Birthdays and Brass Make for a Rockin’ Show

Three key birthdays lined up for today’s show along with two visits by premiere New Orleans brass bands. But the show starts with a rollicking bluegrass number with a sousaphone pumping out the baseline. You can listen and read on by clicking the sideways arrow below.

John Hartford most likely pulled deeply from his steamboat pilot days on the Mississippi and Tennesse rivers when he wrote the song that opens today’s show. Sadly, he was dead by the time a group of country musicians joined New Orleans musicians on the Maple Leaf stage to cover his “Miss Ferris.” In the first full set, you’ll hear another song from that project.

But the core of the show is celebrating Cyril Neville and Ed Volker’s 71st birthday and Donna Angelle’s 68th. All three were born on October 10, the date this show aired on KAOS. As the youngest of the Neville brothers, Cyril is perhaps the best known of the three birthday musicians. But this show focuses on his non-Neville performances: two solo songs and one with the Royal Southern Brotherhood.

Ed Volker (The Radiators) photo from Offbeat Magazine and by Kim Welsh

Ed Volker is the distinctive looking keyboardist and songwriter for The Radiators, a jam band that deployed a New Orleans sensibility to rock and won a legend of fans starting in 1978 going through today. And the band has the same line-up it started with. Three Radiators are songs are played on today’s show.

Donna Angelle is a multi-instrumentalist who chose to be prominent on the accordion and lead her own band. She broke the glass ceiling for women band leaders in Zydeco and was closely followed by Rosie Ledet. You’ll hear three of her songs, including “Ladies Night” and one song by Ledet.

The Dirty Dozen and Hot 8 Brass Bands are playing the area this month so you’ll hear a couple songs each by them. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band lead the new wave of brass bands in the 70’s that reinvigorated the traditional New Orleans brass band sound. I play Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” which you can probably hear live when the Dozen perform at the Mount Baker Theater in Bellingham on October 19 and Pantages Theater the next night.

The Hot 8 Brass Band has had their struggles with car accidents and shootings that have changed their line up over the years and created heart break for the remaining members and their families. But they’ll be in Portland and Seattle October 21st and 22nd respectively. I play the short version of their “Sexual Healing” cover and “Bingo Bango.”

There’s more to the show including Doreen Ketchens and Aurora Nealand on clarinet but you should just listen to the whole thing and let me know what you think. Thanks for tuning in.

A summer musical wave of New Orleans headed our way

Our pleasant summers typically create a musical wave of touring performers in our region.  Today’s show explores the music of performers from New Orleans (and Lafayette)  who will be touring our area soon.  And there’s a bumper crop so start listening while I tell you more about upcoming shows.

quintron
Quintron is rumored to be headed to Olympia around the July 4 holiday.

Delfeayo Marsalis, Dr. John and Donald Harrison Jr. get us started. And sadly, these performers will not be playing our area any time soon.

However, Quintron, an eclectic organist and inventor from New Orleans, will do shows in Portland and Seattle and is rumored (from a reliable source) that he will be performing in Olympia most likely on July 5.  He does an instrumental version of Ernie K-Doe’s New Orleans hit “Certain Girl.”  I also play Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls” because Ernie is the patron saint of my show and this blog, and he has a connection with Quintron.

Albanie Falleta, a solo swing guitarist and vocalists, will be at Traditions Cafe in Olympia on June 24. Originally from Monroe, Louisiana but now living in New Orleans, Falleta has performed at Traditions before and has been building a devoted local following. Her “Black Coffee Blues” kick  off the second full set of this show.

Grammy Winner Rebirth Brass Band returns to Seattle for two shows at the Tractor Tavern (“Why Your Feet Hurt”) and Big Sam’s Funky Nation (“Hard to Handle”) will grace Mississippi Studios in Portland the Nectar Lounge in Seattle.

HelenGillet.jpg
Helen Gillet and her cello are slated to perform for the first time in Olympia on July 12.

Helen Gillet, a cellist from Belgium who relocated to New Orleans about 15 years ago, will be performing in Olympia in July. And Davis Rogan, who performed in Olympia this February just booked a return engagement here for mid-August.  You’ll hear examples of their music as well as others playing in the area, including Pine Leaf Boys, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Better than Ezra, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, The Revivalists and Marc Broussard. It’s a great line up and you can see when and where they’re playing on my concert page. 

