As part of my month-long celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month, this week’s show is devoted to New Orleans jazz created by musicians of color. Check it out with the player below. (Last week’s show focused on R&B)
Drummer Joe Lastie, a product of New Orleans Ninth Ward and a family of musicians, starts the show with a song he produced with Big Chief David Montana that honors the resilience of the love for New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina survivors. It’s a modern song steeped in the musical traditions that formed jazz.
While the origins of jazz are grist for scholarly debate, one thing is crystal clear to me. The music bubbled up from the creative cauldron of people of color living, working and playing in New Orleans. For more details (without getting scholarly), I like the National Park Service webpage on this topic written in part by Dr. Michael White and Ellis Marsalis. You can read that page while listening to the show which carries on with some of the more well-known pioneers of jazz: Jelly Roll Morton, King Joe Oliver, Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory and Lil Hardin. Okay, so Hardin was from Memphis but she ended up in Chicago with a scrum of New Orleans musicians and she helped whip them into shape, writing and arranging some of the earliest recordings.
You might find interesting this page on Onward Brass Band (also featured in the show) which tells the story of Paul Barbarin, Louis Cottrell, Danny Barker and others in that band. Check out the picture of them drinking (champagne?) with Janis Joplin.
I was in my 30’s when I finally understood that the deep depression I experienced every time I moved was related to having left New Orleans when I was a child. Hosting a radio show of New Orleans music has been cathartic. And today’s show marks five years on the air. (you can get the show started and then continue reading this post.)
Joe Lastie’s “New Orleans in Me” speaks to how when you live away from New Orleans (as happened with hundreds of thousands of residents post Hurricane Katrina) , the city stays with you. The song has always resonated for me and it opens this show as a way to honor why I’ve been doing this show for five years.
I was 10 when my family moved away and my heart stayed with the city, aided by frequent visits, until I moved out of the south after I graduated from college. The Northwest was such a good fit for me that over time, I lost touch with my New Orleans feelings — except that sense of loss that would return every time I moved into a new apartment or home.
By the time I returned to visit my sister who had moved back, it had been almost 30 years since I had visited New Orleans. I caught the New Orleans Nightcrawlers at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which caused me to have almost a mystical experience. I just loved their sound and quickly learned that there was more to New Orleans music than Dixieland. The Nightcrawlers open the first full set of the show with “Can of Worms.”
I do a funk set with Mem Shannon, Allen Toussaint and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. I make sure New Orleans Bounce is represented with the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia doing “Lift Dat Leg Up.”
I try to hint at the diversity of New Orleans music with original songs by Leyla McCalla, Anders Osborne, Kelcy Mae and Lena Prima. I throw in a fun set of Zydeco as well since that is music I would not have learned to love if I had not been doing this show. I hope you have a chance to listen to some of my shows and appreciate the uniquely melting pot American music that emanates from New Orleans
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