KAOS/Gumbo YaYa’s – Top Ten 2017 New Orleans CD’s

Here are my top 10 New Orleans music releases.  All of these have been played on my show on KAOS in 2017 (For more new releases played on my show this year, go to my end of year roundup.)  You can listen to the show featuring these releases while you read about them.

A Beautiful World.jpgA Beautiful World – Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield hit a home run with this home town love note featuring over 50 New Orleans musicians with originals and covers that totally capture Ruffins’ style and vibe.  Mayfield, as producer and master trumpeter, does a great job of letting the relaxed, hip style of Ruffins shine through.

boneramaHot Like Fire – Mark Mullins and Craig Klein are solidly in their comfort zone with their latest Bonerama release, their first through Basin Street Records. The album’s strength is the talent of the musicians, especially Matt Perrine, who contributed three songs as well as his sousaphone expertise and Bert Cotten, whose guitar gives this brass heavy release a rocking feel.

roamin-jasmine-live-at-horaces-barLive at Horace’s – Taylor Smith may regret putting his favorite neighborhood (Central City) bar on the international map but the cozy Horace’s apparently was just the venue for him to showcase his energetic style of New Orleans R&B.  Guitar Slim, Earl King, Elmore James and Blind Lemon Jefferson all get  the Roamin’ Jasmine treatment in this set.

SoItIsSo It Is –  This is the second release by Preservation Hall Jazz Band with all original tunes. While Preservation Hall, with its musician’s collective, is known for keeping the tradition alive, the recording/touring band is keeping the tradition alive by providing fresh music that connects New Orleans to its Afro-Cuban roots. It’s totally hip and hard to stop playing.

With-You-in-Mind-Cover-980x980With You in Mind – Stanton Moore was still grieving the unexpected death of Allen Toussaint, the central architect of New Orleans R&B and Funk in the 60’s and beyond, when he went into the studio with David Torkanowsky and James Singleton. With the help of Cyril Neville, Nicholas Payton, Trombone Shorty and Donald Harrison Jr, the trio captured Toussaint’s joy for life as well as ability to touch your heart.

hot 8 on the spotOn the Spot – The Hot 8 Brass Band does brass band music right. Given my fondness for this band and its sound, I would be hard pressed to not have them on my list.  But after 20 years, this band is not resting on its laurels.  The band covers Stevie Wonder and the classic St. James Infirmary in its usual ear-opening style but it also offers new songs that speak to this band’s amazing ability to keep on plugging against adversity.

sketchSketch –  Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes should be getting a helluva a lot more attention, particularly after this release. While the band can play just about any style, the members seem most entertaining with their original funk rock sound.  They have a reputation as a party band, but its members are professionals who know how to play and create unique, entertaining music.

marsalisMake America Great Again – This late 2016 release is Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra’s formula for what truly makes our country great.  Yes, he starts with the Star Spangled Banner and lays down some solid swinging big band sounds through 14 tracks but there’s sharp commentary spliced in between the jazzy sounds.  This is a great release for a deejay of New Orleans music show. It has a bit everything with top-flight craftsmanship.

dirty bourbonThe Flying Musical Circus – Noah Adams is the brainchild, singer and songwriter of this frenetically entertaining group, the Dirty Bourbon River Show.  “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock Music” is the elevator pitch for the music but even if that doesn’t appeal to you, give this album a listen. The music is deep and its elephant free

CreaturesFront_mini.jpgCreatures  – If Sweet Crude makes it big and it certainly has the potential, you might be able to point to this album as when they figured it all out.  This is a uniquely Louisiana-band with strong roots in Arcadia, but its clearly a pop band, that sings in French and English, with the opportunity to grow a wider audience.  Get on the ground floor with Creatures.

Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide, Part 2

Mardi Gras dot background.

