Friday, May 28, 2010
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Anders Osborne CD Release Party!
Anders Osborne / Tab Benoit
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard The TemptressBoards: 7:00pm / Departs: 8:00pm
W. 41st St. Maps & Directions
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
John Boutté - The Treme Song
Airport Band* + Wendell Pierce (Atoine Batiste) - Li'l Liza Jane
*Doreen Ketchens, Dwon Scott, Jack Fine, Mario Abney, Kirk Joseph, Dwayne Nelson w/Wendell Pierce
The Wild Magnolias - Smoke My Peace Pipe
Lucia Micarelli (Annie) + Michiel Huisman (Sonny) - Those Lonely, Lonely Nights
Jelly Roll Morton - I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say
Pine Leaf Boys - Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step
Django Reinhart - Nuages
Airport Band* + Wendell Pierce (Atoine Batiste) - Whoopin' Blues
*Doreen Ketchens, Dwon Scott, Jack Fine, Mario Abney, Kirk Joseph, Dwayne Nelson w/Wendell Pierce
Airport Band* + Wendell Pierce (Atoine Batiste) - Ooh Poo Pah Doo
*James Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Doreen Ketchens, Dwon Scott, Jack Fine, Mario Abney, Kirk Joseph, Dwayne Nelson w/Wendell Pierce
Steve Zahn (Davis McAlary) + Friends - Shame Shame Shame
Pine Leaf Boys w/Lucia Micarelli (Annie) - Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step
Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra - Toumani
Pine Leaf Boys w/Lucia Micarelli (Annie) - Homage à Poullard
Pine Leaf Boys - Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step
Danon Smith - His Eye is on the Sparrow
Eureka Brass Band - I'll Fly Away
Washboard Chaz - Real Best Friends
Lee Dorsey - Who's Gonna Help A Brother Get Further
Snooks Eaglin - Helpin Hand
You can find the renaissance of post-Katrina New Orleans echoed in the life of musician Anders Osborne.
Osborne is an import to New Orleans — he was born and raised in Sweden. He left home at 16 to travel and make music. He landed in New Orleans 25 years ago, and he's become a musical fixture of the city.
"New Orleans has a beautiful way of integrating everyone that comes here," Osborne says.
He's a bluesy songwriter and a fiery guitar player, with lots of troubles behind him. Osborne is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. There were relapses over the years, as well as rehab.
Osborne has a wife and young children. And now he also has a new album, titled American Patchwork.
That title, American Patchwork, is symbolic. As Osborne puts it, it represents "the patching back together of a man scattered to the wind, broken and in pieces."
The CD's opening cut is called "On the Road to Charlie Parker." It's his nod to the great jazz saxophonist, who died at 34 after years of devastating drug and alcohol abuse.
"Being a big Charlie Parker fan — and knowing his destiny — I was kind of talking to myself, third person, saying, 'You know, this is where you're going if you continue like this,' " Osborne says.
On a recent visit, I asked Anders Osborne to give me a tour of some of his favorite, most meaningful spots in New Orleans. So we headed out into the morning. He had a coffee mug in hand, so I asked him how many cups of coffee it takes to get him going.
"Two," he says. "One and a half I try to do, 'cause I'm friendlier that way. But two, that's when I feel better."
As we walk through the city, Osborne will nod to people passing by. He'll raise his coffee cup a bit and greet people: "All right," he'll say.
He's pretty striking, with tattoos inked up and down his arms and a long, thick mountain-man beard — gold streaked with gray.
Fixing A Green Oasis
Osborne takes me first to City Park, a lush, green refuge not far from his house. It's shaded by giant live oaks.
"Lots of Spanish moss hanging down into the water, the little bayou area," he says. "And it's all just kind of slow and lazy, but it feels like a center for me. This has always been like a really — whew — central part of my New Orleans."
City Park took a big wallop from Hurricane Katrina. Osborne remembers coming back to New Orleans about a month after the storm.
"It's extremely bizarre, 'cause everything's dead," he says. "You wouldn't hear these birds. They're gone. There are no worms when you're digging to get all the stuff, clean up — and nothing there. Nothing. There's nothing green anywhere. Nothing green. Nothing."
