Your 2018 New Orleans Music Buying Guide

Here’s a list of 2018 releases from New Orleans musicians for you to consider and you can listen to them with my latest show. No rational order to the list other than this is the order you’ll hear them on the show, which you can start right now. The song played is in italics.

The Big Dixie Swingers: Ranch Stressing – A fiddler and crooning banjoist backed up by trumpet, clarinet and drums perform a collection of pre-war Western Swing, Country Blues, and popular songs.  Razz Matazz Soup

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk: Volume One – Trombonist Big Sam Williams brings back the funk for his latest release with his actively touring band.  Dance to the CD then dance to him when he comes through your area. “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further”

Sean ArdoinKreole Rock and Soul Ardoin’s grammy nominated release of  soul, rock and pop songs, all with a distinctive creole flavor, is designed to get you to dance — instructional dance video included. “Kick Rocks”

Marcia Ball: Shine Bright  – Her dual Texas and Louisiana musicianship status is on full display in support of a seasoned voice that leaves no doubt of the veracity of her songs. “I Got to Find Somebody”

Jonathon Long: Jonathon Long –  In his third release, this Baton Rouge-based guitarist and singer has seen “the light” and put more emphasis on his songwriting and singing.  A damn good idea well executed  by producer Samantha Fish. “The Light”

Ever More Nest: The Place That You Call Home  –  Kelcy Mae’s latest project offers a deeply intimate perspective on the saying “there’s no place like home.” This Shreveport native lives and works in New Orleans and recorded this beautiful album in Nashville for a national audience. “Broken Bones”

Tin Men:  Sing with Me – Washboard Chaz anchors and lends his voice to this unique trio which showcases the fascinating songs of Alex McMurray (guitar and vocals) and the sousaphone wizardry of Matt Perrine.  “Scraper Man”

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.”  “Ready for the River”

Sabertooth Swing: Extinct Possibilities – Another sharp traditional New Orleans jazz band that manages to make it all sound fresh and fun. “Alcohol”

Bon Bon Vivant: Live At The New Orleans Jazz Museum – Enjoyable sister harmonies, genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience. “The Jazz Axe Man”

Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  – “Dyna-Mite”

Ivan Neville and Cris Jacobs: Neville Jacobs – New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  I hope its not a one off. “Make Up of a Fool”

Gal Holiday: Lost & Found – Vanessa Neuman, aka Gal Holiday, lays down a tasty selection of mostly original honky tonk country tunes. “Come Home”

Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out  – Energetic vocals of Belgium-born Ghalia Vauthier, who has been mining the Mississippi River blues scene for this release — well supported by Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys.  “Hoodo Evil Man”

Little Freddie King: Fried Rice & Chicken – Straight, no chaser blues by a man who is still a treasured member of the Ninth Ward live music scene. “Mean Little Woman”

Old Riley & Water:  Biting Through –  Gritty, fuzzy, stripped down blues from a group I hadn’t heard of till the album turned up at KAOS — they regularly perform at House of Blues in New Orleans.  “Trouble”

Keith Stone with Red Gravy: Blues with a Taste of New Orleans – Keith Stone has clearly made it back home with this solid cast of musicians delivering exactly what the album title promises, with an extra serving of red gravy. “Blue Eyed Angel”

Eric Lindell: Revolution in Your Heart – Another great release of southern R&B. This time, Lindell plays just about every instrument. “Grandpa Jim”

Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires: Gas Station Guru – Saxophonist/bandleader Hefko takes you through a laid back set of R&B, blues and jazz that is steeped in New Orleans. “The Roofer”

Shawn Williams:   Motel Livin’ – Falling somewhere near the alt-country zone, her second album is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that may leave you a bit unnerved but fully entertained. “Best of Me”

Helen Gillet: Helkiase– A French and English singing cellist with a strong attraction to improvisation, jazz, funk and New Orleans, Gillet’s latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer. “Vautour”

