Black Music Month – New Orleans Jazz

As part of my month-long celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month, this week’s show is devoted to New Orleans jazz created by musicians of color. Check it out with the player below. (Last week’s show focused on R&B)

Drummer Joe Lastie, a product of New Orleans Ninth Ward and a family of musicians, starts the show with a song he produced with Big Chief David Montana that honors the resilience of the love for New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina survivors. It’s a modern song steeped in the musical traditions that formed jazz.

While the origins of jazz are grist for scholarly debate, one thing is crystal clear to me. The music bubbled up from the creative cauldron of people of color living, working and playing in New Orleans. For more details (without getting scholarly), I like the National Park Service webpage on this topic written in part by Dr. Michael White and Ellis Marsalis. You can read that page while listening to the show which carries on with some of the more well-known pioneers of jazz: Jelly Roll Morton, King Joe Oliver, Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory and Lil Hardin. Okay, so Hardin was from Memphis but she ended up in Chicago with a scrum of New Orleans musicians and she helped whip them into shape, writing and arranging some of the earliest recordings.

You might find interesting this page on Onward Brass Band (also featured in the show) which tells the story of Paul Barbarin, Louis Cottrell, Danny Barker and others in that band. Check out the picture of them drinking (champagne?) with Janis Joplin.

Here’s some pages on my site that might be interesting reading and you can go to them without disturbing your listen to my show posted above.
Louis Armstrong Park
Some Storyville history contained in Basin Street Blues
Danny Barker’s contribution to New Orleans and brass bands
New Orleans dancehalls

Swinging into African American Music Appreciation Month

This week’s show takes a deep dive into the swinging, danceable music that got folks bumping body parts in such a way that it helped create a boom in babies, giving my generation its name. You can listen to this first of my June episodes in celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month using the player below.

As far as I’m concerned, all the music I enjoy is connected directly,or at least indirectly, to African American musicians and songwriters. So its not a stretch to do a month of music featuring exclusively African American artists. This week’s show covers the post World War II music scene in New Orleans where Jump Blues evolved into R&B and then later got called Rock ‘n’ Roll.

After Percy Mayfield kicks off the show with a personal song about returning to Louisiana to settle down, I get down to business with Champion Jack Dupree’s “Junker Blues” a much covered song that served as a basis for several other R&B numbers such as Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man” and Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (You’ll hear all of them.),

Fats Domino (left) and Dave Bartholomew generated a mountain of hits, enjoyed by a broad audience.

You’ll hear some songs that are considered on the short list for “first Rock ‘n’ Roll song” — a designation that will never get settled but is fun to argue about. This means Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and Erline Harris take the radio stage.

New Orleans was a hot bed for the nascent R&B scene. When Dave Bartholomew, no slouch performer himself, got Antoine Domino into the J&M (Cosimo Matassa) studio, he propelled the city into the sites of other record companies who sent their scouts out to find the next star. Smiley Lewis, Larry Williams, Chick and Chuck Carbo and the Spiders, the Barons, Earl King, Larry Darnell, Little Mr. Midnight, Huey “Piano” Smith, L’il Millet, Shirley and Lee all scrambled into the studio and cut 45’s that got folks dancing.

I also do a set of music by the stable of artists who worked with Allen Toussaint Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Eldridge Holmes and Diamond Joe.

When music industry executives adopted the term “Rhythm and Blues” or “R&B” to replace “race music” they probably were just trying to make the marketing term less offensive to African American audiences. But it also set the stage for a crossover to white audiences. Fats Domino, whose shows resulted in white and black audiences dancing together (and sometimes causing problems as a result) was the first big crossover African American artist.

But it seems like it was Little Richard, sent to New Orleans by Specialty Records, who blew the doors open. Little Richard didn’t record the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song but after “Tutti Frutti” and “Rip It Up” (which you’ll hear), the line between Rock and R&B was gone. Domino used to say that what he played didn’t change but but they called it did.

Well whatever you call it, you’ll get almost two hours of it in today’s show in honor of African American Music Appreciation Music. Thanks for listening.