A little Barker, lots of New Orleans blues, funk and jazz

I have no elevator pitch for today’s show. It features music from New Orleans so includes jazz, blues, funk, rock, a bawdy song or two, a couple of brass band numbers and some cutting edge Cajun music. You can play it now if you like while I tell you a bit more.

The Heavyweight Brass Band kicks off the show. They’re Canadian but they embedded in New Orleans for the This City record and on “Dance Out On the Corner” you’ll hear the baritone saxophone of the Dirty Dozen’s Roger Lewis and the trumpet and vocals of fellow Canadian now New Orleans resident Marla Dixon.

The second song (the bawdy one) is sung by Maria Muldaur. It was an early hit for Muldaur as well as the songwriter. Lu Barker recorded “Don’t You Feel My Leg” in the 30’s which helped her and her husband Danny Barker in their performing career. Later, after the couple had semi-retired back to New Orleans, a young Muldaur recorded the same song for her first hit. Muldaur will close out this year’s Danny Barker Festival happening this weekend in New Orleans with a concert at Snug Harbor. I also play a popular Danny Barker number titled “Save the Bones for Henry Jones.”

In this show, you’ll also hear a some blues by Ghalia and Mama’s Boys and Bobby Rush (who song might also be consider a bit bawdy), Cajun by the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Bonsoir Catin, funk by Naughty Professor, rock by Lightnin’ Lee and a lot of songs that just kind of defy categorization. Thanks for checking it out.

Darktown Strutters Ball . . .where context is important

The song Darktown Strutters Ball has always puzzled me. Not so much the song itself, which we’ll get into, but rather the term “Darktown.” Yet context makes a difference as you’ll hear when you start my show (click the arrow in the box below).

First, thank you Azizi Powell, a blogger that chronicles African American culture, for her hard work in pulling together the information about this song that allowed me to be comfortable enough to feature it on my show. Here’s her article.

Shelton Brooks

Shelton Brooks, a Canadian-born composer who settled in Detroit, wrote some great hits, back in the day when music success was measured by how many sheets of the music you sold. Darktown Strutters Ball sold over three million copies. But coming out at the infancy of recorded music, the song was an early hit for the Original Dixieland Jazz Band — the all-white New Orleans band that capitalized early on what is not-so-arguably an African American creation.

Ms. Powell’s research indicates that there most likely really was a “Darktown Strutters Ball” and it was, as the lyrics suggest, a coveted ticket to have. Like any good song, the listener can find many reasons to associate with it. The opportunity to get dressed up and go out on n the town. The date night. The dancing.

Using the word “darktown” to refer to a community of color is not appropriate. But in the context of this song it seems to be okay, though some bands have chosen to not use the term in the song. Which is okay too. It’s a song with a catchy melody, danceable beat and the chorus has a great vibe to it. I won’t belabor this point because you should either listen to my show or read Ms. Powell’s article (or both!).

You will hear five versions of the song. And I was showing some restraint. I feature Treme Brass Band, Gerald French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, the Young Olympians and Lena Prima. But you’ll also hear other songs, several about dancing, as well. Thanks for tuning in and consider subscribing. Cheers.

Trombone Shorty – New Orleans music past, present & future

He grew up in the tradition but has charted his own musical path.

Today is Troy Andrews’ 34th birthday — a millennial musician, singer, songwriter and children’s book author who has been able to amass a considerable play list that represents the past, present and, I hope, the future of New Orleans music. Today it’s all about Trombone Shorty on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa. (Recording of the show below).

According to the Trombone Shorty website, Andrews got his nickname when he picked up his instrument at four. His older brother, noted trumpeter James Andrews, gave him the tag. “My parents pushed me toward trombone because they didn’t need another trumpet player.”

Trombone Shorty with his band Orleans Avenue closing out the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — an annual tradition. (Photo by Tim Sweeney)

The moment was memorialized in a legendary 1990 photo (with a great story to go with it) from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Bo Diddley was performing on stage when the crowd deposited before him a four-year-old boy barely hanging on to a trombone. When Trombone Shorty blew his horn on that stage with Diddley’s mouth agape, it was tantamount to King Arthur pulling a sword out of a stone in terms of creating a New Orleans music legend.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (Photo by Tim Sweeney)

On today’s show, you’ll only hear three songs directly attributed to Troy Andrews — which is the limit that federal law places on me when I stream a show. However, every song you’ll hear until the last one is a song in which he performs. This means the show includes Dr. John, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint, Lenny Kravitz, Mindi Abair, Rebirth Brass Band, Los Hombres Calientes, The Soul Rebels, Hot 8 Brass Band, Stanton Moore, Lakou Mizik and the To Be Continued Brass Band. As well as his own band Orleans Avenue.