Cyril Neville: Endangered Species: The Essential Recordings:If you’re not a close follower of the most soulful and political of the Neville brothers, then this release serves as a nice sampler of his five releases from his Endangered Species label. “Ayiti”

Cha Wa: Spyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (but perhaps with more brass!) 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 – Cajun music for new ears, and broad-minded old ones, crafted with respect to tradition. “La Lune est Croche”

Lena Prima:  Prima La Famiglia You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy Lena’s reconnection with her roots. They’re songs her father would sing but this time, its her voice. “Come On A My House”

Jon BatisteHollywood Africans – If you’re a fan of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” you know what he looks like.  The late night show bandleader provides a much deeper glance with this release featuring solo piano and singing.  “Don’t Stop”

Louie Ludwig‘sTroll Factory” – No album this year from this politically impish New Orleans songwriter and video maker but his proletariat perspective of this new world sweat shop hits it out of the proverbial Zenit Arena.  If you like, check out his YouTube Channel.

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Piano, Scat and Blues for this week’s show

champion jackChampion Jack Dupree scats through this week’s opening number with “Skit Skat”  from his 1991 Rounder release, Forever and Ever.  While he lived over 30 years in Europe, Dupree learned his piano in New Orleans. Later in the show, Jon Cleary sings ” Hit, Git, Quit, Split.” For right now, I hope you just “hit” the  show’s start button and forget the rest of his advice.

Dr. Michael White (clarinet) and Matt Perrine (sousaphone) add the New Orleans feel to Portland-based blues guitarist Mary Flower’s hilarious rendition of “Main Street Blues” to start the first full set.  She’s followed by a Boswell Sister cover energetically performed live at the New Orleans Mint by Bon Bon Vivant (“Shout Sister, Shout).

From his latest release Dyna-Mite, Cleary kicks off the second full set which is anchored by Glen David Andrews performing the “Brothers Johnson Jam” at Three Muses.  In later sets, John Lisi, Mem Shannon and Bonerama liven things up, along with Dash Rip Rock, Buddy Flett, and the Dirty River Bourbon Band.   I hope you keep listening. Here’s the full playlist.

A Full House: Three Kings and Two Shows

I’ve got two shows to share with you this week because I had to dash off last week and didnt’ have a chance to edit and upload until now

Start with this one which has three “kings” in it.

little freddie kingI celebrated Little Freddie King’s birthday with a song by him followed by a song by his namesake, Freddie King.  (That’s two of the kings). Little Freddie King is actually Fred Martin and he turned 78 last week.  I spin “I Used to be Down” from his latest release.  To get to that song though, I “force” you to listen to two jazz and rhythm and blues sets that include  tracks from new releases by Jon Cleary,  Sabertooth Swing and Tin Men. I hope you can survive and stick with the show for the third king.

Later in the show, I do a set of songs that Elvis Presley popularized, including Smiley Lewis singing “One Night of Sin.”  Elvis took the melody but toned down the lyrics so it was moreof  a love song and less of a confessional.  I did this so I could talk about “The King” a documentary about the American Dream viewed from the perspective of Elvis Presley’s life.  I interviewed the director, Eugene Jerecki for a different program, and I include a one-minute clip of that interview where he describes the amazing music in this movie.

The July 26 show celebrates saxophonists Kevin Harris’ birthday by playing “Swampthang” from the New Orleans Suspects live album recorded at the Maple Leaf club.  Kevin Harris, who performs with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, blows his horn with with the Suspect’s Jeff Watkins that must made that old nightclub feel like it was coming down.  This song alone is worth playing the show but you’ll also hear  Lil Queenie (and Dog Days by Leigh Harris), Dr. John, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima, Slim Harpo, Zigaboo Modeliste, Larry Garner, Tab Benoit to name a few.

Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide, Part 1

Mardi Gras dot background.This is my fourth annual Buying Guide to encourage you to give the gift of music. To hear the music click on this week’s show and then read about it below. (Here’s Part 2 of the guide).

