George Wein’s influence in New Orleans will live forever

I cannot imagine what the New Orleans music scene would look like today without the half century legacy of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. So it should be no surprise that I give a nod to the recent passing of George Wein, one of the founders of the festival in this week’s show

First though, Fats Domino kicks off the program with one of his less well-known hits “I’m Ready.” A song that charted in the spring of 1959 with Domino cautioning: “Talking on the phone is not my speed. Don’t send me no letter, ’cause I can’t read. Don’t be long, ’cause I’ll be gone. We’ll go rock and rolling all night long.”

George Wein was a jazz pianist with his own nightclub and record label when he was hired in 1954 to organize a music festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The Newport Jazz Festival was a smash and he was invited to replicate that success in other communities, including New Orleans. While it took several years for the New Orleans festival to manifest, it appears that Wein was pivotal in helping to develop the concept of an affordable event with multiple stages where audiences were free to roam about and sample a variety of music. In short, the modern music festival. (though the affordability issue today is debatable.)

Wein was a regular performer over the years at the festival and I feature in this week’s show his 2003 performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana” from the Smithsonian Folkways 50th anniversary JazzFest compilation. You’ll also hear Beausoleil from that same compilation in recognition of that band’s upcoming performance in Olympia. See my calendar page.

But before Wein and after Domino, I feature a different kind of New Orleans music set starting with Quintron & Miss Pussycat’s “Shoplifter.” The distorted organ post-punk dance sound may not be what you think of as New Orleans music, but it is very much part of the New Orleans music scene. Galactic follows up with “Shibuya” — a very deep track from their release recorded live at Tipitina’s along with Papa Grows Funk’s “Gorillafaceugmopotamus!” and Lena Prima’s “Frog Legs Man.” It’s one wild set and I dare you to listen to all 25 minutes of it.

Noted for her clarinet and saxophone, Aurora Nealand is multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer.

Later in the show, I highlight four projects by Aurora Nealand who has been recognized by DownBeat Magazine for her ability to perform with clarinet and soprano saxophone. So you will hear her work with nightclub mainstays Panorama Jazz Band and The Royal Roses. You’ll also hear from her unique rockabilly project Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers and her original solo project called The Monocle which has been brought to life in a fully staged adaptation a few year’s back.

Tank and the Bangas, Lakou Mizik, Alex McMurray and the New Orleans Swinging Gypsies follow along with others including two covers of “I’m Ready” by Davell Crawford and someone named “George” from an unmarked Jay Miller recording included in the Swamp Pop by the Bayou compilation.

Thanks for tuning in.

Booker’s King of Road marks new administration rolling in

While we don’t have a monarchy in this country, as we recently reaffirmed, you can be “King of the Road” and wouldn’t it be nice if this new administration finally comes through with the promise of infrastructure investment. With that in mind, I start this show with James Booker’s rendition of the Roger Miller classic.

Snooks Eaglin

The show airs on KAOS on January 21 (and KMRE the following evening,) which is the birth anniversary of the “Human Jukebox” Snooks Eaglin. He claimed to have the ability to play 2,500 songs. You’ll hear three from his repertoire on this show in the first full set, including a JazzFest performance of Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” While his early recordings were solo acoustic folk and blues, his later recordings were R&B with Dave Bartholomew, James Booker, and Professor Longhair. He played guitar on the first Wild Magnolias record. He died in 2009 but would be in his mid-70s if still alive.

In the second set, Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie, an invention of Dr. Brice Miller, will “Fly Me (and you) to the Moon” followed by a lesser known number by Dr. John the Lower Ninth (“Them”) and Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses energetic “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” The set closes with Dave Bartholomew’s “Bouncin’ the Boogie” from 1952 – yea, the cool music started a long time ago.

The show flows on from there with nothing but highlights including New Birth Brass Band’s send up of civil rights lawyer and advocate A.P Touro, Shotgun Jazz Band‘s “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes with “American Funk Classic,” and Little Sonny Jones with another R&B oldie “Worried Blues.”

I assembled the show in between skiing in the Methow Valley this week. I mention this mainly as an excuse to add a picture from my trip to this page but also since its a 10-hour round trip drive for me to that cross-country ski mecca, Larry Garner‘s “Slower Traffic, Keep Right” seemed appropriate for the show. . .not to mention The Abitals “Just Got Paid.”

