Sunday, December 21, 2008

NolaFunk Lagniappe

Walter "Wolfman" Washington, "Doin' The Funky Thing" (2008)

A kind of love letter to New Orleans, and its richly flavorful musical styles, "Doin' The Funky Thing" brings together everything that should have made Walter "Wolfman" Washington an overnight sensation. He never quite made it big. Yet, along the way, all of those experiences seeped into Washington's sound, a galloping thing which melds country and urban blues with bop, funk and soul. His ability to croon as well as he shouts always sanctified Washington's live shows; he's more quietly emotive on his records, but still gritty and direct. Like most New Orleanians, Washington was sent into exile as Katrina flooded into his hometown. What followed was a long hiatus from the studio and from the Crescent City, a break that makes "I'm Back," this swampy blues featuring Dr. John at the Hammond B-3, both a clarion call to old fans and the emotional centerpiece of "Doin' The Funky Thing": "It's coming back to life," Washington sings with both defiant hope and no small amount of soulful reminiscence.

Home of the Groove's "Mary Jane By Any Other Name. . . "
Mary Jane Hooper's recordings as a solo artist were all done with the supervision and collaboration of Eddie Bo. As has often been the case with Bo's projects of the era, for years there were elements of mystery and myth surrounding the nearly forgotten singer and her sessions. Fortunately, much of that was dispelled with the release of theTuff City/Funky Delicacies 1997 CD compilation of Hooper's recordings, Teach Me, the first edition of which had problems (my copy had only 9 of the 13 listed tracks!) and was later re-issued asPsychedelphiawith all of Hooper's known sessions, both issued and unissued. The CD initially came out under the singer's actual name, Sena Fletcher, which was a revelation in itself; and Scott Jordan's brief but well-done notes provided more valuable background about the singer.

Royal Fingerbowl disc in the works?

Alex McMurray did another Royal Fingerbowl reunion not too long ago, and it got me thinking about that band again. Prompted me to pick up another copy of their second CD, which I had purchased new when it came out then promptly left in a rental car somewhere in Washington state.

Now, 10 years after their first release, a new Fingerbowl CD is in the works!


Jones moved to New Orleans in the early fifties and eventually carved out a niche for himself as an independent 'record man' and producer, one who seemed to thrive after most of the other small companies had gone out of business.

As he told Jeff Hannusch in The Soul of New Orleans; "As I got more artists, I didn't want to go to the radio station with seven records on the same label... the dee-jays would say 'I can't play all of those records...' So I started new labels and I switched colors on the record labels to make them look different." Another of them was called J.B.'s, on which his re-recorded version of Mardi Gras standard Second Line (the original White Cliffs master by Bill Sinigal having been lost in the Cosimo Matassa bankruptcy) would appear in 1974, and get played to death every Carnival season since. J.B.'s was also home to great records by James Rivers and Charles Brimmer. We've already talked about how it was Brimmer's version of God Bless Our Love that charted in 1975, after Chelsea picked up the J.B.'s original for national distribution.The most enduring of all of the Senator's imprints, however, was Hep' Me, which he operated right up until the day he died. This greasy chunk of funk that we have here today was the very first release on the label in 1973. Recorded at Deep South Studios in Baton Rouge, Ray J. was the stage name of one Raymond Jones, who was the keyboard man in Brimmer's band, in addition to holding down a day job as the music teacher at Xavier Prep back in the Crescent City. He would work with the Senator for years as an arranger, alongside folks like Sam Henry Jr. and Wardell Quezergue. Once Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn opened their Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, Jones became one of their best customers, working out some kind of percentage deal with Sehorn in exchange for studio time. He would produce some of his best records at the studio on folks like Barbara George, Tommy Ridgley, Bobby Powell, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and, of course, Johnny Adams.

Donald Harrison

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"Mr. Harrison turned out to be one of the most musicologically literate jazz players to come out in ages.” -New York Times


Harrison now a proven master of many musical genres, has written and performed many innovative classic jazz compositions. Some of his compositions are now part of the standard repertoire of jazz. He has written and performed in the R&B and smooth jazz genre where his chart topping recording, “The Power of Cool” has received radio airplay everyday for the last 10 years. He has also written and performed as a Hip-hop MC. His influence on the whole rap culture as an early mentor of The Notorius BIG on the science of rap and life was documented on VH-1. He is also master singer/dancer in traditional New Orleans culture. Harrison now a Big Chief even designs and makes his own Mardi Gras costumes which are considered works of art. He is The Big Chief of Congo Square with his group the Congo Nation. He has composed and played classical works with major orchestras. The question with Harrison is not what he can do, but is there anything he can’t do? So far he has mastered and influenced everything he has touched.

A hidden gem: Check out Stanton Moore's "Take It To The Street" CD

I was poking around the other day on Galactic drummer Stanton Moore’s site and found that he’s self-released a CD that I didn’t know about. Turns out, it’s a killer disc: “Take It to the Street (The Music).”

Says Stanton:

I’ve always enjoyed listening back to the music we recorded for the project. For the book and DVD, only a few tunes could be included on each due to space issues and the tunes needed to be faded out after a few minutes. Included here is the majority of the tunes from the project in their entirety including a couple of bonus tracks that didn’t make it into the original project.

Songwriters take center stage at first-ever New Orleans festival at the House of Blues

The craft of marrying words to music is the focus of this weekend's inaugural New Orleans Songwriters Festival, or "Songfest."

Ponderosa Stomp to return to the House of Blues

Even as staffers of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival book bands for their upcoming 40th festival, producers of a simultaneous event have announced a line-up of obscure rockabilly, soul, funk, gospel, blues, rhythm & blues and garage rock.

The eighth Ponderosa Stomp, scheduled for April 28-29 at the House of Blues, features Wanda Jackson, Dale Hawkins, James Burton, Dan Penn and Bobby Emmons, Howard Tate, Otis Clay, the Hi Rhythm Section, Question Mark & the Mysterians, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the Bo-Keys, Lil Buck Senegal & the Top Cats featuring Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural, Dennis Coffey, Robert Parker, Jivin Gene and dozens more. The Stomp also includes a three-day conference.
Here's the list, as published on the Ponderosa Stomp website

Rebirth Brass Band's Phil Frazier hospitalized, expected to recover

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