Links to all the bands are provided so you can purchase from the source. There’s no pecking order to my presentation (I’ll present my top 10 at the end of the month).  Also, while there is a Part 2 coming, this list is far from comprehensive. Let me know if I’ve left something out you like.

boneramaBonerama -Trombone Shorty was 12-years-old when two trombonists from Harry Connick Jr.’s band decided to move to the front of the stage and create the brass-funk-rock group, Bonerama. With their seventh release, Hot Like Fire, Craig Klein and Mark Mullins joined by a third trombonist, a sousaphone, guitar and drums, are clearly in their element jamming on original tunes as well as a Radiohead cover and Allen Toussaint’s Basic Lady.  Learn more about this cool band, check out my interview with Klein and Mullins.

Stanton Moore  – One of the best drummers in the business, Moore pulled together an all-star cast (Trombone Shorty, Nicholas Payton, Maceo Parker, Donald Harrison Jr. and Cyril Neville to name a few) in paying homage to Allen Toussaint with With You In Mind. Whether you like Toussaint or not (what?!), you’re going to dig this album from “Here Come the Girls” with Trombone Shorty  to Toussaint’s autobiographical “Southern Nights” with Wendell Pierce reading, not singing, the lyrics.

The Deslondes   – The band’s second release, Hurry Home, solidifies the Deslondes reputation as the premiere example of the New Orleans Americana scene. Despite its title, the album takes its time, meandering 13 songs with lyrics that linger in your mind and entice you to sing along.  Why not? Four of the five band members sing as well.

hot 8 on the spot.jpgHot 8 Brass Band – A good brass band can get even the most stiff-limbed old man moving his hips. But what makes this venerable New Orleans brass band special is its great solos, unexpected twists and those sneaky covers you don’t recognize at first.  From the band that has survived to see it all and gave the world the brass version of “Sexual Healing” comes On The Spot — essential to any brass band fan collection.

Tuba Skinny – With its eighth release Tupelo Pine, Tuba Skinny has moved from the streets into institutional status in New Orleans. This band has a deep repertoire of Prohibition and Depression era tunes performed with entertaining and reverent orchestration.  If you’re looking for something special for a traditional jazz fan, you can’t go wrong with this band that has won its audience one street performance at a time. See Pops Coffee for a far more detailed review.

Smoking Time Jazz Club –  Another street-hardened traditional jazz band  that takes you back to another era, Smoking Time has a sultry quality fueled by the band’s mission statement embedded in its name The band started  2017 with a new release Ain’t We Fortunate and finishes the year with Take Your Time and Fly —  they’re both excellent but the second one is strengthened by Sarah Peterson’s vocals.

erica-falls-home-grownErica Falls – With HomeGrown, Erica Falls has demonstrated that hard work, grit and talent can pay off. At least it does for the listener.  While this is her first full release, Fall has paid her dues singing with Allen Toussaint and Galactic and providing backing vocals in the studio for Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Marva Wright, and Bobby Charles — not to mention adding some sweet vocals to two tracks on Rebirth Brass Band’s last release.  But HomeGrown is all hers — eight of the songs are her own composition. She’s soulful, funky, sweet. . .yea, I’m in love.

Naughty Professor   – While Identity does not have a title track, its first two songs go right to the heart of the issue. The rhythmic “Mirror,” choruses with “Give people what they want”  while the second track advises to “be what you want, do what you feel.” And that’s exactly how this jazz-funk sextet has rolled ever since emerging from the New Orlean’s Loyola jazz program in 2010. The band skillfully flows through soul, R&B and hip hop. But underlying it all is a strong jazz sensibility that keeps its fresh and unique. Now that’s an identity.

New Orleans Jazz Vipers  – If you’ve visited Frenchmen Street, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to see the Vipers live. The swing jazz band has been a fixture there long before tourist knew to direct their cab to Frenchmen. “Live & Viperizin” captures the band at its most enigmatic with danceable numbers designed to draw you into the nightclub, except now you can get that live feeling at home.