A previous album of Osborne's features a song called "Oh Katrina." I asked him how much Katrina is still on people's minds — or on his.
"Oh, it's — I think it's a way of life now," he says. "It's before and then there's after. I can't quite remember what life was without Katrina. I don't know. For me personally, it's been a lot of different kinds of healing, you know? Fixing stuff, and then fixing yourself, and then fixing the ones you love and then fixing each other. I don't know — you keep fixing stuff. Slowly."
Got Your Heart
"Now I was thinking we should go to a place where I met my wife — and where I proposed to her. It's a graveyard," Osborne says, laughing.
So off we head to St. Louis Cemetery #3, with its vast expanses of above-ground marble crypts. The crosses on top are outlined against a bright blue sky. We stop at one tomb, on the edge of the cemetery. Behind a chain-link fence is a house where Osborne used to live.
As the story goes, he threw a party during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Sarah, the woman he'd later marry, was there. One thing led to another.
"We jumped the fence ... and we were romantically hanging out here," he says.
That was a turning point. About six months later, he led Sarah back over the fence, back up onto this tomb.
"I had a cake and the ring and lit candles that I had ran out and lit before," Osborne says. "So we came out, and I proposed."
On The Banks
Our last stop on our New Orleans tour is the French Quarter, where Osborne lived on and off for a dozen years.
It was on Decatur Street that he sat at his piano by the balcony and wrote "Summertime in New Orleans," a song about sticky, slow summer days in the city.
We stand beside the Mississippi River and watch the tugboats and barges churn by. This is another place Osborne likes to come to clear his head.
"So here's the big crescent that creates this whole thing. So if you imagine it's been swirling and swirling and swirling, but it makes a pretty radical turn like this," he says, gesturing to make his point. "Hence the Crescent City. So there's a lot of energy here."
And the soundtrack for Anders Osborne, here in the French Quarter?
"Just [a] subterranean kind of lifestyle and attitude, and a little bit [of] dirt under your fingernails," he says. "People playing extremely in the moment and tough and so forth. At the same time, the most romantic soundtrack you can ever imagine, I feel down here, too. So those are the two extremes, I think.
"Yeah! It's like really beautiful love made with a really dirty hooker."
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Festival Spotlight: Exclusive NolaFunk NYC Contest: Win a Pair of Tickets to Michael Arnone's Crawfish Fest
Just follow the directions below for your chance to win...
In order to win, just email me with: your name, email, and the band you're most excited to see at this year's Fest. I'll be picking a winner at random and will send email confirmation to the winner only.
Here are this year's NolaFunky artists...
Here's the menu of Nola Eats:
Thursday, May 20, 2010
On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig set off an historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the Louisiana coast. Efforts to keep the leaking oil out of sensitive wetlands and bayous are ongoing, but the potential effects on the fishing and wildlife are disastrous.
(click on picture for donation link)
On the Road to Charlie Parker
Boxes, Bills and Pain
Echoes of My Sins
Darkness at the Bottom
Love is Taking its Toll
Keep on Gwine
Who Took the Happiness Away?
Late Night at the Maple Leaf
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
New Orleans, Louisiana: Davis raises his profile on the streets and on Television; Delmond tours while Antoine tolls.
*hyperlinks connect to MP3s on our Amazon page. Most songs are 99¢ a download.