Hot Poop music shop in Walla Walla made for a worthy stop

Go ahead and click the arrow to get my show started before reading the rest.
Okay, so we actually went to Walla Walla to check out the town and the wine scene. But I had spent a pleasurable afternoon at the Hot Poop music store on Main Street several years back so I was anxious to see if it was still thriving.

Hot Poop store
Hot Poop owner Jim McGuinn peering over the counter loaded with items

When I noted how much stock was in the store, the owner, Jim McGuinn, joked that it could all be mine for three easy payments.  The store does suffer from a lot of clutter but its fun clutter to poke through, including autographed guitars and 8-track tapes if you make it all the way to the back.

I found some NOLA CDs that weren’t already in my collection, including a 1991 release by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band that I hadn’t seen before.  They also had some Radiator releases — always a positive indicator that I should dig deeper into a store.

Today’s show features choice cut from the music I found there along with some other gems such as a Wynton Marsalis take of Layla (Eric Clapton does assist on that one). with Charmaine Neville performs the eclectic “Leave Room for the Dancers” and I follow that up with Diablo’s Horns’ original Bending Like a Willow Tree.  If you can hang in there through those songs, stick around for a charming version of Don’t Worry, Be Happy with Glen David Anderson doing some humorous vocal responses.

Rebirth headed back to the Tractor and Dante’s

Good news.  A loyal following of Rebirth Brass Band fans in the Northwest is ensuring that the New Orleans band plays the Wet Coast more than once a year.

Last year, they came to Seattle and Portland twice and the venerable brass band returns to the Tractor Tavern in Seattle this Friday, January 22, and Dante’s in Portland on Saturday, January 23.

As with the last engagement, the Tractor will host two evening shows at $25 a pop or $40 for the whole night. Spring for both, its worth it. Unless you’d rather catch them at their home base in New Orleans at the Maple Leaf and pay only $20 for the evening.

rebirth3
Rebirth Brass Band performing at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle, September 2015

Founded by the Frazier brothers – Phillip on sousaphone and Keith on bass drum–Rebirth Brass Band has been blending jazz, funk, soul, and hip hop with the brass band New Orleans tradition for over 30 years. While the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is largely credited for bringing the New Orleans brass bands into contemporary times, Rebirth has been doing it almost as long and in a far more entertaining manner (my blog, my opinion).

With the co-founders now past 50, the band just recently ceased doing parades. But that long history of Second Lines have built a repertoire of street anthems like Feel Like Funkin’ It Up, Do Watcha Wanna, and Let’s Go Get ’em.

The band’s line up has evolved over the years. Co-founder Kermit Ruffins split off to do his own thing over 20 years ago. So have Glen David Andrews, Shamarr Allen,  and Corey Henry, to name a few.

rebirth
Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar in Uptown New Orleans every Tuesday night except when the band tours.

The current line-up includes the hard-to-miss Derrick Tabb, an amazing snare drummer who towers over the group and is active with Roots of Music, a group he co-founded to provide after-school programs for kids at-risk.  You might recognize trombonist Stafford Agee from the television show, Treme, since he and others of the band had cameo roles. But if you’ve listened to the show, you’ve definitely heard him play since its Agee’s trombone really playing when you see actor Wendell Pierce (Antoine Batiste) put lips to mouthpiece. Also on trombone is Gregory Veals. Vincent Broussard is on saxophone and Glen Hall and Chadrick Honore’ are on trumpets.

The band has 17 recordings in its library including a 25th anniversary release and a 2012 grammy winner, Rebirth of New Orleans. The band’s most recent release was 2014’s Move Your Body.  You can count on the band to get you moving and smiling.

Upcoming Northwest Performances of New Orleans Artists

  • Rebirth Brass Band – at Tractor Tavern in Seattle, January 22 and Dantes in Portland, January 23.
  • Nigel Hall – at the Showbox in Seattle, February 4 and the Roseland in Portland, February 5.
  • Jon Cleary – at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, February 8.
  • Galactic – at the Showbox in Seattle, February 26 and Crystal Ballroom in Portland, February 27.
  • The Revivalists – at Neumos in Seattle, March 9 and Aladdin Theater in Portland, March 10.
  • Trombone Shorty – at the Moore Theater in Seattle, April 14 and Keller Auditorium, Portland, April 15.
  • Walter Wolfman Washington – opening for Bettye LaVette at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, May 12 – 15.

