Jazz Pioneers, House of Dance and Feathers and the Ghost Next to You

On today’s musical journey of New Orleans, we celebrate the birth anniversaries of two Jazz pioneers and we visit the House of Dance and Feathers to hear the voice of the museum curator and recent COVID-19 victim Ronald Lewis talk about his passion for preserving his community’s culture. We’ll also hear from Helen Gillet and Shawn Williams whose music evoke a passion in very different ways. Go ahead and start the show and I’ll tell you about the ghost . . .eventually.

After Danny Barker gets the show rolling with “Rose of Picardy,” I kick up a set featuring two songs with Sidney Bechet and James “Zutty” Singleton — early jazz pioneers who followed the Great Migration out of New Orleans to larger venues. Singleton would participate in Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recordings and Bechet, would find his comfort zone in Europe where he would innovate with clarinet and saxophone. They were born near the end of the 19th Century but their music lives on.

Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet joins the show around the 15 minute mark. One of her last performances before a real audience was in Olympia at Octapas Cafe. She will introduce a song from her latest Helkiase followed by two from her Bangkok Silver record. She references two organizations that are working hard to support the community during the COVID closures in New Orleans – Letters from the Porch and Krewe of Red Beans . She’s doing shows on Mondays starting at 5 p.m. Olympia time on her Facebook page.

At about the 40-minute mark, Shawn Williams comes on to talk about serenading her neighborhood and expressing her hope to be able to tour the Northwest soon. I’m hoping it happens and you will too when you hear her sing two songs from her Motel Livin’ record.

My visit with Ronald Lewis, founder of House of Dance and Feathers. Photo by Kim Vu-Dinh.

I wasn’t happy with my recording of Ronald Lewis when I had the pleasure of meeting him in his lower Ninth Ward backyard museum, House of Dance and Feathers, a few years back. The hammering of nearby construction made me reluctant to use it. But with the short voice clip I share (for the first time) you’ll identify the enthusiasm in this special man’s voice. He was one of the Nine Lives by Dan Baum — a wonderful book that introduces you to some of the many facets of the New Orleans social diamond. The fact it was made into a musical by many New Orleans musicians is an indication of how spot on it was. Sadly, Lewis died in March, possibly from complications of COVID-19. I play two songs by Shamarr Allen, Lewis’ uber-talented nephew, that depict the role of his uncle as curator of his neighborhood’s unique culture. If you want to skip to that, it all starts around the 57 minute mark. As lagniappe, here’s a video of Mr. Allen performing in his uncle’s museum for the NPR Tiny Desk contest. It’s a winner particularly when Shamarr shows us his footwork near the end.

Now about that ghost, its been weird shopping at the Olympia Food Coop. I love that store (I’m an Eastside customer) and I love my regular shopping routine. But, like every other grocery, its different now. We put on gloves and masks and we move haltingly through the aisles sometimes making eye contact and recognizing (maybe) the driver of the next shopping cart. When I heard this opening lyric “I saw your ghost at the grocery,” I had to include the Hurray for the Riff Raff’s song “Is That You?” I’ll say no more except that the last hour is basically two long sets of great New Orleans music including a new window-pane rattling number by Cowboy Mouth.

Subscribe and you’ll get an email every time I post. Oh boy!

Cellist Helen Gillet visits Olympia and Gumbo YaYa

Helen Gillet’s return to the Northwest gave me an excuse to talk with her on air and feature her music. But there’s lots of other fun songs to appreciate on this show.

Helen Gillet blasts off at Octapas on Sunday

Gillet and her magic cello will perform at Octapas Cafe, Sunday at 7:30 p.m. This will be her third visit to Olympia but her first time to perform at a public venue in town. (Helen’s website)I play three of her songs on the show, including Carolina — a song about the extinct Carolina Parakeet that was inspired by a mural painted by students from a school for the blind. She tells the story in our brief conversation which you can catch about an hour into the show.

But first, you’ll hear a fun show opener by Lil’ Buck Sinegal called “Monkey in a Sack.” If you’ve never heard Sinegal perform then just playing the first song from the show should be worth your while. (have you clicked the sideway arrow above to start the show yet?)

Kirk Joseph

Other audio treats include a raspy banjo-inflected “Hound Dog,” the Boswell Sisters “Put that Sun Back in the Sky,” David Egan’s “Funky Dreams,” and Louis Prima rocking it with bandleader, saxophonist and fellow New Orleanian Sam Butera. And that’s just the first full set.

