New Orleans music for Lent

With Mardi Gras over, we enter Lent and confront 40 days of reflection and deprivation. Don’t deprive yourself of the music, get my show started and then read on.

After the fun of the holidays and partying of carnival season, true believers in Lent settle down to a period designed to eliminate distraction and focus mind on prayer and connection.

lentWhile I’m not exactly a true believer, I am fascinated with the ability of religious practices to focus the mind on self-reflection.  So today’s show displays that theme through music.

Alex McMurray sets the tone with “The Day after Mardi Gras Day.”  I follow up with a rocking, bluesy set of reflection featuring Kevin Sekhani (“Wrong Direction”), Anders Osborne (“Echoes of My Sins”) and Honey Island Swamp Band (“No Easy Way”).

The ashes placed on the foreheads of Catholics speaks to our mortality. We are dust and to dust we shall return.  Leyla McCalla’s “Let It Fall” beautifully captures that feeling as does Howard Fishman’s gospel like “When I Die.”

Other traditional songs with new twists include Aurora Nealand’s “His Eye is On the Sparrow,”  Shotgun Jazz Band “Down by the Riverside,” and the Neville’s revision of a Steve Miller hit renamed “Fear, Hate, Envy, Jealousy.”

There’s lot more to explore in the show. Thanks for listening!

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.

 

Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 1

Here’s Part One of my survey of New Orleans (and nearby) releases for 2015 worthy of your attention. I’ve played this music on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa and I’ll play them a lot more through the rest of this month. So many good releases, there will be a part two very soon.  The first four albums below were featured heavily in my November 30 show and many of the albums following those four were featured in this show.

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers – An institution on Frenchmen Street that gained fame through the HBO series Treme, the Vipers have locked in their reputation with their fifth release, Going, Going Gone. The six-member band will take you back to the day when swing bands were laying the foundation for R&B.

Red-Hot-Brass-Band
Doyle Cooper fronts the Red Hot Brass Band

Red Hot Brass Band – Fire-bearded Doyle Cooper keeps the spirit alive. Don’t let his youth fool you. Doyle grew up in the tradition and has the chops to prove it. His band’s inaugural release Hot Off the Presses hits the usual touchstones like Tiger Rag, West End Blues, Bourbon Street Parade and Go To the Mardi Gras. But there’s nothing stale about their execution.

Shotgun Jazz Band – I dare you to try to sit still while listening to Yearning. They bill themselves as playing traditional New Orleans jazz in the spirit of the Great Revivalists.  It’s fresh, uncluttered and expertly delivered. It came out late enough last year that I’m including it in this 2015 review.

Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses –  I totally missed this 2014 release  until I bought The Lookback Transmission from Aurora during a break at the Maison last spring.  Uber-talented Nealand demonstrates her ability to put a fresh, entertaining spin on traditional jazz and swing. Having sousaphone savant Matt Perrine backing her doesn’t hurt either. Everyone of the 16 tracks are a delight.

 

novelli
Peter Novelli hits his stride with St. Amant Sessions

Peter Novelli – His third release, St. Amant Sessions, reminds me how engaging blues can be, particularly in the hands of a songwriter and performer who knows how to shake it up with zydeco, swamp, slide and funk. From Shreveport Stomp to I-10 Boogie to his anecdotal Drinkin’ and Driving, Novelli has solidified his space on the KAOS blues shelf.

Little Freddie King – His distinctive delta/country blues makes him easy to love. His persistence in returning to the city after Katrina to live, perform and record is another testament of why I love New Orleans. His latest Messin’ Around tha Livin’ Room (a reference to the Algiers studio he recorded in) delivers beyond expectation.

Papa Mali – Also recorded at the The Living Room, Music is Love mixes covers of Joni Mitchell, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly and the title track by David Crosby with a few originals by this former reggae rocker, turned funk, blues, swamp guru.

Josh Garrett – Having returned to Louisiana after a brief flirtation with Nashville, Garrett deploys just the right mix of delta blues, soul, swing  and swamp in Honey For My Queen. Baton Rouge legend James Johnson who played with Slim Harpo joins in while fiddler Waylon Thibodeux adds one more reminder where this music is coming from.

deslondes
Unapologetically New Orleans country, The Deslondes.