Steve Zahn (Davis McAlary) and Strippers > Davis for Council
John Boutte > The Treme Song
Beausoleil > La Danse de la Vie
Nat King Cole > I was a Little Too Lonely
Lucia Micarelli (Annie) and Michiel Huisman (Sonny) > Basin Street Blues
Don Vappie > Salee Dames
Michael White > Down by the Riverside
Original Royal Players > Over in the Gloryland
Guitar Slim > The Things I Used To Do
Jon Cleary > Got to be More Careful
Rob Brown (Delmond Lambreaux) and Donald Harrison > Yardbird Delight
Rob Brown (Delmond Lambreaux) and Donald Harrison > Iko Iko
Coco Robicheaux > St John's Eve
Walter Wolfman Washington > One Way or Another
Little Richard > Niki Suki
Rob Brown (Delmond Lambreaux) and Donald Harrison > Quantum Time
Ellis Marsalis > 12's It
Beau Jocque > Alle Parti Pour Voi Bau Jocque
Danny Nelson > A Closer Walk with Thee
Stan Getz > Intoit
Wendell Pierce (Antoine Batiste) and Jazz Band > Fly Me To The Moon
Mardi Gras Indians > Shallow Water
Wendell Pierce (Antoine Batiste) and Jazz Band > Take the A Train
Panorama Brass Band > Horo
Stooges Brass Band > Stooges Party
Bobby Charles > Party Town
Blues Singer Shemekia Copeland and Slide Guitarist Sonny Landreth at B.B. King's
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Still in her 20s, Shemekia Copeland is already one of the top singers in blues music today. She's opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined the Chicago Blues Festival, and earned praise from critics and audiences alike for her stunningly powerful, soulful voice. She'll perform alongside Louisiana slide guitar legend Sonny Landreth.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The wise superhero SuperDee once told me, "Judge your Jazz Fest not by what you saw, but what you were forced to miss."
Those who have been to Jazz Fest know that it's extremely difficult to decide what shows to see. Head-to-head, there is simply so much incredible music, and rare treats, to indulge in over the course of ten days. Therefore, there will be plenty of fantastic music NOT covered in these dusk til' dawn highlight. This is simply one boy's second weekend journey to the musical Mecca that is Jazz Fest... After Dark.
Thursday, April 29
No better way to start Fest then Dauphine and Lesseps in the Bywater, Thursday night at Vaughn's. Though we arrived too late for his BBQ, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers welcomed us to town like only they can. A joyful mixture of brassy jazz, sultry R&B swagger and modern day braggadocio, Ruffins' band mixed The Isley Brothers with Gnarls Barkley, with some Mystikal to boot.
KDTU :: 04.29 :: Tipitina's
Backbeat Foundation hosted another HBO star/brass band alum session at the Blue Nile, where Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave seized their star turn, tearing down the Quarter for nearly three hours of nonstop NOLA stomp. His crack band, expanded for the occasion, more than ably laid a local foundation for Troy Andrews to delve deep into the Treme, unleashing blistering cuts from new album Backatown. Shorty cooked up a jambalaya of choice local brass anthems with a crunk-rock edge; a mammoth Marvin Gaye cover brought the house down.
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe's Thursday late night show is always the place to be at Fest. The first in five years (and only KDTU Jazz Fest booking) was no different. Playing Tipitina's Uptown until sunrise, Denson reminded us all of why he remains the King of Late Night Jazz Fest. The Tiny Universe dropped mammoth sets, balancing older favorites "Family Tree," "Make it a Cosmopolitan" and "Because of Her Beauty" with blazing new joints like the blaxploitation banger "Brother's Keeper Pt..II," a lengthy dub-drenched take on "Mighty Rebel," and an otherworldly keyboard battle between Robert Walter on Hammond B3 and Marco Benevento on Fender Rhodes.
Howlin Wolf held a benefit for the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, a huge post-Panic party with keyboardist Jojo's Mardi Gras Band as the hosts. "Down on the Bayou II" included WSP bandmates Sunny Ortiz and John Bell (highlighted by a brief Panic set). Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and NOLA monarchs George Porter Jr., Anders Osborne, John "Papa" Gros, Papa Mali, Jon Cleary, Big Chief Bo Dollis, and Alfred "Uganda" Roberts all lent their skills. Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes, Jorgen Carlsson and Danny Louis joined hard hitting local skinman Russell Batiste Jr. for an exciting short set.
Friday, April 30
The new frontier of live electronic music was on display throughout Friday night, a tribute to both the evolution of the genre and the breadth of the Jazz Fest palette. With respect to the Rusko/Big Gigantic party that went late the night before, for this writer, Friday was about pulsating beats. With a new take on dubstep delivered Live PA style, Uprise Dub kicked things off with proper wobble at Dragon's Den; dark drum & bass deep in the Quarter. A progressive minded dubstep swagger with Bukem-informed jazzy jungle, Paul Knight is a breakout waiting to happen. Big t'ings in store for this rumbling conglomerate.
