Partly because I’m at the age where I know more people who are dead and partly because the pandemic is helping to increase that number for all of us, the Day of the Dead holds more meaning now. While the playlist for this show is similar to past Day of the Dead (Halloween) shows, the vibe (my vibe) has definitely changed.
The show kicks off with a riff on “St. James Infirmary” by Wendell Pierce playing the character of Antoine Batiste in the HBO series Treme. Batiste is waiting in the Touro Emergency Room when he does his impromptu singing, accompanied by an anonymous slap beat on a tin waste can.
What follows is music about death including a Preservation Hall Jazz Band version of “St. James Infirmary,” King Oliver’s “Dead Man Blues,” Treme Brass Band’s “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead,” Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “All My Friends are Dead” and Spencer Bohren’s “Ghost Train.”
That theme rolls into the next set with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “White Ghost Shivers” and a fascinating song called “Seven Skeletons Found in the Yard.”
After the first hour, its voodoo time with the help of The Neville Brothers, Spider Murphy, Charles Sheffield, Sunpie Barnes, and Benny Turner.
One of the highlights of Dr. John’s send-up record of Louis Armstrong is his duet with Shemekia Copeland “Sweet Hunk o’Trash.” The song caps the opening four-song set that also features piano players Amasa Miller, Jon Cleary, and Henry Butler.
When you start the player above, Walter “Wolfman” Washington will kick it off with “The Big Easy” — a showcase of his guitar and malleable voice, backed up by a solid horn section — making it clear you’re about to listen to two hours of New Orleans music.
Charmaine Neville kicks off the first set with “Can You Tell Me” a sweet, sultry number co-written with her percussionist Gregory Boyd doing a steel pan solo. Helping out are Amasa Miller on piano, and Reggie Houston on saxophone and I think the whole band chimes in on the chorus. Henry Butler percusses his way into that song’s closing vibe with his rhythmic “Henry’s Boogie.” Jon Cleary slows the tempo down a bit while still staying funky with “Oh No No No” and then Shemekia and Dr. John cover Hunk o’Trash . They make it uniquely theirs but in case you were curious about the Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday version, here it is.
Free Spirit Brass Band ramp it back up in the second full set with “Red Dress.” The unique project by New Orleans producers Steve Reynolds and Scott Billington of remixing Alan Lomax field recordings with studio musicians and rhythms follows.
Frustrated by the Congressional deadlock? Perhaps you’ll dig Smoky Greenwell’s latest single “Filibuster Blues.” With songs like “Progressives Unite” and “Get Out and Vote,” Smoky has been putting his politics where his sax and harmonica is — well except he still plays those, and sings. If you don’t want to here it on my show, try it on Soundcloud.
Rebirth Brass Band, which is performing in the Northwest this weekend, do “Who’s Rockin’, Who’s Rollin’?” followed by The Radiators “Long Hard Journey Home” (the version recorded for the Treme TV Show).
Also on the show: Danny Barker, Albanie Falletta, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Sarah Quintana, Dash Rip Rock, David Egan and the Olympia Brass Band. Thanks for tuning in.
Earl King addresses some of the reason’s why I do this show in the kick off song “No City Like New Orleans.” But hang on to your ear buds cause its my usual meandering ride through the city’s musical corners.
In recognition of the second cancelled New Orleans JazzFest, Kenny Neal starts the first full set of this week’s show with an original song that flows into a Jimmy Reed medley. Neal apprenticed with Slim Harpo, Buddy Guy and his own blues musician father Raful Neal. He’s been inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and recently won the Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year. I put his 13-minute track up front on this show so that if you’re short of time, you’ll at least catch this unique live performance at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Marva Wright and Bobby Rush round out that set.
The second set is a classic Gumbo YaYa mash up featuring Ted Hefko with a country-style number “My Life in Bars” followed by Bamboula 2000 and a Haiti sendoff by Cyril Neville. Then, I take a hard left turn by The Electric Arch that somehow goes really nicely when followed by Michael Doucet. Five distinctly different acts whose songs seem to flow well together. Either that or I inhaled too deeply on my way to the studio (. . .just kidding, its against KAOS rules).
