Your 2016 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part Two

So much great music, I couldn’t put it all in one post so here’s part two. (Check out 2016 Part 1)  As you will quickly notice, there is no order to my lists. The only rule is I only list music from New Orleans (and nearby locales) I play on my show.  Like the following:

coreyhenry-15
Corey Henry

Corey Henry  I’ve been waiting for Lapeitah, Henry’s debut solo album, ever since I heard “Boe Money” the song that carries his nickname on Galactic’s 2010 Ya Ka May release.  Henry’s powerful trombone and songwriting mix of funk, R&B, soul and hip hop creates the experience I associate with the music I hear at New Orleans nightclubs. It’s no coincidence that Henry and his Treme Funket was the undisputed heir apparent of Kermit Ruffins legendary Thursday spot at Vaughn’s. Lapeitah does an excellent job of putting you in that Ninth Ward club with him.

The New Orleans Suspects Just as you would not want to ever miss a live performance of the New Orleans Suspects, you should not go without possessing their fourth album–and second one with original songs.  Kaleidoscoped delivers eight original numbers that makes me miss New Orleans and the original grooves that these journeymen musicians produce.

Kenny Neal – Bloodline  hooks you from  the opening number “Ain’t Gon Let the Blues Die.” And the rest of the album holds true to the promise. Nominated for best contemporary blues album grammy, this 2016 release is a full nod toward the amazing support this successful blues artist has received from his family members, who back him up on vocals and instruments throughout the album.

Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat just scored Rush’s fourth grammy nomination– this time for best traditional blues album. Though he lives in Mississippi by way of Chicago and his birthplace Homer, La., this release is actually the first one that the 83-year-old  blues veteran has recorded in New Orleans and some cool folks stop by to help out, such as Cornell Williams (bass), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone),  Shane Theriot (guitar), and David Torkanowsky (keyboards). Be sure to cue up and listen to “Funk O De Funk.”

misssophieukeMiss Sophie Lee Nightclub owner Sophie Lee returns to the recording studio with Traverse the UniverseShe has a sweet voice and her band does a nice turn with the handful of standards on the album but its her original songs, particularly her title track, that had me reaching for it to play regularly on my show.

Jeff Chaz – Chaz and his trio are hardworking blues musicians who can be seen regularly playing on Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter. He put out two releases this year: Sounds Like the Blues to Me and The Silence is Killing Me. Both are solid blues albums with numbers like “Fried Chicken Store” and “Savin’ Everything for You.” The latter release offers a holiday tune as well – “Merry Christmas to You.”

Herlin Riley A regular with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Riley can be a straight up jazz drummer but there’s no question where his roots lie. As he says: “As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. ” Riley jazzes it up on New Directions  but by the time you get to his hip version of Tutti Ma, you will like the direction he’s headed.

Dr. John –    Recorded in 2014 in the historic Saenger Theater on Canal Street in New Orleans, The Musical Mojo of Dr. John offers two discs of many of New Orleans elite such as Irma Thomas, Cyril and Aaron Neville, Anders Osborne, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Zigaboo Modeliste and Dave Malone,  paired with familiar outsiders like Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Chuck Leavell, and Mavis Staples. With the venerable Mac Rebennak (Dr. John) in the middle, how can you not be satisfied wit dat package!

Smoky Greenwell – Another visiting musician who came to the city for a gig and stayed a lifetime, Greenwell has been cranking out the blues in New Orleans for 35 years and his last two releases are arguably his best.  I particularly like it when he puts down his harmonica and reaches for his saxophone on South Louisiana Blues.

close-up-photo-by-ken-swartz-150x150
Gina Forsyth

Gina Forsyth – This New Orleans-based musician is wickedly good on fiddle and guitar. Yea, you don’t expect this type of music in New Orleans. So what.  Copper Rooster and Other Tunes and Tales provides a dozen and a half smile inducing old timey numbers that will have you reaching for the play again button.

Mark and the Pentones This blues trio, fronted by guitarist Mark Penton, may be one of the best reasons to stumble down Bourbon Street. Currently anchoring the swing shift at Funky Pirate Blues Club on Fridays and Saturdays, the Pentones released its debut album, Don’t Leave Nothin Behind late last year with some subtle surprises among the 11 tracks. I particularly like “Jodie,” “Too Many Second Lines” and “I B Cing You.”

Keith Stone –  The Prodigal Returns is the aptly named debut album of a native New Orleanian who sowed some wild oats in the 90’s as an area blues guitarist, settled down to be a minister in Kentucky and then came back home after Hurricane Katrina. The album features playful piano, strong guitar licks, and a solid horn arrangements. If you’re a dislocated NOLA homeboy feeling the tug of that big magnet at the end of the Mississippi River, this album will talk to you.

Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey  Okay, I’ve wandered all the way up to Monroe, La. to grab this one. But all’s fair if the music is great.  From the distinctive bass line opening of “Funky Bidneh” to the inviting saxophone on its last track “Love Into My Life”, this band’s debut release has a full sound that puts you front and center of your own Soul Revival.

Anders OsborneThis prolific musician, songwriter, and producer released two albums this year. Spacedust and Ocean Views  and Flower Box.  My station didn’t get Flower Box  (that happens but don’t let it happen to your album) and I almost missed Spacedust because the music director justifiably placed it in our Folk, Country and Bluegrass shelf. I love his voice and his songs and I don’t care what shelf I have to check, I’ll be regularly reaching for his music to play on my show.

toussaintAllen Toussaint – This one breaks my heart. A year after his death, I still grieve. American Tunes is his last studio album, released this year posthumously. There’s little between you and Toussaint other than his piano, a drummer and bass. He doesn’t even sing except on a Paul Simon cover– though others do. As I listento him run through Big Chief , he’s in the room with me, playing the piano, with his leather sandal and sock clad feet working the pedals.

Now don’t forget that you can catch my show on a live stream at http://www.kaosradio.org every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon Pacific Coast Time and I serve up podcasts of past shows as well.   Also, you here’s part 1 of this post.

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.

What makes New Orleans drummers and drumming unique?

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.