Every once and a while, I enjoy living up to the stereotypical impression of a New Orleans music show and play only jazz. So if you’re looking for my usual mix of funk, R&B, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, country, rock and all stuff in between. This show ain’t it. But its very listenable – get it started and you’ll hear why.
Al Hirt was a presence growing up in Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s. He was the godfather of one of the neighbor’s kids that I would play with and my parents regularly visited Hirt’s club on Bourbon Street. He starts off the show with “Jazz Me Blues.” But I mix it up in the next set with Kid Ory, the Smoking Time Jazz Club and Ingrid Lucia.
Dr. Michael White anchors the second set with his “West African Strut” supported by songs by Linnzi Zaorski and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
I get to play my vinyl autographed version of a Willie Humphrey’s album with Sarah Quintana and Lena Prima rounding out the next set. The show rolls on bouncing between traditional New Orleans jazz, some contemporary jazz, a bit of swing and a couple brass band numbers, including “Get a Life” by the Original Pinettes.
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If you grew up with the phrase “See You Later Alligator,” chances are you are also familiar with the hit song by Bill Haley and the Comets. Today’s show features songs by the songwriter (Robert Charles Guidry) who wrote and originally recorded that record.
However, the show starts with Dr. John singing “Let the Good Times Roll” which you would know by now if you would just click the arrow below.
Born February 21, 1938, Bobby Charles is noted for being an early adopter and developer of the “swamp pop” sound that originated from south Louisiana’s Acadiana region. Swamp Pop had its heyday in the early 60’s but has seen a resurgence with recent releases by Roddie Romero, The Revelers and Yvette Landry. The latter featuring covers of Bobby Charles songs, including “Yea, Yea Baby” which you’ll hear in the show. I also play Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans” and Bobby Charles” rollicking rendition of “Take It Easy, Greasy.”
Today’s show kicks off though with a solid set of jazz with Dr. Michael White, Tuba Skinny, Kid Ory, Smoking Time Jazz Club, Louis Armstrong, and Eight Dice Cloth.
This show also features some Cajun music and another set of Mardi Gras inspired songs, including Los Hombres Calientes’ “Mardi Gras Second Line.”
Stick with the show into the second hour and you’ll hear Maria Muldaur’s naughty version of “Trombone Man Blues” and a sweet, bluesy cover of “If I Had a Hammer.” The show finishes with Jon Cleary’s “Zulu Strut.”
Today’s show honors African-American History Month (February) with a musical tour through jazz, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras Indian, hip hop and bounce music from New Orleans. Start the show by clicking the arrow below and then read the rest of my show notes.
New Orleans may have been founded by the French, rebuilt by the Spanish and bought by the U.S., but its the African ingredients that make the New Orleans cultural gumbo so rich.
The very short story is that the rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean blended with European instruments in New Orleans to create jazz. But it was African-Americans, many who were descendants of slaves, who made the music happen.
The show’s first set features Sidney Bechet who came from a musical middle-class family that lived in the Marigny neighborhood. I follow him up with a quick race to contemporary times with Dr. Michael White and Doreen Ketchens. It’s a strong set of clarinet solos.
The second set kicks off with Louis Armstrong and follows with two of his mentors King Oliver and Kid Ory. Jelly Roll Morton, who started playing the New Orleans brothels at 14, starts off my last set of jazz. Morton is followed by Kid Thomas who was faithful to the New Orleans jazz tradition throughout his career that spanned from the 1920’s to 1970. But 100+ year old Lionel Ferbos wins the longevity award and sings “Pretty Doll/Ugly Child.”
The show moves into R&B with a rollicking three-piano version of Boogie Woogie with Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint. But its Deacon John’s “Jumpin’ in the Morning” that gets your ass shaking. Somewhere in there, I talk about the Dew Drop Inn and include an excerpt from an interview of Kenneth Jackson about his grandpa, Frank Pania who started the Dew Drop Inn and was part of a civil action that ended arrests for racial mixing.
Which made that a good time to play Fats Domino, whose concerts were the site of at least four major riots. Some blame the music, some blame the alcohol but Rick Coleman who wrote a biography of Fats Domino contends that the riots were at least in part incited by racial mixing in a time period when much of our country recognized and practiced “apartheid.”
The show rolls on with only African-American musicians and vocalists, including a set of Black Creole music of South Louisiana, which is often called “Zydeco.” And I closed the show with “Get Lucky” with bounce artist Big Freedia performing with the Soul Rebels.
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“Oh love, oh careless love, you’ve fly to my head like wine.”
Words of caution during this season of Valentine? Perhaps. But it’s also the opening to another enigmatic traditional song with uncertain origins that has become a New Orleans standard.
Like St. James Infirmary, Careless Love took its form from the 19th Century folk tradition. The song didn’t get locked down until it was recorded in the 1920’s, most notably Bessie Smith’s recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet. Even since then, the song’s lyrics have been malleable, adapted to jazz, blues and even bluegrass.
The song’s strong association to New Orleans is most likely the result of Buddy Bolden who performed the song regularly at the turn of the 20th Century. Buddy Bolden and his band performed a more bluesier and improvised form of ragtime and inspired jazz pioneers such as Kid Ory, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson who followed.
While there are no recordings of Bolden and his band, there are literally hundreds of other recorded versions of Careless Love, including those by Pete Seeger, Janis Joplin, Lead Belly, Madeleine Peyroux, Big Joe Turner, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.