Here’s what one day at JazzFest 2018 looked like

Thank you Anch and Scott for covering my show the last two weeks while I journeyed the length and depth of Florida visiting relatives. My trip started with a couple of nights in New Orleans, including the last day of Jazz Fest.  Here’s some pictures from that day.  Don’t forget to tune me in this Thursday (May 24) to hear these folks.

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Rode our bikes to the festival grounds and saw this control box painted to honor Deacon John Moore

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Original member of the famous Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, Leroy Jones and his group entertained in the Economy Hall Tent.

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Keeping the tradition alive, the Young Pinstripe Brass Band at the Jazz and Heritage Stage

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Nice to see the truck, sad to remember that Mr. Okra died this year.

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George Porter (on bass and tie dye) and his Runnin’ Pardners held down the Gentilly Stage.

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Great opportunity to see the famed Zion Harmonizers in the Gospel Tent

 

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Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue rocked the Acura Stage to close out the festival.

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“Sunny Afternoon” Seemed to Fit the Day’s News

On a day when Amazon announced it was suspending its work on two of its Seattle office buildings in response to a possible city housing affordability tax, it seemed appropriate to play a cover of Ray Davies satirical “Sunny Afternoon.” It’s the second song in the show, right after Shamarr Allen’s opener, so get it started while I explain more about this show.

I love this version by Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers with the sousaphone bass line handled by her husband Matt Perrine.  Matt shows up later in the show with his own project, Matt Perrine and Sunflower City.  Yes, its a sunny day but the song, originally recorded by the Kinks, seems to capture Amazon’s petulant response to the city’s modest attempt to try to get the $700 billion company to take some responsibility for the housing shortages in Seattle.

Enough politics, let’s talk immigration instead.  Anders Osborne moved to New Orleans as youth from Uddevalla, Sweden.  Today, he turned 52 and I play his song “My Old Heart.” The Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “Ruffian Since Birth” provides a nice follow up to Osborne’s number

Diablo’s Horns offers a silly take on addiction (and seasonal allergies) in their song “The Sneeze” and The Crooked Vines heat things up with “Organ Holler.”  I’m almost done with my sequential march through Marcia Ball’s latest release Shine Bright and perhaps my favorite surprise in this show was finding Bon Bon Vivant’s latest release and playing “Dust.”

Another fun discovery is Mary Flower’s “Main Street Blues” which features Dr. Michael White (clarinet), Washboard Chaz and Matt Perrine (sousaphone).  Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe.  Cheers.

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Latest Gumbo Show Inspired by Spring Festivals

I’ve been a bit giddy this week. The onset of our area’s first solid gesture of  spring coinciding with the start of Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Olympia’s Arts Walk and Procession of the Species  this weekend inspired this show which aired April 26, 2018 on KAOS. The show features very little jazz but a lot of New Orleans which is fitting at a time when Olympia holds its biggest street scene of the year.

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Process of the Species is a unique Olympia cultural experience.

To get ready for that walking, standing and processing,  I start with some hip openers thanks to an opening number by The Meters  followed by Shamarr Allen’s trumpet boogie of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”  Art Neville comes back on with one of his Specialty Records classic rock and roll songs.  Keith Stone keeps it rocking with the title track from his latest release The Prodigal Returns.

I mellow it out later in the set,  with the help of Kelcy Mae singing an Earth Day appropriate song “Mr. Leopold.”  Elvis Costello sings a great Allen Toussaint song, with the composer’s vocal and piano assistance.  To honor Olympia’s unique cultural creation — the Procession of the Species, I played the Brassaholics “They Sew” – a song about New Orleans unique cultural creation the Black Indians of Mardi Gras. This song was two-fer cause it also honored Brassaholic’s trumpeter Tannon “Fish” Williams who celebrated his 43rd birthday that day.

I didn’t hear about the death of Charles Neville till the next morning so I’ll save his tribute for next week’s show.  Please enjoy this one and consider subscribing so you can be alerted to when new shows are posted.