Here’s Part 2 of my annual roundup of 2017 releases from New Orleans  (and a couple from Lafayette) just in time for the holiday shopping season.   Part 1 here.  The recording of this show features songs from the releases discussed in this article so you can listen while you read.  Please consider subscribing (on the right)

Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield – There’s an infectious joy with a Kermit Ruffins performance and on the occasion of its 20th anniversary,  Basin Street Records created the environment for Ruffins to reach peak effervescence.  A Beautiful World is lovingly produced by Irvin Mayfield and supported by a large cast of top New Orleans talent including Cyril Neville, John Boutte, Jason Marsalis,  Dr. Michael White, Shannon Powell, Glen David Andrews and actor Wendell Pierce.  Throw in the sterling voice of Haley Reinhart and the party sounds of Rebirth Brass Band, which Ruffins co-founded, and you have an album that richly deserves its place on top of the Billboard Jazz chart. Here’s more on the album including my interview with Ruffins and Mayfield at the Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans.

Trombone Shorty – Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is an international touring artist with a grammy nomination and a slick third release Parking Lot Symphony since his breakout Backatown.  But his recordings still reflect his roots.  From the opening and closing funeral-like dirges to his cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Here Come the Girls” to his colloquially titled “Where It At?” Andrews leaves no doubt he’s a part of a proud family of Treme musicians. Check out his “Tripped Out Slim” for a healthy hit of brass funk.

Bonsoir_Catin_LAurore_Cover_WebBonsoir Catin – First, don’t use the Google translation to say the English version of this band’s name. I made that mistake while doing my show and was promptly corrected by a fan of the band listening from Baton Rouge (Thank you Bill Boelens) This mostly all-female group from Lafayette plays cajun music in a fresh, addictive manner.  L’aurore  is an excellent ambassador for your friend who’s been reluctant to attend a fais do-do. The opening, title track makes it clear you’re going somewhere else and by the funky La Delaissee, you two will be dancing. I GAR-ON-TEE!.

Shotgun Jazz Band –  Steppin on the Gas is not just another New Orleans hot jazz release.  Imagine attending one of the three live performances this band does on a weekly basis on Frenchmen Street, except get rid of all the chatting diners and drinkers and add clarinetist Tom Fischer and trumpeter Ben Polcer to the already strong Shotgun Jazz Band line up featuring Charlie Halloran on trombone and Marla Dixon on vocals.  You will be transported to another time, say 100 years ago, to Tom Anderson’s saloon at the corner of Basin and Iberville.

Twerk Thomson  –  Mr. Thomson is clearly into time travel.  With Twerk Thomson Plays Unpopular Songs, the bass player for Shotgun Jazz Band literally takes you back to the infancy of music recording, assembling a talented band and using one microphone to feed into a Presto K8 lathe, cut directly to acetate discs at 78 rpm. He edited for sound and fortunately made it available on more new-fangled formats like CD and MP3. The total vintage jazz effect is perfect for the vinyl lover who doesn’t own a turntable.

roamin-jasmine-live-at-horaces-barTaylor Smith & The Roamin’ Jasmine – With his third release, Live at Horace’s, Taylor Smith continues his mission of being a New Orleans guardian of the R&B groove.  Singing from behind his upright bass in the cozy neighborhood bar walking distance from his Central City home, Taylor and his five Roamin’ Jasmine deliver 13 tight songs. The band fearlessly tackle Blind Lemon’s “Hangman’s Blues,” Maybelle’s “That’s a Pretty Good Love,” Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up and Go,” Little Bob’s “I Got Loaded” and Earl King’s almost forgotten “Feeling My Way Around.”  Here is more, including an interview with Taylor Smith

Lost Bayou Ramblers –  Brothers Andre and Louis Michot formed this band in 1999, having learned their craft from their father and uncles in the family band, Les Frères Michot. They are more than capable of playing traditional cajun music sung in French/French Cajun. Yet while Kalenda is uncompromising in its presentation, it also pushes the boundaries with a jazz like, edgy pacing, particularly with the title track which taps into a folklore that dates back to before Congo Square.

Paula and the Pontiacs,  Looking for some swinging blues with sax, harmonica and a voice that fills the roadhouse but is connecting directly to you, consider Paula Rangel’s Seventeen– a sort of best hits from her previous releases. She handles all the above, including stongwriting but also gets great support from a rotating cast of familiar names including Jeffrey “Jelly Bean” Alexandar and Johnny Vidacovich on drums, John Mooney on slide guitar (Cadillac Love) and Cranston Clements on guitar.