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was primarily an East Texas-West Louisiana musician but he was living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina and his music is so brilliant, I can’t help but gravitate to his vast library when planning a show. You’ll hear “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” where he demonstrates his talent on guitar and violin. The Zion Harmonizers follow that with “My Record Will Be There” along with John Fohl’s “Do or Die” and John Fogerty’s recast of “Proud Mary” with Jennifer Hudson sharing vocals and Rebirth Brass Band backing them both up. (Just an hour into the show and its worth the wait)
If you’re still listening by then, thank you and perhaps Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales will be a good reward, along with Colin Lake, Clifton Chenier, Rosie Ledet, Little Queenie and Louis Prima . . .to name a few. Thanks for tuning in. If you like or not like something. . . LET ME KNOW!
This month’s Gumbo YaYa Dance Party takes a 10-song dive into stomps. Within the first half hour, you will stomp through Mobile (Shotgun Jazz Band), Fort Worth (Aurora Nealand), Mahogany Hall (Louis Armstrong),Shreveport (Smoking Time Jazz Club), Louisiana (Clifton Chenier), a Roadhouse (Matt Perrine) and a Big Pasture (Hackberry Ramblers).
But perhaps the most significant “Stomp” I share is by the piano player who helped fuel the craze. You’ll hear “Black Bottom Stomp” by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers — a band assembled by the maestro in Chicago from New Orleans musicians fleeing north during the Great Migration in the 1920’s, including Kid Ory on trombone and Johnny St. Cyr on banjo.
But its a dance party, so I move on to “boogies” such as Benny Turner’s “Mojo Boogie,” C.J. Chenier’s “Zydeco Boogie,” James Andrews “Banana Boogie” and Ghalia & Mama’s Boys’ “Hiccup Boogie.”
Shamarr Allen ramps it up further with his kick-ass version of Taylor Swift’s “Shaking It Off” and Corey Henry maintains the sweaty momentum with “Tell Ya Mama Nem.” You’ll also hear Earl King, the Explosions, Benny Spellman, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and three live danceable performances by Flow Tribe, Midnite Disturbers and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes.
Thanks for tuning in, limbering up and shaking your money maker. My best to you and I’ll check in with you next week.
Lakou Mizik, a Haitian band, recorded HaitiNola in New Orleans to celebrate and highlight the city’s shared cultural heritage with New Orleans. That shared experience dates back to the early 1800’s when the first and only successful slave rebellion in the Americas resulted in the formation of Haiti, scattering French refugees and their slaves and some free people of colors throughout the Caribbean. As luck would have it, a large portion, roughly 10,000 people, ended up in New Orleans doubling the size of the city and changing it forever.
This public radio podcast goes into greater detail on the history and the shared architecture, art, food, language and music that evolved from this cultural infusion to the city. In this week’s show, you’ll hear Lakou Mizik perform with King James and the Special Men followed by tracks from Bamboula 2000, Sunpie Barnes, and Fredy Omar. Apparently, the U.S. has a tradition of diplomats resigning over its treatment of Haiti, dating back to Fredrick Douglass who would later say “Haiti is Black, and we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being Black.” That was in 1893 and it seems that things have not changed.
This week’s show has very little New Orleans style jazz. Near the end of the show, you will hear Haruka Kikuchi‘s wonderful rendition of Salty Dog, including some lyrics sung in Japanese, that she does with Shake’Em Up Jazz Band. But its stands nearly alone in the hot jazz category. Instead, you’ll hear Egg Yolk Jubilee getting loud with “Black Drawers,” Garage a Trois fusing it up with “Calm Down,” and George Porter Jr. funking it up with “Nice, Very Nice.” Also, I feature two songs by The Soul Rebels who will be performing in Olympia and Seattle in February 2022.
I also need to say a little bit about the New Orleans band Bonerama mostly so I have an excuse to display this gratuitous photo. The band is still active though with fewer trombonists and more clothing. On this show, you’ll hear the band’s performance of “Blues for Ben.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Over the course of hosting a KAOS radio show, I’ve done a number of shows dedicated to Hurricane Katrina, using the music from New Orleans to highlight aspects of this catastrophe so change the city. Here’s a summary.