A mostly vinyl New Orleans jazz show

This week’s show offers some rare New Orleans jazz tracks as I dive into the use of the KAOS turntables — revealing in the process some studio maintenance needs. But hey, you probably won’t notice when you use the player below

Al Hirt’s Club on Bourbon Street. It closed in the early 1980’s

There was a time when Bourbon Street was known for its jazz clubs such as Louis Prima’s brother Leon’s 500 Club, Famous Door, Pete Fountain’s Quarter Inn, and Dan’s Pier 600 where Al Hirt performed regularly before opening his own club on the street. Those performances are memorialized by a 1958 album titled “Al Hirt “Swingin’ Dixie!” at Dan’s Pier 600 in New Orelans. You’ll hear two tracks from this classic including Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” to open the show.

I embraced Compact Disc technology. I loved the ease of use, the clean sound and the long play. But I hung on to my turntable and my modest collection of LPs. And as the years have passed, I’ve gradually added to the collection. Reading liner notes are definitely easier with the larger LPs. Somewhere in my record shop dives, I came up with Al Hirt recorded at Dan’s Pier 600.

Autographed copy of Willie Humphrey’s “New Orleans Clarinet”

Back in the late 70’s after my Dad died and I was preparing to move to the West Coast, I wanted to have something to remember him by so I went through his collection of records and selected Bunk Johnson’s 1953 release “The Last Testament of a Great New Orleans Jazzman.” You’ll hear a couple tracks from that somewhat ragged album. You’ll also hear from a handful of other LPs, including Willie Humphrey’s “New Orleans Clarinet” released by Smoky Mary Phonograph Company.

During the show, I noticed that the studio’s Turntable 1 had a disturbing hum and no music coming out of one channel, so I stopped using it. I filled in with CD versions of New Orleans jazz numbers by Meschiya Lake, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Smoking Time Jazz Club, the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, Tuba Skinny, Aurora Nealand and a lengthy Mardi Gras medley from the first album of the band that was titled at that time ReBirth Jazz Band. The result is two hours of music from New Orleans that many folks associate with the city. I’ll get back to funk, R&B, rock and country from the city next week. Meanwhile, enjoy!

Al Hirt, Art Neville, Herb Hardesty and other veterans share their music

As with last year‘s Veterans Day show, this year’s features music from New Orleans area musicians who served in the military. One way perhaps to reduce the chance of war in the future is to give respect to the lives of people who we send off to fight. Whether these musicians saw combat or not, their service in the military often came with a price, some times to their careers. Veterans Day used to be Armistice Day — a celebration of peace. Here’s the link to Veterans for Peace who seek to reclaim this day’s purpose.

This show also features an interview with Kevin Clarke, Grammy winning trumpet player with the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, talking about his friendship with Al Hirt who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. You can listen the interview as part of the whole show (below) or you can just listen to the eight-minute interview segment.

I start the show with a cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Wartime Blues” and then flow into Lee Dorsey’s “Gotta Find a Job” to kick off the first full set of music. While serving on a Navy destroyer during World War II, Dorsey was injured by a Japanese fighter plane attack. After leaving the military, Dorsey returned to New Orleans and learned auto body repair with funding provided by the G.I. Bill. Despite his music success, he continued to work at his shop through most of his life.

R&B pianist and Army band leader Paul Gayten follows with “Nervous Boogie.” Lloyd Price, whose career was short circuited when he was drafted and sent to Korea, offers up “Chee Koo Baby.” Dale Hawkins, who lied about his age and served during the Korean War, sings “Suzie-Q” (yes, the song that later would be a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival) and Ellis Marsalis, a Marine, delivers “Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me)”

The next set is dedicated to saxophonist Herb Hardesty who was a member of the famed 99th Flying Squadron better known as the Tuskegee Airman – the first African American squadron to be deployed overseas during World War II.  You’ll hear him play baritone saxophone on Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” and tenor on a couple of other Domino songs featuring his solos. The set starts with his original song “Just a Little Bit of Everything.”

Kevin Clarke shares his memories of Al Hirt in this week’s show.

Then Kevin Clarke, who won a grammy this year for his performance with the New Orleans Nightcrawlers’ album Atmosphere, talks about making a point to befriend Al Hirt when he first moved to New Orleans in the 1990’s. As part of Clarke’s reminiscence, you’ll hear “Java,” the theme from the “Green Hornet” and “Cornet Chop Suey.” Below is the player for just that interview.

