Southern heat and area festivals create a parade of musicians

I just updated my website’s concert calendar page for bands from New Orleans (which for me includes Lafayette area) and this week’s show features those bands coming to visit us. Get it started and I’ll tell you more.

Jon Cleary won’t be coming here soon but his song “Bringing Back the Home” captures the spirit of my show with the chorus of “jazz, funk, rhythm and blues and soul” so it kicks off today’s show. The second set starts with Trombone Shorty who will be in Seattle and Portland in July. Chubby Carrier takes a turn on the next set. His band will be playing the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival in July, along with Cyril Neville also featured on the show. Sonny Landreth, a Northwest regular visitor, will perform at The Triple Door in June and then come back in August to play in Mt. Vernon.

The Vancouver Folk Festival in British Columbia will host Dwayne Dopsie and the Rebirth Brass Band . Portland’s Pickathon will host Preservation Hall Jazz Band. And the Portland Acoustic Blues Workshop/Festival will have Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and Frog and Henry. All these acts are featured in the show.

Go to my calendar page to find the actual dates and locations.

Vinyl Gumbo! Can you hear the difference

If you long for LPs then this week’s show is for you. Over an hour of vinyl New Orleans music is waiting to be heard, just click the application below and get it spinning.

hirt fountain vinylI still own the first CD player I bought for my stereo.  And I love it.  I love the ease of playing CDs. I love being able to quickly find the track I want to hear. I like being able to repeat tracks. I love how clean the sound is.  I really don’t miss vinyl.

Yet, I still buy LPs.  And you’ll hear some of them on this show, including Pete Fountain, Professor Longhair, Al Hirt, Willie Humphrey, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Beausoleil,  Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Huey “Piano” Smith and John Mooney.  Nothing like playing a continuous stream of LPs to appreciate the work of DJs before the digital era. It really is a lot more effort playing off of turntables.

But aside from the crackling of the needle contacting the surface, I really can’t tell the difference in the sound.  Perhaps you will.

Also, on today’s show, I honor Eddie Bo’s birth anniversary.  Noted perhaps mostly for his funk, Edwin Bocage was a piano player skilled in jazz and other music genre as well. He was also a talented builder, who even in his mid-70’s was active in rebuilding his home damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  I play a couple of his lesser known numbers in today’s show along with a couple of new releases by Eric Lindell and Keith Stone along with a handful of contemporary female New Orleans artists to offer some gender balance wrapped in very fine music.  Thanks for tuning in.

Big Sam delivers on promise of more dance music

Big Sam’s Funky Nation visits the Northwest this week so this show features two of his songs and a short interview with the band’s charismatic frontman Sam Williams. Let’s get started and I’ll tell you more.

bigsamjazzfest2016k
Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Big Sam just got back from a tour of Spain when I talked with him today about his trip to the west coast. He leaves tomorrow (Friday, August 3rd) for San Francisco. He’ll play Mississippi Studio in Portland on Monday, August 6 and the Nectar Lounge in Seattle on Tuesday, August 7.

We talked about how he lost his prized trombone when his touring van got broken into last time he came out to the west. We also talked about how Wendell Pierce copied some of his moves and his style when he played Antoine Batiste in the HBO TV show Treme. In fact the broad outline of the character was patterned after Mr. Williams.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s new release Songs in the Key of Funk  delivers on his earlier promise to include more dance songs. In this show, I play “What’s My Name (Big Sam” and “Buzzin.” But to get those songs and the interview, you have to listen to few other sets including a set of Led Zeppelin cover songs featuring a sousaphone on “Dyer Maker” and a three trombone salute to “When the Levee Breaks.”

Rolling with the HBO theme, Davis Rogan sings about the hassles of fake pot when acting in a song called “Prop Weed.” Also, this show includes my favorite version of St. James Infirmary, a rocking version led by Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

June Yamagishi delivers excellent argument for open borders

June Yamagishi shocked his agent when he announced that despite a revered career as a guitarist in Japan, he wanted to live and work in New Orleans. On the occasion of his 65th birthday, this episode of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa celebrates his decision. But wait there’s more. (But go ahead and get the show started)

june 2.jpg
June Yamagishi playing with Cyril Neville and Corey Henry in October 2017.

