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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.”
Stay 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.
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.
The 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.