Pretty Lights :: 04.30 :: Republic
Pretty Lights set it off substantially at Republic. With the sold out massive getting crazier by the song, kids were crowd surfing and bouncing off walls; absolute bedlam as dancing spilled into the street. Mixing bombastic originals with seriously dirty reinterpretations, Derek Vincent Smith knows how to rock a crowd. "More Important than Michael Jordan" ignited the fuse, but the set closing "Rumpshaker" remix was a five alarm fire.
Both Friday and Saturday nights, Bear Creek Presents hosted Break Science at One Eyed Jacks to teeming late revelers. Both shows kicked off at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. Drummer wunderkind Adam Deitch knows no boundaries, and clearly the Rusko set had inspired him; Friday night's set leaned heavily on dubstep wobble and thunderous bottom end. Saturday saw a more diverse assortment, with Borahm Lee unleashing a ridiculous array of skills amidst mountains of keyboards, samplers and laptops. Highlight: choice tribute to the late Guru, in the form of a punishing take on Gang Starr's "DWYCK," demolishing of Public Enemy's seminal "Bring the Noise" in a way that would make Hank Shocklee proud.
Saturday, May 1
Superfly Presents always provides a quintessential NOLA experience on the Creole Queen Boat Cruise; and this year's Greyboy Allstars hoedown was the ideal soundtrack. While Kirk Joseph's 504 Brass Band held down the deck with typical Crescent City flair, a newly recharged GBA came correct indoors. Incorporating new rare groove styles amidst a sea of classic West Coast boogaloo, the Allstars were back on their mojo. A spooky, enchanting version of "Nautilus" was the highlight for this writer.
Bear Creek Presents delivered another stellar gig at One Eyed Jacks with Dr. Klaw, a malicious conglomerate of NYC meets NOLA crunk. Nick Daniels led the boys into battle, welcoming local cats Andrew Block, Maurice 'Mo Betta' Brown and Clarence 'Trixzey' Slaughter to the fold. Eric Krasno (MVP?) wailed above the gumbo funk with reckless abandon, with Deitch and Nigel Hall grinning feverishly as they pushed the grooves along.
Backbeat Foundation hosted two killer Saturday shows at Tipitina's French Quarter. Bonerama killed the raucous room with a smattering of funky brass and rock energy. Joined by Scott McCaughey (guitar), David Silverman (sousaphone), and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills (bass) the troupe tore thru an Alex Chilton tribute, and spirited takes on "Cabbage Alley" and "Lovelight." Later, the eclectic grouping Some Cat From Japan interpreted the works of Jimi Hendrix with a fresh take, and a lot of mojo. Led by Will Bernard and Nigel Hall, and ably assisted by Scott Metzger, Ron Johnson and Bonerama drummer Eric Bolivar, the spirit of Jimi was on full display with unique new vision.
Sunday, May 2
A sisterhood of cities was on display at Howlin Wolf for The Royal Family Ball. George Porter and his Running Partners, Zigaboo's Funk Revue and Break Science held things down early for the vicious combination of Soulive and Lettuce. Soulive delivered one of the final slamming Jazz Fest performance, ripping as a trio or when rolling augmented. But quite frankly, the finest hour belonged to a reinvigorated Lettuce, whose only performance of the weekend was a rage to remember. Welcoming back Boston OG's Adam 'Shmeans' Smirnoff and E.D. 'Jesus' Coomes, the boys tore the roof off the Wolf. As if they didn't already have enough ammo, Ian Neville, Maurice Brown and Khris Royal joined the fray, as did Skerik for the final banger. Lettuce had conquered Jazz Fest once again, sending off the masses with relentless, colossal funk jams.
Like a whirlwind, it was over just as suddenly as it started. Jazz Fest will do that to ya. Once again, it was an epic adventure of giant proportions. Special thanks to Paulina Trujillo and the Backbeat Foundation, Megan Sabella at Newsom Management, Paul Peck and Superfly Productions, Paul Levine and Bear Creek, as well as all the venues and promoters that join together to provide these rich experiences. Most of all, a heartfelt thank you to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the City of New Orleans, without whom none of this would be possible.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
If stranded on a desert island and given but two wishes, most Earthlings would opt for food and water. The Orleanian, without thinking twice, would take the food, skip the water (probably carcinogenic anyway) and request some rousing music. It’s a matter of necessity.
