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.

Fish Song Highlights Last Day of Pledge Drive Show

This show helped anchor the last day of the KAOS Spring Pledge Drive. I cut out all the pledge drive jabber but if you feel inclined to support KAOS, here’s how you do it. But you don’t need to pledge to listen the show, just click the arrow in the the Mixtape box below. (something has happened to the embedded feature for mixcloud so here’s a link directly to the podcast.)

Harvesting Menhadden.

To reward myself for doing hosting two pledge shows during this 10-day Spring Drive, I finally bought the album and discovered that there are some other amazing tracks on the release, including the fifth song on this show. The recording is of North Carolina fishermen singing a chantey that they used to sing when hauling in menhaden fish. Here’s a bit more about that fishery. The producers noticed an island lilt to the singing and turned it into a reggae-style number with Trombone Shorty providing some great tracks. I pair that song with a couple of other reggae-influenced New Orleans performances.

Given all the pledge drive appeals that were edited out, this week’s show is not as long as usual so I hope you’ll stay listening for the last two songs — a live at JazzFest performance by The Wild Magnolias and a humorously well-done funk song by Mem Shannon that caused local musician “Dr. Soul” to pull over from his driving so that he could call the station and pledge. Thank you man!

Here’s what one day at JazzFest 2018 looked like

Thank you Anch and Scott for covering my show the last two weeks while I journeyed the length and depth of Florida visiting relatives. My trip started with a couple of nights in New Orleans, including the last day of Jazz Fest.  Here’s some pictures from that day.  Don’t forget to tune me in this Thursday (May 24) to hear these folks.

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Rode our bikes to the festival grounds and saw this control box painted to honor Deacon John Moore

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Original member of the famous Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, Leroy Jones and his group entertained in the Economy Hall Tent.

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Keeping the tradition alive, the Young Pinstripe Brass Band at the Jazz and Heritage Stage

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Nice to see the truck, sad to remember that Mr. Okra died this year.

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George Porter (on bass and tie dye) and his Runnin’ Pardners held down the Gentilly Stage.

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Great opportunity to see the famed Zion Harmonizers in the Gospel Tent

 

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Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue rocked the Acura Stage to close out the festival.

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.

 

Holiday videos set the festive mood

This is the first “festive” season for Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa so our collection of holiday music from New Orleans that I can play on the show is a bit limited. But the Internet is a vast resource of holiday cheer. So for this post, I’m sharing some of my favorite New Orleans holiday videos.

I can’t think of a better way to start then the dulcet tone of Aaron Neville doing “The Christmas Song.” 

Luke Winslow King, who released a new CD in 2014, sings in a video posted on the Times Picayune site, “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” with his wife, Ester Rose King. 

Okay, time to crank it up, here’s Bonerama doing “Merry Christmas Baby.” 

What do you want from Santa? If you’re Kermit, you’d like your hometown football team, despite their 6-8 record, in the Superbowl in a “Saints Christmas.” 

A quarter century ago, Benny Grunch and the Bunch did the “12 Yats of Christmas,” a humorous reference to a unique New Jersey-style accent in New Orleans made famous by the novel Confederacy of Dunces (also see my take on New Orleans speak). Some of the New Orleans locales are no longer, but the visuals and song are still very funny. 

Regardless of the season, its not New Orleans unless you can do a little buck jumping in a second line. Take it away TBC Brass Band: 

Paul Sanchez captures a snoutful of holiday spirit with “I Got Drunk this Christmas.” 

I love the way New Orleans music can swing and soothe at the same time. Here’s Funky Butt Brass Band doing “Christmas Time in New Orleans.” 

I’ll close this post out with Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, doing “O Holy Night.”  May your holiday season be bright and happy.  Thank you for reading and listening.  Cheers. 

Morgus the Magnificent Inspires Friends of Music

Like most communities, New Orleans loves Halloween. Voodoo Music Fest, for instance, is always timed for around October 31. But this story is about Morgus the Magnificent and the music he inspired.

Morgus the Magnificent has been a New Orleans icon for half a century with his quirky experiments and good intentions.

If you ever watched horror movies on television during the last century, chances are you’re familiar with the occupation of “Horror Host” — the sometimes creepy, usually campy personality who introduced the late Friday or Saturday night movie with tongue firmly in cheek.

Pioneered by Vampira, who dressed like Morticia Addams and hosted KABC-TV late night movies in Los Angeles in the 50’s, Shock Hosts proliferated across the country after Screen Gems saw a nifty way to cash in on its aging library of horror films. Classic monster movies like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy were packaged with lesser movies and sent to local stations with the suggestion they air the movies using a costumed host.

One of the stations that took up the idea was WWL-TV in New Orleans and the city hasn’t been the same since.

On a Saturday night in January 1959, Morgus the Magnificent, along with his sidekick Chopsley and a talking skull named Eric, hit the local airwaves. He immediately captured the attention of TV viewers and, six decades later, continues to be a favorite in the hearts, minds and T-shirts of NOLA residents.

Recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in spring of 1959, Morgus and the 3 Ghouls featured Frankie Ford, Jerry Byrne and Mac Rebennak (aka Dr. John).

Within four months of his show’s premiere, Morgus would be memorialized in song. Frankie Ford, Jerry Byrne and Mac Rebennak (the future Dr. John) recorded Morgus and the Three Ghouls at Cosimo Matassa’s studio on Governor Nicholls Street. While never a hit, it plays locally on occasion and showed up on Dr. John’s anthology Mos’ Scocious. In 1962, Morgus became the first Horror Host to have his own movie, The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus.

Morgus wasn’t your typical monster or vampire show host. He was a benevolent, though somewhat high strung, mad scientist working out of his laboratory above the Old City Ice House in the French Quarter. Filled with superhuman self confidence in his genius, he would devise ill-conceived schemes and experiments that had good intentions but would always fail miserably.

Morgus in his laboratory over the Old City Ice House in the French Quarter.

I recollect one show I watched as kid in the 60’s where he created his own weight reduction clinic and during the commercial breaks he demonstrated weight-loss technologies straight out of a Vincent Price movie, including a swinging pendulum (lose weight or else). Needless to say, by the end of the show his clients had lost more than pounds.

Morgus was the creation of Sid Noel Rideau, a native New Orleanian with a wacky imagination. He did a brief stint of Morgus in Detroit where he apparently recorded a surf rock tune called Werewolf under the name of Morgus and the Darringers.

But my favorite song representation of him was done by the band Galactic on their 2010 release Ya-Ka-May. The CD’s first track, Friends of Science, samples a typical opening of one of Morgus’ shows. “Good evening my dear students, and of course friends of science and those of the higher order.” (See the video sampled from.) You’ll find over a dozen New Orleans artists credited in the CD’s liner notes,  including Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia and Trombone Shorty. But there’s no mention of Morgus or Rideau.

Morgus is familiar to several generations in New Orleans. Less so elsewhere.

Apparently, Galactic had a hard time getting permission from Rideau but finally did with the condition that it would be uncredited.  In promoting the album to Offbeat magazine, Galactic’s bass player Robert Mercurio pondered “how many people are going to get that one. I think maybe you’d have to be from New Orleans to really get that voice.”

Not necessarily. Not if you catch the distinctive voice of Morgus when he’s played on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, this Monday (show now airs on Thursdays), starting at 10 a.m. Also, if you’ve read this far, perhaps you would like to subscribe by clinking the link in the upper right column.

Postscript: Since this post, this documentary was posted online, focusing on the original run of Morgus.