Art dealer’s love of jazz inspires creation of Preservation Hall

Perhaps no single entity has helped keep New Orleans jazz alive into the 21st Century more than Preservation Hall and the band its spawned.

Just off Bourbon Street is a longstanding venue dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz alive
Just off Bourbon Street is a longstanding venue dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz vibrant

Like many great ideas, Preservation Hall started out as a simple solution to an understandable need. In 1952, Larry Borenstein opened an art gallery in an 18-century building that to this day seems to have not changed over the years. It’s location, just off Bourbon Street (726 St. Peter) and its nightclubs, meant staying open late preventing Borenstein from pursuing his other passion: listening to jazz. So he took matters into his own hands.

Borenstein hauled an old piano into his gallery, bought some beer and invited musicians to play for him and his guests and gallery customers. To avoid conflict with the musician union, the sessions were called rehearsals.

In an article, written by Borenstein in the 60’s, he related how the session grew organically.

“The concerts took place regularly.  Punch Miller, back from his long years on the road, brought a band to the Gallery Tuesday nights.  Kid Thomas had a “rehearsal” every Thursday night.  Sundays Noon Johnson often stopped by with his trio.

Preservation Hall became sanctuary for jazz musicians of all backgrounds to play together and keep the spirit alive.
Preservation Hall became sanctuary for jazz musicians of all backgrounds to play together and keep the spirit alive.

“Piano “professors” Stormy Weatherly (sic – Kid Stormy Weather), John Smith (I’m guessing this John Smith) and Isadore (sic – Isidore “Tuts”) Washington often dropped in as did busking guitarists, banjoists and harmonica virtuosos.  Often impromptu sessions got underway just because Lemon Nash dropped in to say “hello” and just happened to have his ukelele with him.”

The informal venue allowed whites and African Americans to mingle at a time when the South still practiced, and enforced, apartheid. Police occasionally raided the jam sessions and hauled the musicians to jail.

“The bands frequently included white and Negro musicians and it was simpler to charge them with ‘disturbing the peace’ than with breaking down segregation barriers.”

The music experience continued to grow though. Eventually, Borenstein moved his gallery next door and in 1961 the venue was officially christened Preservation Hall–an appropriate name for a jazz lover sanctuary.

A couple years later, the Hall’s managers,  Allen and Sandra Jaffe, organized a road tour for Preservation Hall regulars. The success of the the band’s concerts provided additional income for the musicians and helped maintain fan support outside of New Orleans. The band, in various iterations over the last 50 years, has continued to tour, perform and record, building a worldwide audience.

Not a lot of room inside means that every performance is an intimate one.
Not a lot of room inside means that every performance is an intimate one.

The Jaffe’s son, Ben took over leadership of the venue and band. A tuba player like his dad, Ben Jaffe has widened the band’s horizons through collaborations with other artists such as Blind Boys of Alabama, the Del McCoury Band, Keb’ Mo’, Dr. John and Tao Seeger. The band’s latest album, “That’s It,” features all original compositions.

Over 50 years after its forming, Preservation Hall entertains locals and tourists alike from it St. Peters Street location with three 45-minute shows every night. The band is drawn from a collective of musicians, many of whom are descendants of early New Orleans jazz musicians.

You can purchase tickets in advance that ensure a front or second row seat or you can pay $15 for general admission. The performances are acoustic and the venue is small. You might need to stand in line for a while but it will be worth the wait.

Tune in to my next show (listed to a recorded edited version) and you will hear what I’m talking about.

Tuba players key to NOLA music and the next Gumbo YaYa

I doubt the Census Bureau can tell us where we might find the highest concentration of tuba players, but if it could, I’d guess that New Orleans would be near the top.

Just think of all those Second Lines with sousaphone players blasting the beat out over the heads of dancers.

David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia's Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa Monday.
David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia’s Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa Monday.