The next set highlights the Navy service of Art and Charles Neville with Art’s “Let’s Rock” along with The Meters “The World is a Bit Under the Weather. Leo Neocentelli served during the Vietnam War but returned in time to contribute his guitar licks to The Meter’s groove. Two Neville Brother songs follow that.

Willie Durisseau and brother Jimmy.

Willie Durisseau is far from a household name but he was an active Cajun fiddler in the 1930’s performing at  House Dances, known in French as bals de maison, held in small towns in the Arcadiana area of Louisiana.  But thanks to Louis Michot, with Lost Bayou Ramblers and Corey Ledet, he was recorded playing the fiddle at age 101. He also served our country and fought in Okinawa – the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theater of World War II. Other veterans in that set include Clarence “Gatemout” Brown, Eddie Bo, Rockin’ Tabby Thomas, Chuck Carbo and Derrick Moss’ Soul Rebels (Derrick served in the Air Force Reserves).

Also in this week’s show: Dave Bartholomew, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Allen Toussaint and Robert “Bumps” Blackwell (who was stationed at nearby Fort Lewis)– all veterans.

I finish with a couple of songs focused on peace, most notably Louie Ludwig’s “World Without War.” Thanks for listening. Please subscribe.

One last Gumbo YaYa encore – All Jazz Show

Next week, I’ll have a new show with my voice recorded in the echoey abandoned bedroom of my grown youngest son. But first one more repeat show – this one featuring All Jazz. Since the show was recorded last September, there will be no reference to yesterday’s loss to complications of COVID-19 of New Orleans jazz great — Ellis Marsalis. I will provide a tribute to him next week on my first original show in a month. Here’s this week’s show.

Smoking Time Jazz Club at The Spotted Cat

Al Hirt was a presence growing up in Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s. He was the godfather of one of the neighbor’s kids that I would play with and my parents regularly visited Hirt’s club on Bourbon Street. He starts off the show with “Jazz Me Blues.” But I mix it up in the next set with Kid Ory, the Smoking Time Jazz Club and Ingrid Lucia.

Dr. Michael White anchors the second set with his “West African Strut” supported by songs by Linnzi Zaorski and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

I get to play my vinyl autographed version of a Willie Humphrey’s album with Sarah Quintana and Lena Prima rounding out the next set. The show rolls on bouncing between traditional New Orleans jazz, some contemporary jazz, a bit of swing and a couple brass band numbers, including “Get a Life” by the Original Pinettes.

Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, who are coming out with a new release, close this recorded show with “Caravan.” However, on the live KAOS and KMRE broadcasts, two lagniappe songs fill out the show to make up for the loss of public service announcements.

I hope you enjoy the show. Next show I hope to feature the voices of some of the musicians I play for you speaking to how they’re doing and how you can learn more about them. If you subscribe, you’ll get an email announcing future shows. Thanks much.

Another show of strictly New Orleans jazz

Every once and a while, I enjoy living up to the stereotypical impression of a New Orleans music show and play only jazz. So if you’re looking for my usual mix of funk, R&B, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, country, rock and all stuff in between. This show ain’t it. But its very listenable – get it started and you’ll hear why.

Smoking Time Jazz Club at The Spotted Cat

Al Hirt was a presence growing up in Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s. He was the godfather of one of the neighbor’s kids that I would play with and my parents regularly visited Hirt’s club on Bourbon Street. He starts off the show with “Jazz Me Blues.” But I mix it up in the next set with Kid Ory, the Smoking Time Jazz Club and Ingrid Lucia.

Dr. Michael White anchors the second set with his “West African Strut” supported by songs by Linnzi Zaorski and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

I get to play my vinyl autographed version of a Willie Humphrey’s album with Sarah Quintana and Lena Prima rounding out the next set. The show rolls on bouncing between traditional New Orleans jazz, some contemporary jazz, a bit of swing and a couple brass band numbers, including “Get a Life” by the Original Pinettes.

I hope you enjoy the show. If you subscribe, you’ll get an email announcing future shows. Thanks much.

Vinyl Gumbo! Can you hear the difference

If you long for LPs then this week’s show is for you. Over an hour of vinyl New Orleans music is waiting to be heard, just click the application below and get it spinning.

hirt fountain vinylI still own the first CD player I bought for my stereo.  And I love it.  I love the ease of playing CDs. I love being able to quickly find the track I want to hear. I like being able to repeat tracks. I love how clean the sound is.  I really don’t miss vinyl.