Near Mazama and Goat Rock – January 2021

You can listen to the show by clicking the arrow in the player above. Thanks so much for visiting this page and please consider subscribing. (its free) Cheers.

All Female Ya Ya 2019

You’ll hear some damn good singing on this week’s show- most likely related to the all-female cast of the show.

Just as she did last year, Ingrid Lucia kicks off this show of women vocalists and bandleaders– this time by leading us on a “Bourbon Street Parade” from her 2010 Live from New Orleans record.

Meschiya Lake

Meschiya Lake follows with her invocation “I Believe in Music” from 2013’s Fooler’s Gold. Lynn Drury then takes us straight to the heart and heartache of New Orleans’ live music scene with “Frenchmen Street” from Sugar on the Floor. Dana Abbott anchors the first full set with “You’re Mine.” By that time, resistance is futile.

The second set will get heels a flying with Doreen Ketchens, Albanie Falletta and Marla Dixon’s Shotgun Jazz Band. The exercise will be good for you for the following set will definitely give you pause.

The set begins with a funeral march that seems to get more optimistic as it progresses until Aurora Nealand’s intones “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The beat and swing builds up to a great drum solo. The song is “Flee as a Bird” — a hymn with the song credit given to Mary Dana — a song catcher who worked South Carolina church scene in the mid-19th century. Bon Bon Vivant’s poet laureate, songwriter and front lady Abigail Cosio takes it from there with “Old Forgotten Tune.” While her band can rock you, this song is just her guitar and voice singing a story of loss and how music and memories entwine. The song was inspired by a cowboy poet line she read in the library at the Will Roger’s Historic Park. This set ends with “Harm”– the first track from Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s new release Farewell, Doomed Planet! which “is about the apocalypse. And Chernobyl wolves. Pollution. And space travel. Existential dread. And whales. ”

A Lafayette-style set follows with Yvette Landry, Bonsoir Catin and Sweet Cecilia with a well-placed serving of Gal Holiday. Later you’ll hear Linnzi Zaorski’s take of the Andrew Sisters hit “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” — a song from a 1930’s Yiddish musical that was also oddly a hit in Nazi Germany until authorities got wind of its Jewish provenance.

Leyla McCalla, Debbie Davis, Carol Fran, Tank and the Bangas and the Original Pinettes Brass Band (New Orleans only all-female brass band) take a turn. Margie Perez, Little Queenie and Shawn Williams bat clean up.

Thanks for listening and please consider subscribing.

Show keeps jazzing to maintain NOLA music credential

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.

The New Orleans Owls (circa 1922) played primarily in The Roosevelt Hotel

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.

Thanks for tuning in.

Gumbo YaYa serving thick in jazz, spiced with Carbo

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.”

carboStay 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.

 

New Orleans music for Lent

With Mardi Gras over, we enter Lent and confront 40 days of reflection and deprivation. Don’t deprive yourself of the music, get my show started and then read on.

After the fun of the holidays and partying of carnival season, true believers in Lent settle down to a period designed to eliminate distraction and focus mind on prayer and connection.

lentWhile I’m not exactly a true believer, I am fascinated with the ability of religious practices to focus the mind on self-reflection.  So today’s show displays that theme through music.

Alex McMurray sets the tone with “The Day after Mardi Gras Day.”  I follow up with a rocking, bluesy set of reflection featuring Kevin Sekhani (“Wrong Direction”), Anders Osborne (“Echoes of My Sins”) and Honey Island Swamp Band (“No Easy Way”).

The ashes placed on the foreheads of Catholics speaks to our mortality. We are dust and to dust we shall return.  Leyla McCalla’s “Let It Fall” beautifully captures that feeling as does Howard Fishman’s gospel like “When I Die.”

Other traditional songs with new twists include Aurora Nealand’s “His Eye is On the Sparrow,”  Shotgun Jazz Band “Down by the Riverside,” and the Neville’s revision of a Steve Miller hit renamed “Fear, Hate, Envy, Jealousy.”

There’s lot more to explore in the show. Thanks for listening!

Plenty of music for one all-women show but still an imbalance

This week’s show features exclusively female musicians, vocalists and bandleaders. You can start the show now and finish reading while you listen.