Some of my other favorites in the show include Kirk Joseph, sousaphonist, performing an original “Not Yet, Son” and Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie’s take on “Sunnyside of the Street.”

As usual, the show flows from R&B to Jazz to Funk to Swing as if you enjoy it all, which if you listen to my show — you pretty much have to. Thanks for tuning in and please subscribe.

A Show for the Post-Mardi Gras Blues and Funk

The day after Mardi Gras can be unsettling because even though you can “Do Whatcha Wanna” on Fat Tuesday, the next day is accompanied by a hangover, sore feet and vocal chords and, for some, a broken heart. Get the show started and let Alex McMurray’s song “The Day After Mardi Gras Day” fill you in.

In some ways, it was a relief to get out of the party zone with the show and get reacquainted with other New Orleans music. In this show you’ll hear Kristin Diable, Mem Shannon, Dana Abbott, Glen David Andrews, Henry Butler, Carlo Ditta, and many more.

On re-listening to this show, I’m most impressed by Lil Queenie doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Stay” from her new release Purple Heart. Other covers include Carlo Ditta channelling Leonard Cohen in a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” and Mem Shannon’s persuasive take of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Back Down.”

I start a new feature called “Gumbo YaYa Earworm” where I play a song from the last show that stuck in my head. If you have that malady when you listen to my show, let me know the culprit and I’ll include it in the next show.

I also replay a segment of Helen Gillet’s live in-studio performance at KAOS last summer where she talked about Alcide Pavageau, a well-regarded New Orleans bass player who was born on this day in 1888. The song is called “Slow Drag Pavageau” and is featured on her latest album.

What would like to hear in future shows? Let me know. Cheers.

Gumbo YaYa 2018 – Top 10 CDs of the Year

My list of top ten releases from New Orleans is based on my experience as the host of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, a Northwest community radio show that features New Orleans and other Louisiana music. To see a larger list of releases, check out my 2018 summary. This show features two tracks from each of the top 10 releases.

Bon Bon VivantLive At The New Orleans Jazz Museum –  This original group features sweet sister harmonies, a genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience.  This is a group to watch and you can, very easily because they perform live in New Orleans regularly.

Riverside Jazz Collective: Stomp Off, Let’s Go – Recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music by New Orleans pros who can  be heard regularly around town, particularly at The Bombay Club. This album features gently time-worn “songs that are melodically and emotionally durable.”  

Ivan Neville and Cris JacobsNeville Jacobs – A magic combination formed from a post-Jazz Fest card game where New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  The chemistry is so solid, I listen to this CD with the hope that there will be a second one.

Cha WaSpyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (except with a strong brass sound ) Look no further then this second release of this millennial group that has the fire!  Grammy nominated too.  “Get On Out Of the Way” 

Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon – Lost Bayou Ramblers’ co-founder Louis Michot stretches the boundaries of Cajun music to his heart and my ears content with this project. I get calls from listeners wanting to know more when I play from this CD — and for good reason.

Helen GilletHelkiase– On the surface, Gillet and her music may seem far afield of what you might expect out of New Orleans. But this French and English singing cellist has been embedded in the city for most of her professional life. Her latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer

Jon Batiste:  Hollywood Africans – He may be world famous as the late night show bandleader but Batiste is more importantly a world-class musician with some powerful music to share, In this very personal release, he offers up originals with a fresh look at a couple standards. His reverent timing invites the listener to slow down and listen “with all you got, . . .don’t stop.”

Gal HolidayLost & Found – After 14 years in the vanguard of the New Orleans country music scene, Gal Holiday — aka Vanessa Neuman — and her Honky-Tonk Revue know how to deliver authentic old-time Patsy Cline style country. And while her band is solid, Vanessa’s voice is the star of the show.

Jonathon LongJonathon Long –  His third release is the charm. He dropped the “Boogie” from his name and added a lot of himself in his singing and songwriting. This self-titled album produced by Samantha Fish and featuring muscular guitar work and soulful, personal lyrics represents a new addition to Southern Rock.

Jon ClearyDyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  With two more songs and a wider range (including a reggae-inflected song), Dyna-Mite blows away his Grammy-worthy earlier release.

I also play a track from Ever More Nest — Kelcy Mae’s latest project which was a close contender for being part of the top 10 list.