Tuba players key to NOLA music and the next Gumbo YaYa

I doubt the Census Bureau can tell us where we might find the highest concentration of tuba players, but if it could, I’d guess that New Orleans would be near the top.

Just think of all those Second Lines with sousaphone players blasting the beat out over the heads of dancers.

David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia's Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa Monday.
David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia’s Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa Monday.

A quick trivia detour: The sousaphone is the wrap around version of the tuba, making it easier to carry and project sound forward. From what I’ve read, the sousaphone, named after military-band extraordinaire John Philip Sousa was a modified version of  a tuba-like instrument, called a helicon, designed to be played while riding a horse. Tally Ho!

The sousaphone/tuba is on my mind today because the next Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa will be guest hosted by David Moseley. In addition to being the host of KAOS’s world music show Xenophilia, David is the sousaphone player for Olympia’s own Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

In honor of David filling in for me while I screw off on the beach, here are five notable tuba/sousaphone players from New Orleans.

Anthony
Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen is revered in New Orleans.

Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen –  Mr. Lacen was part of Danny Barker’s Fairview Baptist Church band and became a bandleader and mentor to many. Famous for playing the streets, he also toured the world.  Over a decade after his passing in 2004, Tuba Fats is still fondly remembered in New Orleans with a special day of recognition (Tuba Fats Tuesday after JazzFest) and a square named in his honor in the Treme.

Kirk Joseph – Another alumnus of Barker’s band of youthful brass players, Mr. Joseph was one of the founders of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band which reinvigorated the New Orleans brass band sound.  He continues to play today mixing tradition with the contemporary and maintaining his credentials as the hip godfather of brass music.

Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.
Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.

Phil Frazier – Founding member of my favorite brass band, Mr. Frazier, along with his brother Keith, have been keeping the beat for Rebirth Brass Band since 1983. Influenced by the two previously mentioned tuba players, Phil has charted his own territory with Rebirth, laying down funky bass lines for the band that scored a grammy in 2012 with its album “Rebirth of New Orleans.”

Ben Jaffe – As the Creative Director of Preservation Hall, Mr. Jaffe perhaps isn’t always thought of as a tuba player. But that’s what he often plays for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. While his blood directly links him to the small French Quarter venue his parents started in the 1961, his talent has kept this venerable institution and its band from being a museum piece. Ben co-produced the 2013 album “That’s It!” which was the band’s first release to feature completely original music, including Jaffe’s tuba-booming title track.

Matt Perrine – It’s hard to avoid Mr. Perrine if you watch any number of New Orleans acts such as Bonerama and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. But to catch his latest work, check out “Linger Til Dawn” featuring awesome vocals by his wife Debbie Davis and some tasty interpretations of classics like “Sunny Afternoon” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

Your 2014 New Orleans music buying guide – Part 1

Here’s my Holiday buying guide of 2014 releases for that special person in your life who digs music from New Orleans.  Don’t know anyone like that?  Yea, you do. (This is actually Part 1. I’ve added a Part 2.)


Let’s stay in touch, sign up on the right to follow my blog


One caveat: I’m still trying to  get KAOS on the distribution list of New Orleans artists. Thank you Basin Street Records, Alligator Records, Vizztone and Louisiana Red Hot Records (all amazing independent labels) for sending KAOS your new releases. If someone’s missing, here’s how they can hook up with my show. 

The Revivalists – – This seven member contemporary rock group with a New Orleans flair has been exciting audiences since 2007. The City of Sound double disc wisely includes a live set so you can get a feel for the band in action.

Hurray for Riff Raff – Alynda Lee Segarra may be from New York but she found her passion and honed her talent on the streets of New Orleans.  Small Town Heroes, the latest from this Americana songwriter puts a fresh spin on roots music.

The New Orleans Suspects nail it with their release Ourboros.
The New Orleans Suspects, with journeymen musicians from classic NOLA bands, make their own history with Ouroboros.

New Orleans Suspect – Third release is the charm for this textbook gumbo yaya band that draws direct influences from the Meters, Nevilles, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Radiators. Destined to make my overall top 10 list for 2014, Ouroboros means the Suspects no longer need to be compared to their previous projects.