Female-focused shows have gotten easier since my first one in 2015  but there’s still a serious imbalance particularly when looking for horn players.

original-pinettes-brass-band-elsa-hahne
The cover photo of The Original Pinettes Brass Band CD – “Finally”

The Original Pinettes Brass Band, as best as I can tell, is still the only female brass band.  And its rare to see a female musician in any of the male-dominated brass bands.

Where the balance tips the other way is in the area of vocalists.  Debbie Davis, Ingrid Lucia, Linnzi Zaorski, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima and Meschiya Lake are featured in this latest show.   I also play songs with the amazing musicianship (and vocals) of Aurora Nealand (clarinet and saxophone) and Helen Gillet (cello) as well as singer songwriters Kelcy Mae and Gina Forsyth.

This show I was able to add a funk song thanks to picking up Erica Falls album and zydeco with the almost all-female band Bonsoir, Catin.  I reckon these shows are getting easier to do because my library of female-generated music is getting deeper as opposed to any seismic-level gender shift. I may have a taller stack of applicable CDs now but it still pales when placed next to the pile of other NOLA music I have.

In which case, it seems appropriate to continue in the future doing special shows where I feature exclusively women.  Why not keep the thumb on the scale until it doesn’t matter anymore.  And anyway,  I didn’t do justice to a great many other female artists who did not get played today.  I’ll do another female exclusive show soon and meanwhile they all go back into my rotation for my other shows.

Here’s the playlist.  If you got ideas for me, let me know.

Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 1

Here’s Part One of my survey of New Orleans (and nearby) releases for 2015 worthy of your attention. I’ve played this music on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa and I’ll play them a lot more through the rest of this month. So many good releases, there will be a part two very soon.  The first four albums below were featured heavily in my November 30 show and many of the albums following those four were featured in this show.

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers – An institution on Frenchmen Street that gained fame through the HBO series Treme, the Vipers have locked in their reputation with their fifth release, Going, Going Gone. The six-member band will take you back to the day when swing bands were laying the foundation for R&B.

Red-Hot-Brass-Band
Doyle Cooper fronts the Red Hot Brass Band

Red Hot Brass Band – Fire-bearded Doyle Cooper keeps the spirit alive. Don’t let his youth fool you. Doyle grew up in the tradition and has the chops to prove it. His band’s inaugural release Hot Off the Presses hits the usual touchstones like Tiger Rag, West End Blues, Bourbon Street Parade and Go To the Mardi Gras. But there’s nothing stale about their execution.

Shotgun Jazz Band – I dare you to try to sit still while listening to Yearning. They bill themselves as playing traditional New Orleans jazz in the spirit of the Great Revivalists.  It’s fresh, uncluttered and expertly delivered. It came out late enough last year that I’m including it in this 2015 review.

Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses –  I totally missed this 2014 release  until I bought The Lookback Transmission from Aurora during a break at the Maison last spring.  Uber-talented Nealand demonstrates her ability to put a fresh, entertaining spin on traditional jazz and swing. Having sousaphone savant Matt Perrine backing her doesn’t hurt either. Everyone of the 16 tracks are a delight.

 

novelli
Peter Novelli hits his stride with St. Amant Sessions

Peter Novelli – His third release, St. Amant Sessions, reminds me how engaging blues can be, particularly in the hands of a songwriter and performer who knows how to shake it up with zydeco, swamp, slide and funk. From Shreveport Stomp to I-10 Boogie to his anecdotal Drinkin’ and Driving, Novelli has solidified his space on the KAOS blues shelf.

Little Freddie King – His distinctive delta/country blues makes him easy to love. His persistence in returning to the city after Katrina to live, perform and record is another testament of why I love New Orleans. His latest Messin’ Around tha Livin’ Room (a reference to the Algiers studio he recorded in) delivers beyond expectation.

Papa Mali – Also recorded at the The Living Room, Music is Love mixes covers of Joni Mitchell, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly and the title track by David Crosby with a few originals by this former reggae rocker, turned funk, blues, swamp guru.

Josh Garrett – Having returned to Louisiana after a brief flirtation with Nashville, Garrett deploys just the right mix of delta blues, soul, swing  and swamp in Honey For My Queen. Baton Rouge legend James Johnson who played with Slim Harpo joins in while fiddler Waylon Thibodeux adds one more reminder where this music is coming from.

deslondes
Unapologetically New Orleans country, The Deslondes.