Indeed, without the sounds of New Orleans, the planet would be a far more dreary place. During the BBC’s live television coverage of Mardi Gras ‘88, the eminent composer/pianist/producer Allen Toussaint, responding to the question of why New Orleans has had such a profound impact upon the course of popular American music, explained: “This is the birthplace of a lot of good things that have happened — and I say ‘lots’ in more than just jazz, because we’re aloof from the rest of the country — even geographically. Also, our pace — we move at a different pace here and we hold on to certain things longer so the natural links in the chain here from earlier times are still hanging on pretty dearly so I would say things grow up in other places but most of the really fine stuff is born here in New Orleans.”
When Toussaint was asked why these fine New Orleans musicians, when offered large sums of money to perform elsewhere, generally prefer staying in the Crescent City and earning a pittance, his answer was appropriately succinct: “It feels good!”
New Orleans musicians know that when they’re home, they can stop on almost any corner and get a great po-boy or plate of red beans and rice lagniapped with a quarter-pound of pickled pork. They’ve got cousins and aunts and uncles all over town, and they know that when it turns cold, the frosty weather only lasts two or three days – not six months. The most severe damage inflicted by the average winter is the browning of backyard banana “tree” leaves.
Given such a propitious environment, it is understandable that New Orleans musicians — in times as distant as Lee’s surrender — would discard the artistic shackles of sheet music and play what they felt — a revolutionary principle and one that has guided music to the present day.
In the improvisatory spirit of New Orleans music, what follows is a Funky Guide to New Orleans Sounds, listed alphabetically and with no pretense to being complete, authoritative or anything other than the notes of a long-time, vigilant observer from Chris Kenner’s fabled “Land of a Thousand Dances.”
LEE ALLEN – The honkin’ tenor saxophonist on many of the grandest New Orleans rhythm and blues hits, including works by “Fats” Domino, Smiley Lewis and Huey “Piano” Smith. In 1958, Lee had his own hit, “Walking With Mr. Lee.”
LOUIS ARMSTRONG – His first two words, according to his mother, were “Oh Yeah!” When Louis was 13, he “borrowed” his mom’s gun, fired it in the streets as he celebrated New Year’s Eve, was arrested and sent to the Waifs’ Home. At the Waifs’ Home, a sort of early version of the reform school, Louis learned the rudiments of the trumpet and subsequently became the most famous man in the history of jazz.
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW – Squarely behind the success of “Fats” Domino and a host of other New Orleans stars during the ’50s was Dave Bartholomew: bandleader, trumpeter, songwriter and talent scout. According to his pupil, guitarist Earl King, Bartholomew deserves much of the credit for the sound which made New Orleans famous: “A lot of people may think of Dave as a slavedriver but he’s a learning machine. I learned a lot from Dave: how to think about things, the do’s and don’t’s of the studio, things that you can live with without panicking. We get in the studio nowadays, and we think some little trivial things means something to the public, and it really doesn’t. Somebody might stay in there doing 50 takes to perfect something that’s at the end of a song. Dave told me one time, ‘Earl, nobody’s gonna listen to you that long to get back there. If you’ve got a mistake at the end of a record, forget it!’” Or in other words, a little funkiness never hurt nobody!
BUDDY BOLDEN – Considered the True Father of Jazz, Bolden had more than the usual problems of wrestling with reality. When his mother-in-law (See “Ernie K-Doe” entry) got on his nerves, Bolden bashed her in the head with a water pitcher. Committed to the state insane asylum, Bolden died a forgotten man (amateur phenomenonologists will note the obvious parallel to trombonist Don Drummond, the True Father of Reggae, who murdered his sweetheart and died in a Jamaican mental asylum in 1969). The sheer power of Bolden’s trumpet was legendary — the microphone had not yet been invented and Bolden didn’t need one. Entertaining fans on the West Bank of the Mississippi while standing on the East Bank was a common feat. Bolden never recorded and left behind two blurry photographs of himself. His headquarters, during the first decade of this century, was the Funky Butt Hall (which stood on the site of today’s City Hall) and Bolden’s theme song was “Funky Butt, Funky Butt, Take It Away.”
