance sound may not be what you think of as New Orleans music, but it is very much part of the New Orleans music scene. Galactic follows up with “Shibuya” — a very deep track from their release recorded live at Tipitina’s along with Papa Grows Funk’s “Gorillafaceugmopotamus!” and Lena Prima’s “Frog Legs Man.” It’s one wild set and I dare you to listen to all 25 minutes of it.

Noted for her clarinet and saxophone, Aurora Nealand is multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer.

Later in the show, I highlight four projects by Aurora Nealand who has been recognized by DownBeat Magazine for her ability to perform with clarinet and soprano saxophone. So you will hear her work with nightclub mainstays Panorama Jazz Band and The Royal Roses. You’ll also hear from her unique rockabilly project Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers and her original solo project called The Monocle which has been brought to life in a fully staged adaptation a few year’s back.

Tank and the Bangas, Lakou Mizik, Alex McMurray and the New Orleans Swinging Gypsies follow along with others including two covers of “I’m Ready” by Davell Crawford and someone named “George” from an unmarked Jay Miller recording included in the Swamp Pop by the Bayou compilation.

Thanks for tuning in.

Seven Year Itch – Time to Move On?

Why am I still doing this show? Isn’t seven years long enough?

I’ve produced over 350 radio episodes focusing exclusively on music from New Orleans with some some well justified forays into Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Mamou and other nearby swamp lands. Perhaps its time to move?

On the plus side, the music I play is damn good. Hear for yourself when you get the player started above with my seventh anniversary show. How can you not be a fan with Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet’s opening number “You Came” as in “you came to the party.” That party stays funky with help from Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and Flow Tribe.

My roots with New Orleans go back to the early 1960s with my Dad playing from his jazz record collection that included several from native son Pete Fountain. You’ll hear Fountain’s version of “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” along with songs by Royal Street favorite Doreen Ketchens and Rebirth Brass Band.

Bennie Pete – a screen capture from a video on the The Hot 8 Brass Band’s website

It’s not all party though. Bennie Pete died last week at 45. As bandleader and sousaphonist for The Hot 8 Brass Band, Pete and his band has been a symbol of the city’s resilience since Hurricane Katrina. The band was featured in Spike Lee’s epic documentary on the city and the storm “When the Levees Broke” and has gone through one tragic event after another including three band member deaths to gun violence (one a shooting by New Orleans Police Department). The band’s record Tombstone was intended to put the bad shit behind them. I play the the first and last track from that release and the song “We Goin’ Make It.” Long live Bennie Pete!

As in past anniversary shows, I point to the gateway acts that have fueled my 15 year addiction to this city’s music scene. Notably, you will hear the New Orleans Nightcrawlers who grabbed my attention with their Live at the Old Point Bar. This album makes me wish I was in the Algier’s Point bar that night in 2010. On the other hand, I was there for the Radiators performance at the 2006 Jazzfest– the one right after Hurricane Katrina. You’ll hear a a great jam from that performance.

On the question that started this post, as long as I’m having fun, I see no reason to stop doing the show. What do you think?

Mama Don’t Like It But I Do – You Too?

This month’s Gumbo YaYa dance party starts off with Smiley Lewis’ “Mama Don’t Like It” an R&B spinoff of the even older “Mama Don’t Allow” standard. And a fitting start to the September dance party edition of Gumbo Ya Ya. If you can read this while dancing, go ahead and start the player below.

First, a nod to the victims of the Gulf of Mexico storm Ida, hitting Louisiana and Mississippi with Category 4 winds and picking up sky loads of water that created flash flooding in New Jersey and New York City. This is the time of year that I have produced a show-long annual recognition of Hurricane Katrina – a tradition I decided to retire this year.

This first long set of songs and a set later in the show were all recorded in the famous Cosimo Matassa studios which was located in the French Quarter in the 1950’s and 1960’s. You’ll hear some you expect such as Fats Domino and Little Richard but also Jessie Hill, Shirley & Lee, Paul Gayten, Roland Cook, Chris Kenner and The Showmen. These songs got the country to dance and still works for me.

