One of the many cool aspects of my role as host of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa is getting to meet musicians who I admire. Last week, it was Bon Bon Vivant. This week its Shamarr Allen, a talented songwriter who happens to be a damn good trumpeter. (Get it started will ya!)
Today’s show kicks off with Allen Toussaint’s project to bring together (for perhaps the last time) the R&B greats of Earl Palmer, Alvin “Red” Tyler, Ed Frank, and Lee Allen. Crescent City Gold was recorded in the 90’s. I play “Hang Tough” to be consistent with today’s goal of digging deeper in some of my favorite CDs while giving some neglected artists some air time.
To tease his upcoming interview, the first full set starts with Shamarr Allen’s “Can You Feel It.” I thought Corey Henry’s “Feeling Tremazin” folowed Shamarr’s song nicely.
The next set goes country with The Big Dixie Swingers, The Deslondes, and Kevin Sekhani (originally from Lafayette). I follow that with a jazz set of Percy Humphrey, Al Hirt and Frog and Henry who will be performing in the region through the middle of the month. (See calendar)
Almost an hour into the show, Shamarr Allen called as he was driving his way across North California to perform in Lake Tahoe. He’ll get into Oregon on Tuesday and play Seattle next Thursday, followed by gigs in Portland and Tacoma. This is his first tour of the Northwest and its long overdue.
While its hard to categorize Mr. Allen’s music, its easy to enjoy. His “Meet Me on Frenchmen Street” could easily put him in the treasured category of classic New Orleans musicians who manage to keep the New Orleans jazz tradition fresh.
But his “Sorry Ain’t Enough No More” shows the depth of his song writing as he, Dee-1, Benny Pete and Paul Sanchez express their disgust of the BP Gulf spill and the havoc that all spills cause. You’ll see him wear a shirt in that video that says “My trumpet (image of one) is my weapon.” But his lyrics are powerful too.
But its that sweet spot between tradition and innovation that Mr. Allen excels and a perfect example is the video recording of his song “Ruin My Day” which he filmed as part of the NPR tiny desk contest. A positive song about life’s vagaries recorded in the House of Dance and Feathers.
While the radio interview is short, you will get a glimpse into this artist’s history, his family (his uncle is founder and curator of House of Dance and Feathers) and his music. I finish the interview with a spin of his “House of Dance and Feathers” a song he wrote for the music “Nine Lives.”
Here’s just the interview with Mr. Allen:
The show carries on after Mr. Allen signs off including songs by Larry Garner, Dash Rip Rock, Henry Butler, Johnny Adams, Cha Wa and more. Thanks for tuning in and consider subscribing.
Another sad loss for the world and New Orleans with the death of Art Neville at 81. His 60 plus years of performing spanned the early years of New Orleans R&B to funk to the rich gumbo of the Neville Brothers. This week’s show has almost an hour of Art’s music. Get it started by clicking the triangle in the player below and then read on.
Barely 17, Art Neville recorded with his high school band a song that would entertain over seven decades of Mardi Gras revelers. “Mardi Gras Mambo” may not ever have charted but it has been a seasonal favorite ever since its recording in January 1955 in a local radio station studio.
Art Neville hooked up with Harold Battiste and recorded with Specialty Records after that cranking out songs like “Cha Chooky-Doo,” “Oooh Wee Baby” and “Please Listen to My Song.” You’ll hear those and others early on in the show before I move on to his more funkier stuff.
As a keyboardist, he became known as “Poppa Funk” anchoring the sound of The Meters and playing songs that would define the New Orleans funk sound. You’ll get three tracks from The Meters in this show — including “Africa” which the Neville Brothers would later cover.
Art’s uncle, George Landry, and the Meter’s association with Allen Toussaint would lead into musical history when they recorded “Wild Tchoupitoulas” — an album of music derived from the Mardi Gras Indian culture and the chants of their uncle in his role as Big Chief Jolly. In this album, you can hear the Neville Brothers sound developing — particularly in the context of Mardi Gras Indian numbers.
But my Neville Brothers’ set focuses on their New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performances and the importance Art and his siblings played in supporting that institution. You’ll hear “Yellow Moon” for instance from the 2001 JazzFest.