Chocolate Milk, a popular New Orleans funk band from the 70’s, kick the show off with their opening song from their 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance.  I follow that up with a set of music featuring June Yamagishi and his guitar. Two tracks from Papa Grows Funk, a band he was part of for 13 years. Because he also loves Mardi Gras Indian music, I included a song by The Wild Magnolias that features some strong Yamagishi licks.

Also, here’s a link to a short video of his cameo appearance on the HBO show, Treme, where he is trying out for the band being assembled by Wendell Pierce’s character.

From this point in the show, I swing through a jazz set that starts with a classic King Oliver number from the late 1920’s and finishes with a recent recording by Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring an original song.

Coco Robicheaux kicks off the next set which offers two songs about the importance of keeping on the good side of your woman. Paula of Paula and the Pontiacs sings about the importance of getting the coffee (grind) right while Larry Garner, with help from Buckwheat Zydeco, does a number called “Ms. Boss.”

Three contemporary zydeco and cajun numbers push the boundaries of those genres with the help of Bonsoir Catin, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Rosie Ledet.  A country/folk sets follows before I swing back into funk and finish with a genre-busting song by the BlueBrass Project.   Actually, Irma Thomas gets the last word with “Since I Fell for You,” with Dr. John on piano.

There now, lots of reasons to keep listening.  Thanks for tuning in.

You Can Fill Your Bucket with New Orleans Music

This post doesn’t have a hole in it but your bucket might. This week’s show has a few stories to it, including one about the first record where you hear Louis Armstrong’s voice, a bloody New Orleans nightclub that gets renamed in song and the birthday of a first rate R&B star whose career was disrupted by the draft and served in Korea.  Start the show (Earl King kicks it off) and then keep reading.

Last weekend during a Northwest sun break, the song “That Bucket Has a Hole In It” came to mind while tossing weeds in the five-gallon buckets we use to garden. Unable to shake the tune, I rolled with it and assembled a two-set program of “bucket” songs for today’s show.

Louis-Armstrong-early-2
Louis Armstrong was 25 when he recorded Gut Bucket Blues

The set starts with “Gut Bucket Blues” — the third song recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five but the first to be released and the first to showcase his exuberant stage presence. As Ricky Riccardi eloquently explains in his blog post, the song “contains the first ever glimpse of Louis Armstrong’s personality, in all its glory.”

Recorded in Chicago in 1925, this Hot Five recording includes three other New Orleans expats (Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet an Johnny St. Cyr on banjo) and the future Mrs. Armstrong (Lil Harden) on piano.  As each band member takes a solo, Armstrong yells out encouragement.  By the time he recorded Gut Bucket Blues, Armstrong was a veteran performer on stage and in the studio, having recorded with bandleaders Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson.  But with this Hot Five recording, Louis Armstrong steps out for the first time, demonstrating the style he would take to an international level. There’s more fun details about this song and how it was recorded so I’ll give another plug to author Riccardi’s entertaining blog: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong.

I round out the set with Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s “The Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” and Eddie Bo’s catchy “Check Your Bucket” which while very different from the Prez Hall’s song is certainly connected by lyrics.

littlefred
Mixed Bucket of Blood is a bonus track on this album of Little Freddie King;

The second set starts with a gory story involving an early Little Freddie King gig that went horribly wrong. As he explains in this YouTube video, he got a gig at a nightclub for the weekend. And every night, an incident occurred that resulted in someone losing a lot of blood.  At one point, he described taking cover from gunfire behind a juke box.  He memorialized the experience in his song “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”  The song is followed by Dr. John’s very different take of “Gut Bucket Blues” and the Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Bottom of the Bucket.”

Later in the show I do a long set of drinking songs that in song title form reads like this:  Liquor Pang, Drinking Days, Drunk Too Much, Still Drunk, Drink a Little Poison 4 U Die.

Finally, I close with a rousing tribute to Lloyd Price who had five hit R&B songs in the early 50’s before getting drafted into the Army and had to serve in Korea.  I tell more of this story in my Veteran’s Day post. I play one of his hits he cut after returning from the military (“Stagger Lee”) along with “Rock N’ Roll Dance”  and “Come Into My Heart.”

Thanks for listening.