The Deslondes – This young band defies New Orleans music stereotype while creating country-infused songs rooted in the city’s soul. The self-titled debut album presents an array of facets with all five band members contributing songs and taking turns on singing. Like all memorable CDs, this one grows on me the more I push “play.”

Lynn Drury –  Another 2014 release that I missed last year but deserves mention. I fell in love with Lynn when I first caught the video of her CD title track “Come to My House video.  This collection is a powerful observation of love with wonderful, occasionally sultry vocals and excellent guitar support by Alex McMurray.

The Radiators –  The band that wouldn’t die. Allegedly retired, the Radz still occasionally perform for those lucky enough to catch them.  For the rest of us, there is the Wild and Free releases. Part II includes vintage performances from the Dream Palace, Tipitina’s and Knight Studios. Get your fishhead on.

the rads
A true holiday gift – Another release from the Radiators.

Clayton Doley – Funky didgeridoo!  What else needs to be said?  A lot if we’re talking about Bayou Billabong. Doley’s an Aussie but he recorded part of this CD at the Music Shed in New Orleans with the backing of the Absolute  Monster Gentlemen (as in Jon Cleary and . . .) and the Treme Funktet.

Jon Cleary –Speaking of Cleary, his releases are always a delight. Sadly, for GoGo Juice, he switched from Basin Street Records, which has always done a great job of sharing music with KAOS, to a new label which has failed in that chore. Still, the cuts I’ve heard on line show he continues to be a master of blending soul, funk and R&B.

Catch my show on Mondays or online.  And subscribe to the blog to be sure to catch Part 2 of this 2015 retrospective.

Jazzfest, New Music and Tubaluba

I’m stealing an idea from my son, Riley, who uses Fridays to write about various loose ends for his progressive political blog.

So below are three items: Jazzfest lineup, great new music at KAOS and a heads up on my Monday interview.

splash_header_2015New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has announced its 2015 line up. As usual, the music is far from limited to jazz and offers some unique shows and musician pairings. I’ll provide more depth in a later post.  Right now, you need to know the festival is seven days stretched over 10, starting Friday April 24 and ending Sunday, May 3. Be sure to check the line up by day if you’re planning a trip.

While there’s some interesting headliners (e.g. Elton John and The Who), I recommend some of the harder to see local acts like: a reunion of the Radiators; Henry Butler recreating his 2014 album with Steve Bernstein and the Hot 9; a hip hop pairing of Juvenile and Mannie Fresh; Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk playing with his uncle, Art Neville; The Dirty Dozen Band; George Porter Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners, and, best of all,  The Meters with all four founding members–worth the price of admission right there.

New Music in the KAOS Studio – I’m loving the music we’re getting in the studio from

There is lot to love about Lynn Drury’s new album, Come to My House.

New Orleans artists. Since writing about the 2014 releases (Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve received two CDs from Lynn Drury, including her latest one “Come To My House.”  I’m afraid I have a serious music crush on this earthy singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Check out “I Know You Want Me, Baby” and  you’ll know what I mean.

Paul Sanchez has been my hero since he achieved the herculean task of creating a musical out of Nine Lives — a non-fiction book by Dan Baum that unveils the diverse talents and strengths of New Orleans residents. His latest CD instills heart-warming, reflective feelings that are more entertaining and less expensive than therapy.  I’m looking forward to digging deeper into: The World Is Round – Everything that Ends Begins Again.

If you’re worried traditional New Orleans jazz is dying out, look no further than the Shotgun Jazz Band. It’s fourth album Yearning, carries you to Frenchmen Street with a solid mix of standards and less heard wonders.

Josh Wilson (green pants) will be on air with me on Monday talking about his Tubaluba's upcoming performance at Rhythm & Rye.
Josh Wilson (green pants) will be on air with me on Monday talking about his Tubaluba’s upcoming performance at Rhythm & Rye.

Tubaluba – Seattle’s answer to New Orleans brass bands – Josh Wilson, who plays the bass drum and keyboards for Seattle’s Tubaluba, will be on the phone with me during Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa this Monday (just after 11 a.m.). I caught Tubaluba at the 2013 Seattle Honkfest. The band members are clearly fans of New Orleans brass band music. Wilson even has a WWOZ sticker on his bass drum.  The interview will highlight the band’s upcoming performance in Olympia at Rhythm & Rye on January 24.

That’s your heads up and preview for my next show. Join me, won’t you?