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Just a typical Gumbo YaYa Show

Some times I don’t have an organizing theme for the show and this is one is one of those.  That doesn’t mean it ain’t worth listening to though.

soulIn honor of the Soul Rebels’ tuba player, Damion Francois’s 46th birthday, I start the show with the band knocking out “Let Your Mind Be Free.”  The Young Tuxedo Brass Band keeps the second line moving with Little Freddie King and the Red Hot Brass Band helping out with their own songs.

Speaking of tubas (actually sousaphones), I featured a cover of The Who’s “Magic Bus” with a tuba playing the bass line.  Earl King does “Things I Used to Do,” James Booker does “Classified” and Rebirth Brass Band plays “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”

This week’s show also features “Beau Koo Jack” recorded December 5th 1928 by  Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five. Throw in some Pete Fountain, Marcia Ball, Papa Mali, the Radiators, and some surprises and you’ve got a typical, unthemed Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.  Enjoy.

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A trip to French Quarter Fest and celebration of Johnny Dodds

In today’s show, we take an imaginary, real-time visit to French Quarter Festival happening right now and we celebrate the 126th anniversary of clarinetist Johnny Dodds’ birthday. Here’s the edited version of the show which you listen to while reading this.

IMG_1454Overshadowed by the older and more well-known New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which starts later in April, the French Quarter Festival packs over 300 music acts (roughly 1,700 musicians) into four days starting today.  Celebrating its 35th year, this free festival is the largest showcase of Louisiana musicians with stages scattered throughout the French Quarter. Some of the more well-known acts playing this year include Cyril Neville, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, Little Freddie King, the Lost Bayou Ramblers,  and Amanda Shaw.

And while I do play Neville and the Lost Bayou Ramblers later on the show, I start the show with a real time experience. Through the magic of radio and with a vivid imagination, I take you directly to the French Quarter to the stages and play music by musicians who are performing in real time synchronized to the airing of my show (10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays). This requires precision math on my part since I have to convert the Central Standard Time New Orleans-based schedule to the Pacific Standard Time reality of my radio show.

We start by running over to catch the last song of the Panorama Jazz Band performance on the Big River Stage in Woldenberg Park, before heading back toward the Quarter on Decatur Street to hear Tuba Skinny playing on the Jack Daniels Stage.  And because we can run fast in radio life, we can haul butt over to the Hilton Tricentennial Stage to catch the Preservation All-Stars.

After a little break with showcasing other artists featured later in the festival, we go back to real time with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue performing at the River Stage again. And then we dash to Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage to catch Alex McMurray. During this imaginary real-time tour of the first day of French Quarter Fest, we also hear Banu Gibson.

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Johnny Dodds was born on April 12. 1892 and was part of the first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans.

Later in my show, I honor Johnny Dodds, a first generation jazz musician who performed with Joe “King” Oliver. He and his younger brother, the drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds were part of Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven.  In honor of his birthday (April 12, 1892), this show dives into two versions of the same song that feature dual solos by Dodds.  The songs have different titles and different release dates though they were recorded back to back by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven.

S.O.L. Blues and Low Gully Blues feature Armstrong and Johnny Dodds at their peak, doing technically difficult and brilliant solos. S.O.L. Blues was recorded on May 13, 1927 in Chicago for Okeh records but was not released until Columbia Records got a hold of the collection 15 years later. The original release version went under the title of Gully Low Blues and was recorded the next day, May 14.  Both versions have their merits but I play them because I love the amazing tempo shift that Dodds pulls of during his solo. For more on this, check out Ricky Riccardi’s blog.  I also play a favorite, Dippermouth Blues, recorded by  King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in April 1923, because it contains a famous Dodds solo.

I’ve got other fun stuff on this show including Dana Abbott, Yvette Landry, the Subdudes and Eric Lindell, just to name a few.  Thank you for reading and listening. Please consider subscribing.

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Danny Barker saved and challenged traditional NOLA jazz

This week’s show is about how one musician and his funeral managed to reinvigorate brass band music in New Orleans, encouraging musicians to both challenge and preserve the tradition.

