Every once and a while, I enjoy living up to the stereotypical impression of a New Orleans music show and play only jazz. So if you’re looking for my usual mix of funk, R&B, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, country, rock and all stuff in between. This show ain’t it. But its very listenable – get it started and you’ll hear why.
Al Hirt was a presence growing up in Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s. He was the godfather of one of the neighbor’s kids that I would play with and my parents regularly visited Hirt’s club on Bourbon Street. He starts off the show with “Jazz Me Blues.” But I mix it up in the next set with Kid Ory, the Smoking Time Jazz Club and Ingrid Lucia.
Dr. Michael White anchors the second set with his “West African Strut” supported by songs by Linnzi Zaorski and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
I get to play my vinyl autographed version of a Willie Humphrey’s album with Sarah Quintana and Lena Prima rounding out the next set. The show rolls on bouncing between traditional New Orleans jazz, some contemporary jazz, a bit of swing and a couple brass band numbers, including “Get a Life” by the Original Pinettes.
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Five Thursdays in November means a “lagniappe” serving of Gumbo YaYa, this time with a sweet mix of southern rock, funk and alternative cajun and zydeco. Check it out!
I also celebrate Dr. Michael White’s 64th birthday with a song made famous by Janis Joplin. Lots of 2018 music played on this show including songs by Jonathon Long (opening track), Michot’s Melody Makers, Sean Ardoin, Eric Lindell, Shawn Williams, Marcia Ball, Ted Hefko and a very new collaboration by Ivan Neville and Chris Jacobs. Thanks you for tuning in or listening afterwards.
Champion Jack Dupree scats through this week’s opening number with “Skit Skat” from his 1991 Rounder release, Forever and Ever. While he lived over 30 years in Europe, Dupree learned his piano in New Orleans. Later in the show, Jon Cleary sings ” Hit, Git, Quit, Split.” For right now, I hope you just “hit” the show’s start button and forget the rest of his advice.
Dr. Michael White (clarinet) and Matt Perrine (sousaphone) add the New Orleans feel to Portland-based blues guitarist Mary Flower’s hilarious rendition of “Main Street Blues” to start the first full set. She’s followed by a Boswell Sister cover energetically performed live at the New Orleans Mint by Bon Bon Vivant (“Shout Sister, Shout).
From his latest release Dyna-Mite, Cleary kicks off the second full set which is anchored by Glen David Andrews performing the “Brothers Johnson Jam” at Three Muses. In later sets, John Lisi, Mem Shannon and Bonerama liven things up, along with Dash Rip Rock, Buddy Flett, and the Dirty River Bourbon Band. I hope you keep listening. Here’s the full playlist.
Today’s show honors African-American History Month (February) with a musical tour through jazz, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras Indian, hip hop and bounce music from New Orleans. Start the show by clicking the arrow below and then read the rest of my show notes.
New Orleans may have been founded by the French, rebuilt by the Spanish and bought by the U.S., but its the African ingredients that make the New Orleans cultural gumbo so rich.
The very short story is that the rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean blended with European instruments in New Orleans to create jazz. But it was African-Americans, many who were descendants of slaves, who made the music happen.
The show’s first set features Sidney Bechet who came from a musical middle-class family that lived in the Marigny neighborhood. I follow him up with a quick race to contemporary times with Dr. Michael White and Doreen Ketchens. It’s a strong set of clarinet solos.
The second set kicks off with Louis Armstrong and follows with two of his mentors King Oliver and Kid Ory. Jelly Roll Morton, who started playing the New Orleans brothels at 14, starts off my last set of jazz. Morton is followed by Kid Thomas who was faithful to the New Orleans jazz tradition throughout his career that spanned from the 1920’s to 1970. But 100+ year old Lionel Ferbos wins the longevity award and sings “Pretty Doll/Ugly Child.”
The show moves into R&B with a rollicking three-piano version of Boogie Woogie with Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint. But its Deacon John’s “Jumpin’ in the Morning” that gets your ass shaking. Somewhere in there, I talk about the Dew Drop Inn and include an excerpt from an interview of Kenneth Jackson about his grandpa, Frank Pania who started the Dew Drop Inn and was part of a civil action that ended arrests for racial mixing.
Which made that a good time to play Fats Domino, whose concerts were the site of at least four major riots. Some blame the music, some blame the alcohol but Rick Coleman who wrote a biography of Fats Domino contends that the riots were at least in part incited by racial mixing in a time period when much of our country recognized and practiced “apartheid.”
The show rolls on with only African-American musicians and vocalists, including a set of Black Creole music of South Louisiana, which is often called “Zydeco.” And I closed the show with “Get Lucky” with bounce artist Big Freedia performing with the Soul Rebels.
