No one needs to convince Taylor Smith of the ability of radio to perpetuate musical traditions and nurture new ones.
As the bandleader and composer for The Roamin’ Jasmine, Smith has become well acquainted, as do most successful New Orleans musicians, with the city’s traditional jazz standards. But its been his ability to apply a New Orleans style rhythm and blues spin on classic blues numbers that sets his music apart.
For example, check out his take on Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Wartime Blue (from the band’s second album). With the band’s latest release “Live at Horace’s,” Jefferson’s Hangman Blues gets updated with a New Orleans mambo groove.
“When we started, the guys I recruited to play in the band all played traditional jazz standards, and we all knew a lot of that repertoire so we started playing a lot of that stuff. But soon after coming to New Orleans, I got interested in the classic 1950’s Rhythm and blues tunes and started arranging versions of those tunes for the group.”
“I got to give credit to the great New Orleans radio station WWOZ cause that’s where I’ve heard so much of that music.”
WWOZ, like KAOS, is a community radio station, supported by listeners and underwrites with volunteer deejays. Smith singled out “50’s R&B with Neil Pellegrin” (Tuesdays starting at 5 p.m. West Coast Time) and R & B Oldies with Rare On The Air (Wednesdays at the same hour). From my personal experience, I’ll also add Blues and R&B with Gentilly Jr. same time slot on Mondays.
It was WWOZ’s playing of “That’s a Pretty Good Love” a b-side song to Big Maybelle’s hit Candy that inspired Smith to cover it on his live release.
Smith is a Boston native who graduated from the University of Miami jazz school but fell in love with New Orleans during a college break excursion. His band’s first release was in 2014. They’ve toured England twice and will be performing in Australia this fall as part of a collaboration with Lachlan Bryan (and the Wildes).
Here’s the full interview from my show starting with a spin of “That’s A Pretty Good Love.”