KAOS/Gumbo YaYa’s – Top Ten 2017 New Orleans CD’s

Here are my top 10 New Orleans music releases.  All of these have been played on my show on KAOS in 2017 (For more new releases played on my show this year, go to my end of year roundup.)  You can listen to the show featuring these releases while you read about them.

A Beautiful World.jpgA Beautiful World – Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield hit a home run with this home town love note featuring over 50 New Orleans musicians with originals and covers that totally capture Ruffins’ style and vibe.  Mayfield, as producer and master trumpeter, does a great job of letting the relaxed, hip style of Ruffins shine through.

boneramaHot Like Fire – Mark Mullins and Craig Klein are solidly in their comfort zone with their latest Bonerama release, their first through Basin Street Records. The album’s strength is the talent of the musicians, especially Matt Perrine, who contributed three songs as well as his sousaphone expertise and Bert Cotten, whose guitar gives this brass heavy release a rocking feel.

roamin-jasmine-live-at-horaces-barLive at Horace’s – Taylor Smith may regret putting his favorite neighborhood (Central City) bar on the international map but the cozy Horace’s apparently was just the venue for him to showcase his energetic style of New Orleans R&B.  Guitar Slim, Earl King, Elmore James and Blind Lemon Jefferson all get  the Roamin’ Jasmine treatment in this set.

SoItIsSo It Is –  This is the second release by Preservation Hall Jazz Band with all original tunes. While Preservation Hall, with its musician’s collective, is known for keeping the tradition alive, the recording/touring band is keeping the tradition alive by providing fresh music that connects New Orleans to its Afro-Cuban roots. It’s totally hip and hard to stop playing.

With-You-in-Mind-Cover-980x980With You in Mind – Stanton Moore was still grieving the unexpected death of Allen Toussaint, the central architect of New Orleans R&B and Funk in the 60’s and beyond, when he went into the studio with David Torkanowsky and James Singleton. With the help of Cyril Neville, Nicholas Payton, Trombone Shorty and Donald Harrison Jr, the trio captured Toussaint’s joy for life as well as ability to touch your heart.

hot 8 on the spotOn the Spot – The Hot 8 Brass Band does brass band music right. Given my fondness for this band and its sound, I would be hard pressed to not have them on my list.  But after 20 years, this band is not resting on its laurels.  The band covers Stevie Wonder and the classic St. James Infirmary in its usual ear-opening style but it also offers new songs that speak to this band’s amazing ability to keep on plugging against adversity.

sketchSketch –  Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes should be getting a helluva a lot more attention, particularly after this release. While the band can play just about any style, the members seem most entertaining with their original funk rock sound.  They have a reputation as a party band, but its members are professionals who know how to play and create unique, entertaining music.

marsalisMake America Great Again – This late 2016 release is Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra’s formula for what truly makes our country great.  Yes, he starts with the Star Spangled Banner and lays down some solid swinging big band sounds through 14 tracks but there’s sharp commentary spliced in between the jazzy sounds.  This is a great release for a deejay of New Orleans music show. It has a bit everything with top-flight craftsmanship.

dirty bourbonThe Flying Musical Circus – Noah Adams is the brainchild, singer and songwriter of this frenetically entertaining group, the Dirty Bourbon River Show.  “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock Music” is the elevator pitch for the music but even if that doesn’t appeal to you, give this album a listen. The music is deep and its elephant free

CreaturesFront_mini.jpgCreatures  – If Sweet Crude makes it big and it certainly has the potential, you might be able to point to this album as when they figured it all out.  This is a uniquely Louisiana-band with strong roots in Arcadia, but its clearly a pop band, that sings in French and English, with the opportunity to grow a wider audience.  Get on the ground floor with Creatures.

Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide, Part 2

Mardi Gras dot background.

Here’s Part 2 of my annual roundup of 2017 releases from New Orleans  (and a couple from Lafayette) just in time for the holiday shopping season.   Part 1 here.  The recording of this show features songs from the releases discussed in this article so you can listen while you read.  Please consider subscribing (on the right)

Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield – There’s an infectious joy with a Kermit Ruffins performance and on the occasion of its 20th anniversary,  Basin Street Records created the environment for Ruffins to reach peak effervescence.  A Beautiful World is lovingly produced by Irvin Mayfield and supported by a large cast of top New Orleans talent including Cyril Neville, John Boutte, Jason Marsalis,  Dr. Michael White, Shannon Powell, Glen David Andrews and actor Wendell Pierce.  Throw in the sterling voice of Haley Reinhart and the party sounds of Rebirth Brass Band, which Ruffins co-founded, and you have an album that richly deserves its place on top of the Billboard Jazz chart. Here’s more on the album including my interview with Ruffins and Mayfield at the Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans.