The last half of the show includes a full set of brass bands, some country and swamp pop, and ends with Houseman DeClouet singing “The Truth Iz Out.” I know you’ll like this show. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can get wind of future shows.
Champion Jack Dupree and Sam Williams couldn’t be more different in their style of music but they hold a common ground as dear to them as it is to my show: New Orleans. And I feature knock out JazzFest performances by both of them in this week’s show. Go ahead get it started.
Big Sam of Big Sam’s Funky Nation kicked off his 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance with a nearly 12-minute song he titled “Play Them Funky Horns” a mash up of songs that even includes a few bars of “Liza Jane.” It’s a nice preview for his upcoming performance in Portland (Mississippi Studios) and Seattle (Tractor Tavern) next week. That song kicks off the first full set on this show and will get you moving — guaranteed.
Twenty festivals previously, in 1990, Champion Jack Dupree sat on the stage — his first return to New Orleans in over 30 years of living in Europe — with a master of ceremonies Allen Toussaint — whose job was to interview the long-missed expatriate — one of the few remaining original barrelhouse piano maestros. During a soulful number called “Bring Me Flowers While I’m Living,” Dupree is joined by a Toussaint who lays in on the high side of the keys some pretty flourishes.
The duo continue through that song and into a boogie woogie number that ended with Dupree (80 plus years old at that time) getting up demonstrating is own boogie woogie moves that included some incredible abdominal exertions. The performances has been available in video online for years and this year the Smithsonian Folkways included the performance in its five-disk retrospective in honor of the 50th annual JazzFest. You’ll find that song in the second hour of the show.
In between, the show features performances by Jon Cleary, Shamarr Allen, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dwayne Dopsie, Frog and Henry, Leyla McCalla, Dana Abbott, Galactic and The Crooked Vines (just to name a few).
I also celebrate Little Joe Gaines 100th birthday anniversary by playing his two solo numbers by Mercury, including “Snuff Dipper.”
How can there be a war on Christmas when anyone who wants to enjoy this popular event is able to? Not only is this holiday community property, its a wonderful way to examine our culture. In this show, you get a look at Christmas through the lens of New Orleans music (with some help from cajun and zydeco musicians_
What better way start the Gumbo Ya Ya show than with Art Neville’s “Gumbo Christmas”. Snow is pretty rare in New Orleans and a “white” Christmas is almost unfathomable so I start the next set with Allen Toussaint’s delightful “The Day It Snows on Christmas.”
The set ends with Louis Armstrong’s version of “Christmas Night in Harlem” which was a bigger hit than the original 1934 recording by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. As sung by Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer in the Whiteman version, the song has minstrel elements that seem to play off the same attraction held by the popular radio show of the time, Amos N’ Andy. Armstrong wised removed those elements, streamlined the song, focused on the swinging parts and made the song a bigger hit.
You get a soulful, blues reading of the “Night Before Christmas” by the man who either inspired the name of the Little Richard hit or got his nickname from it: Ready Teddy McQuisten. And if you’re not familiar with the song “Ready Teddy,” don’t worry. I play it right after the reading.
Kelcy Mae’s original and poignant song about separating from her partner during the holidays as they each head to their respective families plays off a pun of “Merry Me” as it recognizes and honors the achievement of legalizing same sex marriages. Here’s her video of that song.
Wayne Toups sings “Louisiana Santa” and Smoky Greenwell drives home a very cool version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” For those who love horns, New Birth Brass Band belts out “Second Line Santa”
Shamarr Allen sings his original “Santa Passed My House By” with the assistance of what like is his own child. There’s more to this show so please enjoy. Consider subscribing, it’s free. If you celebrate this holiday, Merry Christmas. Otherwise, enjoy the season and some time off with your loved ones.
I’ve been a bit giddy this week. The onset of our area’s first solid gesture of spring coinciding with the start of Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Olympia’s Arts Walk and Procession of the Species this weekend inspired this show which aired April 26, 2018 on KAOS. The show features very little jazz but a lot of New Orleans which is fitting at a time when Olympia holds its biggest street scene of the year.
To get ready for that walking, standing and processing, I start with some hip openers thanks to an opening number by The Meters followed by Shamarr Allen’s trumpet boogie of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” Art Neville comes back on with one of his Specialty Records classic rock and roll songs. Keith Stone keeps it rocking with the title track from his latest release The Prodigal Returns.