A quick trivia detour: The sousaphone is the wrap around version of the tuba, making it easier to carry and project sound forward. From what I’ve read, the sousaphone, named after military-band extraordinaire John Philip Sousa was a modified version of  a tuba-like instrument, called a helicon, designed to be played while riding a horse. Tally Ho!

The sousaphone/tuba is on my mind today because the next Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa will be guest hosted by David Moseley. In addition to being the host of KAOS’s world music show Xenophilia, David is the sousaphone player for Olympia’s own Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

In honor of David filling in for me while I screw off on the beach, here are five notable tuba/sousaphone players from New Orleans.

Anthony
Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen is revered in New Orleans.

Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen –  Mr. Lacen was part of Danny Barker’s Fairview Baptist Church band and became a bandleader and mentor to many. Famous for playing the streets, he also toured the world.  Over a decade after his passing in 2004, Tuba Fats is still fondly remembered in New Orleans with a special day of recognition (Tuba Fats Tuesday after JazzFest) and a square named in his honor in the Treme.

Kirk Joseph – Another alumnus of Barker’s band of youthful brass players, Mr. Joseph was one of the founders of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band which reinvigorated the New Orleans brass band sound.  He continues to play today mixing tradition with the contemporary and maintaining his credentials as the hip godfather of brass music.

Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.
Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.

Phil Frazier – Founding member of my favorite brass band, Mr. Frazier, along with his brother Keith, have been keeping the beat for Rebirth Brass Band since 1983. Influenced by the two previously mentioned tuba players, Phil has charted his own territory with Rebirth, laying down funky bass lines for the band that scored a grammy in 2012 with its album “Rebirth of New Orleans.”

Ben Jaffe – As the Creative Director of Preservation Hall, Mr. Jaffe perhaps isn’t always thought of as a tuba player. But that’s what he often plays for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. While his blood directly links him to the small French Quarter venue his parents started in the 1961, his talent has kept this venerable institution and its band from being a museum piece. Ben co-produced the 2013 album “That’s It!” which was the band’s first release to feature completely original music, including Jaffe’s tuba-booming title track.

Matt Perrine – It’s hard to avoid Mr. Perrine if you watch any number of New Orleans acts such as Bonerama and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. But to catch his latest work, check out “Linger Til Dawn” featuring awesome vocals by his wife Debbie Davis and some tasty interpretations of classics like “Sunny Afternoon” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

Toussaint infused New Orleans sound into pop music

New Orleans
Allen Toussaint plays the National Anthem at the Superdome. Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The French Quarter Festival, which showcases local music, could not have scored a better opening headliner this year than with the hometown artist whose creativity has nurtured the New Orleans sound for over a half century. (Listen to the show that complements this post.)

Allen Toussaint was a teenager when he first sat in on Earl King’s band and regularly scored gigs at the legendary Dew Drop Inn.

It wasn’t long before he found his way to the center of the known Rock n’ Roll universe at the time, Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where he laid down piano tracks on recordings by Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, and Aaron Neville. But it was when he joined Minit Records that his creativity became apparent to the world. Using his parent’s living room as rehearsal space and testing ground for new material, he assembled a parade of hit singles by Jessie Hill, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and this blog’s patron saint, Ernie K-Doe.

Ernie K-Doe best recordings were aided by the songwriting, arranging and producing of Allen Toussaint.

As a keyboard savant, Toussaint could accurately reproduce and synthesize the city’s revered legacy of piano professors, especially the style of Professor Longhair. But as a songwriter and arranger, he was able to weave the full panoply of New Orleans rhythms, vocal traditions and spirit into a clean appealing style for the pop market. In fact, he, along with K-Doe, were responsible for the sole number 1 pop chart hit recorded in New Orleans,  “Mother-in-Law.” (A song written before Toussaint was married and had one.)