Jon Cleary – With Live at Chickie Wah Wah, this master piano player follows up his grammy-award winning album featuring his funk group Monster Gentleman with an intimate solo performance recorded live at one of his favorite hometown venues.  It’s just Cleary, his voice and his piano playing some of his favorites, including two from GoGo Juice, as well as some tasty R&B and soul numbers made famous by Smiley Lewis, Jessie Hill and Jessie Belvin.  The only way you can beat this release is if you really catch him live at Chickie Wah Wah.

Sonny Landreth – This electric slide guitar master delivers a much-anticipated live acoustic set performed in his hometown Lafayette and for lagniappe, a second live set with his electric guitar.  If you are fan of this tireless touring professional (he’s in Deming for the Mt. Baker Blues Festival in August 2018), you’ve heard these songs before but not like this. If not, Live at Lafayette is a great way to become a new fan.

debbie-davie-josh-paxton-vices-and-virtuesDebbie Davis and Josh Paxton – There is a magic that derives from the alchemy of a pianist and vocalist who have performed regularly, particularly if they use their familiarity to push each other.  Davis is a lifelong singer who, in addition to her own projects, performs with The Pfister Sisters.  Josh Paxton, who is part of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, is clearly capable of tearing up the keyboards on inspired solos but lovingly wraps his performance around Davis’ voice.  Vices and Virtues puts you in the room with these two creative professionals.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes – The band’s website describes it best: “their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor.” Yea, you right.  And Sketch is the band’s best release yet.  I’m still pissed I can’t play “Fine Time” on the radio but I’ve definitely been playing the dozen other tracks that deliver soul, funk, reggae, and a power violin rock thing (“The Dragon”) that has garnered listener phone calls to the studio.

John Mooney –  John Mooney is a hard act to catch. He has no website and his Facebook and wikipedia pages don’t list his latest CD,  Truth of the Matter. But don’t let that stop you. Mooney’s voice and guitar playing are top flight but its the arrangements and the support he gets that should elevate this release to your shopping list. Ten songs with eight originals.  Most are backed up by a rotating cast of star power keyboardists (Jon Cleary, John Gros and C.R. Gruver) usually on a Hammond B-3.  And his use of male background singers on “Deal with Love” and “Push & Shove” enhance an already strong soul feeling to Mooney’s music.

Egg Yolk Jubilee – To celebrate 20 years of performing, Egg Yolk Jubilee has compiled a retrospective of a dozen previously released songs and three new ones in Crux of the Yolk.  Yes, they are frenetic, irreverent, loud and pretty damn funny, but they also rock. The band provided the brass on Jello Biafra’s New Orleans Raunch All-Stars  release a few years back.  If you have a Frank Zappa fan on your shopping list, particularly if they like horns, literally blow them away with Egg Yolk Jubilee.

Sweet Crude   –  Like many indie acts from New Orleans, Sweet Crude’s music may not make its hometown roots obvious.  Well, except that they sing a lot of their songs in French.  “We are joining a small but fervent group of young Louisianians engaged in keeping the language relevant via art,” announces the band’s website. Soaring vocals (Mon Esprit in particular) and world rhythms place the band’s first full release, Creatures, above the large stack of alternative rock releases we get in the station.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and catch my show on Thursday.

Jon Cleary to funk it up at Jazz Alley Monday

Jon Cleary brings a unique version of the New Orleans sound to the Northwest, steeped in tradition and yet wholly fresh, when he performs at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle this Monday, February 8.

cleary.jpgCleary’s latest album, GoGo Juice, has been nominated for this year’s Best Regional Roots Grammy. A native of England, he’s lived all of his adult life in New Orleans — a city he chose after falling in love with New Orleans R&B and funk at a tender age. Now, at 53,  he has firmly rooted himself as a New Orleans piano “professor,” a true practitioner of the New Orleans sound who has broken fresh ground with new compositions and arrangements.