The show allows you to catch your breath (because you are dancing to all this, right?) with a waltz by Shotgun Jazz Band and gradually works the pace back up to a frenzy with Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake, and Chloe Feoranzo. Later, Eddie Bo (“Check Your Bucket”), Earl King and two from the Meters allow us to show off our more funky moves.

Later in the show, if you have the stamina, we spin some Zydeco and a bit of salsa — thanks to Terrance Simien, Donna Angelle, Fredy Omar and Jon Cleary.

Al “Carnival Time” Johnson recording “Red Beans”

A little after the 30 minute mark, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson sings his new song “Red Beans”— a tribute to the Krewe of Red Beans which has been doing great work in supporting New Orleans’ entertainment community. Here’s more on them.

Show’s grumpy opening finishes with Davis Rogan visit

The news was getting to me when I took the air today (August 19, 2021). JazzFest and French Quarter Fest were cancelled and life once again seems to be backpedaling as COVID rears its ugly head. So I guess I was a little grumpy at the start. Hear for yourself.

To get out of my funk, I turned to my reliable performers: Al Hirt, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Beausoleil, as well as some strong new contenders such as the New Orleans Dancehall Quartet and the Smoking Time Jazz Club.

Jon Cleary’s “Doin’ Bad, Feelin’ Good,” Bon Bon Vivant’s “Dancing in the Darkness” and Dr. John’s “What Goes Around Comes Around” provided some necessary mental adjustment. By the time, Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors chanted out “Sing My Song” I was swinging the other way.

And then Davis Rogan called from the sunny white sands of Grayton Beach, Florida. He’s coming to Seattle, Olympia and Portland next week for house concerts. You can hear our chat starting around the 55 minute mark. And if you want to attend the Olympia show, let me know.

This show also features two fine musicians from Shreveport: David Egan and Buddy Flett. The New Orleans Swinging Gypsies, featuring a tap danced rhythm, does Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby,” Shamarr Allen performs the War classic “The World is a Ghetto” (He also performs in the region this week.)

Sierra Green, Coolbone, Aurora Nealand and Champion Jack Dupree handle the anchor leg of the show. Thanks for tuning in.

Live shows, New records and Fire on the Bayou

As COVID cases begin to rise again, bands that thought the coast was clear are starting to announce their tour plans, or in some cases, already getting out there and performing. This week’s show features those New Orleans acts with plans to tour the Northwest as well as new records released in recent months.

My Live NOLA Shows page tracking Northwest shows has been reinvigorated with concert dates by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Soul Rebels, Rebirth Brass Band, Dumpstaphunk, Shamarr Allen and Davis Rogan. You’ll hear songs from all these groups.

New music by Tuba Skinny (with Maria Muldaur), Jon Batiste, Kid Eggplant and the Melatauns, Secret Six Jazz Band, Chris Acker, Ted Hefko, and Tiffany Pollack.

There’s other music in this two-hour show (featuring the KMRE edit version), including Helen Gillet, Kevin Sekhani, Josh Garrett, Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, Egg Yolk Jubilee to cite a few.

The funky Meters jump on around the 35 minute mark to do a live version of “Fire on the Bayou” from the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Once again, COVID has cancelled this very important event to the New Orleans economy. The news sucks but the song is good.

Wildfires in the West Inspire Gumbo Show

This fire season over 100 large fires have incinerated two million acres of land in the U.S. And new fires are reported each day. . . Let’s play some music, starting with Rebirth Brass Band’s “Fire.” (you can listen to the show while still staying on this page using the player below)

Map of active of Northwest Wildfires.

While New Orleans sits on the western side of the hurricane season, Olympia sits on the western edge of the fires. We might be mostly safe from the flame but the smoke is creating a haze and red hue to our sunlight. Air quality is holding but is vulnerable to a shift in the winds. New Orleans Suspects kick off the first full set with “You Got the Fire” carried on by Mike Doussan’s “Breathe” and Papa Grows Funk “Fire in the Garage.” The Royal Southern Brotherhood finish the set with “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire.”