Trombone Shorty – Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is an international touring artist with a grammy nomination and a slick third release Parking Lot Symphony since his breakout Backatown.  But his recordings still reflect his roots.  From the opening and closing funeral-like dirges to his cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Here Come the Girls” to his colloquially titled “Where It At?” Andrews leaves no doubt he’s a part of a proud family of Treme musicians. Check out his “Tripped Out Slim” for a healthy hit of brass funk.

Bonsoir_Catin_LAurore_Cover_WebBonsoir Catin – First, don’t use the Google translation to say the English version of this band’s name. I made that mistake while doing my show and was promptly corrected by a fan of the band listening from Baton Rouge (Thank you Bill Boelens) This mostly all-female group from Lafayette plays cajun music in a fresh, addictive manner.  L’aurore  is an excellent ambassador for your friend who’s been reluctant to attend a fais do-do. The opening, title track makes it clear you’re going somewhere else and by the funky La Delaissee, you two will be dancing. I GAR-ON-TEE!.

Shotgun Jazz Band –  Steppin on the Gas is not just another New Orleans hot jazz release.  Imagine attending one of the three live performances this band does on a weekly basis on Frenchmen Street, except get rid of all the chatting diners and drinkers and add clarinetist Tom Fischer and trumpeter Ben Polcer to the already strong Shotgun Jazz Band line up featuring Charlie Halloran on trombone and Marla Dixon on vocals.  You will be transported to another time, say 100 years ago, to Tom Anderson’s saloon at the corner of Basin and Iberville.

Twerk Thomson  –  Mr. Thomson is clearly into time travel.  With Twerk Thomson Plays Unpopular Songs, the bass player for Shotgun Jazz Band literally takes you back to the infancy of music recording, assembling a talented band and using one microphone to feed into a Presto K8 lathe, cut directly to acetate discs at 78 rpm. He edited for sound and fortunately made it available on more new-fangled formats like CD and MP3. The total vintage jazz effect is perfect for the vinyl lover who doesn’t own a turntable.

roamin-jasmine-live-at-horaces-barTaylor Smith & The Roamin’ Jasmine – With his third release, Live at Horace’s, Taylor Smith continues his mission of being a New Orleans guardian of the R&B groove.  Singing from behind his upright bass in the cozy neighborhood bar walking distance from his Central City home, Taylor and his five Roamin’ Jasmine deliver 13 tight songs. The band fearlessly tackle Blind Lemon’s “Hangman’s Blues,” Maybelle’s “That’s a Pretty Good Love,” Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up and Go,” Little Bob’s “I Got Loaded” and Earl King’s almost forgotten “Feeling My Way Around.”  Here is more, including an interview with Taylor Smith

Lost Bayou Ramblers –  Brothers Andre and Louis Michot formed this band in 1999, having learned their craft from their father and uncles in the family band, Les Frères Michot. They are more than capable of playing traditional cajun music sung in French/French Cajun. Yet while Kalenda is uncompromising in its presentation, it also pushes the boundaries with a jazz like, edgy pacing, particularly with the title track which taps into a folklore that dates back to before Congo Square.

Paula and the Pontiacs,  Looking for some swinging blues with sax, harmonica and a voice that fills the roadhouse but is connecting directly to you, consider Paula Rangel’s Seventeen– a sort of best hits from her previous releases. She handles all the above, including stongwriting but also gets great support from a rotating cast of familiar names including Jeffrey “Jelly Bean” Alexandar and Johnny Vidacovich on drums, John Mooney on slide guitar (Cadillac Love) and Cranston Clements on guitar.