The Deslondes – This young band defies New Orleans music stereotype while creating country-infused songs rooted in the city’s soul. The self-titled debut album presents an array of facets with all five band members contributing songs and taking turns on singing. Like all memorable CDs, this one grows on me the more I push “play.”

Lynn Drury –  Another 2014 release that I missed last year but deserves mention. I fell in love with Lynn when I first caught the video of her CD title track “Come to My House video.  This collection is a powerful observation of love with wonderful, occasionally sultry vocals and excellent guitar support by Alex McMurray.

The Radiators –  The band that wouldn’t die. Allegedly retired, the Radz still occasionally perform for those lucky enough to catch them.  For the rest of us, there is the Wild and Free releases. Part II includes vintage performances from the Dream Palace, Tipitina’s and Knight Studios. Get your fishhead on.

the rads
A true holiday gift – Another release from the Radiators.

Clayton Doley – Funky didgeridoo!  What else needs to be said?  A lot if we’re talking about Bayou Billabong. Doley’s an Aussie but he recorded part of this CD at the Music Shed in New Orleans with the backing of the Absolute  Monster Gentlemen (as in Jon Cleary and . . .) and the Treme Funktet.

Jon Cleary –Speaking of Cleary, his releases are always a delight. Sadly, for GoGo Juice, he switched from Basin Street Records, which has always done a great job of sharing music with KAOS, to a new label which has failed in that chore. Still, the cuts I’ve heard on line show he continues to be a master of blending soul, funk and R&B.

Catch my show on Mondays or online.  And subscribe to the blog to be sure to catch Part 2 of this 2015 retrospective.

Milo Music Parlor offers a unique live music experience

It’s not hard catching live music in New Orleans. Musicians in NOLA are like Olympia baristas, they’re just about everywhere and they’re really good at what they do.

Kelcy Mae, center, performed with her band at the Milo Music Parlor in early April.
Kelcy Mae, center, performed with her band at the Milo Music Parlor in early April.

One memorable experience during my visit last month was watching Kelcy Mae perform in an incredibly artful, yet defunct, cafe located in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The cool thing is that you too could catch a performance of a talented young artist there.

The event is described as “modern-day speakeasy” and when I first arrived at the renovated building on Oretha Castle Boulevard (about a mile walk from Canal Street), my first sense was that I had gotten the wrong address.

The back of the renovated building that serves as Milo Music Parlor
The back of the renovated building that serves as Milo Music Parlor

The building is owned and was painstakingly redone by Elizabeth and Gary Eckman who incorporated original artwork and craftsmanship into their renovation of the century-old building, creating a modern space while retaining the grandeur of the past.

The building doesn’t look like your typical New Orleans music venue. Yet on Tuesdays, the space transforms into the Milo Music Parlor — the brainchild of Kim Vu-Dinh, a self-described music nerd who also runs Milo Records.  Because of Kim’s good sense to keep KAOS on her distribution list, I’ve featured the excellent new music promoted by Milo Records on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.

Each week, Milo’s Music Parlor hosts a different musician or band who performs in this intimate space that feels like a large living room. The additional twist is that about halfway through the performance, the musicians take a break and Kim interviews them for a podcast featured on It’s New Orleans— “web radio for locals, exiles, and lovers of New Orleans everywhere.”

Her first posted podcast is of her interview of Vanessa Neimann who fronts Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue.

milo4Originally from California with a significant detour through Alaska, Ms. Vu-Dinh is an attorney who has clearly found her passion and home in the New Orleans music scene. In introducing Gal Holiday, she insightfully touches on the melting pot music milieu of New Orleans.

“To some it may seem unlikely that this classic honky tonk band called New Orleans home. To others, who’ve heard them, it may come as no surprise that they flourish in a town where tradition in every genre is paid respect with high caliber musicianship.”

As I’ve tried to demonstrate on my show, New Orleans music does not fit tidily into one or two music genres.  It’s not just jazz, or Dixieland, or Iko Iko. Each generation, each neighborhood, seems to contribute a new energy and style that somehow absorbs nicely into the city’s traditions, rhythms and dialect.

In a city that is attracting more than its share of Millennials, uber-talented young musicians continue to make their mark on New Orleans. And you can witness it happening at Milo Music Parlor. The programs are open to the public for an affordable cover charge and the show ends with plenty of time to catch music elsewhere. Check the schedule here. 

