Artesian Rumble Lands on Frenchmen Street

Thank you Anch for covering my show yesterday.  I’ve been in New Orleans with some of the members of the Artesian Rumble Arkestra. This activist Olympia band is a regular participant in HonkFests and I’ve had the honor of being allowed to tag along with them as they journey into the birthplace of jazz.  Two band members in attendance are also air show hosts on KAOS – Juli Kelen and David Moseley.

One of the highlights of the trip here is to experience the Black Men of Labor parade this Sunday and this afternoon we will meet with two of the founders – Fred Johnson and Benny Jones.  Some brass instruments were brought down to donate to the youth music programs, Roots of Music but before handing the instruments over, some of the band members took the instruments on a test run outside where we are staying which just happens to be on Frenchmen Street. Other band members accompanied them with instruments they brought from home or improvised with trash can lids and a bicycle bell.

The last few nights, we’ve been going to the Frenchmen Street clubs to catch music both in the clubs and on the street.  Well, today, about 10 blocks from that scene but still on Frenchmen Street, the Artesian Rumble Arkestra made its New Orleans debut.

2015 created great opportunities to explore NOLA music

I use this blog as way to prepare for my radio show on the Olympia community radio station, KAOS. Here’s some of the things I learned this year.

New Orleans "Professor" Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint was a featured “professor” in my ongoing series of New Orleans piano players.

Fascinated by the role of the piano in New Orleans, I started a series on New Orleans piano players that now includes James BookerAllen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington,  and Dr. John. (More to follow).

During the carnival season, I explored the traditions and music of Black Indians of Mardi Gras .  That story led me to write about the importance of African American musicans from New Orleans in creating rock n’ roll.  I followed that up with Fats Domino and the role his performances played in getting black and white audiences to dance to the same beat.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, I provided a personal reminiscence then added a new Mardi Gras experience of bar hopping with the local brass band, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

All You Need Is Love
Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought a “Mardi Gras” vibe to downtown Olympia as part of bar tour on Fat Tuesday.

My entry on New Orleans women in music resulted in one of my favorite radio shows of the year and helped me grow my knowledge of New Orleans music and the many wonderful women who create it.

I chose my Valentines show to dive into the history of the often recorded “Careless Love.”  Later I looked into the history of another New Orleans standard,  L’il Liza Jane. I also tracked down  songs about “sugar” which, as you’ll find, really are not about sweet granules.  I  also explored the Afro-Cuban connection or what Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish Tinge.” (Last year, I wrote an entry on the classic and checkered history of St. James Infirmary.)

One of my more popular entries was about the Galactic tour of 2015 when it played Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. Interestingly, the funk band is playing Seattle and Portland about the same time in February of 2016.

IMG_1454As you might expect, I have several entries on New Orleans institutions, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Preservation Hall, the jazz funeral,  the Freret Street Festival, French Quarter Festival, and the end of smoking in New Orleans nightclubs.

Drawing on my April trip to New Orleans, I wrote about the magnetic pull of New Orleans to young musicians of all genres. I  also shared my experience of touring the currently closed Dew Drop Inn with the grandson of its founder.

The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina inspired a couple of entries, including this one that chronicled the activities of some of New Orleans better known musicians. This entry also has links to my two radio shows honoring that anniversary with music and excerpts from Spike Lee’s documentary.

And I finished off the year, as I did last year, with a short catalog of the 2015 New Orleans music releases featured on my show.  Part 1.  Part 2.

I hope you enjoyed the music and the little bit of information I learn and share. I know I do. Subscribe if you’d like to follow what I learn in 2016. Happy New Year.

 

Olympia marching band rumbles through downtown

The Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought the spirit of Carnival to Olympia last night when it processed through 11 downtown bars for its second annual pub crawl.

artesianpub crawl
Here’s the 2016 Pub Crawl Schedule for Tuesday

News Flash- The band is going to rumble for Fat Tuesday 2016 on February 9 


We caught up with the band at McCoys and in a scene sort of reminiscent from the first episode of Treme when Rebirth Brass Band gathered at a bar prior to a parade, we watched the band regroup and prepare for its assault on Fourth Avenue. But first, they played Iko, Iko.

Artesian Rumble Arkestra marched through downtown and 11 pubs last night, carrying the spirit of carnival with them.
Artesian Rumble Arkestra marched through downtown and 11 pubs last night, carrying the spirit of carnival with them.

Over the next two hours, they worked their way through Obsidian, Eastside Tavern, Le Voyeur, The Clipper, 4th Ave Tavern, and Dillinger’s. Then they turned right toward Budd Bay on Capitol and stopped at the Brotherhood before finishing up at Rhythm and Rye. Prior to us hooking up with them, the band had serenaded drinkers at the Fish Tale Brew Pub and Cryptatropa.