Delfeayo Marsalis –  His exceptionally-timed 2016 release Make America Great Again with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra arrived too late for last year’s buying guide, so I’ll give it a two thumbs up now. And for something a bit different, Kalamazoo presents the trombonist member of the Marsalis musical dynasty performing with his father in a relaxed live setting. Starting with the New Orleans Rhythm King’s “Tin Roof Blues” to the oft-played standard “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” you’ll recognize many of the songs but you won’t have heard them played this way.  There is love in this music.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Any thought that Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a relic of New Orleans past, need only listen to So It Is. Following a trend from its last album. That’s It, the band continues to record original songs that break new ground. The opening track could have played on the TV show Mad Men while other tracks use Cuban rhythms, strong keyboards and liberal doses of brass band chaos. This is the new Preservation Hall Jazz Band – – long live them.

benny turnerBenny Turner – He might have 60 years of performing under his belt, but no moss is growing under this veteran bluesman who early in his career performed with his brother Freddie King and then did a 20-year stint in New Orleans as Marva Wright’s bandleader. His second tribute to his beloved brother, My Brother’s Songs, benefits from his guitar and voice and some choice performances by New Orleans musicians, including Jason Mingledorff, Joe Krown, June Yamigishi and Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander.  An excellent choice for the blues fan on your list.

Dirty Bourbon River Show –  The band’s latest release, Flying Musical Circus, exemplifies its website billing of  “New Orleans Big Brass Circus Rock Music.” With its Eastern European flair and horns, the “show” reminds me of some of the better bands that frequent HonkFest. The difference is the original songwriting and Noah Adams’ voice which prowls through his songs much like he prowls on stage during the band’s energetic performances. The music engages you to clap and sing, particularly with the (unfortunately radio unfriendly) song  “All My Friends are Dead.” Here’s my interview with the band’s saxophonist Matt Thomas along with a couple of the band’s songs recorded during my show.

Revival!  – Carolyn Broussard is the best reason to pick up Now is the Time – the title pulled from the lyrics of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” covered on the album. She gets excellent support from her fellow band members with their bluesy soul vibe, but every time I hear her singing in “Sweet Inspiration” and the Temptation’s “I Can’t Get Next to You,” I kick myself for missing the band’s Thursday evening gig at Cafe Negril the last time I was in New Orleans.

Ken Swartz  and the Palace of Sin –  Smile Away the Blues was a pleasant surprise, arriving at my KAOS inbox for processing into the blues collection. He packs 16 songs into Smile Away the Blues most with an easy, acoustic feel balanced with upbeat harmonica and toe-tapping rhythm.  His unpretentious vocals is well-suited to his Americana-style, particularly in songs like “Payday.”

Darcy Malone and the Tangle – Following up on last year’s release, Darcy Malone and her band released four new tracks on the EP Make Me Over.  Perhaps the indie rock/pop sound is something you don’t associate with New Orleans, yet Darcy Malone and Christopher Boye are very much from the city. As with their last release, the band features a delightful amount of saxophone. If you’re looking for a break from jazz but you want to stay in New Orleans, Darcy Malone and the Tangle will take care of you.

 

Yes, We Have No Bananas But We have Plenty of Sugar

My radio station, KAOS, was going bananas last week when Scott Stevens, host of Spin the Globe, devoted a full hour to songs about this beloved fruit. My time-slot colleague (his Friday show anchors the KAOS world programming slot that I kick off on Mondays [Now moved to Thursdays] with Gumbo YaYa starting at 10 a.m.) played 18 banana songs from around the world.

Sam the banana man. Sam Zemurray lived and died in New Orleans after building a banana distribution dynasty.
Sam the banana man. Sam Zemurray lived and died in New Orleans after building a banana distribution dynasty.

As I was listening to King Sunny Ade wax on about “Sweet Banana,” I was thinking I could do a show like that, right? Scott may have the whole world to draw from, but New Orleans is the home of the banana gangster Sam Zemurray, the man who parlayed the resale of overripe bananas dumped at the New Orleans port into a banana dynasty (and screwed Honduras and Guatemala in the process). Surely, I can find enough music from New Orleans to do my own banana show.

So I checked my catalog of New Orleans music and found nothing. Okay, there was the Fathead Newman tune “Montana Banana” recorded with Dr. John in 1991 — an instrumental.

