Gumbo YaYa celebrates five years as a community radio show

I was in my 30’s when I finally understood that the deep depression I experienced every time I moved was related to having left New Orleans when I was a child. Hosting a radio show of New Orleans music has been cathartic. And today’s show marks five years on the air. (you can get the show started and then continue reading this post.)

Joe Lastie’s “New Orleans in Me” speaks to how when you live away from New Orleans (as happened with hundreds of thousands of residents post Hurricane Katrina) , the city stays with you. The song has always resonated for me and it opens this show as a way to honor why I’ve been doing this show for five years.

I was 10 when my family moved away and my heart stayed with the city, aided by frequent visits, until I moved out of the south after I graduated from college. The Northwest was such a good fit for me that over time, I lost touch with my New Orleans feelings — except that sense of loss that would return every time I moved into a new apartment or home.

By the time I returned to visit my sister who had moved back, it had been almost 30 years since I had visited New Orleans. I caught the New Orleans Nightcrawlers at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which caused me to have almost a mystical experience. I just loved their sound and quickly learned that there was more to New Orleans music than Dixieland. The Nightcrawlers open the first full set of the show with “Can of Worms.”

I do a funk set with Mem Shannon, Allen Toussaint and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. I make sure New Orleans Bounce is represented with the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia doing “Lift Dat Leg Up.”

I try to hint at the diversity of New Orleans music with original songs by Leyla McCalla, Anders Osborne, Kelcy Mae and Lena Prima. I throw in a fun set of Zydeco as well since that is music I would not have learned to love if I had not been doing this show. I hope you have a chance to listen to some of my shows and appreciate the uniquely melting pot American music that emanates from New Orleans

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Celebrating Four Years of Gumbo YaYa

I love birthdays and so it was no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on today’s Anniversary show. I hope you enjoy listening to it. (Go ahead and click the arrow right below and get it started)

birthday-cake-four-candles-mdMarcia Ball’s “The Party’s Still Going On,” which kicked off the show, totally fit my mood. In September of 2014 when the first Gumbo YaYa was recorded, I  was a little nervous about how long I’d be able to sustain a show, aired in the Pacific Northwest, of strictly New Orleans music. After all, the KAOS air studio is more than 2,720 miles from Frenchmen Street).

But with the help and kindness of New Orleans musicians, music distributors and labels ike Basin Street Records, I’ve been getting some current music.   I’m surprised how much variety the New Orleans format offers.  And what particularly amazes me is how much I’ve learned in the last four years.  (Several trips to New Orleans have helped — I like this hobby!).

On my bucket list for my next New Orleans visit is catching Lena Prima and her talented band in the Carousel Room of the Monteleone Hotel. Yes, its a total tourist thing but damn she does a great job, backed up by her band led by husband and bass player Tim Fahey.  Early in today’s show, she pulls off a bit of a medley that starts as you might expect, then gets you and your body moving (guaranteed) by the end.

Got a phone call from a listener when I played The Wild Magnolia’s “Coochie Molly” a rocking song (thank you June Yamagishi on guitar) that dovetailed nicely in to the next track, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers live version of “Tchfuncta/On that Day.”  That set finishes with Galactic’s “Wild Man” with chanting by Big Chief Bo Dollis. In fact, all three songs in that set feature chanting by Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs.

Another Big Chief performs later in the show but only on the saxophone — Donald Harrison Jr. backs up Davell Crawford in “River/White Socks & Drawers.” When he’s not playing jazz saxophone, Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. is working on his next Mardi Gras suit. Oh, and before I forget, Dr. John and Big Freedia do some vocals on that Crawford song.

The show also features an in-studio performance (recorded earlier this summer) of “”Kibi” by Helen Gillet.  I have other surprises, including a 12-minute live version of the oft-covered “Big Chief.” Thanks so much for putting up with these posts and shows for four years. As long as you don’t complain to management, I’m committed to ensuring that “The Party’s Still Going On,”

Three years of Gumbo YaYa

Hello.  Today’s show marked three full years of airing a show about New Orleans music in a town over 2200 miles away from the Crescent City.  My thanks to community radio station KAOS and its listeners and supporters for letting me do this show.

Inkedcb_bday_LIThe show kicks off with Theryl “Houseman” Declouet with his infamous introduction regarding the third world status of New Orleans at a Galactic concert and flows quickly into Shamarr Allen’s “Party All Night.”  Al Hirt takes a turn and so does patron saint of this website and the show, Ernie K-Doe, with his classic “A Certain Girl.”  Who is she? Can’t tell ya.  I have reggae and hornpipes, jazz and blues and an amazing live airing of the Radiator’s 7 Devils from the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  It was that concert that cinched the deal for me that I would be coming back to New Orleans as often as I could.