Later, he started his own record labels providing a platform for local and national musicians to access the New Orleans sound. With The Meters as his studio house band, Toussaint was a key force behind the New Orleans funk sound that developed in the 70’s. A prolific songwriter, his music has been performed by The Rolling Stones (“Ruler of My Heart”), The Who (“Fortune Teller”), Bonnie Raitt (“What Do You Want the Boy To Do”), Devo (“Working in the Coal Mine”),  Al Hirt (“Java”), The Doors (“Get Out of My Life Woman”),  Jerry Garcia (“I’ll Take a Melody”), Glen Campbell (“Southern Nights”), Robert Palmer (“Sneaky Sally through the Alley”), The Pointer Sisters (“Yes, We Can Can”) and many more.

Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.
Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.

In 1973, Toussaint had a big hand in producing and performing on Dr. John’s album “In The Right Place.” Two years later, Linda and Paul McCartney moved their entourage to New Orleans to collaborate with Toussaint in his New Orleans studio on their album “Venus and Mars.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. If there’s any question of whether being a senior statesman of New Orleans music has diminished his chops, you need only look as far as his grammy-nominated, post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello, “The River in Reverse,” for evidence that at 77, he still has it.

In addition to being a producer, bandleader, arranger and songwriter, Toussaint is an accomplished pianist and stands with the great New Orleans piano “professors.” Toussaint will take the stage at the French Quarter Festival on April 9 at 3:45 p.m. but you will be able to catch his music on my next show this Monday. (Here’s the recorded show)

Five things to know about the New Orleans Jazz Fest

I originally posted this in 2015 but have updated it so the links are still good and the information is relatively ageless.

It’s never too late to make plans for Jazz Fest.  If you accept this mission, you will join the millions of satisfied music lovers worldwide who have made this pilgrimage during the 50+ year history of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The 1975 New Orleans Jazz Festival Poster

To help you move from idle curiosity into action, here are a handful of things you should know about the New Orleans Jazz Fest. (Also, here’s a later post as to why you might consider visiting New Orleans when it is not JazzFest.)

1. It’s more than Jazz. The festival combines world-class and national acts with some of the best regional music of all types.  There are stages for blues, gospel, zydeco and cajun, world, kids stuff and, of course jazz. On the rest of the stages you’ll see funk, hip hop, Mardi Gras Indian, rock, folk, latin, pop, brass bands, oh heck,  . . look at the  lineup. Not to mention, you’ll have access to Second Line parade demonstrations, excellent food and local crafts.

2. Last weekend in April and first weekend in May. That’s always the formula. This means that the 2020 festival starts Thursday, April 23 and runs through Sunday May 3, with three-days to recuperate in the middle (no festival shows Monday – Wednesday). Go for the day or the whole fest.

New Orleans Fair Grounds is 145-acres. During Jazz Fest, 12 stages operate.

3. Tickets are easy to get at the gate. You can procrastinate and/or be spontaneous. They will have a ticket waiting for you (unless they book the Rolling Stones again). It’s highly unlikely the festival will sell out. It takes a lot of bodies to fill the Fair Grounds Race Course. Day passes are $75 and sold with efficiency at the entry points. You can buy in at advance if you want. But after Ticketmaster takes its pound of flesh, you save less than a price of beer per ticket.  Or you can buy a brass pass and go all seven days.

4. Hotels can be expensive but plentiful; cheaper further out.  It’s over $300 a night to stay downtown/French Quarter. Cheaper further out. If you have a car, Slidell, Metairie or some other suburb is an affordable option. But not as fun as being in close. Since I like embedding in a neighborhood, I use AirBnB. Yes, almost everyone charges more during Jazz Fest.

5. The best shows are not always the “big” shows.  The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage folks always assemble an intriguing top of ticket with big acts such as  Elton John, The Who, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Paul Simon and other big touring acts you can see just about anywhere.  I understand if you have to see one of these. However, if you skew your viewing portfolio toward local legends and masters, particularly those who rarely perform together these days, you will reap even bigger dividends.

