Crawfish, New Tracks, and a Germaine Performance & more

Marcia Ball kicks off this week’s show with “Crawfishin'” which I play in honor of the fact that we’re now in the height of the mud bug season. But there’s more mouth-watering songs in the show so get it started and then read more of what’s on the menu.

Latest Smoking Time Jazz Club record

Smoking Time Jazz Club is proving to a prolific recording group as well as a live performance band. In the first full set, check out “Snake Hip Dance” from their barely released Contrapuntal Stomp. Tom Worrell lays down “Crawfish Fiesta” from a live performance of piano night, the WWOZ benefit that happens between the two weekends of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. (This year, it looks like the event has moved to House of Blues).

I start the second full set with Leyla McCalla’s “Money is King” from her latest The Capitalist Blues . That set is all new music including Big Al and the Heavyweights doing “Fool for You” and Herlin Riley’s wonderful funky jazz number “Wings and Roots.”

Later in the show, you’ll hear Little Queenie, Tuts Washington, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, James Booker, and Miss Sophie Lee. I spin two more tracks from the Smithsonian Folkways not-yet-released 50 year anniversary of Jazz Fest with a big band performance by Al Belletto and a birthday spin (she turn’s 87!) of Germaine Bazzle scatting with Red Tyler’s Quintet.

At about the hour mark, you’ll hear the Hot 8 Brass Band’s sweaty dance anthem “Get Up” — the 20th anniversary version and then later to end the show I play the Diesel remix of that song — which was recently featured in a soccer highlight show “Match of the Week.”

Oh I left stuff out of this description so you’ll have some surprises along the way. Thanks for listening. Please subscribe and tell ALL your friends about Gumbo YaYa.

New Orleans festival season offers more than JazzFest

The New Orleans festival season is fast approaching. While the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the crown jewel of the season, there are reasons for the music tourist to consider visiting the city at any time during the long festival season other than JazzFest. Here’s a few.

The Crowds.  New Orleans is a tourist town year round but it can be overwhelming during Mardi Gras and JazzFest. During those peak times, restaurants and nightclubs are a harder to get into and lodging is more expensive. Go before or after JazzFest and the city feels more relaxed and accessible.

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Glen David Andrews performing at Jazz in the Park (Louis Armstrong Park) in 2013.

Free Outdoor Concerts – New Orleans offers some wonderful outdoor concerts showcasing local musicians in a festival atmosphere. There are two exceptional, easy to get to concert series that run through the spring. This year, “Wednesday at the Square” features Marcia Ball, Amanda Shaw, Tab Benoit, Flow Tribe, Honey Island Swamp Band, Kermit Ruffins, Anders Osborne and Soul Rebels. This downtown show held in Lafayette Square usually features an opening act, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and is surrounded by ways to purchase food and booze. On Thursday evenings, Louis Armstrong Park comes alive with Jazz in the Park. This event attracts more locals with chairs and picnic baskets but you’ll still find sustenance and drink in this park just across historic Rampart Street from the French Quarter.

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Local dance group performing at Freret Street Festival

Neighhorhood Festivals –  Only in a New Orleans neighborhood festival would you find youth dance groups and more established artists like Bonerama, Mississippi Rail Company, Tank and the Bangas, and New Breed Brass Band. That was just a sampling of the three stages last year that defined the boundaries of the Freret Street Festival, one of the early season neighborhood festivals in New Orleans. Neighborhood festivals run throughout the year, except for JazzFest. Check the festival schedule and sample a few online such as the Bayou Boogaloo –- definitely on my bucket list for a future visit. You’ll find most New Orleanians are incredibly social—almost to a fault. Go to a neighborhood event or establishment and if you are reasonably gregarious, you will meet locals who will happily share their opinions on bands, restaurants and the best route to take to your next event.

IMG_1454French Quarter Festival – This four-day event attracts more audience than the more well-known seven-day JazzFest. The difference is that the stages are scattered about the French Quarter and they are free, making it easy for the casual daily tourist to get sucked into the music. Whereas JazzFest adds a healthy dose of world and national music acts to their line up of local performers, French Quarter Festival is almost exclusively local musicians. Held two weeks before JazzFest, it’s the first major festival of the season. If you’re already staying in or around downtown, you won’t need to taxi or bus to the fairgrounds as you would with JazzFest. Last year French Quarter Festival headlined with Allen Toussaint, who later joined in a delightful conversation with Deacon John about Cosimo Matassa at the festival’s interview stage. I can’t tell you how fortunate I felt to be in the audience for both of those events.

freret-street-festival-2Lagniappe. Regardless of when you go, relax. You won’t be able to do it all. Things will get in your way, like torrential rain storms. Last year, I had set my mind on catching Irma Thomas at the big stage by the river at French Quarter Festival but when I saw a mass of dark clouds headed my way, I reluctantly ducked into the House of Blues courtyard. What a break. Not only did I stay dry but I became acquainted with the talent of Sarah McCoy and Colin Lake –two performers who were able to keep playing despite a very heavy rain. The Irma Thomas show was cancelled. Slow down, take care of yourself and enjoy the moment because you’re in New Orleans, baby!