Danny Barker was a little young when the first generation of New Orleans jazz musicians  started performing. Born in 1909 to a family of musicians, he grew up listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and the other greats.

And like they did, he moved away from New Orleans to seek his fame and fortune as a musician. Playing primarily guitar and banjo but also other instruments, Barker went to New York and then later California playing with a wide range of musicians, including Cab Calloway, Dexter Gordon, and Charlie Parker.

dannyHe partnered with his wife Blue Lu Barker and penned songs like “Don’t You Feel My Leg” and they toured and traveled the world.  But when it was time to slow down, they moved back to New Orleans where he took a post as a museum curator, He also continued to perform, often at the Palm Court Cafe immortalized by his classic “Palm Court Strut.”

But it was in fulfilling a request by his pastor and later his very own funeral that would contribute to the city’s ability to keep the jazz tradition alive.

I’ve already written about his role in reinvigorating the New Orleans brass band scene and you will hear a little bit about that and the related  music in today’s show.  But if you keep listening to the show, you will also hear how Danny Barker’s funeral helped set in motion an organization that takes great pride in the New Orleans community’s African and jazz heritage.

bmolToday’s show includes excerpts of an interview with Fred Johnson, co-founder of the Black Men of Labor telling the story about how Danny Barker’s disdain for how jazz funerals were being conducted cause him and musician Gregg Stafford to organize a proper jazz funeral for their hero.  And then how that experience then led them to create the social aid and pleasure club Black Men of Labor.

I hope you enjoy the show.

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Nice mix of blues and jazz close out March

This week’s show features a track from Marcia Ball’s new CD and “Roll With It” from Rebirth Brass Band’s classic 1997 release We Come to Party.  Which is what the iconic New Orleans brass band will be doing in Seattle and Portland in April.  Marcia Ball just finished a two-night engagement at Jazz Alley in Seattle.  Here them in more with this edited recording of my March 29 edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.

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You all should check out “Back Down the Bayou”

Happy Spring!  I didn’t record last week’s show because it was the pledge drive and I always seem to booger up the sound level when I do a pledge drive.  And because of other complications, I won’t be recording tomorrow’s show either.

So I think this is an excellent time to introduce you to Bill Boelens and his wonderful show “Back Down the Bayou” on Baton Rouge community radio WHYR.  Bill’s show airs on Sundays and features roots music with a distinct Louisiana and Southern flair.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill on my last trip to New Orleans. We shopped for music at the Louisiana Music Factory and had lunch at the Camellia Grill on Carrolton. Bill’s quite knowledgeable about regional scene and has excellent taste in the music. I get lots of ideas for my show by listening to his.  Here’s a couple of his latest programs.

By the way, its no coincidence that Bill’s show is also on a community radio station. If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your financial support of community radio whichever one you listen to in your community. If it happens to my station, KAOS Olympa, here’s the link to pledge.

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You Can Fill Your Bucket with New Orleans Music

This post doesn’t have a hole in it but your bucket might. This week’s show has a few stories to it, including one about the first record where you hear Louis Armstrong’s voice, a bloody New Orleans nightclub that gets renamed in song and the birthday of a first rate R&B star whose career was disrupted by the draft and served in Korea.  Start the show (Earl King kicks it off) and then keep reading.

Last weekend during a Northwest sun break, the song “That Bucket Has a Hole In It” came to mind while tossing weeds in the five-gallon buckets we use to garden. Unable to shake the tune, I rolled with it and assembled a two-set program of “bucket” songs for today’s show.

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Louis Armstrong was 25 when he recorded Gut Bucket Blues

The set starts with “Gut Bucket Blues” — the third song recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five but the first to be released and the first to showcase his exuberant stage presence. As Ricky Riccardi eloquently explains in his blog post, the song “contains the first ever glimpse of Louis Armstrong’s personality, in all its glory.”

