“I don’t know, boss. . but I won’t do it again,” is allegedly how Louis Armstrong responded to a pointed question from the president of Okeh records when he asked him who was playing trumpet on a song recorded by a competing label. The song was “Drop that Sack” and you’ll hear it on today’s show.
Helen Gillet’s memorable “De mémoire de Rose opens the show followed by Satchmo’s 1926 recording and a live recording of Big Sam’s Funky Nation at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival doing almost 12 minutes of funk with some familiar touchstones throughout, including “Eliza Jane.”
I do a set of jazz, swing numbers followed by a Latin-inflected number by Charmaine Neville and her band appropriately titled “Dance.” I break into the new release by Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue and offer up some New Orleans Suspects, Seth Walker, Professor Longhair and Lena Prima.
Near the end of the show catch a great number sung by Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes with the Smoky Greenwell Band followed by Rosie Ledet’s “It Might Be You” from her latest release. If you stay with me long enough, you’ll catch another Helen Gillet number.
There’s something special about New Orleans drummers. A statement I read and hear regularly and while my untrained ear suggests that is true, I cannot in my own words explain why.
Drum Magazine has made it easy for me though by interviewing four of New Orleans top drummers. The magazine pulled together musicians who have handled the beat for The Meters, Professor Longhair, Wynton Marsalis, Papa Grows Funk, Galactic and countless other projects. Some of the conversation gets a little beyond my understanding but if you’re a drummer, I recommend you read the interview. Here’s a lay summary of it:
While New Orleans wasn’t much different as other Southern locales for discouraging the continuation of African culture, the city was unique in that it did allow for New Orleans slaves and people of color to congregate at a central location, known as Congo Square, on Sundays to share, among other things, music. From this setting, Caribbean and African rhythms and syncopation met European harmonies and melodies.
The key distinction of New Orleans drumming is an emphasis on the bass drum which in the New Orleans parade tradition is the heart and soul of the show. The bass “is the main voice; and the snare drum is the polish.” Interestingly, in the marching band, second line tradition, the bass drummer and snare drummer are two separate musicians.
“Bottom line is it has to be a pelvic thing. . . What makes me unconsciously decide whether it’s good or bad is when I’m having a conversation [at a gig] far away from the music with someone who’s totally distracting me, and in the meantime I’m moving my butt. Then I know it’s the science of true, organic swing.”
Drumming that gets your butt moving. Yea, that’s what I’m talking about.