How high can a sousaphone play?

Shamarr Allen’s New Orleans anthem “Party All Night” starts off today’s show and I follow it with some jazzy numbers that feature strong sousaphone and trombone performances. You can hear it all by clicking the sideways triangle below and you’ll still be able read on.

Matt Perrine sneaks another surprise run on the sousaphone hitting high notes that don’t even sound like a tuba in “Devil Take It’ to start the first full set. Ben Jaffe also represents himself well on the big horn in Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s take off “Bonjour Cousin.” The set finishes with “The Object of My Affection” by Frog and Henry. Both Frog and Henry and Shamarr Allen will be playing in venues along the I-5 corridor in August (calendar)

I spin a couple of classic funk songs from New Orleans: “Hip Drop” by the Explosions and “Dap Walk” by Ernie and the Top Notes. Trombone Shorty finishes that set and then I play another jazz set that features trombonist Charlie Halloran, Tuba Skinny and Dr. John.

Then its time to celebrate Little Freddie King’s 79th birthday with two numbers that highlight his guitar work. Marcia Ball lightens up that set with her song about the town gossip “Louella.” Lots more follows but by now, you’re probably into it enough to stay listening. I hope you’ll consider subscribing as well (top right hand side of page). Thanks for tuning in.

Digging deeper in new and old releases

This week’s show is one of me catching up on playing music I’ve been meaning to get to but hadn’t been able to work it into a set.  Here it is, with announcements edited out.

Tin Men’s “Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing” is another fine demonstration of how well Matt Perrine can play melody on a sousaphone. Their new album is Sing with Me and it kicks off the show.  I dive into an earlier album of Bon Bon Vivant by playing the title track from”Paint & Pageantry,” serving notice that this show will rock a bit more than usual. By the time Bill Pierce does the Sonny Landreth number “Zydecoldsmobile” we are definitely rocking.

hoodooFor some reason the 2001 release The Hoodoo Kings sitting in the KAOS blues section managed to elude my discovery until recently. This one-off album features  Eddie Bo of New Orleans along with two well-regarded Baton Rouge musicians, Raful Neal and Rockin’ Tabby Thomas. I played “Luberta” and expect to hear more from this album in future shows. Ivan Neville’s collaboration with Chris Jacobs makes its debut on my show with “Money Talks” and I also play the opening track of the Ever More Nest release “Unraveling.”

A new group called Old Riley and Water also debut on my show and I play from Lena Prima’s new release Prima La Famiglia.  There’s more in the show but if I haven’t convinced you to start playing by now, there’s no point writing any more. But if you do like, please subscribe.  See you next week.

“Sunny Afternoon” Seemed to Fit the Day’s News

On a day when Amazon announced it was suspending its work on two of its Seattle office buildings in response to a possible city housing affordability tax, it seemed appropriate to play a cover of Ray Davies satirical “Sunny Afternoon.” It’s the second song in the show, right after Shamarr Allen’s opener, so get it started while I explain more about this show.

I love this version by Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers with the sousaphone bass line handled by her husband Matt Perrine.  Matt shows up later in the show with his own project, Matt Perrine and Sunflower City.  Yes, its a sunny day but the song, originally recorded by the Kinks, seems to capture Amazon’s petulant response to the city’s modest attempt to try to get the $700 billion company to take some responsibility for the housing shortages in Seattle.

Enough politics, let’s talk immigration instead.  Anders Osborne moved to New Orleans as youth from Uddevalla, Sweden.  Today, he turned 52 and I play his song “My Old Heart.” The Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “Ruffian Since Birth” provides a nice follow up to Osborne’s number

Diablo’s Horns offers a silly take on addiction (and seasonal allergies) in their song “The Sneeze” and The Crooked Vines heat things up with “Organ Holler.”  I’m almost done with my sequential march through Marcia Ball’s latest release Shine Bright and perhaps my favorite surprise in this show was finding Bon Bon Vivant’s latest release and playing “Dust.”

Another fun discovery is Mary Flower’s “Main Street Blues” which features Dr. Michael White (clarinet), Washboard Chaz and Matt Perrine (sousaphone).  Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe.  Cheers.