The music was fun and so was the notion of mixing it up. I enjoyed watching the different reactions of patrons as a full blown brass and percussion band entered their space. Not to mention the colorful dancing of Steve Passero. The pool players at 4th Ave whose games were temporarily interrupted took it in stride and danced while the computer-engrossed patrons of Obsidian took a couple of songs to get into the mood. The folks at Clipper didn’t want the band to leave. Too bad we don’t allow “go cups” in Olympia like New Orleans does.

The spirit was infectious, with folks joining the parade as the journey down Fourth Avenue continued.
The spirit was infectious, with folks joining the parade as the journey down Fourth Avenue continued.

It was a prime opportunity to once again experience the liberating effect of music, which affords us the opportunity to lift ourselves out of the moment. The history of New Orleans is very much entwined with music and its ability to nudge us out of our ruts. When Jazz and Rock n’ Roll emerged, traditional power structures were unnerved, partly because the music brought together people of all colors to dance and sing but also because the music’s message was empowering to those who were not expected to have that power.

My favorite venue was the hallway of the Securities building, allowing the band to serenade patrons at Dillingers and Rumors Wine Bar.
My favorite venue was the hallway of the Securities building, allowing the band to serenade patrons at Dillingers and Rumors Wine Bar.

I look at the wonderful folks who comprise the Artesian Rumble Arkestra and I see people who are liberated by their music and the instruments they play. How cool for them (and those in their path last night) to use Fat Tuesday as an excuse to share that love with others.

I know this blog and my show is about New Orleans music but I also live in Olympia where I’m lucky enough to get in the path of Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

I’m on a journey to learn about New Orleans music, consider subscribing using the button on the top right column. Tune in on Monday if you can.

For more Pictures, see Facebook Page.

Holiday videos set the festive mood

This is the first “festive” season for Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa so our collection of holiday music from New Orleans that I can play on the show is a bit limited. But the Internet is a vast resource of holiday cheer. So for this post, I’m sharing some of my favorite New Orleans holiday videos.

I can’t think of a better way to start then the dulcet tone of Aaron Neville doing “The Christmas Song.” 

Luke Winslow King, who released a new CD in 2014, sings in a video posted on the Times Picayune site, “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” with his wife, Ester Rose King. 

Okay, time to crank it up, here’s Bonerama doing “Merry Christmas Baby.” 

What do you want from Santa? If you’re Kermit, you’d like your hometown football team, despite their 6-8 record, in the Superbowl in a “Saints Christmas.” 

A quarter century ago, Benny Grunch and the Bunch did the “12 Yats of Christmas,” a humorous reference to a unique New Jersey-style accent in New Orleans made famous by the novel Confederacy of Dunces (also see my take on New Orleans speak). Some of the New Orleans locales are no longer, but the visuals and song are still very funny. 

Regardless of the season, its not New Orleans unless you can do a little buck jumping in a second line. Take it away TBC Brass Band: 

Paul Sanchez captures a snoutful of holiday spirit with “I Got Drunk this Christmas.” 

I love the way New Orleans music can swing and soothe at the same time. Here’s Funky Butt Brass Band doing “Christmas Time in New Orleans.” 

I’ll close this post out with Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, doing “O Holy Night.”  May your holiday season be bright and happy.  Thank you for reading and listening.  Cheers. 

Cajun Throwdown raises questions about music and food

Food and music go together rather nicely. Or as Satchmo would say: “red beans and ricely.”

I bring this up because on Friday, October 3, I’ll be a tasting judge at the Cajun Throwdown at Centro (formerly Alpine Experience – 408 Olympia Ave NE) starting at 7 p.m. during the Olympia Fall Arts Walk.

Upstart Joe Hyer (left) goes up against the pro, Rodney O'Neill in Friday's Cajun Throwdown.
Upstart Joe Hyer (left) goes up against the pro, Rodney O’Neill in Friday’s Cajun Throwdown.

Rodney O’Neal, barbecue and Southern cook extraordinaire and owner of Barb’s Soul Cuisine, will be challenged by the upstart, usurper Joe Hyer who claims that because he’s visited New Orleans a few times, he can cook like a cajun.  We’ll see.  (I guess I’ll be the judge of that.) It’s all for a good cause with proceeds from food sales benefiting the charitable organization, Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends.

While this is mostly an assignment for my taste buds, I have been preparing my ear buds. After all, this is a blog about a show called “Gumbo YaYa.”

Food about music is fairly boundless.  Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Presidents of the United States’ Peaches, come to mind. But, as usual, I’ll stick to New Orleans music.