JAMES BOOKER – “Human nature is the reason why I play piano the way I do,” Booker once confessed to this writer. “But not just ordinary human nature – some people say I’m a freak of nature.” Booker, who died in 1983, was also a heroin addict, a graduate of Angola State Penitentiary, a rather flipped-out raconteur, a homosexual and a child prodigy, cutting his first record at 14 under the capable direction of Dave Bartholomew. Booker’s only hit was the organ instrumental “Gonzo,” released in 1960 and named after a character admired in the film “The Pusher.”
CLARENCE “GATEMOUTH” BROWN – “Gatemouth,” a major guitar idol of the ’50s, settled down (sorta) in New Orleans during the mid-70s and worked with a band that would later become LeRoux (of “New Orleans Ladies” fame). With contemporary “Gatemouth,” the musical consumer gets “Gate’s Salty Blues” doused with a syrupy Nashville gravy and the occasional duet with little daughter Renee. To hear the mind-wrecking stuff, consult two compilations of Mr. Brown’s Peacock recordings: San Antonio Ballbuster (Red ‘Lightnin’) and The Original Peacock Recordings (Rounder).
CARBO BROTHERS – Chuck and Chick Carbo led the Spiders, a vocal group produced by Dave Bartholomew, which assaulted the charts in 1954 with “I Didn’t Want To Do It.” Henry Carbo, brother of Chuck and Chick, teamed up with Irma Thomas on Ms. Thomas’ first recording session, shortly before she left junior high school at 14 to give birth to her first child.
DIRTY DOZEN – The Dozen are a modern, souped-up version of the sort of brass band commanded by Buddy Bolden nearly a century ago, proof positive that New Orleans funk transcends time, space and evanescent fashion.
ANTOINE “FATS” DOMINO – “The Fat Man!” In 1949, when “Fats” made his first expedition into the recording studio, he was a day laborer taking home $28 a week. By 1957, his concerts were causing riots among Eisenhower Era teens and “Fats” was collecting $2,500 per recital. Domino’s primary vices are gambling (two million dollars lost over a ten-year period in Las Vegas) and Cadillacs with gold-plated accoutrements (bought with cash, Domino’s preferred medium of exchange). His virtues include an impishly sexy voice and a smile as polished as the glistening tiles of Casamento’s oysterium.
DRUMMERS – The 12 Gods of New Orleans Rhythm: Earl Palmer, Cornelius “Tenoo” Coleman, Clarence “Juny Boy” Brown, John Boudreaux, Joe “Smokey” Johnson, Charles “Hungry” Williams, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, James Black, Edward. Blackwell, Robert French, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts and Willie Green.
SNOOKS EAGLIN – From funk to flamenco to the blues to the Beatles (“overrated,” in Snooks’ estimation), this blind guitarist is the master of eclecticism. One of the funniest Snooks legends involved his hasty departure from an upstate New York recording session with Professor Longhair because the sound of snow falling outside his bedroom window kept the hypersensitive Snooks awake all night.
FRANKIE FORD – Frankie, along with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, was one of the few Caucasians participating in the local rhythm and blues scene during the Fifties. Recording with Huey “Piano” Smith’s band, Frankie cut the immortal “Sea Cruise” and was the closest thing New Orleans had to a Ricky Nelson-style teen idol. As a child, Frankie (real name: Guzzo) appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, singing “Bacha Mi” n Italian and Wheel of Fortune.
PETE FOUNTAIN – While making no claims to being New Orleans’ most profound musician (a duty best left to Wynton Marsalis, the Young Puritan), Pete is the epitome of what fine Crescent City playing is all about — especially on Mardi Gras morning in the company of his old homeboys, parading through the city streets as the Half-Fast Marching Club, costumed as Ancient Greeks or kilted Scotsmen, refreshing themselves along the way with portable cocktails and kisses from pretty stenographers dressed as Dalmatians and odalisques.