Yet, I still buy LPs.  And you’ll hear some of them on this show, including Pete Fountain, Professor Longhair, Al Hirt, Willie Humphrey, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Beausoleil,  Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Huey “Piano” Smith and John Mooney.  Nothing like playing a continuous stream of LPs to appreciate the work of DJs before the digital era. It really is a lot more effort playing off of turntables.

But aside from the crackling of the needle contacting the surface, I really can’t tell the difference in the sound.  Perhaps you will.

Also, on today’s show, I honor Eddie Bo’s birth anniversary.  Noted perhaps mostly for his funk, Edwin Bocage was a piano player skilled in jazz and other music genre as well. He was also a talented builder, who even in his mid-70’s was active in rebuilding his home damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  I play a couple of his lesser known numbers in today’s show along with a couple of new releases by Eric Lindell and Keith Stone along with a handful of contemporary female New Orleans artists to offer some gender balance wrapped in very fine music.  Thanks for tuning in.

Gumbo YaYa serving thick in jazz, spiced with Carbo

This week’s show serves up a strong doze of New Orleans style jazz and swing but also country and rhythm and blues, including a classic by Chuck Carbo.  Get it started while I tell you who else is in the show.

Albanie Falletta’s wonderful “Black Coffee Blues” kicks off the show, followed by a swinging love song by Antoine Diel, Al Hirt and his band at his best with “Yellow Dog Blues,” and the amazing Aurora Nealand performing “Touploulou.”

Dee Dee Bridgewater does a duet with Glen David Andrews on “Whoopin’ Blues.” David Egan rocks its with “Dead End Friend” and Eddie Bo does the instrumental “Just Wonder.”

carboStay with the show for Chuck Carbo’s “Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On.”  After a country set featuring new releases by Gal Holiday and Shawn Williams, jazz fans patience will be rewarded  with the Riverside Jazz Collective” “Just Gone” from their new release, Stomp Off, Let’s Go.

Also, this show includes songs by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Larry Williams, James Andrews, Galactic, Dr. Michael White, the Big Dixie Swingers, Bon Bon Vivant, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Quintron.

 

Three years of Gumbo YaYa

Hello.  Today’s show marked three full years of airing a show about New Orleans music in a town over 2200 miles away from the Crescent City.  My thanks to community radio station KAOS and its listeners and supporters for letting me do this show.

Inkedcb_bday_LIThe show kicks off with Theryl “Houseman” Declouet with his infamous introduction regarding the third world status of New Orleans at a Galactic concert and flows quickly into Shamarr Allen’s “Party All Night.”  Al Hirt takes a turn and so does patron saint of this website and the show, Ernie K-Doe, with his classic “A Certain Girl.”  Who is she? Can’t tell ya.  I have reggae and hornpipes, jazz and blues and an amazing live airing of the Radiator’s 7 Devils from the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  It was that concert that cinched the deal for me that I would be coming back to New Orleans as often as I could.

Here’s the edited show from today (September 7, 2017) marking three years.  Thank you for listening.

My Dad’s Legacy: A strong affinity for music from New Orleans!

Just about every time I spin a Satchmo number, I think of my Dad.  I just can’t separate my thoughts of Pop from the sound of “Pops.”

dad-clarinet
My Dad played clarinet up until he entered the Navy in 1943. He played briefly with Tommy Dorsey until the bandleader told him to go back to school. (A story that still made him sad to retell 30 years later)

Jim Sweeney was born in 1923 about a year after Louis Armstrong moved to Chicago to join King Oliver and his band. So he would have been a young pup when Armstrong released his Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. But that didn’t keep him from digging them.

While he held a lifelong passion for Armstrong,  it was most likely Glenn Miller and his way of using reed instruments to carry the melody and Benny Goodman who inspired him as he came of age playing the saxophone and clarinet in the 30’s.

My musical foundation was solidly laid by Dad’s love of music, his stereo and his collection of swing, jazz and big band records. His taste in music became the soundtrack of my childhood.

I wouldn’t have been born in New Orleans if my Dad hadn’t taken a teaching post at Tulane in the 50’s.  As someone who once played with the Tommy Dorsey band, albeit briefly, he must have thought he hit the jackpot when he got that assignment.

