Join Me On Audio Tour of My Latest New Orleans trip

My first trip back to New Orleans in over 22 months comes to life in this week’s show, featuring musicians I saw perform live during my short visit made shorter by an unplanned diversion to Bossier City, Louisiana. Start the show and then read on about the trip.

Our nonstop flight from Seattle to New Orleans was met with dense fog and a malfunction of the airport’s guidance system. With gas running low and no Rudolph to guide our sleigh in, we landed at Shreveport in the Northwest corner of Louisiana — about as far away from New Orleans as we could get and still stay in the state. Eventually, we ended up in a casino hotel on the other side of the river from the airport in Bossier City — a far cry from Frenchmen Street. “Gamblin’ Blues” by Champion Jack Dupree helps paint the picture on my show.

Eventually, we got to hang on Frenchmen Street on Thursday night. The famous music neighborhood seems a bit diminished after a worldwide pandemic and another hurricane. A couple of clubs are closed and others are operating on more limited hours. But the music is there to be heard and seen. In the show, you’ll hear music that follows our bar-hopping course.

Jason and Lyrette Neville with their funk and soul band.

We started at Three Muses with Tom McDermott playing his Jelly Roll Morton and rag time influenced piano behind a plastic glass. After dinner, we walked down to the bottom of the street to the Yard with Jason Neville Funky Soul Band. Jason is son of Aaron Neville and performs with his wife Lirette, daughter of New Orleans Jazz Legend “Sullivan Dabney,” and a solid band of funk professionals. The band does mostly covers with a signature style and unfortunately I have no recordings of their music. (The Neville’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” cover fills in) You’ll just to have to take my word for it that it was worth the stop. In fact, I think most of my group would have been happy staying there the whole evening. But, we pushed on.

Marty Peters (sax) and the Party Meters

We landed at Bamboulas where Marty Peters and Party Meters were holding court. Peters plays saxophone and clarinet and his hot jazz quintet explores a similar vein of music as the New Orleans Jazz Vipers. My favorite feature of this group is the singing by Peters and his trumpet player, Jeff Kreis. The two also offer up a bit of comic repartee to enliven the show — as they do in “Somebody Stole My Gal.”. But wait, there was more.

I’ve wanted to catch Shawn Williams live ever since hearing her Motel Livin’ record. And since she was just across the street at Favela Chic, I moved the group again. This was my first time in this relatively new music venue and I was a bit disappointed in the sound quality. I’m not sure if that was the venue’s fault or the fault of the brass band blazing on the corner just outside. You need to hear Shawn’s words and that just wasn’t possible. Still, it was good to see her perform live. On the show, I play her “Buried Alive.”

One of a dozen light installations on the Lafitte Greenway

New Orleans is more than the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street and its imperative to get out into one of the hoods. The Greenway Supernova in Mid City on Friday night was a solid choice. A combination art event, fundraiser and concert in support of the Friends of Lafitte Greenway – a 2.6 mile greenbelt trail that runs from Louis Armstrong Park to Bayou St. John. Twelve luminary artworks dotted the park, anchored by a crafts fair, silent auction and two music stages.

Bon Bon Vivant

My favorite light installation hung from a sprawling oak tree and involved some intentional spotlighting of “deconstructed disco balls” which cast spiral shadows and random sparklies. Later, singer and songwriter Abigal Cosio pointed out that people have been dancing to mirrored balls long before disco. In addition to being right on that one, she was also the reason we were there. She fronts the band Bon Bon Vivant who did an evening outdoor concert under the cheery lights.

As we got into the weekend, the clubs became more active. We caught John Saavedra’s G & the Swinging Gypsies digging deep into Django Reinhardt’s songbook at Bamboula’s on Saturday. I have a recording of this group when it featured Gisell Anguizola on vocals and tap. But it appears Gisell lives and performs in San Diego now.

Dragon Smoke at Tipitina’s

The highlight of Saturday was Dragon Smoke at Tipitinas (well there also was an awesome meal at Herbsaint, a walk through the lit holiday decorations at Roosevelt Hotel and a street car ride all the way up town and back along St Charles and Carrollton). Dragon Smoke is a group formed in 2003 as part of New Orleans JazzFest tradition called Superjam which puts together people from bands who don’t normally play together. In this case, the Galactic rhythm section of drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio pair up with keyboardist Ivan Neville (Aaron’s oldest son and leader of Dumpstaphunk) and guitarist, singer/songwriter Eric Lindell. The band alternated jamming on songs led by Neville and Lindell. The communication between musicians was strong, creating improvisational riffs that stayed tight and strong the whole night.