GUITAR SLIM – Born Eddie Lee Jones in Greenwood, Mississippi, Guitar Slim dyed his hair blue, sold his soul to the Devil, surrounded himself with female groupies, and enthralled audiences with his wild and daring guitarisms. In 1959,at the age of 32, he died in the backseat of a New York taxi. Guitar Slim’s million-selling hit “The Things That I Used to Do” was recorded in New Orleans on October 27, 1953. Ray Charles was bailed out of jail by producer Johnny Vincent so that he might supply the accompanying piano. Guitar Slim, Jr. (Rodney Armstrong, Eddie Lee Jones’ natural son) released his first album, “The Story of My Life,” in 1988 and says “Sometimes I feel like he wrote a lot of those songs for me because I live the same kind of life he sang about.”
CLARENCE “FROGMAN” HENRY – Who did the Beatles see when they came to New Orleans? “Frogman!” After decades on Bourbon Street, “Frogman” has “semi-retired” to his Algiers residence and a vast collection of stuffed frogs. (Phenomenology note: “American” Orleanians of the 19th Century called their Creole counterparts “Johnny Crapoud,” or “Johnny the Frog.” The Creoles’ game, invented in New Orleans, thus became known as “craps,” the ultimate shot.)
INDIANS – Black Mardi Gras Indians traditionally don their feathered and beaded “suits” only on Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day, although latter-day revisionist Indians perform at the Jazz Festival, funerals, conventions and the grand openings of health spas. The Indians boast a hierarchy as elaborate as that of Kalala Ilunga’s Luva kingdom, wherin Kalala’s descendants possessed “mystical” blood. In the old days, Indians possessed “bad” blood and spilled much of same; these days, they’re diligent pillars of society (feathers and beads not coming cheap, especially when they’ve got to be shipped down from Brooklyn). The exclusively male tradition of sewing and decorating costumes’ has obvious parallels in African culture, where weaving and sculpting are the sacred domain of males.
JAZZ – It was invented in New Orleans, along with most other forms of popular American music. End of argument. The word “jazz” is derived from the Old Testament “Jezebel,” as prostitutes were once called. Orleanians slurred this into “Jazzbell” and the ladies’ favorite music became known as “jazz.” “Jazz me, daddy!” meant something entirely different.
ERNIE K.DOE – K-Doe’s biggest smash, “Mother-in-Law,” was retrieved by K-Doe from Allen Toussaint’s wastebasket, where Toussaint had tossed the composition, doubtful of its commercial appeal. In 1961, the song rose to the Number One position on Billboard’s pop chart. These days, K-Doe is the reigning court jester of New Orleans music and truly “a legend in his own mind.” And, as K-Doe theorizes, it’s all because he was born at Charity Hospital.
EARL KING – If K-Doe is the court jester of New Orleans, Earl King is the court historian. His “office” is Tastee Donuts Shop Number 58 on Prytania Street, from whence came the title for his Glazed album, a Grammy Awards finalist. A jarring guitarist (in the style of his mentor, Guitar Slim), Earl is a sophisticated student of human psychology. As Earl explained, concerning the composition of his classic ”Trick Bag” (released on the Imperial label during the early ’60s): “Writing ‘Trick Bag’ or any kind of satire like that, I’m usually laughing the whole time I’m writing it. I have to develop that attitude when I’m doing it to think of the funny side of it. It could happen to anybody. It’s as simple as that.”
SMILEY LEWIS – Smiley Lewis made what is probably the most joyful noise ever heard in New Orleans. His many hit songs – “I Hear You Knocking,” “One Night,” “She’s Got Me Hook, Line & Sinker,” “Tee-Nah-Nah” and a slew of others — were the rage of New Orleans teens during the ’50s, including one shy habitue of Lewis’ concerts, future assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Lewis passed from this realm in 1966.
MARSALIS FAMILY – Father Ellis is the Dean of New Orleans jazz pianists, and his two most famous sons are trumpeter/philosopher Wynton and saxophonist/actor/comedian Branford, both outstanding graduates of New Orleans public schools.
NEVILLE BROTHERS – Aaron’s the black Hercules who sings like a martyred saint; Art’s the cool keyboardist and founding father of the proto-funktional Meters; Cyril’s the Uptown Rastafarian; Charles is the quiet, contemplative saxophonist. Some of the brothers’ most recent work is a television commercial for Comet Rice.