Andrews has not forgotten his community now that he’s an international star. He founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation which provides professional support to budding musicians in New Orleans and he’s the author of two children’s books that details stories from his childhood. The self-titled first book tells the story of how he got his nickname and received a Caldecott Honor Book award.

Thank you for listening to the show. Please consider subscribing to my blog. Cheers.

Gumbo YaYa's Top 10 New Orleans Records of 2019

This year’s top 10 selections run a range of New Orleans music with jazz, brass band, blues, R&B, Latin rhythms and African beats. And for lagniappe, you’ll meet my sons who extended their Christmas visit home to include hanging out with me in the studio when we aired this show on Boxing Day. (Just click the sideways arrow below to get started.)

Me with Riley and Devlin in the KAOS air studio.

Today’s show features selections from the 10 records I enjoyed playing the most this year. But the real treat for me was being in the studio with my son’s Riley and Devlin. As always, I edited this version of the program by removing KAOS announcements. So some of the freewheeling conversation is lost but I did manage to keep some of our chatter in. The show also airs in Bellingham on community radio station KMRE on Friday nights.

The show starts with “World Without Music by the To Be Continued Brass Band. Below are brief descriptions of my favorite records for this year.

To Be Continued Brass Band – TBC II – This band has a history that IS New Orleans. And they seem to be making it on their own terms. No label. No Website. No liner notes or anything but a logo on their CD. Lots of friends help out though including J’Wan Boudreaux (Cha Wa), Glen David Andrews, DJ Action Jackson and Erion Williams (Soul Rebels).

Kid Eggplant And the Melatauns – Big Trouble in Little Chalmette – Can you say “Party Record!” Listen to your vegetables, they’re good for you. I can’t believe my luck in stumbling across this record. It’s a creative mix of R&B, doo-wop, blues slide (with frog sounds), and retro 80’s rocks (“snip snip”).

Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie – What Had Happened Was. . . – Dr. Brice Miller, of Mahogany Brass Band fame, has created a time machine and a mythical savant to transport the hipness of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans’ early jazz days into the funkified vibe of today. Each song is introduced with a story using the opener “What Had Happened Was. .” I’m so delighted to introduce you to one of the greatest . . .

Smoking Time Jazz Club – Contrapuntal Stomp – The band lives up to its name with 16 tracks of traditional jazz numbers that can heat up the dance floor. This journeymen band of talented musicians do more than revive; they reinvigorate. If the only thing this record did was introduce me to Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, it would still be on my top 10. (if you go to the link, be sure to catch at least half of the two-minute video of this amazing dancer.)

Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Released by Smithsonian Folkways in honor of the festival’s 50th year, this five CD set offers a historic sampling of the diverse music styles that have graced the many Jazz Fest stages over the years – focusing on the local artists who have made his festival so exceptional. A lot of care was taken to showcase the sweep of talent that has graced the dozen or more stages of the festival during the last half century.

Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist -Her third release, proficient in Haitian creole, French, banjo, guitar and cello, she continues the city’s tradition of creatively blending and bending musical genres while continuing to creatively community her message of social and economic justice. Plus she’s got a wonderful voice.

Craig Klein sings and performs with Bonerama.

Bonerama – Bonerama Plays Zeppelin – Zeppelin with New Orleans funk and rhythms. It’s a reverent yet original adaptation of the band’s hits except with trombones as the lead voice and Matt Perrine’s magical sousaphone handling the bass line.  Be sure to catch “Heartbreaker” where Perrine defies gravity with his instrument.

Alexey Marti – Mundo – This Havana-born and New Orleans-based percussionist second release showcases his 15 original songs which include samba, bossa nova, ballad, and salsa — demonstrating new depths to this highly respected and in-demand musician. His record features musicians from New York, Spain and Cuba and flows smoothly through your ears like a morning cup of cafecito.

Bamboula 2000 – Cuba to Congo Square – For a quarter century, this band has been keeping the spirit of Congo Square alive. If you’re searching for the connection between New Orleans jazz rhythms and Africa, this latest release will help you find it it with rhythm’s from djembe, congas, talking drums, bata, atumpan, shekere, dun dun, and fontonfrom. 

Smoky Greenwell – Blues and the Power of Peace – Holding down the blues end of this year’s list is journeymen New Orleans musician Smoky Greenwell. This is the perfect apology gift for going ballistic on your Trump-voting relative during the holidays. The latest record by this New Orleans blues harmonica (and saxophone) player strikes enough of a conciliatory note without surrendering a single political point. Get out and vote, baby!

How New Orleans shaped my view of Christmas

First memory of snow in New Orleans melds with this year’s Holiday music show.

My earliest memories of Christmas are from New Orleans. (Psst. You can start the show and still read the rest of this post.)

A popular New Orleans drugstore chain.

