CD reviews: Music from New Orleans (or thereabouts)
It’s Carnival time, meaning you’ll want to break out the New Orleans sounds. You got the old stuff: the Meters’ “Look-a-Py-Py,” Professor Longhair’s “The Last Mardi Gras,” the Hawketts’ “Mardi Gras Mambo,” and if you care to go way back, Louis Armstrong’s “Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings.” There’s the newer classics: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s “Buck Jump,” Galactic’s “Ya-Ka-May” and Theresa Andersson’s “Hummingbird, Go!”The City That Care Forgot isn’t done giving us memorable experiences (and never mind that black-out the other night; could have happened anywhere). Last year came Dr. John’s “Locked Down” and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s “St. Peter & 57th.” Among the concert highlights in the Aspen area in recent times were Trombone Shorty at Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival and Mutemath’s performance last month in the Aspen Skiing Company’s Hi-Fi Concert Series. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band brings its take on classic New Orleans jazz to the Wheeler Opera House on Sunday, while the big day itself is celebrated in Snowmass Village with a parade, a Mother of All Ascensions uphill race (a tradition that assuredly did not start in Louisiana) and a performance by pianist Henry Butler. Belly Up has its Mardi Gras party on the wrong day – Monday – and with a band, Monophonics, that isn’t from New Orleans. (Not even close – they’re from San Francisco.) Belly Up makes up for it next week, when Galactic, with guest singer Corey Glover from Living Colour, plays, on Feb. 18. And lest we forget, Rio de Janeiro is also known to go pretty crazy for Fat Tuesday, so the shows by Brazilian singer-pianist Eliane Elias, tonight and Saturday in Jazz Aspen’s JAS Caf Downstairs@the Nell series, might have a bit of Carnival flair.Here’s some brand new sounds from New Orleans, more or less.
produced by Don Was and Keith Richards (Blue Note)Aaron Neville has used his blessed pipes to sing gospel, jazz, pop, soul, New Orleans funk and many duets with Linda Ronstadt. But if the real musical sweet spot is the music we hear in our teens, then Neville’s heart and soul is ’50s doo-wop, as indicated by the title to his latest album. “These songs helped to mold me into who I am,” Neville says in the album notes. “They’re all dear to my heart, and they rode with me, in my bones, through all these years.” “My True Story” has Neville going through some of doo-wop’s most enduring tunes: “Tears on My Pillow,” “Be My Baby,” “Gypsy Woman” and three songs by the Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk,” “Money Honey” and “This Magic Moment”). Neville handles the material old-school; this sounds like it could have come right off a street corner in 1955. But the cast of musicians – organist Benmont Tench from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, guitarist Greg Leisz – are the kind who are always going to make the music sound fresh. What Keith Richards contributed to the sessions, as co-producer, is anyone’s guess.
produced by Sunny Jain Collective (Sin J Entertainment)What happens when you have a wildly multi-ethnic group of hip and well-trained Brooklyn musicians, led by a percussionist who wants to play the music of his parents, which happens to be Indian bhangra?In the case of Red Baraat, a collective led by Sunny Jain, it sounds, oddly enough, like a super-funky New Orleans street band. A lot like one. It helps that Red Baraat, like any good Louisiana brass band, uses a sousaphone instead of a bass. Even the vocals could pass for the chants of Mardi Gras Indians, and not someone singing lyrics from an Eastern Indian language. Strange. And very cool.
produced by Marsalis (Basin Street)Jason Marsalis was born and raised in New Orleans (of course; he’s part of the Marsalis family). He often plays music from the heart of the New Orleans tradition. And “In a World of Mallets” was recorded in New Orleans.But Marsalis dedicates the album to the New York jazz scene, and the music reflects a desire to explore far-off corners. Marsalis is a drummer, and here he focuses on some of the more tuneful percussion instruments – vibraphones, glockenspiel, marimba, etc. – as Dave Potter handles the drum set. (Also onboard are pianist Austin Johnson and bassist Will Gable). Since jazz originated in New Orleans, you can say “In a World of Mallets” has New Orleans roots. But while he’s playing in a trad jazz format here, Marsalis is looking forward – the album gets more and more experimental as it goes on – not back from where he email@example.com
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With COVID-19 health and safety practices in place, who is up for a road trip to see the Denver Art Museum’s hotly anticipated exhibition on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?