If I did more research, I might find some songs but if my log was showing nothing, I knew I wouldn’t have much to work with.  So what other fruit or vegetable might I use for a show? I grabbed a banana, peeled it and gave it deeper thought with each bite. (uh oh, sudden flash of the “Brothers McMullen” banana scene.)

Last year, I did a show on food where I didn’t even break a sweat. New Orleans musicians have no trouble singing the praises of red beans, jambalaya, gumbo, chicken, shrimp and barbecue–though if you read my post from that show, Louis Armstrong’s “barbecue” is not something you find on the grill.

Holy Sucrose, Batman! New Orleans is also known for sugar. The Jesuit missionaries in the mid-1700s grew the stuff in downtown New Orleans (before they built the Superdome and those other buildings).

Louisiana produces about 20 percents of the U.S. cane sugar market
Louisiana produces about 20 percents of the U.S. cane sugar market

The Chalmette Domino Sugar refinery is one of the successes of post-Hurricane Katrina, returning to operation relatively quickly after the deep flood waters receded from its St. Bernard parish home. The state produces roughly two billion pounds of white death a year. And let’s not forget, the city has hosted the “Sugar Bowl” every year since 1935.

It’s kind of cheating, though. I mean, not all the “sugar” songs are about real sugar. Songwriters love metaphors and sugar lends itself well to that. Not to mention, that in New Orleans, the word “sugar” is a popular term of endearment used by almost everyone, including grocery clerks and bus drivers to complete strangers.

So not surprisingly, I have several New Orleans style versions of the 1927 jazz standard “Sugar” with the phrase “I’d make a million trips to his lips, if I was a bee. Because they are sweeter than any candy to me.”

But there’s also Sugar Foot Strut (Armstrong), Sugar Foot Stomp (Oliver), Sugar Blues (Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and Sugar Shack (Flavor Kings).  There’s also Corey Harris’ Sugar Daddy and Percy Mayfield’s Sugar Mama.

It’s close enough.  I’ll be sprinkling sugar throughout Monday’s sweet show.

By the way, you should listen to Scott’s podcast of his banana program.

My Dad’s Legacy: A strong affinity for music from New Orleans!

Just about every time I spin a Satchmo number, I think of my Dad.  I just can’t separate my thoughts of Pop from the sound of “Pops.”

dad-clarinet
My Dad played clarinet up until he entered the Navy in 1943. He played briefly with Tommy Dorsey until the bandleader told him to go back to school. (A story that still made him sad to retell 30 years later)

Jim Sweeney was born in 1923 about a year after Louis Armstrong moved to Chicago to join King Oliver and his band. So he would have been a young pup when Armstrong released his Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. But that didn’t keep him from digging them.

While he held a lifelong passion for Armstrong,  it was most likely Glenn Miller and his way of using reed instruments to carry the melody and Benny Goodman who inspired him as he came of age playing the saxophone and clarinet in the 30’s.

My musical foundation was solidly laid by Dad’s love of music, his stereo and his collection of swing, jazz and big band records. His taste in music became the soundtrack of my childhood.

I wouldn’t have been born in New Orleans if my Dad hadn’t taken a teaching post at Tulane in the 50’s.  As someone who once played with the Tommy Dorsey band, albeit briefly, he must have thought he hit the jackpot when he got that assignment.

My Dad at his organ, next his record player. Later, he would create a wall niche for the organ and shelves for his records and player. He also added central air conditioning.
My Dad (and me) at his organ, next to his record player. Later, he would create a wall niche for the organ and shelves for his records and player. He also added central air conditioning but he still walked around the house in his briefs.

But by then his clarinet was packed away. He bought an organ instead and remodeled the downstairs of our house on Nashville Avenue, just a few blocks from Freret.  There he and my Mom would hold parties, digging deeply into his music collection and inevitably ending up playing the organ or having others play and people would sing and dance. He was a fan of local musicians like Pete Fountain and Al Hirt, and a frequent visitor to their Bourbon Street clubs as well as a new spot called Preservation Hall.

My Dad’s career blossomed in New Orleans allowing him to get to know a wide range of people, particularly those active in labor and justice issues. As a result, our downstairs parties became a safe haven for activists such as Loyola faculty Louis Twomey and Joseph Fichter, Jesuit priests and academics who played a key role in school integration. Other visitors included the poet, John Beecher (“To Live and Die in Dixie”), the journalist John Griffin (“Black Like Me”) and, so I’ve been told, the Singing Nun.