Jelly Roll Morton’s name didn’t come from a pastry

The tricky part is what might sound like food isn’t always the case. Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe didn’t take up the name Jelly Roll Morton because of a fondness for sponge cake. The moniker of the piano player who began his career performing in Storyville whorehouses has more do with a woman’s private parts than a pastry. Given that context, I’m leaving his 1923 song, Big Fat Ham, alone.

Similarly, the New Orleans jazz standard “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue”  originally recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five likely has nothing to do with ribs. According to Cab Calloway’s Jive Dictionary, “barbecue” was jive for a girlfriend or beauty.  I imagine Lil Hardin, the piano playing composer of the song and Armstrong’s wife at the time, was thinking she was the “barbecue” that Pops was strutting with.

When Satchmo and his Hot 5 recorded “Struttin with Some Barbecue,” his barbecue was likely his wife, piano player and song composer Lil Hardin.

Dan Raye, who added lyrics to the music years later, took the song at face value. “And mister waiter if you please, Another rib or two. And I’ll go strut, strut, struttin’, Struttin’ with some barbecue.”

Zydeco King Clifton Chenier was more transparent when he recorded, Hot Tamale Baby. There’s absolutely no reason to believe his song is about a starchy food wrapped in a corn husk.

But a classic Cajun song , “Jambalaya.” is about food, right? Well, true, the singer has to say goodbye to Joe (me oh my oh) so he can go see his girl (ma cher amio). But he also waxes rather poetically about “Jambalaya, and a crawfish pie and file’ gumbo.”

While I doubt Hank Williams ever poled “a pirogue down the bayou,” he did manage to capture a slice of cajun life, albeit a caricature, in this often covered song.

I think Professor Longhair got it right when he sang “Got my red beans cookin” in the aptly named song “Red Beans.” Not much to the lyrics except him cooking red beans–which can take some time to do right. I have to say, though, I’m not sure how pure his intent was when he finished with “I’m gonna have all these women, jumping for joy.”

Mac Rebennac became Dr. John with the 1968 debut album featuring “Gris Gris Gumbo YaYa.”

Not surprisingly, songs about gumbo are my favorite. Gris Gris Gumbo YaYa, the first cut off of  Dr. John’s debut album, was partly the inspiration for the name of my radio show. This creole dish is a perfect example of the melange of cultures that come together to form New Orleans cuisine and music.  In a pot of gumbo, you’ll find hints of West Africa, France, Spain, the Caribbean, Germany and Choctaw.

My favorite gumbo song is the quirky “Shrimp and Gumbo” by Dave Bartholomew. At the height of his reputation as a talent scout and R&B music producer, Bartholomew cranked out this little mambo ditty, heavy on percussion (thank you Earl Palmer) and a three saxophone melody reminiscent of the theme song of “I Dream of Jeannie.” Recorded in 1955, Shrimp and Gumbo predates the 60’s TV sitcom. The lyrics are rather limited playing off the fun of singing “mambo” and “gumbo” in tandem.

Well, I’ve given you a “taste” of what to expect on my Monday show (Sept. 29), 10 a.m. to noon (PST) on KAOS, 89.3 FM. But for a real taste, stop by Centro next Friday during Arts Walk for the Cajun Throwdown where you just might find jambalaya, a crawfish pie and file’ gumbo.

Welcome to Gumbo YaYa

I’m Tim Sweeney and this blog is to support a radio show I’m starting on Monday called Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.  I’m incredibly excited as well as nervous.  Nothing like getting what I want and then freaking out about whether I can do it right.

After retiring from a 30-year stint as State of Washington employee on Halloween 2013, I signed up for and took the KAOS deejay training class –which qualified me, upon completion, to host programs on one of the best known and regarded community radio stations in the country. KAOS has been on the air since January 1, 1973 and is located on the campus of The Evergreen State College.  The station uses trained volunteer deejays from the college and the community and offers a diverse free-form radio format.

From the start, I’ve wanted to do a show that would allow me to pursue my love for New Orleans and its music.  I was born in New Orleans and lived there until I was 10.  I went back frequently until I moved to the Northwest 35 years ago and didn’t return until the first Jazzfest after Kartina (April 2006). I’ve been back several times since, always to catch as much music (and food) as possible.

Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa premieres on KAOS, 89.3 FM (www.kaosradio.org) at 10 a.m. (PST).  The two-hour live program will air every Monday after that.  The show will feature  music from and about New Orleans, including blues, jazz, R&B, hip hop, folk, cajun/zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, rock, and everything in between-new and old.

I’m hoping you’ll catch all or part of the show as you can and let me know what you think.   I’ll be using this blog to support that show, provide more details, photos, links etc.

See you on the radio.