My Dad unsnarling lines of C-9 colored bulbs for draping on our second story porch railing on our Nashville Avenue home in uptown New Orleans. The scotch pine tree decorated in the downstairs den. Radio announcements of sightings of Santa Claus and his reindeer flying over the Falstaff Beer sign. Last minute shopping at the purple glowing Katz & Besthoff. Cruising St. Charles to see the mansions and their holiday displays and lights. And the ever present wish for snow in a climate where 50 degrees Fahrenheit seems cold.

Nostalgia is as much a part of my Christmas as mistletoe and Amazon boxes. I suppose its a longing for that period of innocence when I believed possible a boisterous, jovial superhero could disperse presents to all the good children in the world.

This year’s holiday show includes a wistful set on snow in New Orleans, starting with the Radiators, particularly their keyboardist and songwriter Ed Volker, singing about their first experience with this rare occurrence in the subtropics. “Who can forget that feeling. . . the snow gently falling.” If you have lived in New Orleans when it snowed, it is not something you tend to forget.

For me, my first snow meant a rare sighting of my Dad during the daytime. My father grew up in New York City and Newark, got his doctorate in Cambridge at M.I.T. But he had lived in the south most of his professional life. As a Tulane administrator in the 60’s, my Dad was doing the Don Draper thing, working long hours in an office setting where smoking and drinking were the norm. But that afternoon when the snow fell, he came screaming home in our Rambler station wagon, the thin accumulated snow muffling the crunch of the oyster shells on our backyard driveway.

Early 1958. I don’t remember this pitiful New Orleans snow. I’m in the stroller.

He brusquely told me to grab gloves and get in the car while he collected a few items including a shovel, carrot and old fishing hat. He drove us to Audubon Park — home of Monkey Hill referenced in Allen Toussaint’s song “The Day It Snows on Christmas.” There we attempted to create a snow man. It was a pitiful sculpture, melting pretty much as we were making it. He apologized for the quality of the snow. But you’ll have to excuse me if I get just a bit choked up thinking about my father standing with melted snow wicking up his nice trousers, full of good intentions, most likely carrying his own early snow memories and having just exerted himself more than he had since he hung those damn porch lights during the holidays. Writing this reminds me that part of why I do this show is because of him.

I wasn’t living in New Orleans when I started building Christmas memories like the one Aaron Neville sings about in “Such a Night.” Those involve my partner of over 40 years, who I share the life-changing adventure of moving, right after graduation, from the South to the Northwest and making our home cozy using cinder block shelves, reclaimed furniture and homemade tree ornaments. Yes, we reversed my Dad’s life direction moving to where the winter nights are long and cold, and snuggling feels so good.

John Boutte’s “Holding You This Christmas” and Marva Wright’s “Stocking Full of Love” drive that loving feeling home for me. That set finishes with the very special song by Kelcy Mae, written in the year that same sex marriages became the law of our country. However, her song is universal for any couple who has had to split their holiday time with extended family. Watching this song’s music video that includes crowd sourced marriage pictures from that year is a new holiday tradition for me.

Today’s show has a few traditional holiday songs done in classic New Orleans fashion and, as you might expect, some not-so traditional songs done in contemporary New Orleans fashion. I hope it holds your interest and perhaps triggers a memory or two. My best to you during this season of long winter nights. Hold someone you love close and keep the radio turned on. Cheers.

A trip to Haiti with this show

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band kicks off this week’s show with “It Ain’t What You Think.” Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Get it started to find out.

The next set starts with a 2019 New Orleans record that I didn’t have a chance to get to during last week’s show of 2019 in review. Lakou Mizik, from Haiti, recorded their latest album HaitiNola in New Orleans and I play a track featuring Leyla McCalla, a singer/songwriter with strong family ties to Haiti. The set carries on with another new release by The Electric Arch and a Latin number by The Iguanas.

The show carries on swinging from funk, jazz, R&B and zydeco — accented with a tasteful number of winter holiday songs. This show includes a jazzy cover of “Wang Dang Doodle,” a new song by the Soul Rebels, the Sailor’s Hornpipe with Alex McMurray’s Valaparaiso Men’s Chorus and a raunchy cover of “Ooh – Poo – Pah – Doo.”

Thank you for tuning in.

Celebrating Craig Klein birthday – and more

You can “Shake Your Rugulator” on this week’s show but you’ll need your imagination to know what you’ll be vibrating. I celebrate the birthday of Craig Klein — a very busy New Orleans trombonist who wrote and performs the eight minute song.

About a dozen years ago, while attending the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, I couldn’t help but notice that a tall, blond, mop-headed trombonist kept appearing on stage – there’s a lot of stages and bands at Jazz Fest and yet, there he would be. Once I learned his name, Craig Klein, I found that he was an in-demand horn player beyond the Crescent City. You’ll hear his horn on recordings by Harry Connick, Jr., R.E.M. , Tori Amos, Eric Burdon, Calexico- just to name a few But as a New Orleans resident and native, he’s also on a lot of local recordings as well.