Recorded in Chicago in 1925, this Hot Five recording includes three other New Orleans expats (Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet an Johnny St. Cyr on banjo) and the future Mrs. Armstrong (Lil Harden) on piano.  As each band member takes a solo, Armstrong yells out encouragement.  By the time he recorded Gut Bucket Blues, Armstrong was a veteran performer on stage and in the studio, having recorded with bandleaders Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson.  But with this Hot Five recording, Louis Armstrong steps out for the first time, demonstrating the style he would take to an international level. There’s more fun details about this song and how it was recorded so I’ll give another plug to author Riccardi’s entertaining blog: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong.

I round out the set with Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s “The Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” and Eddie Bo’s catchy “Check Your Bucket” which while very different from the Prez Hall’s song is certainly connected by lyrics.

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Mixed Bucket of Blood is a bonus track on this album of Little Freddie King;

The second set starts with a gory story involving an early Little Freddie King gig that went horribly wrong. As he explains in this YouTube video, he got a gig at a nightclub for the weekend. And every night, an incident occurred that resulted in someone losing a lot of blood.  At one point, he described taking cover from gunfire behind a juke box.  He memorialized the experience in his song “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”  The song is followed by Dr. John’s very different take of “Gut Bucket Blues” and the Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Bottom of the Bucket.”

Later in the show I do a long set of drinking songs that in song title form reads like this:  Liquor Pang, Drinking Days, Drunk Too Much, Still Drunk, Drink a Little Poison 4 U Die.

Finally, I close with a rousing tribute to Lloyd Price who had five hit R&B songs in the early 50’s before getting drafted into the Army and had to serve in Korea.  I tell more of this story in my Veteran’s Day post. I play one of his hits he cut after returning from the military (“Stagger Lee”) along with “Rock N’ Roll Dance”  and “Come Into My Heart.”

Thanks for listening.

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With Mr. Okra’s death, an end of an era

In Uptown New Orleans where I grew up, the horse-drawn Roman Candy Wagon rolling by was a big occasion.  But that was 50 years ago and rolling street vendors, a long tradition in New Orleans, are pretty much gone.  Before reading the rest of this story, click the arrow below and get Louis Jordan and rest of my show going.

 

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Mr. Okra, aka Arthur J. Robinson, died this month.

My family used to frequent a vegetable vendor who would set up near McMann School at the corner of Claiborne and Nashville.  But apparently over the years, the tradition had died out until all that was left was Mr. Okra. And now he is gone.  Here’s an excerpt from an article by Ann Maloney for the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Family, friends and customers filed through the Marigny Opera House on Ferdinand Street on Sunday (Feb. 25) afternoon to say good-bye to beloved street peddler Arthur J. “Mr. Okra” Robinson, who was laid out dressed just as they might remember him, with his suspenders and, in his hands, a straw hat topped with plastic fruit. His truck keys were looped around his little finger. . .

. . .Arthur Robinson was often called the last of the New Orleans Street vendors because he upheld a tradition of shouting out his wares with “I’ve got apples. I’ve got mangos…,” as he drove through the city streets. It was a tradition that was popular into the mid-1900s in New Orleans. By 2005, Robinson said of himself: “I’m about the only one that really goes around anymore. Most all the old peddlers are dead now, just about.”

It wasn’t just vegetables and fruit.  Louis Armstrong got his start as a musician working with an owner of junk wagon. At age 7, he would blow a tin horn to attract attention as the wagon rolled through the streets of New Orleans.

And apparently the Roman Candy Wagon is still operating (though these days most folks see it on display at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.)

In this week’s show, I include a short interview with Craig Klein, a founding member of Bonerama ,who co-wrote a song dedicated to Mr. Okra.  You’ll hear that song about 15 minutes into the show.  I also feature Louie Ludwig’s wonderful ode to fake news “Troll Factory.”  I have a set on drinking bourbon and whiskey and a Latin-inflected set featuring Los Hombres Calientes, the Iguanas and Los Po-Boy-Citos. And much more.

Thanks for listening.

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