J (on Keyboards) & the Causeways

J and the Causeways opened for Dragon Smoke (exactly on time by the way). Bandleader Jordan Anderson handles the keyboards, singing and songwriting with the help the help of a horn and rhythm section and tasteful rhythm and lead guitar by Evan Hall.

Our last night, Sunday, found out us back out at Mid City for a Christmas show at the Broadside but first we shopped at the pop-up Art Market in City Park where the Secret Six Band entertained us.

Finale song at The Very Loose Cattle Christmas Show at the Broadside

During the pandemic, The Broadside Theater opened an outdoor venue in its parking lot–which is where we caught “The Very Loose Cattle Christmas Show.” Loose Cattle is fronted by part-time New Orleans resident Michael Cerveris (You might know him as music manager “Mervin Frey” from the HBO show “Treme.”). The show was two hours of Christmas songs – reverent (O Holy Night) and irreverent (“Drunk This Christmas”). The show a featured a steady flow of guests such as Meschiya Lake, Antoine Diel, Mia Borders, Paul Sanchez, Arsene Delay, Lilli Lewis, and John Boutte. Stage musicians included two members of the grammy winning New Orleans Nightcrawlers (Craig Klein and Jason Mingledorff), The Iguanas bassist Rene Coman and Josh Paxton on piano. Cerveris generously taped and posted the entire show on YouTube– Merry Christmas.

John Lisi & Delta Funk
Ted Hefko

We finished the night with a couple more shows on Frenchmen Street featuring John Lisi & Delta Funk performing to a packed Cafe Negril audience followed by Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires.

The show starts with Louis Armstrong singing “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.” On air, I promised I’d provide the link to the original recording of that song featuring Billie Holiday singing with Louis Armstrong.

Here’s posts of other trips I’ve taken to New Orleans:

Your 2021 New Orleans Music Buying Guide

Give the gift of music. Here’s the new music that has crossed my path in doing Sweeney’s Gumbo Ya Ya this year. I play these records on the show in the order that you see them below.

Jon Batiste: We Are – What can I add to a record that has racked up eight Grammy noms? Batiste is a genius who writes and sings from a core of truth that is embedded in New Orleans. Once you get past the “Freedom” video, check out and several ass-kicking videos featuring the title track, “Freedom” and “Tell the Truth,” “We Are,”and “I Need You.”

Tiffany Pollack & Co. : Bayou Liberty – Following up on the success of her blues album recorded with cousin Eric Johansen, Pollack recorded a dozen of her original songs with assistance of producer and blues musician John Nemeth. But its far from a blues album with songs that channel Lone Star Tall Boys, honky-tonks, early morning nightclubs and sticky-seated dives where you go mainly for the crawfish and beer. Here’s more on Tiffany and the show with her interview.

Kid Eggplant & the Groovy Melatauns: Peace, Love & Donuts – Kid Eggplant, aka Robert Snow, and his music defy categorization perhaps because he embraces almost all genre: R&B, Doo Wop, Blues, Rock, Soul and Pop. You can count on his songs to be laced with catchy, and, at times ,slightly weird lyrics. However, you describe it, this music is an authentic product of the New Orleans music and nightclub scene.

Willie Durrisseau: Creole House Dance – Louis Michot and Corey Ledet carry off a major service to preserving creole music by capturing 101-year Willie Durrisseau on tape. Here’s more on this amazing story.

Secret Six Jazz Band: Secret Six – A side project of the brilliant Smoking Time Jazz Club led by the band’s bass player John Joyce, the Secret Six carry on the popular tradition in New Orleans of keeping old timey songs alive with a fresh take and sharp musicianship.

Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco HellraisersSet me Free – A favorite at the summer Portland Blues Festival, Dopsie and his gang deliver a dozen mostly original Zydeco tracks with everything you would expect from his show – excellent vocals, cranking accordion and even frottoir (rubboard) solos. Great for showing off your footwork.

Jamie Lynn VesselsIf I’m Being Honest – Blues rocker who has made New Orleans her home, Vessels offers a sweet voice, passionate and emotional lyrics and Cranston Clements fueled guitar licks. All original songs.

Loose CattleHeaving Lifting – Michael Cerveris (“Annie’s” agent on the HBO series Treme) performs with a solid group of musicians, many from New Orleans, creating barnburner style Americana music that will get you dancing.

George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners Crying for Hope – The band collaborated remotely during the pandemic to re-record and mix the album’s 12 songs, culminating in Porter & the Runnin Pardners’ most compelling release to date.

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux: Blood Stains and Teardrops – Big Chief Monk Boudreaux is the oldest living Mardi Gras Indian Chief with an impressive library of recordings with the Wild Magnolias and others. But this solo effort allows Boudreaux to cover new ground with both his writing and singing with songs infused with reggae (six tracks were recorded in Jamaica) and blues.