CHRIS OWENS – Those in search of the Inner Meaning of Bourbon Street need look no further: not only was jazz invented in New Orleans, likewise for the sort of glitzy lasciviousness claimed by Las Vegas.
PROFESSOR LONGHAIR – Without the annual playing of his “Go To The Mardi Gras” on local radio stations and jukeboxes, would Carnival take place? No one with any intelligence wants to find out … this is the kind of thing that causes volcano eruptions and sudden tidal waves in Lake Pontchartrain. Fess is the definitive collision of tragedy and comedy, baldheaded women and Stagger Lee and the Zulu Queen, whistling in the dark to a rhumba beat, pounding his ill-fated pianos as hard as any trumpet ever blown by Buddy Bolden.
WARDELL QUEZERGUE – Quezergue is the arranger behind many terrific New Orleans compositions, including Willie Tee’s 1965 “Teasin’ You,” written by Earl King to commemorate a particularly foxy lady, and was the producer of two Number One hits in the early ’70s: King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Night’s “Mr. Big Stuff.”
MAC REBENNACK – Better known as Dr. John and based in New York, Rebennack is the reigning interpreter of New Orleans piano styles. He’s also done recent TV commercials for butter, toilet paper and J.C. Penney — testimony that native funk is good for capitalism.
HUEY “PIANO” SMITH – The master of the comic rock ‘n’ roll tune (“Rockin’ Pneumonia,” “Don’t You Just Know It,’” etc.) nowadays lives in Baton Rouge and has totally deserted the sinful world of music for a closer walk with Jesus.
IRMA THOMAS – The eternal crowd pleaser (and one of the few New Orleans performers with any business acumen – thanks to her no-nonsense husband Emile), Irma’s greatest (and sweetest) recent work is a TV commercial for Gambino’s King Cakes.
UPTOWN – “Uptown,” in New Orleans, has multiple meanings. It can define expensive real estate and/or cheap real estate. It can mean BMW convertibles, women named Bitsy and Noonie, preppy uniforms and private schools. In the case of the Neville Brothers’ last album, Uptown is just east of Hollywood.
ED VOLKER – Volker is leader/pianist/songwriter of the Radiators, what happens when the ghost of the Allman Brothers meets the ghost of Lowell George in the front parlor of a New Orleans shotgun crammed with various percussion instruments and a 50-gallon drum of Tequila.
ISIDORE “TUTS” WASHINGTON – The late “Tuts” Washington was the most elegant (and grouchy) pianist New Orleans has ever seen. His pupils included Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint. Tormenting tourists was High Art in the capable hands of “Tuts,” who did not like taking requests.
XENOPHOBIA – “The fear of outsiders.” New Orleans music’s raison d’etre.
YA YA – The old Louisiana phrase is “Gumbo YaYa” or “Everybody talks at once.” In a different context, “Ya Ya” became the title of vocalist/bodyman Lee Dorsey’s biggest smash.
ZYDECO – Zydeco, the hard-driving sound of Southwest Louisiana, has only in very recent times been heard throughout New Orleans, which is not exactly the domicile of Cajuns. Look at it this way: Moscow and Siberia are both in Russia; New Orleans and Breaux Bridge are both in Louisiana. We all breathe oxygen: there the similarities end.
TBC (To Be Continued) Brass Band lost a beloved friend and bandmate last night, saxophonist Brandon Franklin, who was murdered in a domestic dispute at the age of 22. The band is a favorite of locals and tourists alike, their shows on the corner of Bourbon and Canal draw a consistent audience of music lovers who enjoy the unique harmonies that is the signature sound of this young band of musicians.
Ruffins began playing the trumpet in the eighth grade, and he hasn't been able to put it down since. In the early 1980s, he co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band on the streets of the Treme neighborhood, where they eventually became the house band at the Glass House in New Orleans. Known for always cooking barbeque at his shows, Ruffins founded the Barbeque Swingers in 1993, a group that has played at popular bars all over the Big Easy. The show's creator, David Simon, consulted with Ruffins as he developed the series.