Bonerama’s latest release is Hot Like Fire

Craig Klein and Mark Mullins might joke they formed Bonerama as a way to give trombonists greater job security but there’s no hiding the enthusiasm they have for their instrument serving as the band’s main voice.  Bonerama’s latest release (it’s seventh in almost 20 years) is aptly named “Hot Like Fire.”

bonerama.jpg
Bonerama has released its seven album in its 20 year history. Its first with Basin Street Records

I caught up with the two after a band practice at Craig’s house in the Lower Garden District late last month.  The album features seven original tunes by Craig, Mark and Matt Perrine, who plays bass and sousaphone.  The songs range from catchy numbers like “Happy” and “Hot Like Fire” to the complex “High Horse.” The album’s two covers include Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” and Allen Toussaint’s “Basic Lady.”

Reluctant to pick one genre for their music style, Mark and Craig give it three – Brass Rock and Funk.  But “Hot Like Fire” also throws in a little reggae and jazz.  At KAOS, it goes on our Funk shelf where its been getting some good play.

Greg Hicks adds the third trombone to the band with Bert Cotton on guitar and Alex Joseph “A.J.” Hall on drums. Click on the interview above to hear Craig and Mark talk about all nine songs, with samples of the songs, as well as the band’s origins and their connection with Basin Street Records.

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.)

Tuba players key to NOLA music and the next Gumbo YaYa

I doubt the Census Bureau can tell us where we might find the highest concentration of tuba players, but if it could, I’d guess that New Orleans would be near the top.

Just think of all those Second Lines with sousaphone players blasting the beat out over the heads of dancers.

David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia's Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa Monday.
David Moseley, sousaphonist for Olympia’s Artesian Rumble Arkestra and KAOS Deejay, will host Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa Monday.

A quick trivia detour: The sousaphone is the wrap around version of the tuba, making it easier to carry and project sound forward. From what I’ve read, the sousaphone, named after military-band extraordinaire John Philip Sousa was a modified version of  a tuba-like instrument, called a helicon, designed to be played while riding a horse. Tally Ho!

The sousaphone/tuba is on my mind today because the next Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa will be guest hosted by David Moseley. In addition to being the host of KAOS’s world music show Xenophilia, David is the sousaphone player for Olympia’s own Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

In honor of David filling in for me while I screw off on the beach, here are five notable tuba/sousaphone players from New Orleans.

Anthony
Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen is revered in New Orleans.

Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen –  Mr. Lacen was part of Danny Barker’s Fairview Baptist Church band and became a bandleader and mentor to many. Famous for playing the streets, he also toured the world.  Over a decade after his passing in 2004, Tuba Fats is still fondly remembered in New Orleans with a special day of recognition (Tuba Fats Tuesday after JazzFest) and a square named in his honor in the Treme.

Kirk Joseph – Another alumnus of Barker’s band of youthful brass players, Mr. Joseph was one of the founders of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band which reinvigorated the New Orleans brass band sound.  He continues to play today mixing tradition with the contemporary and maintaining his credentials as the hip godfather of brass music.

Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.
Phil Frazier, founding member and anchor of Rebirth Brass Band.

Phil Frazier – Founding member of my favorite brass band, Mr. Frazier, along with his brother Keith, have been keeping the beat for Rebirth Brass Band since 1983. Influenced by the two previously mentioned tuba players, Phil has charted his own territory with Rebirth, laying down funky bass lines for the band that scored a grammy in 2012 with its album “Rebirth of New Orleans.”

Ben Jaffe – As the Creative Director of Preservation Hall, Mr. Jaffe perhaps isn’t always thought of as a tuba player. But that’s what he often plays for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. While his blood directly links him to the small French Quarter venue his parents started in the 1961, his talent has kept this venerable institution and its band from being a museum piece. Ben co-produced the 2013 album “That’s It!” which was the band’s first release to feature completely original music, including Jaffe’s tuba-booming title track.

Matt Perrine – It’s hard to avoid Mr. Perrine if you watch any number of New Orleans acts such as Bonerama and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. But to catch his latest work, check out “Linger Til Dawn” featuring awesome vocals by his wife Debbie Davis and some tasty interpretations of classics like “Sunny Afternoon” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”