My Dad at his organ, next his record player. Later, he would create a wall niche for the organ and shelves for his records and player. He also added central air conditioning.
My Dad (and me) at his organ, next to his record player. Later, he would create a wall niche for the organ and shelves for his records and player. He also added central air conditioning but he still walked around the house in his briefs.

But by then his clarinet was packed away. He bought an organ instead and remodeled the downstairs of our house on Nashville Avenue, just a few blocks from Freret.  There he and my Mom would hold parties, digging deeply into his music collection and inevitably ending up playing the organ or having others play and people would sing and dance. He was a fan of local musicians like Pete Fountain and Al Hirt, and a frequent visitor to their Bourbon Street clubs as well as a new spot called Preservation Hall.

My Dad’s career blossomed in New Orleans allowing him to get to know a wide range of people, particularly those active in labor and justice issues. As a result, our downstairs parties became a safe haven for activists such as Loyola faculty Louis Twomey and Joseph Fichter, Jesuit priests and academics who played a key role in school integration. Other visitors included the poet, John Beecher (“To Live and Die in Dixie”), the journalist John Griffin (“Black Like Me”) and, so I’ve been told, the Singing Nun.

We live in Uptown New Orleans where my Dad remodeled the downstairs with a room designed for music and partying.
We lived in Uptown New Orleans where my Dad remodeled the downstairs with a big room designed for listening, playing and dancing to music.

I was too young to absorb most of this. But I did soak up the music. After we moved away from New Orleans, my Dad still loved to listen to hot jazz and swing. He almost always had music on whenever he was home. But it wasn’t quite the same.

This Monday, I’ll be spinning a lot of music my Dad played in his day and perhaps would have played (more current stuff) had he had the chance.  Please join me.

Happy Father’s Day!

Listen to the show –

Tipitina’s keeps the legacy alive while contributing to the future

Professor Longhair may have memorialized the corner of Rampart and Dumaine in “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” but his memory and spirit live on at a different street corner, Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, in a music venue that bears the name of another of his classics, “Tipitina.”

A bust of Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd) sculpted by Coco Robicheaux stands guard at the entrance of the New Orleans music venue that bears the name of his song Tipitina. – Photo by Alex Brandon / Times-Picayune archive

Rampart and Dumaine is the original location of J&M Studios, run by Cosimo Matassa. The location is recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a landmark site and it’s a laundromat – with mixed but generally positive Internet reviews.

Tipitina’s, on the other hand, is a great example of how cool stuff can happen out of love for music and doing the right thing. Just as Preservation Hall is dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz alive, Tipitina’s was conceived with the notion of honoring the city’s early R&B and Rock ‘n Roll legacy.

When the venue opened in 1977, it’s goal was to provide a public performance space for aging and almost forgotten R&B and Blues artists like Fess (Henry Roeland Byrd), Jessie Hill, Snooks Eaglin, Earl King and others. Tips was born from an act of love by a group of investors who collectively and affectionately became known as the “fabulous fo’teen.”

Neville Brothers in front of the Longhair mural at Tipitina’s. Photo by Leon Morris from the WWOZ website.  WWOZ’s early years were spent located above Tip’s in the beer storage room.

The venue also provided a platform for other local musicians, such as the Radiators, Little Queenie and the Percolators, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Continental Drifters and the Neville Brothers.

Tipitina’s in those earlier years was quite a bit different than it is today.  Music author Jay Mazza described a summer show this way:  “Sometimes it was so humid in the place that the clouds of smoke seemed to be seeded with water.  The smoke hung low in the room. Both bands and patrons alike were soaked to the bone within minutes. A trick learned early on was to bring extra shirts for changing between sets. . . Still everyone loved the place . . there always has been an amazing vibe associated with Tipitina’s.”

While the venue provided many great musical moments in the late 70s and early 80s, it struggled financially and eventually shuttered for about a year and a half. When it reopened in 1986, a major renovation made it far more attractive for musicians and their patrons. The warehouse-like building was opened up, creating a balcony level with higher ceilings, better circulation, improved bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina's the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.
Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina’s the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.

This is a nice example of how some key changes could make an Olympia venue more attractive.

Tipitina’s also kicked up their bookings, continuing to stage local artists but adding national and international acts to the mix, building a worldwide reputation.

