Live Shows Return to NOLA and Celebrate Sweet Emma

Get a first hand impression of what it is like to be a musician as live music moves back indoors in New Orleans, learn about the New Orleans drummer who brought the blues backbeat to Chicago and celebrate the 124th birth anniversary of a pioneering African American female pianist, vocalist and bandleader who once shared the silver screen with actor Steve McQueen. All this and more when you listen to this week’s show (right below)

Welcome to another edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa – the home recorded series is about to hit its one-year mark. Just last week, at the direction of the Mayor of New Orleans, live music came back inside — with some restrictions. Jeremy Kelley, saxophonist and co-leader of Bon Bon Vivant joins us at about the 70-minute mark to talk about what its like to be getting back to doing live, in-person shows (both the joy and horror of it). As promised on the show, here’s a link to outdoor New Orleans venues that are considered safer than going inside.

But before we hear from Jeremy, we catch songs by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Corey Henry, Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses, Galactic and Leyla McCalla.

You’ll also hear three songs featuring Sweet Emma Barrett who was born this week 124 years ago and was a pioneering Jazz woman who taught herself on piano, led her own band and was a highly recognizable character with her red outfit crowned by a skullcap with leg garters that jingled with bells when she played the keys. You might recall a few shows back, I featured dancehalls, including the Happy Landing Club. During the 1950’s, she and her band played there regularly. She also was a regular with the early Preservation Hall Jazz Band and you can see her play and sing briefly in the 1965 film Cincinnati Kid starring a brooding Steve McQueen. Here’s the clip.

Performing on two of the Sweet Emma songs is another Preservation Hall regular of the time Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau. I mention this mainly as an excuse to play Helen Gillet’s song dedicated to the stand up bass player who made his own instruments out of old barrels and who you might recall was depicted in the play and Netflix show Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Another birth anniversary celebration takes us up to Chicago with Armand “Jump” Jackson, a New Orleans drummer, who was also a bandleader who got into record producing. He’s noted for emphasizing the blues backbeat and you’ll hear one song that perhaps over-emphasizes that beat — “Midnight Shuffle.”

The show meanders on in the last 30 minutes with tracks by Joe Krown, Harry Connick Jr., Charlie Dennard, Charlie Halloran, Kid Eggplant and The Electric Arch. I think it works but let me know if you think differently. Cheers!

A Show for the Post-Mardi Gras Blues and Funk

The day after Mardi Gras can be unsettling because even though you can “Do Whatcha Wanna” on Fat Tuesday, the next day is accompanied by a hangover, sore feet and vocal chords and, for some, a broken heart. Get the show started and let Alex McMurray’s song “The Day After Mardi Gras Day” fill you in.

In some ways, it was a relief to get out of the party zone with the show and get reacquainted with other New Orleans music. In this show you’ll hear Kristin Diable, Mem Shannon, Dana Abbott, Glen David Andrews, Henry Butler, Carlo Ditta, and many more.

On re-listening to this show, I’m most impressed by Lil Queenie doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Stay” from her new release Purple Heart. Other covers include Carlo Ditta channelling Leonard Cohen in a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” and Mem Shannon’s persuasive take of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Back Down.”

I start a new feature called “Gumbo YaYa Earworm” where I play a song from the last show that stuck in my head. If you have that malady when you listen to my show, let me know the culprit and I’ll include it in the next show.

I also replay a segment of Helen Gillet’s live in-studio performance at KAOS last summer where she talked about Alcide Pavageau, a well-regarded New Orleans bass player who was born on this day in 1888. The song is called “Slow Drag Pavageau” and is featured on her latest album.

What would like to hear in future shows? Let me know. Cheers.