He’ll be backed by the Absolute Monster Gentlemen which includes Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander on drums, Derwin”Big D” Perkins on guitar and Cornell Williams on bass. If you followed the HBO series Treme, you’ll recognize Cornell Williams who helps a band mate break his drug addiction by putting him on his uncle’s shrimp boat.

In his performance, Cleary will draw from his library of eight albums, including a well-regarded tribute to Allen Toussaint called “Occapella.” Even when he’s not doing Toussaint, he and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen seem totally capable of cleverly funking it up with great lyrics and an awesome groove.  Here’s a taste. 

Other Upcoming Northwest Performances of New Orleans Artists

 

  • Galactic – at the Showbox in Seattle, February 26 and Crystal Ballroom in Portland, February 27.
  • The Revivalists – at Neumos in Seattle, March 9 and Aladdin Theater in Portland, March 10.
  • Trombone Shorty – at the Moore Theater in Seattle, April 14 and Keller Auditorium, Portland, April 15.
  • Walter Wolfman Washington – opening for Bettye LaVette at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, May 12 – 15.

Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 1

Here’s Part One of my survey of New Orleans (and nearby) releases for 2015 worthy of your attention. I’ve played this music on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa and I’ll play them a lot more through the rest of this month. So many good releases, there will be a part two very soon.  The first four albums below were featured heavily in my November 30 show and many of the albums following those four were featured in this show.

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers – An institution on Frenchmen Street that gained fame through the HBO series Treme, the Vipers have locked in their reputation with their fifth release, Going, Going Gone. The six-member band will take you back to the day when swing bands were laying the foundation for R&B.

Red-Hot-Brass-Band
Doyle Cooper fronts the Red Hot Brass Band

Red Hot Brass Band – Fire-bearded Doyle Cooper keeps the spirit alive. Don’t let his youth fool you. Doyle grew up in the tradition and has the chops to prove it. His band’s inaugural release Hot Off the Presses hits the usual touchstones like Tiger Rag, West End Blues, Bourbon Street Parade and Go To the Mardi Gras. But there’s nothing stale about their execution.

Shotgun Jazz Band – I dare you to try to sit still while listening to Yearning. They bill themselves as playing traditional New Orleans jazz in the spirit of the Great Revivalists.  It’s fresh, uncluttered and expertly delivered. It came out late enough last year that I’m including it in this 2015 review.

Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses –  I totally missed this 2014 release  until I bought The Lookback Transmission from Aurora during a break at the Maison last spring.  Uber-talented Nealand demonstrates her ability to put a fresh, entertaining spin on traditional jazz and swing. Having sousaphone savant Matt Perrine backing her doesn’t hurt either. Everyone of the 16 tracks are a delight.

 

novelli
Peter Novelli hits his stride with St. Amant Sessions

Peter Novelli – His third release, St. Amant Sessions, reminds me how engaging blues can be, particularly in the hands of a songwriter and performer who knows how to shake it up with zydeco, swamp, slide and funk. From Shreveport Stomp to I-10 Boogie to his anecdotal Drinkin’ and Driving, Novelli has solidified his space on the KAOS blues shelf.

Little Freddie King – His distinctive delta/country blues makes him easy to love. His persistence in returning to the city after Katrina to live, perform and record is another testament of why I love New Orleans. His latest Messin’ Around tha Livin’ Room (a reference to the Algiers studio he recorded in) delivers beyond expectation.

Papa Mali – Also recorded at the The Living Room, Music is Love mixes covers of Joni Mitchell, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly and the title track by David Crosby with a few originals by this former reggae rocker, turned funk, blues, swamp guru.

Josh Garrett – Having returned to Louisiana after a brief flirtation with Nashville, Garrett deploys just the right mix of delta blues, soul, swing  and swamp in Honey For My Queen. Baton Rouge legend James Johnson who played with Slim Harpo joins in while fiddler Waylon Thibodeux adds one more reminder where this music is coming from.

deslondes
Unapologetically New Orleans country, The Deslondes.