To get an idea of the artists who have performed at Tipitina’s, check out its index of musicians, some of whom are honored with additional recognition on the sidewalk outside: the New Orleans Walk of Fame.

Tipitina’s honors New Orleans musical legacy inside and outside with its Walk of Fame.

Another cool feature of Tipitina’s is its Foundation. It’s not every place where you can rock out to amazing music, with the understanding that profits go to support the very music scene you’re enjoying.  The Foundation purchases instruments for Louisiana schools, provides ongoing youth music workshops, offers an after school jazz and digital recording program under the artistic direction of Donald Harrison, Jr. and provides a a statewide network of workforce development and job skills training centers for musicians, filmmakers and other media professionals.

Jazz artist Donald Harrison, Jr. heads up the Tipitina’s internship program.

And you never know what you’ll find at Tips. An Olympia friend told me about how she and her partner on a NOLA visit wandered into the uptown bar on a late Sunday afternoon, ordered a beer and found themselves drawn into a Cajun Fais Do Do.

So next trip to NOLA, put Tips on your list. Until then, you can catch many of the musicians who perform there on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon on your community radio station, KAOS.

There’s more to NOLA than Bourbon Street

Even if you only know a little about New Orleans, you probably know about Bourbon Street.  And if that street is your only knowledge of the city, please keep reading.

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Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day – NOLA.Com

Nowadays, Bourbon Street is almost a caricature of people’s perceptions of the city.  A noisy, flashy street loaded with T-shirt and souvenir shops, bars that sell drinks called “Hand Grenades” and strip clubs. The street seems designed to allow visitors to sin without fear of discovery or retribution by their neighbors back home.

My own experience with the street dates back to the early 60’s when my parents’ idea of a fun family night was to pack us all up in our Rambler station wagon and drive slowly down the street (now restricted to pedestrians at night). My dad would stop the car when the doormen to the “dance clubs” would open the doors providing us a scandalous peak at the activities inside.  Yes, we all have undergone therapy since.

When not driving a Rambler full of kids down Bourbon Street, parents were often inside night clubs like this one with Al Hirt.
My parents with Al Hirt at his club on Bourbon Street.

Back then, locals still went down to Bourbon Street for live music at clubs such as those owned by famous home boys, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain.

The street still offers live music, mostly versatile cover bands capable of playing Rock favorites and cabaret music. The street is an important employment base for local musicians and other performers, according to Brad Rhines’s article, Pride on Bourbon Street.  Also, the restaurant Galatoire’s and Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse are two well-regarded establishments on Bourbon that attract a local clientele.  But generally speaking, the locals leave Bourbon Street for the tourists.

Fortunately, New Orleans has another locus of live music that both locals and tourists frequent.  Downriver from the French Quarter is the end of Frenchmen Street located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Any cabby can get you there. If you’re in the French Quarter, it’s a reasonable walk– head away from downtown on either Decatur or Chartres (pronounced Charter) Streets. After you cross Esplanade, you’ll run into Frenchmen. There are roughly a dozen places offering live music in this three-block area.

If you have watched the wonderful HBO series  “Treme,” then you’ve seen a number of Frenchmen Street clubs featured as settings for the show, including the Spotted Cat, The Blue Nile, and the venerable Snug Harbor. There are music clubs literally next door to each other. In one scene in Treme, band leaders in adjacent clubs go back and forth stealing the other’s audience, illustrating just how easy it is for you to bounce from one music venue to another.

One of my most recent experiences on Frenchmen was almost magical. Kim and I landed on the street one afternoon after a long day of slogging through torrential rains. We walked into The Three Muses tired, wet and hungry. We were just looking for a place to sit and maybe eat.  We ordered a couple of small food plates and there on the tiny stage next to us was a cellist using a digital delay, a loop pedal and other electronic wizardry to create a roomful of haunting music.

In the dozen years that Helen Gillet has lived in New Orleans, she has established herself as an original artist, capable of integrating New Orleans sounds and heritage into her music.  And here she was doing an intimate performance for us as we refreshed ourselves with excellent food and drink.

Cellist Helen Gillet

On your next trip to New Orleans, visit Frenchmen Street. Meanwhile, you can hear Helen Gillet, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain on my next show, Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, starting at 10 a.m., Monday, on KAOS, www.kaosradio.org, 89.3 FM.