Web-Only Concert Pick: Allen Toussaint Performs 'Freedom For The Stallion'
Marva Wright: Sharing the Joy of the BluesAllen Toussaint keeps the New Orleans jazz-piano tradition alive in a concert from the Kennedy Center. New Orleans is not only the cradle of jazz. It's also the birthplace of great jazz piano, dating back to the early 1900s, when Jelly Roll Morton tickled the ivories. Hear three pianists who are keeping upholding that great tradition — Allen Toussaint, Henry Butler and Jon Cleary — onstage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with Keys to New Orleans.
Marva Wright’s boisterous vocals have established her as the clearly acknowledged “Blues Queen of New Orleans.” Marva started singing in the church at the age of nine, with her mother providing the accompaniment. Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson was a friend of the family, and Marva put her talents on display primarily for the congregation for decades. It was in church that she learned an early lesson with regard to her singing that she has carried throughout her career.
“When I played my first solo, ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee,’ one of the deacons in the church was on the front bench,” she recalled. “He told me that I opened my mouth wide, but nothing was coming out of it. From that day, I vowed that I would always sing loudly.”
The Masterful Allen Toussaint & The Bright Mississippi
“Stately” is an adjective I rarely use to describe an album, but it fits Allen Toussaint’s new album, The Bright Mississippi, like a glove. The Bright Mississippi is a special album, demanding multiple listens to truly get the tapestry of American music – Ellington inspired jazz, r&b, Creole, ragtime – that it weaves with such effortless cool. It’s an album that contains the full experience that is life – its joys, sorrows, delights and hardships. That is to say, it's an album with soul.see also: Allen Toussaint Set For Lincoln Center Out Of Doors 8/22
Toussaint, of course, is an American Treasure; one of the masters of American R&B, a songwriter and producer who has worked with the likes of Dr. John, The Meters, Labelle, Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke, the Band and dozens of other greats. American R&B (and therefore, American music) is practically inconceivable without him.
This will be one of the best albums of the year – go out and get it. It’s not only that they don’t make albums like this anymore – it’s that no one before has ever made one quite like this.
NY Daily News: Skirting the Treme: An insider's guide to New Orleans
Rampart Street, in some ways, is the fault line of New Orleans, separating the French Quarter, filled with well-heeled tourists and spring-breakers, from the Treme, a slightly more foreboding yet just as historic and memorable district.
Skirting the Treme, and further east the Seventh Ward, St. Roch and St. Claude neighborhoods, the adventurous visitor may experience the charm and flirt with the blithe unpredictability that permeates the real New Orleans that many tourists miss.
Community Tied By Strong Threads
The eclectic Threadhead roster features Continental Drifters alumnus Cowsill, jazz/pop/gospel singer John Boutté, singer/songwriters Paul Sanchez and Alex McMurray, genre-crossing trumpeter Shamarr Allen, jazz trombonist/vocalist Glen David Andrews, progressive brass band the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, trombonist Rick Trolsen, and bluesrocker Marc Stone. The company also recently published its first book, Pieces Of Me, collecting Sanchez's cathartically heart-wrenching, touching and funny blog entries about his rough yet rewarding journey back from the post-Hurricane Katrina trauma of losing his home and community.
Stew Called New Orleans”
Although I don’t listen to a whole lot of recorded music, when I find an album of music that I really like, I can get pretty obsessed, & right now I’ve found one that’s so good enough I have to write about it.
I should say the album “found me,” thanks to good blog friend Citizen K. who posted about it here—an excellent review that’s defintiely worth checking out— & then was kind enough to supply me with a copy. It’s called A Stew Called New Orleans (Threadhead Records), & it features the truly amazing vocals of John Boutté, along with vocals & rhythm guitar work by Paul Sanchez, trumpet by Leroy Jones, some exceptional electric guitar work by Todd Duke & bass by Peter Harris.
Each of the three stages had its own personality. The larger main stage hosted high energy acts that could play to the thousands who pulled up their lawn chairs to hear the powerful groups. A few of the ten bands on this stage included the High and Mighty Brass Band, with its Dirty Dozen/ Rebirth Brass Band stylings, and Papa Grow's Funk, which impressed the audience with its hard driving organ-fueled New Orleans sound. Day two featured Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Tab Benoit who drew thousands to stand and dance in the pit in front of the stage. The energy was palpable as Benoit moved across the stage playing flawless, high energy blues guitar.