Here’s the edited show from today (September 7, 2017) marking three years.  Thank you for listening.

Brass Bands Make You Move Your Body

Sorry if you missed my interview of Rebirth Brass Band founder and sousaphone player Phil Frazier on the November 3 Gumbo YaYa show. Rebirth comes out to the Northwest next week, playing in Seattle on November 13 and Portland on November 14. Also, WWOZ is doing its pledge drive this week.  Here’s why its important to support community radio.

Live music has the potential to freeze time for me–particularly cool new music. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be unique to anyone else. Just to me.

So when I stumbled into the Jazz Tent at my first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest in 2006, I was oblivious that brass bands had undergone a major makeover. I was a couple decades behind the times. Having grown up around Dixieland jazz and watching brass bands at Mardis Gras in the 60’s, I wasn’t expecting the addition of funk, rock and R&B that the New Orleans Nightcrawlers were throwing at me from the stage. The music was unexpected, danceable and down right entertaining.  I can pretty much trace my radio show and this blog to that moment in the jazz tent.

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Many New Orleans brass bands blend tradition with newer styles to keep the music fresh and unique.

Returning home with their live album hot in my hand, I started learning more about this music which seems to have one toe in tradition and the rest of its toes in hip hop, bepop, funk, and rock.

When I got back to New Orleans later in the year, I made a point to catch Rebirth Brass Band at their home base, the Maple Leaf — which for this brass band band fan is the equivalent of a devout Catholic getting to meet the Pope in the Vatican.

I wish I could tell you first hand how this music has transformed over the years. But I wasn’t there. I can tell you that an important part of it was keeping the brass band tradition alive. Mentors like Danny Barker who formed the Fairview Baptist Marching Band were key. From that youth band, a new generation of musicians, schooled in the tradition, but open to other styles, rose up the ranks.

What do I like about this music? Just about everything.

Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar in Uptown New Orleans every Tuesday night except when the band tours..
Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar in Uptown New Orleans every Tuesday night except when the band tours..

But I’ll use Rebirth’s “What Goes Around Comes Around” from their grammy-winning CD as an example.  Vincent Broussard on tenor sax applies a simple but catchy melody. Then the drummers kick in, keeping a beat but also playing around the beat in a totally engaging way. Founding band member Phil Frazier enters with the bass line on sousaphone while the other horns add depth. Broussard then takes the melody to new territory on another solo before the harmonizing horns kick in with a full breath rendition of the original melody, and I feel it right in my chest, a total uplift. There’s a give and take between the sax and the horns with the trumpet and trombone doing their own solo turns before a sort of controlled chaos breaks loose. At around the 4:20 mark, with about minute left, the band members begin to sing or sort of chant: “What goes around comes around in its time. We’re going to dance around, smoke a bong and get on down.”

Okay, so its party music. Music that definitely works best performed live, with a favorite libation nearby and some room to boogie. In fact, brass bands are designed to move, to march in parades, lead second lines and get people dancing wherever they are.

A couple of years ago, while waiting in line to eat lunch at Casamento’s, I got into a discussion with the guy ahead of me about The Soul Rebels who had just put out “Unlock Your Mind” that year. He was quite insistent that the only way to hear a New Orleans brass band is at their home base, which for the Rebels is Les Bon Temps Roule on Thursday nights. Given that the guy talking was David Simon, creator of Treme who has filmed a number of brass bands including the Rebels in action, I took it as sound advice.  And its true. While I’ve always enjoyed catching Rebirth wherever I can (the band plays the Tractor in Ballard on November 13), I’ve had the best times with them at the Maple Leaf.

Baby Boyz at Jazz Fest. No longer the province of  old men, brass bands provide a path for young musicians to gain professional experience
Baby Boyz at Jazz Fest. No longer the province of old men, brass bands provide a path for young musicians to gain professional experience

Here’s some simple tips for catching a brass band in New Orleans. Do what Simon says, catch them on their home turf if possible. Or catch them leading a second line parade (schedule). If you catch them at a club, be ready to stay up late cause if you’re lucky, the show will start by 11 p.m. Be prepared for a crowd and know that many bars still allow indoor smoking. Finally, if you’re worried about your ears, bring some ear plugs. You’ll still be able to hear them well.

You can also hear them well on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon on KAOS, 89.3 FM Olympia