The Deslondes – This young band defies New Orleans music stereotype while creating country-infused songs rooted in the city’s soul. The self-titled debut album presents an array of facets with all five band members contributing songs and taking turns on singing. Like all memorable CDs, this one grows on me the more I push “play.”

Lynn Drury –  Another 2014 release that I missed last year but deserves mention. I fell in love with Lynn when I first caught the video of her CD title track “Come to My House video.  This collection is a powerful observation of love with wonderful, occasionally sultry vocals and excellent guitar support by Alex McMurray.

The Radiators –  The band that wouldn’t die. Allegedly retired, the Radz still occasionally perform for those lucky enough to catch them.  For the rest of us, there is the Wild and Free releases. Part II includes vintage performances from the Dream Palace, Tipitina’s and Knight Studios. Get your fishhead on.

the rads
A true holiday gift – Another release from the Radiators.

Clayton Doley – Funky didgeridoo!  What else needs to be said?  A lot if we’re talking about Bayou Billabong. Doley’s an Aussie but he recorded part of this CD at the Music Shed in New Orleans with the backing of the Absolute  Monster Gentlemen (as in Jon Cleary and . . .) and the Treme Funktet.

Jon Cleary –Speaking of Cleary, his releases are always a delight. Sadly, for GoGo Juice, he switched from Basin Street Records, which has always done a great job of sharing music with KAOS, to a new label which has failed in that chore. Still, the cuts I’ve heard on line show he continues to be a master of blending soul, funk and R&B.

Catch my show on Mondays or online.  And subscribe to the blog to be sure to catch Part 2 of this 2015 retrospective.

New Orleans is a homing beacon to musicians worldwide

If Taylor Smith was a moth, New Orleans would be the light.

Double Bass Player Taylor Smith found his bliss playing music in New Orleans.
Double Bass Player Taylor Smith found his bliss playing music in New Orleans.

And that light is shining bright for a lot of musicians, young and old, who have found their muse in New Orleans. The Roamin’ Jasmine‘s bandleader initially visited New Orleans as part of the ancient college ritual, Spring Break.

But fortunately, the music major managed to wander beyond the beer-chugging Bourbon Street scene to where the real magic happens. As a University of Miami senior, he had yet to find his musical niche in Florida so, as it has for generations before him, New Orleans proved to be both eye and ear opening.

Captivated by the scene, he and his roommate moved to New Orleans after graduation in 2010. He stayed for a year but then went looking for greener pastures, doing a couple of tours with bands and ending up in his hometown Boston.

“But I realized I wasn’t playing music that much. I came back to visit one time while I was living in Boston and thought why did I ever leave this. Every minute I was here, I was going to jam sessions, going to people’s houses and they’re having a campfire and playing tunes.  I even played on the streets a few times.”

The Roamin' Jasmine performing at Bacchanal. Taylor is on bass (left).
The Roamin’ Jasmine performing at Bacchanal. Taylor is on bass (left).

Smith returned to New Orleans in 2012 and soon after formed The Roamin’ Jasmine which plays regularly in New Orleans and is currently doing a tour in Alaska. Smith’s experience is not unique.

Throughout the years, musicians have been finding their way to the birthplace of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Fats Domino and The Meters. Jon Cleary, who has mastered a wide range of New Orleans piano styles, was raised in England but took a one-way trip to the city as a young musician.

In 1995, Japanese blues guitar sensation June Yamagishi abandoned an established career to immigrate to New Orleans — much to the benefit of the Wild Magnolias and Papa Grows Funk. Matt Perrine, whose sousaphone and bass anchor countless New Orleans recordings, migrated from California to the city in 1992. Others, like guitarist/songwriter Alex McMurray and the founding members of Galactic, were college students (Tulane and Loyola respectively) who decided to stick around after graduation. University of New Orleans jazz program also has contributed a number of new residents as well.

Sisters Leah Song (left) and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia lived and performed in New Orleans for seven years.
Sisters Leah Song (left) and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia lived and performed in New Orleans for seven years.