Fire and smoke in song are metaphors usually for love though Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” covered by Papa Mali seems more about destruction. Alexey Marti does his instrumental “Fire Land” and Trombone Shorty performs “Fire and Brimstone.” You’ll even hear the patron saint of this show, Ernie K-Doe, say his trademark “Burn K-Doe Burn.”

Ernie K-Doe, New Orleans singer and lounge owner, was a deejay with New Orleans community radio station WWOZ.

Midway through the show, we take a break from the fire for “Indian Summer” one of my favorites of Eric Lindell along with a radio edit version of Tiffany Pollack’s “Crawfish and Beer.” In honor of Davis Rogan coming to Olympia, I play an All That song and Buckwheat Zydeco does Bruce Springsteen’s “Back In Your Arms.”

But I eventually bring it back to theme of fire aided by Bon Bon Vivant’s “Burn” and New Birth Brass Band’s “Smoke That Fire.” The topic gives me an excuse to play the nine-minute live version of “All Our Fire” by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes at the Maple Leaf Bar and I finish the theme with the Neville’s “Fire on the Bayou.” And somewhere before that, Davell Crawford does “Fire and Rain” with Nicholas Payton doing his interpretation of that song on trumpet.

There’s more music that follows. The player is above and you can listen from this page. Just don’t let smoke get in your eyes.

Tiffany Pollack, Okra, Cajun Singles and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tiffany Pollack & Co. hits the post-pandemic music scene with momentum from a brand new record that opens up new avenues for this singer, songwriter, band leader and occasional mortician. One song kicks off this week’s show which she calls in on about an hour later for a live KAOS radio interview. (The episode below is the KMRE version of the same show and airs in Bellingham on Fridays).

Tiffany Pollack -Currently performing regularly on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

Following up on the success of her blues album recorded with cousin Eric Johansen, New Orleans-based Pollack collected a dozen of her original songs, went to Memphis with her band and recorded Bayou Liberty with the assistance of producer and blues musician John Nemeth. But its far from a blues album. In the course of our conversation, we both agreed our favorite track is Mountain, a Western style number featuring pedal steel and sweet vocals. Others songs channel honky-tonks, early morning smoky (now smoke-free) nightclubs and sticky-seated dives where you go mainly for the crawfish and beer.

As a mother of three, she also shares how her kids do a good job of keeping her in her place, no matter how bright her music star shines. And yea, she talks briefly about how as a licensed funeral director she still gets called in to do services for that short-handed business.

From the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

A great find of fresh okra at the Olympia Farmer’s Market last weekend inspired a set of music featuring two versions of Mr. Okra — a song written by Sonia Tetlow and Craig Klein in honor of Arthur James Robins (Mr. Okra) who drove a colorful vegetable truck through the streets of New Orleans with sing-song amplified announcements of available produce. He died in 2018 (NPR story). To introduce that song, I play a brief clip from an earlier interview with Craig Klein about the process of writing that song with Tetlow. Later in the set, Monk Boudreaux sings a Jamaican-inflected “Mr. Okra Man” – in his own take of the street vendor. The set ends with the Tin Men’s “The Darling of the Okra Strut” which, best I can tell, really has nothing to do with the mucilaginous vegetable. (However, it did get me thinking about whether okra are interstellar aliens! Afterall we call them “pods.”)

This week’s show also includes another set of Cajun music, thanks to Olympia-area producer and musician Calvin Johnson’s secret stash of collectible 45 rpm records. This time, I throw in a live recorded song by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys from Bill Boelens Festivals Acadiens 1991-1997.

The show’s first full set rocks with Cowboy Mouth’s early hit “Jenny Says” and The Radiators urging us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out.” Later Tommy Malone sings “All Dressed Up,” the Honeypots perform “Witness”, Los Hombres Calientes does a send up of “George Porter” and Davis Rogan’s gives us his original song “Fly Away.” Davis, by the way, will be performing in Olympia on August 26 in a house concert. Message me to learn more about it. Thanks for tuning in.

Tiffany Pollack & Co. at the “Legendary” HiHo Lounge pre-COVID.

“What in the world can a working man do”

Coco Robicheaux’s “Working Man” kicks off this week’s musical exploration of our love-hate relationship with working and, more specifically, holding a job. Inspired by our worldwide collective midlife crisis over how we value (and pay for) work, the show can be heard right now using the player below.