Glen David Andrews – He’s Troy Andrews cousin but don’t expect Trombone Shorty despite Glen’s awesome trombone work. Instead you’ll get a double shot of gospel and soul in Redemption, growled out by an unrepentant preacher who has no intention of ceasing his prowling of nightclubs. Thank goodness.

Jimmy Carpenter – This blues saxman with Walter Wolfman Washington’s band on his resume’ hits full stride on his second solo release, Walk Away.  Carpenter offers up smooth, swingy blues with wonderful touches that make it clear where he calls home.

Ingrid Lucia – If you only know her wonderful version of “Zat You Santa Claus,” Living the Life is your opportunity to fall deeply in love with this voice, starting with her opening track, “Do You Remember Walter.”  We didn’t get this album at KAOS but I’ve gradually been buying tracks, like “Put the Radio On,” since she released this album.

Royal Southern Brotherhood Cyril Neville’s vocals complement this royal group of southern blues artists (Devon Allman, Yonrico Scott, Charlie Wooten and Mike Zito). Another entry for my top ten list,  HeartSoulBlood magically fuses blues to soul and R&B. Speaking of magic, Magic Honey was Cyril’s solo release this year.

Lena Prima comes home in body and spirit with Starting Something.
Lena Prima comes home in body and spirit with Starting Something.

Lena Prima is living testament to writer Chris Rose’s posit that “New Orleans girls never live anywhere else and even if they do, they always come back.”  Starting Something tracks the return of the prodigal daughter of Louis Prima to New Orleans. The more you listen, the more you’ll be delighted she came home.

Henry Butler – Brilliantly paired with New York trumpeter Steven Bernstein, Henry Butler demonstrates his virtuosity on piano while providing something for almost every Jazz taste on Viper’s Drag.

Louis Prima Jr. – Lena’s little brother demonstrates how to make swing and rock and roll relevant and hip in the 21st Century. With Blow,  Louis Junior goes his own way without straying too far from his pop’s tree. He and his band are not NOLA based but the album provides more than a passing nod to the city where he first connected with music.

The Last Hombres Odd Fellows Rest is a product of a band that has been rambling about for over a decade until the drummer settled down in New Orleans and invited the band to bunker down and find their collective muse. Combine the pedal steel of The New Riders of the Purple Sage with songwriting reminiscent of Tom Petty and throw in some tasteful Hot 8  Brass Band and you have a CD that gets better with every spin.

Flow Tribe – Self described as “bizarrely irresistable,” this funk rock band of six genuine NOLA hipsters (with birth certificates to prove it) give you a taste of what its like to see them live with five upbeat studio tracks on Alligator White. (See if you can catch their reference to what’s been described as the best dive bar in New Orleans.)

Rockabilly does quite capture the adventure that Rory Danger and the Dangers Dangers offer in The Age of Exploration.
“Rockabilly” does not quite capture the adventure that Rory Danger and the Dangers Dangers set listeners on in The Age of Exploration.

Rory Danger & the Danger Dangers  The perfect gift for the historian/adventurer on your list, Age of Exploration is the first release of this New Orleans rockabilly group. This Shackleton-themed concept album is largely the product of hardworking reeds-woman Aurora Nealand.  Another CD that hasn’t found its way to KAOS, I’ve only heard the two tracks I’ve purchased online but I want more.

The Iguanas – This year brought us, Juarez, the eighth album by a venerable New Orleans group that has been keeping dancers happy by blending Latin styles with New Orleans groove. If you have ever seen them live, say at Rock ‘N’ Bowl, you know what I’m talking about.

Billy Pierce and Friends – Fine slide blues made exceptional on Take Me Back to the Delta by his “friends,” notably Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Carpenter, Waylon Thibodeaux and the guys who put the Bone in Bonerama (Craig Klein, Mark Mullins and Greg Hicks). It’s not all New Orleans music but by the time you get to “Give Me A Dollar,” it won’t matter.

Marcia Ball – She may be from Texas but she has her NOLA residency card for reasons that are amply supplied by The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man. How does she do it?