BackTalk with James “Sugar Boy” Crawford
Whether you call it “Jock-A-Mo” or Chock-A-Mo” or “Iko-Iko,” it’s one of the greatest of all New Orleans Carnival songs. James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, who recorded the original version in 1953, rarely performs these days, preferring to bask in the glow of his incandescent grandson Davell. “The only place I sing is in church no,” Sugar Boy confesses.
“Jock-A-Mo,” one of a select handful of truly memorable Carnival songs, has had multiple personalities over the decades. Originally recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, it was turned into an international hit over a decade later by a trio of New Orleans teenagers, the Dixie Cups, as “Iko Iko.” Since then, the song has been covered by Willie DeVille, Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, the Bell Stars [their version was in the Academy Award-winning movie Rain Man] and Cyndi Lauper, although none have approached the magnificence of Sugar Boy’s original.
Dr. John: Goin' Back to New Orleans
Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, is a walking, talking compendium of New Orleans music. As session cat, genial tickler of the ivories (organ keys and guitar strings too), gris-gris hoodoo-man, gargle-voiced blues shouter, worldwide rock star, and tireless proponent of all that's Easy—not to mention serious jazz pianist and master of Crescent City r&b—he has lived and largely defined the late 20th Century idea of New Orleans musician. His few solo piano albums are brilliant, and so too many of his slice-of-NOLA releases reinvigorating "funky butt" r&b. Still, in the end it's Mac at the piano that matters most as he takes the whole tradition into his hands every time he sits down at a keyboard.
Sister Gertrude Morgan
Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980) was a preacher, missionary, artist, musician, and poet who worked in New Orleans in the 1960s and '70s, notable primarily for her folk art. She was born in 1900 in Lafayette, Alabama, and moved to Columbus, Georgia at the age of eighteen. She was married to Will Morgan in 1928, but at the age of 38 heard a voice from God telling her to become a street evangelist. She left her family and husband to move to New Orleans, where she organized an orphanage with two other missionaries. God told her to begin painting in 1956 and in 1957 heard a voice telling her that she was the Bride of Christ.
Christian Scott riding superlative horn wave
Like a lot of creative types, trumpeter Christian Scott is hard to stuff into a genre box. First, there's the clear sound of his horn, the one with the oddly angled bell. It's unmistakably part of a grand New Orleans tradition that reaches back to Louis Armstrong: a lone, expressive voice that projects its own personality as much as it does virtuosity. He could easily be playing gigs in the style of traditional New Orleans music or in the post- bop style practiced by another Crescent City hero, Wynton Marsalis.
But Scott prefers to push his trumpet up against walls of cinematic, rockish chords and instrumentation that reminds me more of the European trumpeter Michael Mantler than any of Scott's New Orleans brethren. Listening to his latest studio disc, "Anthem" or last year's "Live at Newport" set indicates that he absorbs a good deal of music and assimilates all of it into his own compositions and approach.
NOPV1 Reviewed by Alex Rawls in Offbeat Magazine!
"By now, it can’t be a surprise that there’s a lot that is subtly smart about the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Like the best traditional jazz, little of what’s special about New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 is obvious, but a little contemplation reveals a lot. For instance, it’s not until you get to Walter Payton’s faux-Armstrong vocal on “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” that you hear the sort of voice you expect on the album. Otherwise, Clint Maedgen and Mark Braud’s vocals suggest that traditional jazz isn’t just music for tourists and older generations. The inclusion of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel #9” and “Choko Mo Feel No Hey” (minus second line drums) says that traditional jazz is an approach to music, not a narrow library of antique texts. The inclusion of Maedgen’s original “Halloween” implies that the music can handle new songs as well. The pleasures of New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 aren’t solely conceptual. The ensemble playing is often wonderful, particularly in the ecstatic conclusion to “Tiger Rag,” where Braud’s trumpet and Charlie Gabriel’s clarinet keep threatening to break away from the band and each other, but never stray for good. On the Hall band’s first album since John Brunious’ passing, it also includes a second line of sorts for him, with “Westlawn Dirge” followed by a joyful “What a Friend” near the end of the album.