Gumbo YaYa's Top 10 New Orleans Records of 2019

This year’s top 10 selections run a range of New Orleans music with jazz, brass band, blues, R&B, Latin rhythms and African beats. And for lagniappe, you’ll meet my sons who extended their Christmas visit home to include hanging out with me in the studio when we aired this show on Boxing Day. (Just click the sideways arrow below to get started.)

Me with Riley and Devlin in the KAOS air studio.

Today’s show features selections from the 10 records I enjoyed playing the most this year. But the real treat for me was being in the studio with my son’s Riley and Devlin. As always, I edited this version of the program by removing KAOS announcements. So some of the freewheeling conversation is lost but I did manage to keep some of our chatter in. The show also airs in Bellingham on community radio station KMRE on Friday nights.

The show starts with “World Without Music by the To Be Continued Brass Band. Below are brief descriptions of my favorite records for this year.

To Be Continued Brass Band – TBC II – This band has a history that IS New Orleans. And they seem to be making it on their own terms. No label. No Website. No liner notes or anything but a logo on their CD. Lots of friends help out though including J’Wan Boudreaux (Cha Wa), Glen David Andrews, DJ Action Jackson and Erion Williams (Soul Rebels).

Kid Eggplant And the Melatauns – Big Trouble in Little Chalmette – Can you say “Party Record!” Listen to your vegetables, they’re good for you. I can’t believe my luck in stumbling across this record. It’s a creative mix of R&B, doo-wop, blues slide (with frog sounds), and retro 80’s rocks (“snip snip”).

Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie – What Had Happened Was. . . – Dr. Brice Miller, of Mahogany Brass Band fame, has created a time machine and a mythical savant to transport the hipness of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans’ early jazz days into the funkified vibe of today. Each song is introduced with a story using the opener “What Had Happened Was. .” I’m so delighted to introduce you to one of the greatest . . .

Smoking Time Jazz Club – Contrapuntal Stomp – The band lives up to its name with 16 tracks of traditional jazz numbers that can heat up the dance floor. This journeymen band of talented musicians do more than revive; they reinvigorate. If the only thing this record did was introduce me to Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, it would still be on my top 10. (if you go to the link, be sure to catch at least half of the two-minute video of this amazing dancer.)

Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Released by Smithsonian Folkways in honor of the festival’s 50th year, this five CD set offers a historic sampling of the diverse music styles that have graced the many Jazz Fest stages over the years – focusing on the local artists who have made his festival so exceptional. A lot of care was taken to showcase the sweep of talent that has graced the dozen or more stages of the festival during the last half century.

Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist -Her third release, proficient in Haitian creole, French, banjo, guitar and cello, she continues the city’s tradition of creatively blending and bending musical genres while continuing to creatively community her message of social and economic justice. Plus she’s got a wonderful voice.

Craig Klein sings and performs with Bonerama.

Bonerama – Bonerama Plays Zeppelin – Zeppelin with New Orleans funk and rhythms. It’s a reverent yet original adaptation of the band’s hits except with trombones as the lead voice and Matt Perrine’s magical sousaphone handling the bass line.  Be sure to catch “Heartbreaker” where Perrine defies gravity with his instrument.

Alexey Marti – Mundo – This Havana-born and New Orleans-based percussionist second release showcases his 15 original songs which include samba, bossa nova, ballad, and salsa — demonstrating new depths to this highly respected and in-demand musician. His record features musicians from New York, Spain and Cuba and flows smoothly through your ears like a morning cup of cafecito.

Bamboula 2000 – Cuba to Congo Square – For a quarter century, this band has been keeping the spirit of Congo Square alive. If you’re searching for the connection between New Orleans jazz rhythms and Africa, this latest release will help you find it it with rhythm’s from djembe, congas, talking drums, bata, atumpan, shekere, dun dun, and fontonfrom. 

Smoky Greenwell – Blues and the Power of Peace – Holding down the blues end of this year’s list is journeymen New Orleans musician Smoky Greenwell. This is the perfect apology gift for going ballistic on your Trump-voting relative during the holidays. The latest record by this New Orleans blues harmonica (and saxophone) player strikes enough of a conciliatory note without surrendering a single political point. Get out and vote, baby!