Rebirth Brass Band – Erasing all doubt that they could top their grammy winning Rebirth of New Orleans album of 2012, these guys did that and more with Move Your Body.  After 31 years of playing all night gigs and second lining, Rebirth is doing their most entertaining work.  Want to loosen up a boring party, play the track HBNS.  Oh yea! (A no brainer for my top 10)

Wow!  So much music and I’ve got more to write about and play. I’ve written Part II to this guide. I’ll be playing only new music December 8 and 15, from 10 a.m. to noon, KAOS 89.3 FM, Olympia.

(If you missed December 8, here is the playlist.)

Focus on Tradition and Youth Ignites a Musical Rebirth

It’s not every retirement that results in a musical revitalization. But that’s what happened when veteran jazz performers Danny and Blue Lu Barker returned to New Orleans in 1965.

MRDannyLuBarker
Louise “Blue Lu” and Danny Barker were life partners who performed together as an act. One of their most famous numbers was Don’t You Feel My Leg

I suspect they sought a slower pace after 35 years of performing with Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and a long list of other jazz notables. But retirement for Danny Barker didn’t mean doing nothing.

Danny went to work as an assistant curator for the New Orleans Jazz Museum– gone now but the collection resides in the Old U.S. Mint building.  He also continued his reputation for performing and writing bawdy songs like the one that made him and Blue Lu famous, Don’t You Feel My Leg.

Danny continued to perform with his guitar and banjo regularly around town, even maintaining a weekly spot with the band at the Palm Court Jazz Café until near his death in 1994.   (The gig inspired his song Palm Court Strut. See it performed at Seattle’s Fremont Solstice Parade.)

But it was volunteer work organizing a youth band for his 7th Ward neighborhood church at the request of his pastor that would leave a lasting impact on New Orleans music.

When Barker began recruiting young musicians for the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Marching Band in 1970, brass bands were the province of old men. There was some concern whether the tradition would get carried forward. Fortunately, there were plenty of young musicians developing through the public school’s music system. All they needed was some guidance.

Leroy Jones, who lived only an Archie Manning pass away from the church, was one of the first to get recruited. Danny found the future member of the New Orleans Jazz Hall of Fame practicing in his parent’s garage. Years later, Jones described his initial impressions of Barker this way to Offbeat Magazine:

“We didn’t really know who Danny was in terms of his status. I just thought he was a cool guy. He wore a nice hat and these slick, creased pants and Stacy Adams shoes. He had a cool, hip walk. He was the epitome of coolness. These guys today have nothing on Danny Barker.” (Hear Leroy Jones describe his meeting with Barker on this WWOZ podcast.)

The list of band members that Barker assembled makes it clear he had eye for talent because it reads like a “whose who” of New Orleans musicians: Wynton Marsalis, Gregg Stafford, Herlin Riley, Michael White, Lucien Barbarin, Kirk Joseph, Alton “Big Al” Carson,  and Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, among others.

The Fairview Band played for about four years before Barker had to quit the project because of concerns raised by the local music union. But the band continued, evolving into the Hurricane Brass Band and then Tornado Brass Band–names suggestive of the power produced by these young lungs.

use of union issues, Danny Barker had to stop leading the church band which was renamed Hurricane Brass Band. Here the young band members are marching on St. Denis toward the church.

Three of the band members, Gregory Davis, Kirk Joseph, and Kevin Harris, would form the the Dirty Dozen Brass Band which captured the attention of music lovers all over the world by blending traditional brass sounds with funk, bepop and R&B.  The band was a major inspiration for the founding members of the Rebirth Brass Band and other brass bands that followed. Without Danny Barker’s efforts with Fairview, the brass band scene in New Orleans would not be as robust as it is today.

Also, many of the Fairview band members such as Jones, Stafford and White, would carry on the tradition of New Orleans jazz, helping to sustain and grow the city’s reputation as the birthplace of jazz.

In reading the many articles about the Fairview Brass Band and Barker’s influence (a good example), I’m struck by how a string musician could affect so dramatically brass band music. He did it by teaching these young players the history and tradition of jazz. particularly New Orleans jazz. He demonstrated the importance of showing up on time, dressing appropriately and being prepared to perform–what workforce professionals now call the “soft skills.” In short, he taught kids who had musical talent how to be professional musicians.

You’ll hear some of Danny’s proteges in this week’s edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.  See you on the radio.