Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Listen: Dirty Dozen Brass Band On Mountain Stage

Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band makes its sixth appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live in Charleston, W.V. Widely credited with revitalizing the sound of New Orleans jazz, the band blew down musical barriers by combining its love of traditional sounds with funk and bebop. Built around the idea of jazz as a constantly evolving organism, the group has shared the stage with Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, David Bowie, 2 Live Crew and The Black Crowes.

In celebrating 35 years together, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band kicks off this set with the dark grooves of "Blackbird Special," the lead track from its first album, My Feet Can't Fail Now. But the remainder of this set is drawn from the new Twenty Dozen — including "Jook," which wasn't heard on the radio broadcast of this show.

Upcoming: George Porter Jr. & Runnin' Pardners @ Sullivan Hall / Mexicali Live

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Album Premiere: Anders Osborne "Black Eye Galaxy"


Track # Title Artist Album Duration
1 Send Me A Friend Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:18
2 Mind of a Junkie Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 07:29
3 Lean On Me/Believe In You Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:10
4 When Will I See You Again? Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:54
5 Black Tar Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:58
6 Black Eye Galaxy Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 11:16
7 Tracking My Roots Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:03
8 Louisiana Gold Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 05:47
9 Dancing In The Wind Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 04:41
10 Higher Ground Anders Osborne Black Eye Galaxy 03:55


Monday, April 16, 2012

Village Voice: Dr. John Parades Through The Musical Legacy Of New Orleans

Jack Vartoogian/BAM
Dr. John: Funky But It's Nu Awlins
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Thursday, April 12

Better than: Getting your tax return in on time.

By the third week of "Insides Out," Dr. John's residency at the Brooklyn Academy might have been dubbed "Occupy Howard Gilman Auditorium." The vibe at this high-culture outpost had been that powerfully transformed through a participatory democracy not often witnessed at supposed pop-star showcases. On Thursday night, protest was in the air—actually, it seemed more like junior-high misbehavior during assembly period when boos and hisses overtook a representative from JPMorgan Chase, the fourth pre-concert podium speaker on hand to celebrate BAM's 150th anniversary (this was also board gala night). Such speechifying wasn't the best of plans; still, BAM's programming of "Insides Out" was starting to look like a brilliant stroke.

In his final and best installment, "Funky But It's Nu Awlins," Dr. John teased strands of legacy that have long informed his sound--inherited and hard-earned wealth and the dividends thereof, most of which predated BAM's creation and Wall Street's largesse. He and his cast of guest stars, all drawn from his hometown, required no podium, just some keyboards, guitars, a rhythm section and horns. They didn't speechify; they testified. They drew upon the wily R&B, funk, and jazz traditions in which they're all invested, as well as a shared nest egg of brass-band-led funeral and parade tradition and inscrutable Mardi Gras Indian culture--the stuff that imbues their music with something distinct: Funky, yeah, but it's Nu Awlins. (Change the emphasis in that concert title a bit, add a "t," and you get "funky butt," a reference to the Buddy Bolden tune and the former North Rampart Street club once co-owned by trombonist "Big Sam" Williams, once a member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; or just to your own ass when properly motivated.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Offbeat: Big Freedia Booty Battle Video Game: Bounce for the Glory

 Big Freedia and Vice Magazine to create “Big Freedia Booty Battle”, an online video game. There have been a couple New Orleans bands whose songs have been featured in video games, but I’m pretty certain this is the first time a New Orleans artist has been the subject of a video game herself.