The founding members of The Meters performed at 2015 Jazz Fest, from left: George Porter, Jr., Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, , and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste. You can count on unique acts.

Each year, the festival attracts New Orleans centric acts that you might otherwise be able to catch. Try to catch acts that form just for this event (such as musical tributes) or come back together again (the Radiators, Meters)

LagniappeAt some point, you must get your ass in the Economy Hall Tent and shake it.  (Second Line Umbrella optional)Nuff said.

There are lots of other resources for the details, starting with Jazz Fest site.  To hear some of the music that you would hear at Jazz Fest, be sure to tune in on Thursdays.   Also, join me on my journey, learning about the New Orleans music scene by subscribing (upper right side of this page)

Vaudeville Etiquette to grace KAOS studio and Gumbo YaYa

Seattle-based Vaudeville Etiquette will perform live in the KAOS studio tomorrow during my radio show.  While a departure from my usual “Music of New Orleans” format, it will be worthwhile. I guarantee it.

Vaudeville Etiquette, a Seattle-based folk-rock band, will enliven KAOS studio on Monday during Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.

I’ve been wanting Vaudeville Etiquetee (VE) to play in Olympia for some time. They offer an energetic performance style and an awesome repertoire that includes songs from last year’s debut album. Debutantes & Dealers has received positive and broad acceptance from American Songwriter to Northwest Music Scene to USA Today.

I stumbled onto VE  about this time last year at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery  in Winthrop. There was standing room only with barely any breathing space between musician and listener. I was immediately struck by the powerful drummer, the slick pedal steel, harmonizing vocals and the aura of frivolity the five musicians projected. This band was having fun and so was everyone else in the pub.

Bradley Laina, guitar, and Sander Vinberg, bass, go through a sound check prior to performing on the Seattle waterfront last summer.
Bradley Laina, guitar, and Sander Vinberg, bass, go through a sound check prior to performing on the Seattle waterfront last summer.

We came late and the band had worked through most of its original music so for the next set, they played what seemed to be the entire Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac. I can only say you had to have been there. It was a hoot. I’ve since caught them twice live in Seattle, confirming  and exceeding my original impression of their talent.

The band is fronted by vocalists and songwriters Bradley Laina and Tayler Lynn who also play the guitar and accordion respectively. Sander Vinberg handles bass, Matt Teske adds pedal steel and mandolin and Bryce Gourley manages the beat.

I’ve heard VE described different ways: folk-rock, alternative country, neo-folk.  My favorite description is by CMJ.com writers who after noticing the frequent play of Debutantes & Dealers on KAOS, highlighted the band on its website with this: “Ragtag, boot-stompin folk and swaying ballads . . Floating harmonies sing romantic tales to the backdrop of country western, gospel and banjo-pluckin’ folk.”  Yea, what they said.

Tomorrow morning, these ragtag boot-stomping good folks will be getting up early, even for non-musicians, to drive from Astoria (where they’re playing tonight) to the KAOS studio in Olympia. I hope to get them on the air by 11 a.m.  I hope you can tune in for them.

Fats Domino got the world to dance

His hometown and the world mourn his passing on October 25, 2017. Click on my show in honor of his 87th Birthday and read the blog post I wrote in 2015.

Fats Domino turns 87 today. While perhaps debatable everywhere else, in my mind he’s the real King of Rock n’ Roll.  And, he also has his professional DNA in ska and reggae.

“Be My Guest” hit 8 in the popular music charts in 1959–one of four Domino songs that got into the Top 40 that year. Not bad, considering he only recorded six songs.

Fats Domino was not only a major force in Rock n' Roll, he help inspire sk.
Fats Domino was not only a major force in Rock n’ Roll, he helped inspire ska.

“Be My Guest” marked a decade of Domino getting young people of all backgrounds to dance together. And with lyrics like “Come on baby and be my guest/Come join the party and meet the rest,” Domino made it a world dance party.