Delfeayo Marsalis –  His exceptionally-timed 2016 release Make America Great Again with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra arrived too late for last year’s buying guide, so I’ll give it a two thumbs up now. And for something a bit different, Kalamazoo presents the trombonist member of the Marsalis musical dynasty performing with his father in a relaxed live setting. Starting with the New Orleans Rhythm King’s “Tin Roof Blues” to the oft-played standard “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” you’ll recognize many of the songs but you won’t have heard them played this way.  There is love in this music.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Any thought that Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a relic of New Orleans past, need only listen to So It Is. Following a trend from its last album. That’s It, the band continues to record original songs that break new ground. The opening track could have played on the TV show Mad Men while other tracks use Cuban rhythms, strong keyboards and liberal doses of brass band chaos. This is the new Preservation Hall Jazz Band – – long live them.

benny turnerBenny Turner – He might have 60 years of performing under his belt, but no moss is growing under this veteran bluesman who early in his career performed with his brother Freddie King and then did a 20-year stint in New Orleans as Marva Wright’s bandleader. His second tribute to his beloved brother, My Brother’s Songs, benefits from his guitar and voice and some choice performances by New Orleans musicians, including Jason Mingledorff, Joe Krown, June Yamigishi and Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander.  An excellent choice for the blues fan on your list.

Dirty Bourbon River Show –  The band’s latest release, Flying Musical Circus, exemplifies its website billing of  “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock Music.” With its Eastern European flair and horns, the “show” reminds me of some of the better bands that frequent HonkFest. The difference is the original songwriting and Noah Adams’ voice which prowls through his songs much like he prowls on stage during the band’s energetic performances. The music engages you to clap and sing, particularly with the (unfortunately radio unfriendly) song  “All My Friends are Dead.” Here’s my interview with the band’s saxophonist Matt Thomas along with a couple of the band’s songs recorded during my show.

Revival!  – Carolyn Broussard is the best reason to pick up Now is the Time – the title pulled from the lyrics of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” covered on the album. She gets excellent support from her fellow band members with their bluesy soul vibe, but every time I hear her singing in “Sweet Inspiration” and the Temptation’s “I Can’t Get Next to You,” I kick myself for missing the band’s Thursday evening gig at Cafe Negril the last time I was in New Orleans.

Ken Swartz  and the Palace of Sin –  Smile Away the Blues was a pleasant surprise, arriving at my KAOS inbox for processing into the blues collection. He packs 16 songs into Smile Away the Blues most with an easy, acoustic feel balanced with upbeat harmonica and toe-tapping rhythm.  His unpretentious vocals is well-suited to his Americana-style, particularly in songs like “Payday.”

Darcy Malone and the Tangle – Following up on last year’s release, Darcy Malone and her band released four new tracks on the EP Make Me Over.  Perhaps the indie rock/pop sound is something you don’t associate with New Orleans, yet Darcy Malone and Christopher Boye are very much from the city. As with their last release, the band features a delightful amount of saxophone. If you’re looking for a break from jazz but you want to stay in New Orleans, Darcy Malone and the Tangle will take care of you.

 

NOLA trumpters’ friendship spawns beautiful music

My most lasting impression of spending an hour talking with Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield is how much they really enjoy each other’s company.  While it may be a common trait of New Orleans residents to revel in hanging out, these two accomplished trumpeters truly are soul mates.

IMG_5275
Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins

On the occasion of Basin Street Records 20th anniversary, Ruffins and Mayfield collaborated on A Beautiful World released this fall and still climbing on the Jazz Week chart. The album boasts over 50 artists, including Rebirth Brass Band – the band which Ruffins co-founded early in his career and which inspired a very young Mayfield.  Here’s part of the interview dealing with that part of their lives (including a couple of tracks from A Beautiful World):

The two trumpeters may seem like unlikely buddies but as the story goes (and they both tell the same story with their own twist, listen to the more complete interview below) Kermit Ruffins was preparing to perform at the Superdome when a young Mayfield basically challenged him to a cutting contest.  And the relationship grew from there.  A Beautiful World is an audio homage to that relationship with Mayfield producing and performing and Ruffins doing what he does best: being himself.

Here are the best parts of the interview held in the Ruffin’s Mother-in-Law Lounge on October 23, 2017.

 

NOLA musicians are on the Veteran’s Day honor roll

In preparation for today’s show (two days before Veteran’s Day), I made an attempt to identify New Orleans musicians who had served in the military so I could play them to start off my show.  Go ahead and click the podcast so you can listen while you finish reading this.