P.S. JazzFest is a hoot and you should do it, particularly if you haven’t and have always wanted to. Here’s my five things you should know about JazzFest.

2015 created great opportunities to explore NOLA music

I use this blog as way to prepare for my radio show on the Olympia community radio station, KAOS. Here’s some of the things I learned this year.

New Orleans "Professor" Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint was a featured “professor” in my ongoing series of New Orleans piano players.

Fascinated by the role of the piano in New Orleans, I started a series on New Orleans piano players that now includes James BookerAllen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington,  and Dr. John. (More to follow).

During the carnival season, I explored the traditions and music of Black Indians of Mardi Gras .  That story led me to write about the importance of African American musicans from New Orleans in creating rock n’ roll.  I followed that up with Fats Domino and the role his performances played in getting black and white audiences to dance to the same beat.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, I provided a personal reminiscence then added a new Mardi Gras experience of bar hopping with the local brass band, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

All You Need Is Love
Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought a “Mardi Gras” vibe to downtown Olympia as part of bar tour on Fat Tuesday.

My entry on New Orleans women in music resulted in one of my favorite radio shows of the year and helped me grow my knowledge of New Orleans music and the many wonderful women who create it.

I chose my Valentines show to dive into the history of the often recorded “Careless Love.”  Later I looked into the history of another New Orleans standard,  L’il Liza Jane. I also tracked down  songs about “sugar” which, as you’ll find, really are not about sweet granules.  I  also explored the Afro-Cuban connection or what Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish Tinge.” (Last year, I wrote an entry on the classic and checkered history of St. James Infirmary.)

One of my more popular entries was about the Galactic tour of 2015 when it played Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. Interestingly, the funk band is playing Seattle and Portland about the same time in February of 2016.

IMG_1454As you might expect, I have several entries on New Orleans institutions, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Preservation Hall, the jazz funeral,  the Freret Street Festival, French Quarter Festival, and the end of smoking in New Orleans nightclubs.

Drawing on my April trip to New Orleans, I wrote about the magnetic pull of New Orleans to young musicians of all genres. I  also shared my experience of touring the currently closed Dew Drop Inn with the grandson of its founder.

The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina inspired a couple of entries, including this one that chronicled the activities of some of New Orleans better known musicians. This entry also has links to my two radio shows honoring that anniversary with music and excerpts from Spike Lee’s documentary.

And I finished off the year, as I did last year, with a short catalog of the 2015 New Orleans music releases featured on my show.  Part 1.  Part 2.

I hope you enjoyed the music and the little bit of information I learn and share. I know I do. Subscribe if you’d like to follow what I learn in 2016. Happy New Year.

 

First impressions of French Quarter Festival

With some time to catch up this morning on day three of the 2015 French Quarter Festival, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my first impression of the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world

The fest started on Thursday with five stages operating mostly in Woldenberg Riverfront Park near the old Jax Brewery and the Audubon Aquarium. Friday, the festival added seven more stages and 11 more open today. This exponential stage growth levels off at 23 stages, otherwise there might not be any place to walk.

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Actually, there’s lots of room to walk. Anyone intent on catching music at all the stages needs to be prepared to hustle or rent a pedicab.  Stages are grouped together but those groups are scattered over the full river length of the French Quarter from Canal to Esplanade and moving away from the river, there are stages on Royal and Bourbon Streets. Like most music festivals, tough choices have to be made cause you cannot catch it all.

In its four days, French Quarter festival attracts more audience than the better known seven-day New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that starts  later in the month.  But now that I’m here, its quite obvious why.  Jazz Fest participants have to make a conscious effort to get out the Fair Grounds and pay the $70 to get in for a day. As a result, I suspect that Jazz Fest is responsible for drawing in more folks to the city specifically for the festival.

John Boutte performing at French Quarter festival this week.
John Boutte performing at French Quarter festival this week.

At French Quarter Festival, many of the attendees appear to be here for other reasons. And therein lies the genius of this event. Like a gill net that traps salmon headed to spawning grounds, the free French Quarter Festival snags tourists as they innocently stumble out of their hotels and bars and provides them with a taste of music they might not otherwise catch.

With the exception of one small stage featuring international acts, the French Quarter Festival showcases local talent. This means the festival provides local musicians with a chance to build a following outside the city.  The fact that the festival can keep 23 stages busy with local talent provides some sense of how deep the musical talent. This year’s lineup includes Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Eric Lindell, Hot 8 Brass Band, John Boutte, Flow Tribe, Bonerama, Little Freddie King, Guitar Slim Jr. and on and on.  All music, by the way, that we play on Sweeney’s Gumbo Ya Ya.

I’m still in New Orleans during the next show but I hope to call in with a brief report. You’ll be in capable hands with Anch who hosts Sundrenched on Tuesdays.