Chris Acker: Odd, Ordinary & Otherwise – One-time Bellingham resident, Acker offers up a collection of songs written or finished during the pandemic shutdown. He’s been happily embedded in New Orleans for at least a half dozen years writing and singing songs in the spirit of John Prine with an entertaining ability to conjure life’s fascinating details.

Craig Klein: Talkative Horns – Musical Conversations on Lucien Barbarin – This grammy winning trombonist started this project with his friend but made the record a tribute to him after Lucien Barbarin’s untimely death from cancer. A fellow trombonist, Barbarin was fan of mutes and this record’s eight track features them throughout creating a conversation between Klein’s trombone and Kevin Louis’ trumpet. Here’s the show featuring Craig Klein interview on his new record.

Dumpstaphunk: Where Do We Go From Here – Dumpstaphunk, headed up by Ivan and Ian Neville, answers their record title’s own question when it comes to where funk goes from here. This is a funk rock album with touches of jam band and R&B. You’ll dance and the lyrics speak to today.

Tuba Skinny (Maria Muldaur): Let’s Get Happy Together – A smart selection of vintage songs by straight A student of old timey music and jug bands Maria Muldaur who last year did a record featuring LuLu Barker songs. This time her New Orleans connection is Tuba Skinny which is allowed to shine and complement Muldaur’s perfected suited vocals.

Jonathan Bauer: Sings & Plays – For his second record, Jonathan occasionally lowers his trumpet and steps up to sing classics like “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Exactly Like You” and “September in the Rain.” His website claims that early listeners have described the band’s new aesthetic as “New Orleans Chet Baker.”

Leo Nocentelli: Another Side – A new record that takes you back a half century when the Meters’ guitarist and co-founder took a short break to do something completely different. Recorded mostly in 1971 but just released this year, the songs have an intimate feel reflective of the folk rock of that time. An excellent showcase of Nocentelli’s guitar and vocals.

Lynn Drury: Dancin’ In the Kitchen – A veteran of the New Orleans Americana music scene, Drury’s latest record seems a cut above an already impressive list of recordings. With excellent studio support, Drury soulfully dishes out her life experiences — you will swing, you’ll smile, you’ll cry.

Cha Wa: My People – Brainchild of drummer Joe Gelini, Cha Wa follows in the footsteps of the Wild Magnolias in delivering the rhythm, traditions and ethic of Mardi Gras Indians outside of New Orleans. This third release now features Joseph Beaudreaux Jr. (Monk’s son) on lead vocals.

Ted Hefko and The Thousandaires: Down Below – Hefko, who has straddled jazz and blues, takes a serious dive into country — a genre he hinted at with his last release Gas Station Guru But the woodwind musician puts his unique stamp pulling out his baritone sax, clarinet and flute among other instruments and helped out on a couple songs by Kevin Louis and Craig Klein (See Talkative Horns above).

Jason Ricci and Joe Krown: City-Country – City – Ricci on harmonica and vocals, Joe Krown on Hammond B-3 and piano with Doug Belote on drums and you have a stripped down funky, blues, swinging sound. Truly a situation where the sum is greater. One of my favorites of the year.

Garage a Trois: Calm Down Cologne – Galactic drummer anchors this power trio of Skerik (sax) and Charlie Hunter (guitar) — there first recording together since 2011. These masters of improvisation pull it off right in the studio with some serious funk, jazz and just out there playing.

Nicholas PaytonSmoke Sessions – Partly a sentimental yet original revisit of Miles Davis’ Four and More record, Sessions includes Ron Carter on bass and a couple of guest appearances by George Coleman on tenor saxophone. And they shine. But the real surprise and star of this album is Payton, the trumpet player, performing on piano.

Camile BaudoinThis Old House – The Radiator’s guitarist makes it all seem so simple with this spin of New Orleans/Radiator songs. Here’s how he introduces his latest album on Bandcamp – “It’s a New Orleans jukebox feel, enabled by some of my favorite fellow musicians. Roll up the rug, drop in a quarter, and enjoy!”

Debbie Davis, Matt Perrine and Friends: Oh Crap, It’s Christmas! Volume 2 – This is a family affair with Davis and Perrine anchoring with vocals and bass and their two songs adding their voice to songs like “Run Run Rudolph” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” And then there’s the musical family that includes the bright piano playing of Josh Paxton, Alex McMurray on guitar and Andre Bohren on drums. A nice mix of traditional and new for the holidays.

Get out and buy some low-carbon footprint gifts of music. Happy holidays. By the way, I do this end of year summary show every year.