That dancing was particularly important in Jamaica where disk jockeys held dance parties in the street. As the unofficial northern capital of the Caribbean, New Orleans has had a long history with Jamaica. Island workers would arrive in New Orleans to work in canefields and return home with armloads of R&B records. Many argue that ska developed its rhythm from the shuffle and boogie beats that were emanating from Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans at the time.

New Orleans early Rock n' Roll inspired the Ska rhythm that evolved on the streets of Jamaica.
New Orleans early Rock n’ Roll inspired the Ska rhythm that evolved on the streets of Jamaica.

“Be My Guest” was a huge hit in Jamaica and its 4/4 time with the drummer hitting hard on the offbeat apparently became the foundation of ska.  Its not that Fats was the only inspiration. Professor Longhair, Smiley Louis and other R&B stars of that period were essential. But Domino was top dog, often covered (e.g. Super Cat’s My Girl Josephine) and paid homage in songs like Derrick Morgan’s “Fat Man.”

Bob Marley said reggae started with Fats Domino, according Rick Coleman, author of “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  Whether it did or not, there are lot of people on this planet dancing because of Antoine “Fats” Domino. That alone is worth honoring the day of his birth.

New Orleans funk band plays the I-5 tour this week

Galactic, an ever evolving New Orleans band that tours nationally, will be on the wet side of the Cascades this coming week.

On Thursday February 26, Galactic will take the stage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo before rolling down to Seattle’s Showbox on Friday and finishing its tour of Interstate-5 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday.

(From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.
(From Left) Robert Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Rich Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.

The band formed in 1994 and was inspired by The Meters and other funk bands playing in Benny’s Bar, a long-gone uptown establishment located not more than a football field from where the Nevilles used to live. The band’s original name Galactic Prophylactic was quickly shortened while it led a second wave of New Orleans funk bands.

The first decade, Galactic was powered by the vocals of journeyman R&B and soul singer Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet.  With its jam band tendencies, the group developed a loyal following for its live shows.

While the band has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, the core of the group includes founding members Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Stanton Moore (drums) and Rich Vogel (keyboards). Also, saxophonist Ben Ellman, who produced Trombone Shorty’s first two albums, has been a long-time mainstay of the band.

After the departure of DeClouet in 2004, the band got into producing its own music using loops and samples and invited a wide range of mostly New Orleans talent into the studio with them. Ya-ka-may, probably my favorite Galactic album, includes Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, John Boutte, Katey Red, Big Freedia, and Big Chief Bo Dollis. The first song also includes a sample from the fright night show Morgus the Magnificent.

Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic
Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic

According to reviews of this tour, the band is reaching back to its roots, while still keeping it contemporary. Check out recent releases “Higher and Higher” featuring JJ Grey and “Dolla Diva” with a duet by Maggie Koerner and David Shaw of The Revivalists. For this tour, Erica Falls is handling the vocals — an excellent choice of a New Orleans singer whose talent far exceeds her current public recognition. But perhaps not for long. Here’s an article that got her on the cover of Offbeat.

Erica Falls, a talented New Orleans singer who has performed with Irma Thomas, John Fogerty and Sting, is the lead singer for Galactic on its current tour.

Individually, Galactic band members are highly active musicians and music producers involved in a wide range of other projects, including some with Seattle saxophonist Skerik (who will be in Portland Maine on Saturday). This week’s I-5 tour is an excellent chance to catch them live. But if you can’t do that, I’ll be playing my favorite Galactic numbers on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa on Monday.   (Sneak tip:  I will have tickets to the Portland show to give away.)

Also, consider subscribing (upper right hand column). I write regularly about New Orleans music, particularly as it relates to the Northwest.

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.