Next week, the Music Parlor will host Aurora Nealand who will perform her avant garde solo project Monocle and later in the month David Doucet and Al Tharp of Beausoleil will be at the Parlor.

Consider subscribing to my blog (see upper right corner of page) and catching my shows of New Orleans music on KAOS or the edited versions on Mixcloud

HBO’s Treme is an excellent introduction to New Orleans music

Occasionally, when someone learns about my New Orleans music show, they’ll ask me: “Have you seen. . .

And I know where they are going.

Yes! I have watched all 36 episodes of HBO’s Treme — some of them more than once including the commentary and music notes. The program is that good at portraying New Orleans.

The show ran from 2010 to 2013 and chronicled the lives of New Orleans residents upon their return to the city after Hurricane Katrina. And the show’s creators, producers and writers nailed it. The show is well regarded in New Orleans as having captured the unique and diverse culture and character of the city–both the good and the not so good.

Treme focused on the lives of musicians. Wendell Pierce, with cap, plays a trombonist struggling to make ends meet. He's marching with Rebirth Brass Band in this show and his trombone was played by Rebirth's Stafford Agee.
Treme focused on the lives of musicians. Wendell Pierce, with cap, plays a trombonist struggling to make ends meet. He’s marching with Rebirth Brass Band in this scene from the show and his trombone was played by Rebirth’s Stafford Agee.

Unfortunately, the show wasn’t sufficiently well regarded beyond the city (at least at the time) so no new episodes are being made. But if you’re reading this blog, you probably already understand the disconnect between being good and being popular. A theme that Treme also explores.

There’s lots of reasons to love this show, the main one for me is the music. There’s lot of New Orleans music in it. Literally hundreds of New Orleans-based musicians participated in its filming. Some of them even acted.

Yesterday, I pulled up the full cast listing of the show on IMDB and did a search for “self” and “selves” as in people and bands portraying themselves. I found over 250 listings. While some of the people playing themselves were politicians, chefs, writers, community activists and Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs, most of them were musicians.

The show featured literally hundreds of musicians. Some well known such as Dr. John (Mac Rebennak)
The show featured literally hundreds of musicians. Some well known such as Dr. John.

Some are well known like Dr. John, Fats Domino, Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas. Others are not but should be such as Aurora Nealand, John Boutte, Tom McDermott, and Kermit Ruffins.

Several of the fictional characters are musicians attempting to make a living. One is a journeyman trombonists, played by Wendell Pierce, struggling to find gigs so he can pay rent and child support. Two others busk on the street and are learning the New Orleans style of music.

Throughout the series, the viewer is treated to music venues such as Tipitina’s, House of Blues, Blue Nile, Spotted Cat, and Snug Harbor and the music you hear on the show is recorded in situ. What you see is truly what you hear

In many cases, the musicians simply perform, either in the background or as a part of the plot. In other cases though, they deliver lines from a script or, in the case of Dr. John, ad lib. It’s a wonderful blend of reality and fiction.

A bass player with Jon Cleary's group, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Williams did quite a bit of acting and bass playing on the show.
A bass player with Jon Cleary’s group, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Williams did quite a bit of acting and bass playing on the show.

Cornell Williams, a bass player who in real life performs with Jon Cleary, portrays a member of a band formed by Wendell Pierce’s character and helps another character recover from drug addiction.

A more bizarre blending of real life and fiction is the character Davis McAlary, who often supplies the show’s comic relief and social commentary. McAlary is a musician and an on again, off again deejay at WWOZ, which is a real  community radio station in New Orleans. His character was inspired by Davis Rogan who has released several albums of original songs and was a deejay for WWOZ. To really twist your brain, you will see in various Treme scenes the real Davis performing on piano backing up the fictional Davis. (Another character is patterned after Donald Harrison Jr. who is also seen regularly in the show.)

Clarence "Frogman" Henry in a scene with fictional character Davis McAlary, inspired by real musician Davis Rogan.
Clarence “Frogman” Henry in a scene with fictional character Davis McAlary, inspired by real musician Davis Rogan.

If you have a propensity to love New Orleans, its food, culture and music, watching Treme will deepen that love. If you know little about New Orleans but are interested, the show is a great place to start your education.  Well, subscribing to this blog (upper right hand corner) and listening to my show won’t hurt either.