The game starts with selecting your own character. I went with the girl second from the right because her hairdo, white thong, and immense posterior made her look more like a sumo wrestler than p-popper. The music—Big Freedia’s “Booty-Whop” (a perfect choice with its Nintendo-style midi samples courtesy of BlaqNmilD)—drops in, and you’re told to get ready, but like at a real bounce show, the warning doesn’t prepare you for the speed and intensity of what follows.
You can make your own booty whop at

In Pictures: Dr. John: A Louis Armstrong Tribute at Brooklyn Academy of Music



All photos are by Dino Perrucci.
The coming weekend’s concerts, “Locked Down”, feature Dr. John with his new album’s producer, the Black Keys’ guitarist Dan Auerbach, previewing songs from the record. The final weekend of shows is themed “Funky But It’s Nu Awlins”, and features guests Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Nicholas Payton, Davell Crawford, and Donald Harrison.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NY Mag:The Urbanist’s New Orleans: What to Do

Map by Remie Geoffroi  
Leave Bourbon Street to the Tourists

Part alt-college town, part faerie-anarchist commune, the Marigny/Bywater neighborhood attracts both semiotics majors and gutter punks. In this faubourg, palm trees are lit with blazing sunshine, handmade costumes are as common as skimpy sundresses, and the vibe is always a little trippy.

1. The AllWays Lounge & Theatre
2240 St. Claude Ave.
One night might offer square dancing, the next could showcase an erotic disco circus inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire.

2. St. Roch Tavern
1200 St. Roch Ave.
The cheekily named vegan restaurant within, O! Vegasm, is open every day but Monday, but the real fun comes Saturday nights when underground queen Big Freedia’s D.J., Rusty Lazer, runs the sweatiest sissy bounce party in town—ripe physically and olfactorily with crust punks.

3. Mimi’s in the Marigny
2601 Royal St.
This neighborhood bar—often blamed for sparking the area’s gentrification—hosts an always-packed soul-funk dance party on Saturday nights.

4. Mudlark Public Theater
1200 Port St.
A black-box theater that’s also home to Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs DIY strip club.

5. The Country Club
634 Louisa St.
Come for the bottomless Mimosas; stay for the topless suntanning at the clothing-optional pool (day passes from $10).
6. Satsuma Café
3218 Dauphine St.
The go-to joint for juice cleanses, quinoa salads, and hippieish freelancers pecking away at MacBooks.

7. Dithyrambalina
1027 Piety St.
An interactive “shantytown” installation built by sound artists and sculptors using salvaged materials. Reopens April 14.

8. The Front Gallery
4100 St. Claude Ave.
This multiroom patio-equipped space recently hosted an edible-insect installation where dairy goats were hailed as guests of honor.

9. Good Children Gallery
4037 St. Claude Ave.
A community hub exhibiting local and global talent.

Monday, April 2, 2012

NPR: Reviving James Booker, The 'Piano Prince Of New Orleans'

Piano player James Booker is considered a New Orleans legend.
Enlarge Bunny Matthews Piano player James Booker is considered a New Orleans legend.

Every day in New Orleans, Lily Keber rolls out of bed and walks to a flat, minor office building to meet her muse. Keber makes a cup of coffee with chicory, hooks up her computer and waits for what sounds like a dozen spiders to crawl across a piano.
Keber is making Bayou Maharajah, a documentary about the black, gay, one-eyed junkie, James Booker, the "Piano Prince of New Orleans." Booker, who tutored Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr., was the first to call his fingers "spiders on the keys."
"James Booker was one of our country's greatest piano players," Keber says. "You can find musicians who are good at classical, and you can find musicians who are good at street music. But it's a special breed who can master both."

A classical-music prodigy as a child, Booker grew up to originate a style of piano playing that few can emulate. Everything from his delivery of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" to his rendition of "Black Night" highlighted his talent: spiders on the keys, heart on his sleeve.
But in a town where soul queen Irma Thomas stands next to you at the dry cleaner and Dr. John turns up at the grocery store, people often take their musical legends for granted. Sometimes it takes an outsider like Lily Keber to remind everyone that genius is rare. Keber was born in North Carolina and schooled in Georgia. She moved to New Orleans just a few years ago.

"I knew Dr. John, I knew Irma Thomas, I knew The Meters. I knew the big names. And I didn't know James Booker at all. I had never heard the name," Keber says. "So when it eventually started to dawn on me that he was a real guy and he really did play this amazing music that's coming out of the jukebox, that sort of floored me."