I mellow it out later in the set, with the help of Kelcy Mae singing an Earth Day appropriate song “Mr. Leopold.” Elvis Costello sings a great Allen Toussaint song, with the composer’s vocal and piano assistance. To honor Olympia’s unique cultural creation — the Procession of the Species, I played the Brassaholics “They Sew” – a song about New Orleans unique cultural creation the Black Indians of Mardi Gras. This song was two-fer cause it also honored Brassaholic’s trumpeter Tannon “Fish” Williams who celebrated his 43rd birthday that day.
I didn’t hear about the death of Charles Neville till the next morning so I’ll save his tribute for next week’s show. Please enjoy this one and consider subscribing so you can be alerted to when new shows are posted.
This week’s show is a funky one. Get the show started by clicking the Mixcloud arrow then read how Ohio scooped New Orleans on the funk
A recent NPR story about Dayton, Ohio having a Funk Hall of Fame took me a bit by surprise. It’s not that I have anything against Ohio though I resent the tendency of their vote for president seeming to count more than mine. And yes, there are some fine funk bands from Dayton (Ohio Players, Heatwave, Zapp, etc.).
Like many though, when I think of funk masters, I think James Brown, George Clinton and, well, The Meters. In the late 60’s, Art Neville (keyboards), George Porter, Jr. (bass), Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and Zigaboo Modeliste (drums) became the studio band for Allen Toussaint backing hits like “Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky,” sung by Lee Dorsey. And while they didn’t make it as big as some of the mid-70 funk bands, The Meters, along with James Brown, are widely considered to be the originators of the funk sound.
But its not that simple. The Meters were influenced by New Orleans parade rhythms, Professor Longhair, and Earl Palmer, who before moving to Los Angles to be part of the famed “Wrecking Crew,” was part of the Cosimo Matassa studio band that created many of the early R&B hits by Fats Domino and Little Richard. The same Little Richard sound that James Brown cited as being an influence on his funk sound.
So why isn’t the Funk Hall of Fame in New Orleans? Probably for the same reason there’s not a decent Jazz or R&B museum in New Orleans. Dayton made it happen and New Orleans didn’t. Well, least the music is good. Other acts on this show include Corey Henry, Galactic, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Dr. John, Eddie Bo, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Jon Cleary, Papa Grows Funk and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.
Here are my top 10 New Orleans music releases. All of these have been played on my show on KAOS in 2017 (For more new releases played on my show this year, go to my end of year roundup.) You can listen to the show featuring these releases while you read about them.
A Beautiful World – Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield hit a home run with this home town love note featuring over 50 New Orleans musicians with originals and covers that totally capture Ruffins’ style and vibe. Mayfield, as producer and master trumpeter, does a great job of letting the relaxed, hip style of Ruffins shine through.
Hot Like Fire – Mark Mullins and Craig Klein are solidly in their comfort zone with their latest Bonerama release, their first through Basin Street Records. The album’s strength is the talent of the musicians, especially Matt Perrine, who contributed three songs as well as his sousaphone expertise and Bert Cotten, whose guitar gives this brass heavy release a rocking feel.
Live at Horace’s – Taylor Smith may regret putting his favorite neighborhood (Central City) bar on the international map but the cozy Horace’s apparently was just the venue for him to showcase his energetic style of New Orleans R&B. Guitar Slim, Earl King, Elmore James and Blind Lemon Jefferson all get the Roamin’ Jasmine treatment in this set.
So It Is – This is the second release by Preservation Hall Jazz Band with all original tunes. While Preservation Hall, with its musician’s collective, is known for keeping the tradition alive, the recording/touring band is keeping the tradition alive by providing fresh music that connects New Orleans to its Afro-Cuban roots. It’s totally hip and hard to stop playing.
With You in Mind – Stanton Moore was still grieving the unexpected death of Allen Toussaint, the central architect of New Orleans R&B and Funk in the 60’s and beyond, when he went into the studio with David Torkanowsky and James Singleton. With the help of Cyril Neville, Nicholas Payton, Trombone Shorty and Donald Harrison Jr, the trio captured Toussaint’s joy for life as well as ability to touch your heart.