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Carnival Season ends with a bang on Fat Tuesday

Happy Carnival, y’all!  (Here’s a glimpse at Fat Tuesday in Olympia)

If you’ve been catching my show, you know that carnival season started on January 6. And it ends on Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday), February 17.  One last blowout before Lent begins. In the last week alone, over 20 parades have rolled through the streets of New Orleans. There are so many activities and traditions encompassed by the New Orleans carnival season, that its best if you go to the source.  To get a feel for a street parade, check out the site’s live cameras.

My family (my Dad's taking the picture) as we head to Canal Street for the Mardi Gras parades.  I didn't get to wear a beret.
My family (my Dad’s taking the picture) as we head to Canal Street for the Mardi Gras parades in the early 60s. I didn’t get to wear a beret.

It’s been a long time since my last Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I was 10 years old. Our family tradition was to camp out at my Dad’s office just off Canal Street and watch the major parades pass.

It was quite a party at the office with a potluck table loaded with fried chicken, gumbo, King Cake and a wide variety of liquor bottles. At that time, in the 60’s, the big  parade on Mardi Gras Day was, and perhaps still is, the venerable Rex. However, the parade was referred to as “formaldehyde on wheels” by a character in the HBO series Treme.

The unique Zulu parade was almost mystical to me at the time, an elusive parade with no printed parade route that tossed coconuts and had ass-kicking music. The Times Picayune and MardiGras.com have done a great job of posting photos and videos of parades during the carnival season and I’m impressed by the intimacy of some of the parades.  They remind me of of my favorite parades that used to roll down Freret Street and Carrollton Avenue. Parade routes are more limited now but even still some of the parades offer that neighborhood feeling–quite a contrast from the Bourbon street image of Mardi Gras often portrayed to the rest of the world.

Big Chief Bo Dollis brought the music and rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians to music lovers everywhere. He died January 20 after a long illness.
Big Chief Bo Dollis brought the music and rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians to music lovers everywhere. He died January 20 after a long illness.

One tradition that continues to grow in awareness is the Black Indians of Mardi Gras. Even with the growth in popularity, its still a lucky person who can catch sight of a Mardi Gras Indian gang doing their thing on the streets on Fat Tuesday. I’ll be doing Mardi Gras and party music in general on my show on Monday.  If you miss the show, you can catch it later and other episodes, on MixCloud.

Until then, “throw me something, mister!”

You can listen to the Mardi Gras show.

Careless Love follows carefree path to our ears

“Oh love, oh careless love, you’ve fly to my head like wine.”

Words of caution during this season of Valentine? Perhaps. But it’s also the opening to another enigmatic traditional song with uncertain origins that has become a New Orleans standard.

Like St. James Infirmary, Careless Love took its form from the 19th Century folk tradition. The song didn’t get locked down until it was recorded in the 1920’s, most notably Bessie Smith’s recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet. Even since then, the song’s lyrics have been malleable, adapted to jazz, blues and even bluegrass.

Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is New Orleans standard today.
Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is a New Orleans standard today.

The song’s strong association to New Orleans is most likely the result of Buddy Bolden who performed the song regularly at the turn of the 20th Century.  Buddy Bolden and his band performed a more bluesier and improvised form of ragtime and inspired jazz pioneers such as Kid Ory, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson who followed.

While there are no recordings of Bolden and his band, there are literally hundreds of other recorded versions of Careless Love, including those by Pete Seeger, Janis Joplin, Lead Belly, Madeleine Peyroux, Big Joe Turner, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

Contemporary New Orleans artists, such Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.
Contemporary New Orleans artists, such as Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.

As for New Orleans musicians, Careless Love has been recorded by Kid Ory,  Sidney Bechet,  Bunk Johnson,  Dr. John,  Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Champion Jack Dupree and the Preservation Hall Band.

Even today, you’ll hear it played on the streets (Tuba Skinny) and in the nightclubs of New Orleans (Miss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat).

And you’ll hear it on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa (probably more than once) this Monday.

Happy Valentine’s Day.