This fire season over 100 large fires have incinerated two million acres of land in the U.S. And new fires are reported each day. . . Let’s play some music, starting with Rebirth Brass Band’s “Fire.” (you can listen to the show while still staying on this page using the player below)
While New Orleans sits on the western side of the hurricane season, Olympia sits on the western edge of the fires. We might be mostly safe from the flame but the smoke is creating a haze and red hue to our sunlight. Air quality is holding but is vulnerable to a shift in the winds. New Orleans Suspects kick off the first full set with “You Got the Fire” carried on by Mike Doussan’s “Breathe” and Papa Grows Funk “Fire in the Garage.” The Royal Southern Brotherhood finish the set with “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire.”
Fire and smoke in song are metaphors usually for love though Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” covered by Papa Mali seems more about destruction. Alexey Marti does his instrumental “Fire Land” and Trombone Shorty performs “Fire and Brimstone.” You’ll even hear the patron saint of this show, Ernie K-Doe, say his trademark “Burn K-Doe Burn.”
Midway through the show, we take a break from the fire for “Indian Summer” one of my favorites of Eric Lindell along with a radio edit version of Tiffany Pollack’s “Crawfish and Beer.” In honor of Davis Rogan coming to Olympia, I play an All That song and Buckwheat Zydeco does Bruce Springsteen’s “Back In Your Arms.”
But I eventually bring it back to theme of fire aided by Bon Bon Vivant’s “Burn” and New Birth Brass Band’s “Smoke That Fire.” The topic gives me an excuse to play the nine-minute live version of “All Our Fire” by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes at the Maple Leaf Bar and I finish the theme with the Neville’s “Fire on the Bayou.” And somewhere before that, Davell Crawford does “Fire and Rain” with Nicholas Payton doing his interpretation of that song on trumpet.
There’s more music that follows. The player is above and you can listen from this page. Just don’t let smoke get in your eyes.
This year’s top 10 selections run a range of New Orleans music with jazz, brass band, blues, R&B, Latin rhythms and African beats. And for lagniappe, you’ll meet my sons who extended their Christmas visit home to include hanging out with me in the studio when we aired this show on Boxing Day. (Just click the sideways arrow below to get started.)
Today’s show features selections from the 10 records I enjoyed playing the most this year. But the real treat for me was being in the studio with my son’s Riley and Devlin. As always, I edited this version of the program by removing KAOS announcements. So some of the freewheeling conversation is lost but I did manage to keep some of our chatter in. The show also airs in Bellingham on community radio station KMRE on Friday nights.
The show starts with “World Without Music by the To Be Continued Brass Band. Below are brief descriptions of my favorite records for this year.
To Be Continued Brass Band – TBC II – This band has a history that IS New Orleans. And they seem to be making it on their own terms. No label. No Website. No liner notes or anything but a logo on their CD. Lots of friends help out though including J’Wan Boudreaux (Cha Wa), Glen David Andrews, DJ Action Jackson and Erion Williams (Soul Rebels).
Kid Eggplant And the Melatauns – Big Trouble in Little Chalmette – Can you say “Party Record!” Listen to your vegetables, they’re good for you. I can’t believe my luck in stumbling across this record. It’s a creative mix of R&B, doo-wop, blues slide (with frog sounds), and retro 80’s rocks (“snip snip”).
Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie – What Had Happened Was. . . – Dr. Brice Miller, of Mahogany Brass Band fame, has created a time machine and a mythical savant to transport the hipness of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans’ early jazz days into the funkified vibe of today. Each song is introduced with a story using the opener “What Had Happened Was. .” I’m so delighted to introduce you to one of the greatest . . .
Smoking Time Jazz Club – Contrapuntal Stomp– The band lives up to its name with 16 tracks of traditional jazz numbers that can heat up the dance floor. This journeymen band of talented musicians do more than revive; they reinvigorate. If the only thing this record did was introduce me to Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, it would still be on my top 10. (if you go to the link, be sure to catch at least half of the two-minute video of this amazing dancer.)
Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Released by Smithsonian Folkways in honor of the festival’s 50th year, this five CD set offers a historic sampling of the diverse music styles that have graced the many Jazz Fest stages over the years – focusing on the local artists who have made his festival so exceptional. A lot of care was taken to showcase the sweep of talent that has graced the dozen or more stages of the festival during the last half century.
Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist -Her third release, proficient in Haitian creole, French, banjo, guitar and cello, she continues the city’s tradition of creatively blending and bending musical genres while continuing to creatively community her message of social and economic justice. Plus she’s got a wonderful voice.
Bonerama – Bonerama Plays Zeppelin – Zeppelin with New Orleans funk and rhythms. It’s a reverent yet original adaptation of the band’s hits except with trombones as the lead voice and Matt Perrine’s magical sousaphone handling the bass line. Be sure to catch “Heartbreaker” where Perrine defies gravity with his instrument.
Alexey Marti – Mundo – This Havana-born and New Orleans-based percussionist second release showcases his 15 original songs which include samba, bossa nova, ballad, and salsa — demonstrating new depths to this highly respected and in-demand musician. His record features musicians from New York, Spain and Cuba and flows smoothly through your ears like a morning cup of cafecito.
Bamboula 2000 – Cuba to Congo Square – For a quarter century, this band has been keeping the spirit of Congo Square alive. If you’re searching for the connection between New Orleans jazz rhythms and Africa, this latest release will help you find it it with rhythm’s from djembe, congas, talking drums, bata, atumpan, shekere, dun dun, and fontonfrom.
Smoky Greenwell – Blues and the Power of Peace – Holding down the blues end of this year’s list is journeymen New Orleans musician Smoky Greenwell. This is the perfect apology gift for going ballistic on your Trump-voting relative during the holidays. The latest record by this New Orleans blues harmonica (and saxophone) player strikes enough of a conciliatory note without surrendering a single political point. Get out and vote, baby!
Often when people hear about my New Orleans music show they assume its a jazz show. It’s not. And I occasionally worry that I let them down with my wide mix of blues, Mardi Gras Indian, rock, swamp pop, cajun, folk, hip hop, R&B with some jazz thrown in. Today’s show is for those folks. You can listen to it while I ramble on.
For the first hour, this show features traditional New Orleans jazz with Bunk Johnson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band (listen for the Tiger roars!), Jelly Roll Morton, Tuba Skinny, Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses, King Oliver and a couple of obscure tracks from a Smithsonian Folkways album featuring 1920’s era dance hall bands from New Orleans. I finish with a bit of Cuban jazz by New Orleans resident Alexey Marti.
The second hour starts with a recognition of the little known Adolph Smith, a tenor with a locally popular R&B group, The Monitors. He also wrote some songs sung by The Spiders. I finish the R&B set with songs by Davell Crawford and John Mooney.
Later in the show, I venture into the Bonerama does Led Zeppelin – including the amazing cover “Heartbreaker” featuring Matt Perrine’s sousaphone performance the defies gravity. I also play from Aurora Nealand’s modern piece The Monocle.