We live in Uptown New Orleans where my Dad remodeled the downstairs with a room designed for music and partying.
We lived in Uptown New Orleans where my Dad remodeled the downstairs with a big room designed for listening, playing and dancing to music.

I was too young to absorb most of this. But I did soak up the music. After we moved away from New Orleans, my Dad still loved to listen to hot jazz and swing. He almost always had music on whenever he was home. But it wasn’t quite the same.

This Monday, I’ll be spinning a lot of music my Dad played in his day and perhaps would have played (more current stuff) had he had the chance.  Please join me.

Happy Father’s Day!

Listen to the show –

Art dealer’s love of jazz inspires creation of Preservation Hall

Perhaps no single entity has helped keep New Orleans jazz alive into the 21st Century more than Preservation Hall and the band its spawned.

Just off Bourbon Street is a longstanding venue dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz alive
Just off Bourbon Street is a longstanding venue dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz vibrant

Like many great ideas, Preservation Hall started out as a simple solution to an understandable need. In 1952, Larry Borenstein opened an art gallery in an 18-century building that to this day seems to have not changed over the years. It’s location, just off Bourbon Street (726 St. Peter) and its nightclubs, meant staying open late preventing Borenstein from pursuing his other passion: listening to jazz. So he took matters into his own hands.

Borenstein hauled an old piano into his gallery, bought some beer and invited musicians to play for him and his guests and gallery customers. To avoid conflict with the musician union, the sessions were called rehearsals.

In an article written by Borenstein in the 60’s, he related how the session grew organically.

“The concerts took place regularly.  Punch Miller, back from his long years on the road, brought a band to the Gallery Tuesday nights.  Kid Thomas had a “rehearsal” every Thursday night.  Sundays Noon Johnson often stopped by with his trio.

Preservation Hall became sanctuary for jazz musicians of all backgrounds to play together and keep the spirit alive.
Preservation Hall became sanctuary for jazz musicians of all backgrounds to play together and keep the spirit alive.

“Piano “professors” Stormy Weatherly (sic – Kid Stormy Weather), John Smith (I’m guessing this John Smith) and Isadore (sic – Isidore “Tuts”) Washington often dropped in as did busking guitarists, banjoists and harmonica virtuosos.  Often impromptu sessions got underway just because Lemon Nash dropped in to say “hello” and just happened to have his ukelele with him.”

The informal venue allowed whites and African Americans to mingle at a time when the South still practiced, and enforced, apartheid. Police occasionally raided the jam sessions and hauled the musicians to jail.

“The bands frequently included white and Negro musicians and it was simpler to charge them with ‘disturbing the peace’ than with breaking down segregation barriers.”

The music experience continued to grow though. Eventually, Borenstein moved his gallery next door and in 1961 the venue was officially christened Preservation Hall–an appropriate name for a jazz lover sanctuary.

A couple years later, the Hall’s managers,  Allen and Sandra Jaffe, organized a road tour for Preservation Hall regulars. The success of the the band’s concerts provided additional income for the musicians and helped maintain fan support outside of New Orleans. The band, in various iterations over the last 50 years, has continued to tour, perform and record, building a worldwide audience.

Not a lot of room inside means that every performance is an intimate one.
Not a lot of room inside means that every performance is an intimate one.

The Jaffe’s son, Ben took over leadership of the venue and band. A tuba player like his dad, Ben Jaffe has widened the band’s horizons through collaborations with other artists such as Blind Boys of Alabama, the Del McCoury Band, Keb’ Mo’, Dr. John and Tao Seeger. The band’s latest album, “That’s It,” features all original compositions.

Over 50 years after its forming, Preservation Hall entertains locals and tourists alike from it St. Peters Street location with three 45-minute shows every night. The band is drawn from a collective of musicians, many of whom are descendants of early New Orleans jazz musicians.

You can purchase tickets in advance that ensure a front or second row seat or you can pay $15 for general admission. The performances are acoustic and the venue is small. You might need to stand in line for a while but it will be worth the wait.

Tune in to my next show (listed to a recorded edited version) and you will hear what I’m talking about.