On this show, you’ll hear him talk about how he and co-founder Mark Mullins came up with the concept of their long-standing project Bonerama – which features three trombones and the lead voice of the gand. You’ll also hear him sing and perform on his own songs.

There’s more to the show but why ruin the surprise. Just keep listening and consider subscribing.

Gumbo YaYa goes All Funk

Funny how the term “funk” can refer to a sad mood, a stinky fridge or music with a dance-able groove. Today’s show is all about the groove and to hear proof, get the show started by clicking the arrow below.

While James Brown is recognized by many as the Father of Funk, there are arguments that this groove-based music is derived from New Orleans Second Line rhythms. Here’s one. And another .

Whatever, New Orleans is a great place to catch funk and you only have to listen to this show to get some idea — from the pre-funk DNA of Professor Longhair to the fresh dance grooves of Erica Falls, New Orleans will keep you moving.

Naturally, the show starts with a couple of tracks by The Meters, the New Orleans group most associated with funk music. But we follow that up with Chocolate Milk, Galactic, George Porter Jr. (bass player for The Meters) and Betty Harris.

Later you’ll hear from Dr. John, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Erica Falls and much more.  

According to one source cited in Wikipedia, New Orleans R&B drummer and member of the famed Wrecking Crew Earl Palmer  coined the term funky’ to explain to other musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable. Or perhaps the term funk music comes from “Funky Butt” — the Buddy Bolden inspired song about dancing so hard that the room begins to get . . .well funky. Hope your funk today is of the sweet dance-able groove kind and not the other.

All Female Ya Ya 2019

You’ll hear some damn good singing on this week’s show- most likely related to the all-female cast of the show.

Just as she did last year, Ingrid Lucia kicks off this show of women vocalists and bandleaders– this time by leading us on a “Bourbon Street Parade” from her 2010 Live from New Orleans record.

Meschiya Lake

Meschiya Lake follows with her invocation “I Believe in Music” from 2013’s Fooler’s Gold. Lynn Drury then takes us straight to the heart and heartache of New Orleans’ live music scene with “Frenchmen Street” from Sugar on the Floor. Dana Abbott anchors the first full set with “You’re Mine.” By that time, resistance is futile.

The second set will get heels a flying with Doreen Ketchens, Albanie Falletta and Marla Dixon’s Shotgun Jazz Band. The exercise will be good for you for the following set will definitely give you pause.

The set begins with a funeral march that seems to get more optimistic as it progresses until Aurora Nealand’s intones “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The beat and swing builds up to a great drum solo. The song is “Flee as a Bird” — a hymn with the song credit given to Mary Dana — a song catcher who worked South Carolina church scene in the mid-19th century. Bon Bon Vivant’s poet laureate, songwriter and front lady Abigail Cosio takes it from there with “Old Forgotten Tune.” While her band can rock you, this song is just her guitar and voice singing a story of loss and how music and memories entwine. The song was inspired by a cowboy poet line she read in the library at the Will Roger’s Historic Park. This set ends with “Harm”– the first track from Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s new release Farewell, Doomed Planet! which “is about the apocalypse. And Chernobyl wolves. Pollution. And space travel. Existential dread. And whales. ”

A Lafayette-style set follows with Yvette Landry, Bonsoir Catin and Sweet Cecilia with a well-placed serving of Gal Holiday. Later you’ll hear Linnzi Zaorski’s take of the Andrew Sisters hit “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” — a song from a 1930’s Yiddish musical that was also oddly a hit in Nazi Germany until authorities got wind of its Jewish provenance.

Leyla McCalla, Debbie Davis, Carol Fran, Tank and the Bangas and the Original Pinettes Brass Band (New Orleans only all-female brass band) take a turn. Margie Perez, Little Queenie and Shawn Williams bat clean up.

Thanks for listening and please consider subscribing.

Honoring Day of the Dead amidst KAOS pledge drive

My show did two laps on the KAOS Fall Pledge Drive so I skipped posting up last week’s show but trimmed this one down to the usual chatter and the music. Get it started an read on.

This show features my usual seasonal favorites by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (Swamp Ghost) and “Morgus the Magnificent” by Dr. John, Frankie Ford and Jerry Byrne. But I also honor those who passed to the other side tis year, including Dr. John, Spencer Bohren, Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal, Art Neville and Dave Bartholomew. (links are to tribute shows aired earlier in the year when they died).

You’ll also hear Juli Kelen’s voice helping me on this show. Juli’s youthful voice and energy belie the fact she has been actively involved in KAOS from almost the beginning in the 70’s. You can support free-form community radio by donating online at http://www.kaosradio.org. Thank you for tuning in.