Another show of strictly New Orleans jazz

Every once and a while, I enjoy living up to the stereotypical impression of a New Orleans music show and play only jazz. So if you’re looking for my usual mix of funk, R&B, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, country, rock and all stuff in between. This show ain’t it. But its very listenable – get it started and you’ll hear why.

Smoking Time Jazz Club at The Spotted Cat

Al Hirt was a presence growing up in Uptown New Orleans in the 60’s. He was the godfather of one of the neighbor’s kids that I would play with and my parents regularly visited Hirt’s club on Bourbon Street. He starts off the show with “Jazz Me Blues.” But I mix it up in the next set with Kid Ory, the Smoking Time Jazz Club and Ingrid Lucia.

Dr. Michael White anchors the second set with his “West African Strut” supported by songs by Linnzi Zaorski and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

I get to play my vinyl autographed version of a Willie Humphrey’s album with Sarah Quintana and Lena Prima rounding out the next set. The show rolls on bouncing between traditional New Orleans jazz, some contemporary jazz, a bit of swing and a couple brass band numbers, including “Get a Life” by the Original Pinettes.

I hope you enjoy the show. If you subscribe, you’ll get an email announcing future shows. Thanks much.

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.

Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide, Part 1

Mardi Gras dot background.This is my fourth annual Buying Guide to encourage you to give the gift of music. To hear the music click on this week’s show and then read about it below. (Here’s Part 2 of the guide).

Links to all the bands are provided so you can purchase from the source. There’s no pecking order to my presentation (I’ll present my top 10 at the end of the month).  Also, while there is a Part 2 coming, this list is far from comprehensive. Let me know if I’ve left something out you like.

boneramaBonerama -Trombone Shorty was 12-years-old when two trombonists from Harry Connick Jr.’s band decided to move to the front of the stage and create the brass-funk-rock group, Bonerama. With their seventh release, Hot Like Fire, Craig Klein and Mark Mullins joined by a third trombonist, a sousaphone, guitar and drums, are clearly in their element jamming on original tunes as well as a Radiohead cover and Allen Toussaint’s Basic Lady.  Learn more about this cool band, check out my interview with Klein and Mullins.

Stanton Moore  – One of the best drummers in the business, Moore pulled together an all-star cast (Trombone Shorty, Nicholas Payton, Maceo Parker, Donald Harrison Jr. and Cyril Neville to name a few) in paying homage to Allen Toussaint with With You In Mind. Whether you like Toussaint or not (what?!), you’re going to dig this album from “Here Come the Girls” with Trombone Shorty  to Toussaint’s autobiographical “Southern Nights” with Wendell Pierce reading, not singing, the lyrics.

The Deslondes   – The band’s second release, Hurry Home, solidifies the Deslondes reputation as the premiere example of the New Orleans Americana scene. Despite its title, the album takes its time, meandering 13 songs with lyrics that linger in your mind and entice you to sing along.  Why not? Four of the five band members sing as well.

hot 8 on the spot.jpgHot 8 Brass Band – A good brass band can get even the most stiff-limbed old man moving his hips. But what makes this venerable New Orleans brass band special is its great solos, unexpected twists and those sneaky covers you don’t recognize at first.  From the band that has survived to see it all and gave the world the brass version of “Sexual Healing” comes On The Spot — essential to any brass band fan collection.

Tuba Skinny – With its eighth release Tupelo Pine, Tuba Skinny has moved from the streets into institutional status in New Orleans. This band has a deep repertoire of Prohibition and Depression era tunes performed with entertaining and reverent orchestration.  If you’re looking for something special for a traditional jazz fan, you can’t go wrong with this band that has won its audience one street performance at a time. See Pops Coffee for a far more detailed review.

Smoking Time Jazz Club –  Another street-hardened traditional jazz band  that takes you back to another era, Smoking Time has a sultry quality fueled by the band’s mission statement embedded in its name The band started  2017 with a new release Ain’t We Fortunate and finishes the year with Take Your Time and Fly —  they’re both excellent but the second one is strengthened by Sarah Peterson’s vocals.

erica-falls-home-grownErica Falls – With HomeGrown, Erica Falls has demonstrated that hard work, grit and talent can pay off. At least it does for the listener.  While this is her first full release, Fall has paid her dues singing with Allen Toussaint and Galactic and providing backing vocals in the studio for Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Marva Wright, and Bobby Charles — not to mention adding some sweet vocals to two tracks on Rebirth Brass Band’s last release.  But HomeGrown is all hers — eight of the songs are her own composition. She’s soulful, funky, sweet. . .yea, I’m in love.

