New Orleans Nightcrawlers Second Line to a Grammy Nom

You’ll hear about two dozens performances by New Orleans piano players on this week’s show. But only after I introduce four of the members of one my favorite bands, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers who have a Grammy nomination for their latest record, Atmosphere. You’ll also hear three tracks from that record. Go ahead and get it started.

One of the perks of hosting a radio show is the excuse to score interviews with musicians I love. And recently I had the chance to zoom interview four of the nine members of the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. This brass band is what sold me on New Orleans music. A band that both honors tradition and innovates. Their latest album “Atmosphere” is a just the latest example. It made my favorites of 2020 list. But more importantly its up for a grammy which will be awarded in March this year. (Postscript: They won!)

From left to right – Craig Klein, Kevin Clark, me, Brent Rose and Matt Perrine.

After Jon Cleary opens the show with “Po Boy Blues,” you’ll hear from saxophonist Brent Rose, who grew up in Lynnwood Washington before landing in New Orleans via a stint in the Marine Corps Band. He introduces his song “Gentilly Groove”.

Craig Klein, who has been featured on this show before, explains the importance of the band’s rhythm section which consists of New Birth and Preservation Hall Brass Band drummers Caytonio “Tanio” Hingle and Kerry “Fatman” Hunter.

Matt Perrine, who plays tuba and produced the record, comes on before the third song to explain the very New Orleans approach to getting nine high-demand musicians together long enough to record an album. (Hint: Food is involved.)

L- R – Bernie sitting in, Miles Lyons, Kerry Hunter, Brent Rose, Kevin Clark, Craig Klein, Barney Floyd, Matt Perrine, Jason Mingledorff, Caytanio Hingle.

To give you a sense of how busy these musicians are, Kevin Clark lays out what a typical work week looked like for him and his trumpet before COVID restrictions. In normal times, these musicians perform pretty much every day in a wide range of projects and gigs. A grammy would be a big deal for them and yet, even if they win, you will likely still be able to see them in a New Orleans night club or restaurant plying their craft once live music moves back indoors.

After the Nightcrawlers three songs, its time for more piano. In fact, the rest of the show features performances by two dozen New Orleans piano players – Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Allen Toussaint, Ellis Marsalis, Marcia Ball (honorary New Orleanian), James Booker, Tuts Washington, Champion Jack Dupree, Josh Paxton, David Torkanowsky, Tom McDermott, Amanda Walker, Henry Butler . . .ah geez, just listen to the show will ya!

The program finishes with a New Orleans piano player who has played Olympia a few times. I promised on the show to share a link to Davis Rogan’s Facebook page where he does live performances every Wednesday though some times its on Thursdays. Here it is.

New Orleans and the piano – A good team.

As part of my ongoing education on New Orleans music, I’ve been reading about the use of the piano in New Orleans music. (Please note: I’m not a real musician but I operate a CD player at home)

While the piano wasn’t invented in New Orleans, several styles of piano playing are derived from the city’s musicians.  So much so that “one can easily claim the piano as the prime choice of innovators in New Orleans music,” according to an article by Tom McDermott who innovates on the piano on a daily basis in New Orleans.

This versatile instrument combines melody and rhythm and makes it possible for every parlor or living room to become a concert hall.

As Jon Cleary, another fine keyboard purveyor of New Orleans music, said, the piano is “a hip little tool because it allows you to reproduce all the elements of what a band would do.”

littlerichard
It was on a piano in the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans during a recording break that Little Richard connected with his mojo, banging out Tutti Frutti.

What Jelly Roll Morton and others that followed did was translate the sounds of the New Orleans street bands to a piano, delivering their own interpretation to the customers of night clubs and sporting clubs and ultimately to a global audience.

The piano is so important to New Orleans music that a premiere annual event is Piano Night held around the time of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  The host of this event, WWOZ, has created a compendium of videos that explore that New Orleans piano tradition.

Here’s Jon Cleary providing a quick run down of the various piano playing styles. 

My goal is to focus on New Orleans piano players from time to time. Next week’s article will feature the amazing, but often overlooked, James Booker. (I have since added:  Professor LonghairAllen Toussaint, Jon Cleary, and Isidore Tuts Washington).  For my next show though, I’ll offer a wide range of New Orleans piano players.