I did not find a source of information that was comprehensive so my list of New Orleans musicians who are veterans is far from comprehensive. If you know of one that I missed, please let me know. I’ll be happy to include them in a future recognition.

Herb Hardesty on Sax
Saxophonist Herb Hardesty served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Herb Hardesty, long-time saxophonist for Fats Domino but also had a solo career, signed up with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941.  While playing with the Army band, Hardesty learned to play the saxophone (he had been playing trumpet). He served in World War II as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen (99th Flying Squadron). I do not possess any of his solo work, so I played Domino’s When My Dreamboat Comes Home which features two fine solos by Hardesty.

Like Hardesty, guitarist Edgar Blanchard was stationed in Europe during World War II before coming back to form the Gondoliers and be the bandleader at the Dew Drop Inn. I played his Stepping High recorded in the Cosimo Matassa studio in honor of his service.

Paul Gayten led an Army Band in Biloxi for his military service before migrating to New Orleans and kicking off his musical career. Arguably his greater accomplishment was his work as an A&R man for Chess Records but my show has him singing Just One More Chance.

lloyd price korea
Lloyd Price’s music career was interrupted when drafted and sent to Korea.

Lloyd Price had  five top 10 R&B hits under his belt including the number 1 song  Lawdy Miss Clawdy when he got drafted and sent to Korea in 1954.

In an interview with Bill Forman of the Colorado Springs Independent, Price argued that the military draft policies were racist, applied disproportionately on Black Americans.  “I never was supposed to go because I was my family’s sole supporter, and it was against the law to take more than four boys from the same family.”

By the time he returned, the field had gotten more crowded with singers like Little Richard. But he bounced back with hits like Stagger Lee and Personality and later he started his own record label. On the show, I  play his 1953 song, Tell Me Pretty Baby.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Al Hirt was a bugler in Army during World War II.  He plays Diga Diga Doo on today’s show which would have been a much cooler way to wake up soldiers than Reveille.  I also play songs by Dale Hawkins and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to recognize their service.  And I finish with “Working in the Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey who spent World War II in the Navy before starting his music career in New Orleans.

Two other NOLA performers who didn’t make it in the show but have military service are Ellis Marsalis and Ernest Joseph “Tabby” Thomas.

Today’s show also features a lot of other great music and two more clips from my interview Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins including one where Ruffins demonstrates the differences in brass band beats by banging on the bar at his Mother-in-Law Lounge on Claiborne.

Recent NOLA trip inspired latest show

One of the great aspects of doing a show on New Orleans music is the impetus it provides me to get my butt down there regularly.  My latest trip was an epic one. Go ahead and get yesterday’s show started while I tell you a bit more.

new-releases.jpg
Me and Visa have a long-term relationship after my trip to the Louisiana Music Factory. The good news is I’ll be digging deep into these and other releases in weeks to come on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa

I stayed the first week with members of Olympia’s Artestian Rumble Arkestra not far from the nightclubs on Frenchmen Street.  I also used the opportunity to see some high school buddies who didn’t need much encouragement to drive in from their homes in Florida and Georgia to spend some time with me in New Orleans.

But there were many other great highlights, one of which is featured in yesterday’s show – an interview with trumpters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield about their latest release, A Beautiful World.   They were generous with their time and stories and the whole experience was enhanced by our location — the Mother-in-Law lounge which for many years was the home and business of patron saint of my show and blog, Ernie K-Doe.

I’ll have more to share in the weeks to come including interviews with Bonerama band leaders Mark Mullins and Craig Klein, co-founder of Roots of Music and Rebirth Drummer Derrick Tabb and co-founder of the Black Men of Labor Fred Johnson with Treme Brass Band leader Benny Jones.

Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield team up for A Beautiful World

basin stret.jpg

Today’s show features the new Basin Street release by Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield.  Just the tonic you were looking for after the late summer rains.  Ruffins and Mayfield have a lot in common. Same town, same label, same instrument.  But there styles are very different.  Lot of help though including Cyril Neville and some cameos by native NOLA actor Wendell Pierce.  Other new releases featured as well including the Stanton Moore send up of Allen Toussaint.