Filmmaker Lily Keber holds the poster for her upcoming documentary, Bayou Maharajah.
 Lily Keber

Perhaps the biggest challenge to Keber's project is that James Booker is unavailable for comment. He died almost 30 years ago, before Keber was born.
"Many people have described him as a great conversationalist. And he loved people," Keber says. "But then, if I ask them, 'What was his family like?' They don't know anything. 'How did he learn how to play piano?' They don't know anything. He could talk about anything in the world, except himself."
So far, Keber has been able to unearth more than anyone ever has, including eyewitnesses and film footage from concerts in Europe. It might help that Keber comes from a family of both academic researchers and coal miners. She's not afraid of tumbling head-first down a rabbit hole.

"Booker has this song, 'Papa Was a Rascal,' and the song is very autobiographical," Keber says. "The problem is it is also very poetic, so deciphering what he's actually saying in it is very tricky. There's one line, 'When I was a young boy at the age of 9 / I met a sweet Russian woman and I made her mine.' Now, what does that mean?
"When Booker was a kid, he was hit by an ambulance and dragged down the street; he broke his leg. They gave him morphine for the pain, and he always pointed to that to being the beginning of his addiction," Keber says. "Luckily, I actually found an interview where he says precisely that. He was listening to this song and he says, 'This line, I was hit by an ambulance, I got addicted to heroin from that.' That's the 'sweet Russian woman.'"

Some of the best interviews in the documentary explain how Booker could play the way he did. Even to a trained ear, the man sounded like he had three hands. His former students tell it best. Dr. John, for instance, learned organ from Booker. Harry Connick Jr. also took lessons.
"There's nobody that could even remotely come close to his piano-playing ability. It can't be done," Connick says. "I've played Chopin Etudes, I've done the whole thing, but there is nothing harder than James."

The one-eyed junkie called his fingers "spiders on the keys."
  Jim Scheurich

The one-eyed junkie called his fingers "spiders on the keys."
Booker was also a sideman for Aretha Franklin, The Doobie Brothers, Ringo Starr and Lloyd Price. But apart from some childhood recordings, he released only three albums in his lifetime. His addictions — heroin, cocaine, alcohol — got the better of him.
"Booker wanted to be famous, but he didn't behave like someone who really wants to be well known," Keber says. "He didn't show up for gigs. And if he did show up, would he be in the mood to play? He really was frustrated by the fact that he couldn't make it, but he didn't do himself any favors."

David Torkanowsky, a jazz pianist and bandleader, says Booker's habits were extreme.
"I remember there was a regular Tuesday night Booker solo at Tipitina's. Finally, the lights dim and Booker walks out to the middle microphone on stage. He was wearing nothing but a huge diaper with a huge gold pin holding up the diaper," Torkanowsky says, "and from behind the diaper he pulls out a .357 magnum, puts it to his own head and announces to the audience, 'If somebody doesn't give me some [expletive] cocaine right now, I'm going to [expletive] pull the trigger. It went from 'Can't wait to hear him play' to 'Oh my God.'"

Keber is still trawling for more photographs and concert film footage, but she says there are parts of Booker's story that died with him.

"I could spend the rest of my life researching Booker and learning about him, and I would never know what it was like to walk in Booker's shoes," Keber says. "He was a mystery to the people who knew him best. But I feel like it must be some combination of being intensely intelligent, a child prodigy, very gifted, but then living a life that was a constant exercise in struggle."

Keber is wading through 45 hours of tape and hopes to finish the film this year, but she's raised less than half of the money she needs to digitize, edit and color-correct the picture. She also has to pay all the licensing fees for the music. She's under enormous pressure to, as Dr. John wrote her, "bring Booker back from the dead."

"The audience I worry about the most and feel the most beholden to is the one here in New Orleans," Keber says, "because they are going to know most whether I did my job or not. And I also know that they won't hesitate to tell me. That night on the red carpet could be wonderful, or terrible. I'll know pretty quick."

If Keber comes through, she'll have restored the Piano Prince of New Orleans to his throne and perhaps brought him the national audience that eluded him in life. Then he wouldn't be just a black, gay, one-eyed, junkie piano player. He'd be golden.