Jobs – Can’t live without them and often can’t live with them. Shotgun Jazz Band (“Get a Working Man”) and Chubby Newsome (“Find a Job”) lay down the first part of that equation. And then Spider Murphy’s “Mr. Money Talks” and Jon Cleary’s “Viva La Money” pile on.

I get up in the morning and kiss my love goodbye and I come home in the evening in time to say goodnight.

Coco Robicheaux “Working Man”

The horns of Bonerama support Billy Pierce’s “Paycheck to Paycheck” while Kid Eggplant puts a more modern twist on the job scene ( “building a website for my business”) with “Workin’ Stiff.”

Lee Dorsey in the junkyard while working at his auto body repair show. Photo by Michael P. Smith

Most musicians have to work day jobs . . .at least initially. But even after Lee Dorsey hit it big with “Working in the Coal Mine” he worked at his body repair shop. Galactic does an instrumental version of that classic number in this show. You’ll hear Dorsey sing “Work, Work, Work” and “Gotta Find a Job.”

Mem Shannon’s “Payin’ My Dues” explores the frustrations of being a musician “Drove 1200 miles to play a club and the sign on the door said this joint just shut down. . .” Keith Stone sings about how its “Time to Move On” and Davis Rogan, with some indelicate radio necessary editing by me, airs out his grievances with three of his former employers with help from Cheeky Blakk in “I Quit.” This Davis original inspired the HBO “Treme” scene where you actually see and hear Cheeky Blakk sing the chorus the way it was meant to be sung (when not on the radio.) And here’s the original unedited Davis Rogan version.

It all degenerates from there in a cannabis (“Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot” by Dash Rip Rock), gin infused (“I Got Loaded” by Creole String Bean”) and drug-induced (“Medicated” by Honey Island Swamp Band”) blur.

And you’re invited to listen and enjoy.

Calvin’s Cajun 45’s, Garner’s Birthday and an 89 Camry

One of the biggest differences now that I’m back doing live shows in the KAOS studio (aside from more verbal screwups) is the ability to use the turntable. This week’s program spins some collectible 45s, celebrates Larry Garner’s birthday, relives DJ Davis’ memories of his ’89 Camry and witnesses Jello Biafra’s take on a Dr. John classic

But first, we get in the zone with Los Po-Boy -Citos’ “Cool Man” with Naughty Professor, Robert Ward and Charlie Wooten extending the vibe into the next set.

Larry Garner built a solid reputation in Europe as a blues musicians but he’s never forgotten his home, Baton Rouge, or the issues of the everyday person. His songs are personal and relatable. I barely scratch the surface of his music catalog, playing one song from each of the three records in the KAOS library. But it should be more than enough for you to want to learn more about him.

Swallow Records formed in 1957 and released 2265 45 rpm single records of Cajun French music.

While sharing some shade beside Ward Lake on one of our “heat dome” days, I had the opportunity to chat with Calvin Johnson (the Northwest one, not the New Orleans CJ). Shortly after, he loaned me a box of singles (that play on turntables at 45 rpm) from independent labels Swallow, Cajun Jamboree and Crazy Cajun records. Like Johnson’s K Records , these studios helped bring music to the world that might not otherwise have been recorded. On this show you’ll hear Marc Savoy, Rodney LeJune, Rockin’ Sidney, Joe Bonsall and the Orange Playboys, and Vin Bruce.

Last week’s show included a fun number by Dee-1 called “No Car Note” where he sings about how loves his ’98 Honda — largely because its paid for. This week, you’ll hear DJ Davis Rogan (who is a bit older than Dee-1) sing the praises of his ’89 Camry. It’s my nod to my gearhead listeners.

Other treats in this week’s Gumbo YaYa include Jello Biafra performing “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” with an ad hoc New Orleans band led by Fred LeBlanc (I also play a track by Egg Yolk Jubilee which is the horn section for Biafra’s performance) , Bonerama doing Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint’s “River in Reverse” collaboration.

Thanks for tuning in.