The magnetic force of New Orleans seems to have only gotten stronger since Hurricane Katrina. Last week, I attended a Rising Appalachia concert where the two sisters that fronted the band referred often to the enriching years they spent in New Orleans following Katrina.

In my last visit to New Orleans, every musician I talked with (and most are delighted to chat) was from some other place. Pianist Bart Ramsay (Zazou City) has lived in the city a long time but hails from Chicago.  Another pianist was from New Jersey.  A saxophone player was from the Midwest. Everyone had a story about how they came to New Orleans and found their bliss.

Josh Wilson, whose Seattle-based band Tubaluba is heavily influenced by the New Orleans brass sound, did a pilgrimage to New Orleans specifically to improve his New Orleans piano skills.  He connected with Jelly Roll Morton specialist Tom McDermott and seriously considered moving to the city permanently.

But its more than just the professional milieu that is attractive. The daily infusion of tourists and the large number of clubs and venues provide a wealth of employment opportunities for musicians — allowing them to lead a reasonably normal life. They can catch their child’s soccer game in the afternoon, play a gig in the evening and sleep in their own bed that night.

“I’ve never been to any city where I’ve met so many working-class musicians. New Orleans is really nurturing in that way; the quality of life is very good,” Kristin Diable told American Songwriter magazine. Diable, Americana singer/songwriter, is from Baton Rouge but for a time she tried her luck in New York City. “Within a year of being in New Orleans, I was making 10 times more money than I ever made in New York City.” The influx of new talent is not without its controversy. Some have argued that newcomers don’t take the time to learn the history, culture and style of New Orleans music.

Congo Square is where slaves congregated on Sundays in 19th Century New Orleans and is considered where jazz was born.
Congo Square is where slaves congregated on Sundays in 19th Century New Orleans and is considered where jazz was born.

The debate raises the question of what is New Orleans music. Is it jazz, R&B, bounce, funk, roots, hip hop Mardi Gras Indian? Or is it all of the above and more. The lesson and legacy of Congo Square is that the city’s musical storehouse relies on its continued ability to welcome and nurture different styles.

So I’ll keep playing music from New Orleans whether or not you might think its New Orleans music. For this Monday’s show, I’ll emphasize music by those who made a conscious decision to make New Orleans their home. Oh yea, and I’ll have a little more of my interview with the effervescent Taylor Smith. (Whoops. Left the interview on the wrong computer. I’ll include with podcast and air it next week.)

New Orleans and the piano – A good team.

As part of my ongoing education on New Orleans music, I’ve been reading about the use of the piano in New Orleans music. (Please note: I’m not a real musician but I operate a CD player at home)

While the piano wasn’t invented in New Orleans, several styles of piano playing are derived from the city’s musicians.  So much so that “one can easily claim the piano as the prime choice of innovators in New Orleans music,” according to an article by Tom McDermott who innovates on the piano on a daily basis in New Orleans.

This versatile instrument combines melody and rhythm and makes it possible for every parlor or living room to become a concert hall.

As Jon Cleary, another fine keyboard purveyor of New Orleans music, said, the piano is “a hip little tool because it allows you to reproduce all the elements of what a band would do.”

littlerichard
It was on a piano in the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans during a recording break that Little Richard connected with his mojo, banging out Tutti Frutti.

What Jelly Roll Morton and others that followed did was translate the sounds of the New Orleans street bands to a piano, delivering their own interpretation to the customers of night clubs and sporting clubs and ultimately to a global audience.

The piano is so important to New Orleans music that a premiere annual event is Piano Night held around the time of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  The host of this event, WWOZ, has created a compendium of videos that explore that New Orleans piano tradition.

Here’s Jon Cleary providing a quick run down of the various piano playing styles. 

My goal is to focus on New Orleans piano players from time to time. Next week’s article will feature the amazing, but often overlooked, James Booker. (I have since added:  Professor LonghairAllen Toussaint, Jon Cleary, and Isidore Tuts Washington).  For my next show though, I’ll offer a wide range of New Orleans piano players.