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An upside to Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood was the infusion of New Orleans culture throughout our country. With the city almost completely evacuated, its people, music, cooking, way of talk and style scattered across the U.S. like seeds from a dandelion blowball.
Texas received the largest number of evacuees. Austin, which like New Orleans is a regional music mecca, swelled from the addition of Cyril Neville, the Iguanas, the Radiators and other musicians — some who came to call themselves “Texiles” while playing music and waiting to return to their hometown. The resultant mix was described by Cyril Neville as having the “gumbo spill into the chili.”
Here’s more on how some of New Orleans finest musicians fared:
Fats Domino, the city’s greatest rocker, is a lifelong resident of the Lower Ninth
Ward. He stayed in his home through the hurricane and was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. But he lost all his gold records and memorabilia.
Irma Thomas – The Soul Queen of New Orleans weathered the storm and the aftermath in Austin Texas. She rebuilt her East New Orleans home and she won a grammy for her post Katrina recorded album.
Dave Bartholomew – The home and studio of the man behind many of New Orleans R&B hits of the 1950’s suffered considerable flood damage but he and his family (His son Don B. is a successful hip-hop producer) have bounced back with now three generations of Bartholomew’s making music.
The Radiators – Once described as New Orleans’ longest running and most successful rock band are no longer an act officially–though you can occasionally catch them on special events and Jazzfest. Hurricane Katrina landed on guitarist Dave Malone’s birthday. He and his wife struggled to rebuild their home and ended up living outside of New Orleans.
Al Johnson – The man who made it possible to be “Carnival Time” any time of the year, lost his long-time house on Tennessee Street in the Lower Ninth Ward He now lives in the Musicians Village where he penned Lower Ninth Ward Blues
The Iguanas – The members of this latin-tinged roots rock band were on tour at the
time and separated to find evacuated family members. They regathered in Austin and became part of the flexible ensemble of New Orleans musicians known as Texiles. The band has had three CD releases since Katrina.
The Hot 8 Brass Band – This innovative group could be called the Adversity Brass Band. Before Katrina, three of its band members had died — two from shootings. After Katrina, a fourth member was shot to death while driving in his car with his family. Another member lost the use of his legs in an accident. The band scattered across the country after Katrina and could easily have disbanded permanently. But it regrouped, recorded a grammy-nominated album and still perform today.
Dr. Michael G. White – The University professor and clarinetist lost his home in Gentilly, including many valuable jazz documents. But he’s back in town and working as hard as ever.
Henry Butler – Fortunately the talented piano virtuoso was convinced to evacuate his Gentilly home, which was devastated by flood waters. Blind since birth, he can’t tell you what the damage looked like but he can describe the feel of his piano keys as they fell apart in his hands. Last year, he and Steve Bernstein released “Viper Drag” to rave reviews and he regularly performs.
Kermit Ruffins – “What good is a million dollars if you’re not in New Orleans.” The widely recognized ambassador to New Orleans evacuated to Houston with a large extended family and pets. He returned to New Orleans after the storm and continued his routine up until last year. Ironically, his wife got a job in Houston and he now splits his time between New Orleans and Houston.
Donald Harrison Jr.- This lifelong New Orleans resident, Big Chief and heralded jazz saxophonist has a fear of hurricanes borne from his youthful experience escaping from Hurricane Betsy’s flood. But he stuck it out in the city cause his mother-in-law wouldn’t leave. They slept on the ballroom floor of the Hyatt Regency during the storm and aftermath, escaping to Baton Route four days later.
Shamar Allen – This young trumpet player’s home was right next to a levee that broke. He now owns a home in the Musician’s Village. He contributed some key songs to the musical Nine Lives that focuses on New Orleanians who survived Hurricane Betsy and Katrina.
John Boutte was in Brazil at the time and watched almost helplessly the hurricane reports from afar. Fortunately, he finally convinced one of his sisters and mother to evacuate but his other two sisters were stranded on an interstate highway bridge for five days.
Terence Blanchard – Much of this jazz trumpeter’s story was told in the Spike Lee movie “When the Levees Broke.” In the documentary, you can see him and his mother enter her flood-wrecked near Lake Ponchatrain. Blanchard wrote the score for the documentary and won a grammy for subsequent album he released.
Last week and this week, I’m honoring the survivors of Hurricane Katrina who dealt with intense horror, long hot days, and many months and in some cases years of uncertainty about their future. And yet, they returned to New Orleans, their home and rebuilt. Last week’s Katrina show here and this week’s show.