A Show To Satisfy that Live Music Craving

If its been too long since you’ve experienced live music than this week’s show might offer some joy, starting with the funky Meters 2010 JazzFest extended performance of “Fire on the Bayou.” For that song alone, you should start the player below.

While studio recordings can offer more perfection and audio wizardry, live recordings deliver more of the energy you would feel if you were in the audience and offer up freer, more loose performances. Given a choice, I almost always choose the live performance even if they are not as technically exacting as the studio recording.

Perhaps no record better exemplifies that trade-off than Kermit Ruffins’ Live at Vaughan’s. Kermit’s horn playing and singing may not always be on the mark, but this 12-track release puts you in the middle of the dance floor at Vaughan’s during one of his now historic Thursday night performances. The fun is infectious. You’ll hear “Hide the Reefer” from that set on this show. . . but that will be later.

First, Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience will cover “Johnny Too Bad” from his Live! Worldwide release. Debbie Davis sings “Lulu’s Back in Town” and you’ll hear the audience go wild on Josh Paxton frenetic piano solo. And you’ll visit two famous New Orleans bars to hear the New Orleans Nightcrawlers and New Orleans Jazz Vipers do their thing (a Craig Klein double feature.)

Later, Taylor Smith of the Roamin’ Jasmine explains how recording a performance at his neighborhood bar was easier and more fun than dealing with the pressure associated with recording in a studio. You’ll hear his group do “That’s a Pretty Good Love” from Live at Horace’s Bar.

Champion Jack Dupree showing off his abdominal muscles with Allen Toussaint on piano

As promised on my show, here’s a link to the video of Champion Jack Dupree at the 1990 New Orleans Jazz Fest when Allen Toussaint suddenly joined him at the piano. You’ll hear Dupree start with his soulful “Bring Me Flowers While I’m Living” and then Toussaint sneaks in and plays on the high keys. Eventually, the two move into a boogie woogie number with the 80-year-old Dupree getting up and doing some very interesting boogie moves of his own. You just never know what might happen in a live performance.

Also, during the show, you’ll be transported to the street for a Second Line parade with a performance of “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” by Rebirth Brass Band, recorded on the street as part of the HBO Treme show. You’ll also hear Paul Sanchez speak emotionally about the value of friendship in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a way of introducing guests at his live performance of “Home.”

Glen David Andrews performing at Louis Armstrong Park

Another reason to enjoy live performances (and their recordings) is for the extended versions of familiar songs and the improvisational jams that make the moment feel special and unique. You’ll get that experience throughout the show but definitely with the New Orleans Suspects rendition of “Big Chief” from their Caught Live at the Maple Leaf and Glen David Andrews “Brothers Johnson Jam” from Live at Three Muses.

Live music is starting to come back, so please support these musicians whenever and where ever you can. And I’ll keep spinning the records. Thanks for tuning in.

Live venues need our love if not our attendance

“How long can New Orleans survive without live music? ” That’s the headline of a recent Slate article and it makes me wonder how we’re going to work through this in the long run. Cause, we’re gonna have to figure something out! This week’s Gumbo YaYa is dedicated to the venues and their operators around the country who are wondering if they will ever open again.

But first we take a trip to one of the more venerable of the New Orleans 130 plus music venues, Preservation Hall. Listener Sam Cagle shares his story of stumbling onto the place just off Bourbon Street just as it was getting established in the summer of 1961. Sam had just gotten out of training camp, preparing to a be an Air Force officer with six weeks to kill before he started his senior year in college. Taking a tip from a cadet who lived there, he decided to spend his last few free weeks in the August heat of New Orleans. His story is right after the first song and for mood setting, I throw in some Preservation Hall classics with George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma, Percy Humphrey and others. By the way, I wrote up a longer piece on Preservation Hall a few years back.

The Slate article makes the point that New Orleans has a unique ecosystem for developing music artists and its large number of small music venues is an essential part of that biology. But the stickiness of COVID-19 is making it likely that many of the venue proprietors, who mostly do not earn much of a profit even when open, may not survive.

The same concerns hold for venues in my neck of the woods and anywhere else where COVID is keeping us mostly at home. I don’t have a solution other than we all should be thinking about how we can keep live music alive. And for inspiration, I play sets of music that were recorded live including songs by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Mem Shannon, Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, Rebirth Brass Band, Marla Dixon and the Shotgun Jazz Band, Professor Longhair, Billy Iuso, Kermit Ruffins, Sonny Landreth, the Roamin’ Jasmine and others.

To help musicians in New Orleans, consider supporting the Feed the Second Line group. Thank you for listening and please consider subscribing. It’s Free!