Art Neville carried the NOLA sound from R&B to Funk to Unique

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.

Christmas Time from New Orleans

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_

Allen Toussaint

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.

Latest Gumbo Show Inspired by Spring Festivals

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.

procession
Process of the Species is a unique Olympia cultural experience.

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.

New Orleans deserves more recognition for its funk

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

meters.jpgA 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.