Naughty Professor   – While Identity does not have a title track, its first two songs go right to the heart of the issue. The rhythmic “Mirror,” choruses with “Give people what they want”  while the second track advises to “be what you want, do what you feel.” And that’s exactly how this jazz-funk sextet has rolled ever since emerging from the New Orlean’s Loyola jazz program in 2010. The band skillfully flows through soul, R&B and hip hop. But underlying it all is a strong jazz sensibility that keeps its fresh and unique. Now that’s an identity.

New Orleans Jazz Vipers  – If you’ve visited Frenchmen Street, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to see the Vipers live. The swing jazz band has been a fixture there long before tourist knew to direct their cab to Frenchmen. “Live & Viperizin” captures the band at its most enigmatic with danceable numbers designed to draw you into the nightclub, except now you can get that live feeling at home.

Jon Cleary – With Live at Chickie Wah Wah, this master piano player follows up his grammy-award winning album featuring his funk group Monster Gentleman with an intimate solo performance recorded live at one of his favorite hometown venues.  It’s just Cleary, his voice and his piano playing some of his favorites, including two from GoGo Juice, as well as some tasty R&B and soul numbers made famous by Smiley Lewis, Jessie Hill and Jessie Belvin.  The only way you can beat this release is if you really catch him live at Chickie Wah Wah.

Sonny Landreth – This electric slide guitar master delivers a much-anticipated live acoustic set performed in his hometown Lafayette and for lagniappe, a second live set with his electric guitar.  If you are fan of this tireless touring professional (he’s in Deming for the Mt. Baker Blues Festival in August 2018), you’ve heard these songs before but not like this. If not, Live at Lafayette is a great way to become a new fan.

debbie-davie-josh-paxton-vices-and-virtuesDebbie Davis and Josh Paxton – There is a magic that derives from the alchemy of a pianist and vocalist who have performed regularly, particularly if they use their familiarity to push each other.  Davis is a lifelong singer who, in addition to her own projects, performs with The Pfister Sisters.  Josh Paxton, who is part of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, is clearly capable of tearing up the keyboards on inspired solos but lovingly wraps his performance around Davis’ voice.  Vices and Virtues puts you in the room with these two creative professionals.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes – The band’s website describes it best: “their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor.” Yea, you right.  And Sketch is the band’s best release yet.  I’m still pissed I can’t play “Fine Time” on the radio but I’ve definitely been playing the dozen other tracks that deliver soul, funk, reggae, and a power violin rock thing (“The Dragon”) that has garnered listener phone calls to the studio.

John Mooney –  John Mooney is a hard act to catch. He has no website and his Facebook and wikipedia pages don’t list his latest CD,  Truth of the Matter. But don’t let that stop you. Mooney’s voice and guitar playing are top flight but its the arrangements and the support he gets that should elevate this release to your shopping list. Ten songs with eight originals.  Most are backed up by a rotating cast of star power keyboardists (Jon Cleary, John Gros and C.R. Gruver) usually on a Hammond B-3.  And his use of male background singers on “Deal with Love” and “Push & Shove” enhance an already strong soul feeling to Mooney’s music.

Egg Yolk Jubilee – To celebrate 20 years of performing, Egg Yolk Jubilee has compiled a retrospective of a dozen previously released songs and three new ones in Crux of the Yolk.  Yes, they are frenetic, irreverent, loud and pretty damn funny, but they also rock. The band provided the brass on Jello Biafra’s New Orleans Raunch All-Stars  release a few years back.  If you have a Frank Zappa fan on your shopping list, particularly if they like horns, literally blow them away with Egg Yolk Jubilee.

Sweet Crude   –  Like many indie acts from New Orleans, Sweet Crude’s music may not make its hometown roots obvious.  Well, except that they sing a lot of their songs in French.  “We are joining a small but fervent group of young Louisianians engaged in keeping the language relevant via art,” announces the band’s website. Soaring vocals (Mon Esprit in particular) and world rhythms place the band’s first full release, Creatures, above the large stack of alternative rock releases we get in the station.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and catch my show on Thursday.