On the Spot – The Hot 8 Brass Band does brass band music right. Given my fondness for this band and its sound, I would be hard pressed to not have them on my list. But after 20 years, this band is not resting on its laurels. The band covers Stevie Wonder and the classic St. James Infirmary in its usual ear-opening style but it also offers new songs that speak to this band’s amazing ability to keep on plugging against adversity.
Sketch – Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes should be getting a helluva a lot more attention, particularly after this release. While the band can play just about any style, the members seem most entertaining with their original funk rock sound. They have a reputation as a party band, but its members are professionals who know how to play and create unique, entertaining music.
Make America Great Again – This late 2016 release is Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra’s formula for what truly makes our country great. Yes, he starts with the Star Spangled Banner and lays down some solid swinging big band sounds through 14 tracks but there’s sharp commentary spliced in between the jazzy sounds. This is a great release for a deejay of New Orleans music show. It has a bit everything with top-flight craftsmanship.
The Flying Musical Circus – Noah Adams is the brainchild, singer and songwriter of this frenetically entertaining group, the Dirty Bourbon River Show. “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock Music” is the elevator pitch for the music but even if that doesn’t appeal to you, give this album a listen. The music is deep and its elephant free
Creatures – If Sweet Crude makes it big and it certainly has the potential, you might be able to point to this album as when they figured it all out. This is a uniquely Louisiana-band with strong roots in Arcadia, but its clearly a pop band, that sings in French and English, with the opportunity to grow a wider audience. Get on the ground floor with Creatures.
Craig Klein and Mark Mullins might joke they formed Bonerama as a way to give trombonists greater job security but there’s no hiding the enthusiasm they have for their instrument serving as the band’s main voice. Bonerama’s latest release (it’s seventh in almost 20 years) is aptly named “Hot Like Fire.”
I caught up with the two after a band practice at Craig’s house in the Lower Garden District late last month. The album features seven original tunes by Craig, Mark and Matt Perrine, who plays bass and sousaphone. The songs range from catchy numbers like “Happy” and “Hot Like Fire” to the complex “High Horse.” The album’s two covers include Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” and Allen Toussaint’s “Basic Lady.”
Reluctant to pick one genre for their music style, Mark and Craig give it three – Brass Rock and Funk. But “Hot Like Fire” also throws in a little reggae and jazz. At KAOS, it goes on our Funk shelf where its been getting some good play.
Greg Hicks adds the third trombone to the band with Bert Cotton on guitar and Alex Joseph “A.J.” Hall on drums. Click on the interview above to hear Craig and Mark talk about all nine songs, with samples of the songs, as well as the band’s origins and their connection with Basin Street Records.
Today’s show features the new Basin Street release by Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield. Just the tonic you were looking for after the late summer rains. Ruffins and Mayfield have a lot in common. Same town, same label, same instrument. But there styles are very different. Lot of help though including Cyril Neville and some cameos by native NOLA actor Wendell Pierce. Other new releases featured as well including the Stanton Moore send up of Allen Toussaint.
So much great music, I couldn’t put it all in one post so here’s part two. (Check out 2016 Part 1) As you will quickly notice, there is no order to my lists. The only rule is I only list music from New Orleans (and nearby locales) I play on my show. Like the following:
Corey Henry – I’ve been waiting for Lapeitah, Henry’s debut solo album, ever since I heard “Boe Money” the song that carries his nickname on Galactic’s 2010 Ya Ka May release. Henry’s powerful trombone and songwriting mix of funk, R&B, soul and hip hop creates the experience I associate with the music I hear at New Orleans nightclubs. It’s no coincidence that Henry and his Treme Funket was the undisputed heir apparent of Kermit Ruffins legendary Thursday spot at Vaughn’s. Lapeitah does an excellent job of putting you in that Ninth Ward club with him.
The New Orleans Suspects – Just as you would not want to ever miss a live performance of the New Orleans Suspects, you should not go without possessing their fourth album–and second one with original songs. Kaleidoscoped delivers eight original numbers that makes me miss New Orleans and the original grooves that these journeymen musicians produce.
Kenny Neal – Bloodline hooks you from the opening number “Ain’t Gon Let the Blues Die.” And the rest of the album holds true to the promise. Nominated for best contemporary blues album grammy, this 2016 release is a full nod toward the amazing support this successful blues artist has received from his family members, who back him up on vocals and instruments throughout the album.
Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat just scored Rush’s fourth grammy nomination– this time for best traditional blues album. Though he lives in Mississippi by way of Chicago and his birthplace Homer, La., this release is actually the first one that the 83-year-old blues veteran has recorded in New Orleans and some cool folks stop by to help out, such as Cornell Williams (bass), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), Shane Theriot (guitar), and David Torkanowsky (keyboards). Be sure to cue up and listen to “Funk O De Funk.”
Miss Sophie Lee – Nightclub owner Sophie Lee returns to the recording studio with Traverse the Universe. She has a sweet voice and her band does a nice turn with the handful of standards on the album but its her original songs, particularly her title track, that had me reaching for it to play regularly on my show.
Jeff Chaz – Chaz and his trio are hardworking blues musicians who can be seen regularly playing on Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter. He put out two releases this year: Sounds Like the Blues to Me and The Silence is Killing Me. Both are solid blues albums with numbers like “Fried Chicken Store” and “Savin’ Everything for You.” The latter release offers a holiday tune as well – “Merry Christmas to You.”
Herlin Riley – A regular with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Riley can be a straight up jazz drummer but there’s no question where his roots lie. As he says: “As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. ” Riley jazzes it up on New Directions but by the time you get to his hip version of Tutti Ma, you will like the direction he’s headed.
Dr. John – Recorded in 2014 in the historic Saenger Theater on Canal Street in New Orleans, The Musical Mojo of Dr. John offers two discs of many of New Orleans elite such as Irma Thomas, Cyril and Aaron Neville, Anders Osborne, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Zigaboo Modeliste and Dave Malone, paired with familiar outsiders like Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Chuck Leavell, and Mavis Staples. With the venerable Mac Rebennak (Dr. John) in the middle, how can you not be satisfied wit dat package!
Smoky Greenwell – Another visiting musician who came to the city for a gig and stayed a lifetime, Greenwell has been cranking out the blues in New Orleans for 35 years and his last two releases are arguably his best. I particularly like it when he puts down his harmonica and reaches for his saxophone on South Louisiana Blues.
Gina Forsyth– This New Orleans-based musician is wickedly good on fiddle and guitar. Yea, you don’t expect this type of music in New Orleans. So what. Copper Rooster and Other Tunes and Tales provides a dozen and a half smile inducing old timey numbers that will have you reaching for the play again button.
Mark and the Pentones – This blues trio, fronted by guitarist Mark Penton, may be one of the best reasons to stumble down Bourbon Street. Currently anchoring the swing shift at Funky Pirate Blues Club on Fridays and Saturdays, the Pentones released its debut album, Don’t Leave Nothin Behind, late last year with some subtle surprises among the 11 tracks. I particularly like “Jodie,” “Too Many Second Lines” and “I B Cing You.”
Keith Stone – The Prodigal Returns is the aptly named debut album of a native New Orleanian who sowed some wild oats in the 90’s as an area blues guitarist, settled down to be a minister in Kentucky and then came back home after Hurricane Katrina. The album features playful piano, strong guitar licks, and a solid horn arrangements. If you’re a dislocated NOLA homeboy feeling the tug of that big magnet at the end of the Mississippi River, this album will talk to you.
Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey – Okay, I’ve wandered all the way up to Monroe, La. to grab this one. But all’s fair if the music is great. From the distinctive bass line opening of “Funky Bidneh” to the inviting saxophone on its last track “Love Into My Life”, this band’s debut release has a full sound that puts you front and center of your own Soul Revival.
Anders Osborne – This prolific musician, songwriter, and producer released two albums this year. Spacedust and Ocean Views and Flower Box. My station didn’t get Flower Box (that happens but don’t let it happen to your album) and I almost missed Spacedust because the music director justifiably placed it in our Folk, Country and Bluegrass shelf. I love his voice and his songs and I don’t care what shelf I have to check, I’ll be regularly reaching for his music to play on my show.
Allen Toussaint – This one breaks my heart. A year after his death, I still grieve. American Tunes is his last studio album, released this year posthumously. There’s little between you and Toussaint other than his piano, a drummer and bass. He doesn’t even sing except on a Paul Simon cover– though others do. As I listento him run through Big Chief , he’s in the room with me, playing the piano, with his leather sandal and sock clad feet working the pedals.