Audio slideshow of latest trip to New Orleans

I miss the days when my Dad would pull out the slide projector and set up the screen and we’d look at the slides of our last vacation.  Well, get my show started and you’ll hear an audio slideshow of my trip to New Orleans last week.

Since this show was part of the KAOS pledge drive, I have the honor of Anch Bergeson, host of Sundrenched, and Vertis Love, host of Old Ship of Zion (KAOS shows) as company.  I kept our discussion of New Orleans but edited out the pledge requests. However, if you want to support our community radio station, its easy to do.

maple-leaf
Vincent Broussard of Rebirth Brass Band powers his saxophone at the Maple Leaf Bar.

For West Coast visitors, there’s a nice alignment for catching Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar on Tuesday nights.  Usually, flights are cheaper on Tuesday and the two-hour time change helps in terms of staying up late enough to see this venerable band that usually doesn’t start performing until after 10:30 p.m.  This show recognizes how I started last week’s trip with Rebirth’s “Who’s Rockin’, Who’s Rollin”

My next set portrays our ride on the Natchez boat down the Mississippi, an easy and fun tourist activity and I feature two bands we saw later in the day at clubs on Frenchmen Street (Bon Bon Vivant and Tin Men).

I do a set featuring coffee because my wife, Kim, still raves about the cup of coffee she had at Morning Call located at City Park. Most tourists get their cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. Morning Call used to be there but now they have a wonderful place at City Park. I finish the set with a Corey Henry song because we ended the day at Vaughan’s in the Bywater for his weekly late Thursday night performance.

Lena Prima, Louis’ daughter, is a wonderful performer with an excellent band and  a crowd-pleasing songbook.  She holds court in the Carousel Room of the Monteleone Hotel every Friday night.  I play “Scuba Diver” off her live album which pretty accurately captures the music but to catch the antics, you’ll have to wait for my narrative after that set.

helen.jpg
Helen Gillet at the Courtyard Brewery

I caught up with Helen Gillet at the Courtyard Brewery’s fourth anniversary party and she gave me her latest release and I play “You Found Me.”  Charles Sheffield “It’s Your Voodoo Working” and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Swamp Ghost” symbolize the Krewe of Boo parade we caught.

 

It took some deciphering but we figured out how to catch up with the Men of Luck’s Second Line parade on Sunday.  Cyril Neville’s “Running with the Second Line.” capture that feeling.

 

streetcar second line2.jpg
Men of Luck Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade hits St. Charles Street

 

Helen Gillet performs on Gumbo YaYa and at Olympia concert

Jazz-based cellist, singer, composer and improviser Helen Gillet graced the KAOS studio during my July 12, 2018 show.  She also performs this evening in my backyard.  Go ahead and get the radio show started which begins with Jon Cleary’s new song “Big Greasy.”

helen

Helen is a total pro.  Despite feeling under the weather, she braved I-5 traffic and arrived exactly when she said she would.  She set up quickly with the help of our talented KAOS Music Department and as a result, we got to spend over an hour together on the air talking about her music, New Orleans and she performed one of my favoriteH’s (“Atchafalaya”).

She also talked a bit about her experience learning the cello in Singapore and the difficulties with how to categorize her music which is so difficult to define yet so pleasing to listen to.

I’m sorry if you missed the Olympia concert. Subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss the next one.

Here is just the interview and music of Helen Gillet:

 

Funky Eliza Jane and Satchmo’s famous quote star in today’s show.

“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.

maxresdefault.jpg
Armstrong strayed from his label briefly to record with Vocalion under a band named after his wife Lil Harden.

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.

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. 

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.

House guest helps me with my Louisiana French titled songs

I have to admit, I tend to play zydeco and cajun tunes with English titles because demonstrating my language ignorance on the radio is right up there with playing Pictionary in terms of personal embarrasment. But this last week, we’ve been hosting a young women from France who has decided to live in Olympia, where her parents met, fell in love and is her birthplace.  So I invited Noémie to sit on my show this morning and what a great time.

WIN_20170914_09_17_08_Pro
Me and Noémie in the KAOS control room right before today’s show.

The result is a wonderful mix of French-language songs from Louisiana. Songs from Beausoleil, Pine Leaf Boys, Gina Delafose, Bonsour Catin, Clifton Chenier, Helen Gillet, Sweet Crude and more.

 

Please enjoy: