Author Archives: Jay Mazza

The Quickening celebrate Begin Again at the Maple Leaf Bar tonight, 6/8

It’s been five years since guitarist Blake Quick started his band The Quickening and three years since the current lineup was solidified. The group is very excited to celebrate the release of Begin Again, their second album, on Friday night at the Maple Leaf Bar. They are promising special guests, free pizza, and a visual presentation befitting the band’s psychedelic sensibilities.

Begin Again represents a new stage for a band that tore it up the last time I saw them at the French Quarter Festival. But that’s nothing unusual because they bring great energy, guitar pyrotechnics, and a danceable funky vibe to every show.

Drummer Jeff Jani and bassist “Big Tall” Al Small were not part of the incarnation of band that released their debut in 2014. Quick says, “These guys really get the sound I’m trying to achieve and help out tremendously on song structure and production.”

He also concurs with most fans when he describes guitarist Dave Easley as the group’s “secret weapon.” Easley has been a fixture on the local scene for decades and his easy rapport with his younger bandmates is as important as his powerful work on both the pedal steel and the standard electric guitar.

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TVD Video Premiere: Sasha Masakowski, “Jockamo/Candy”

Sasha Masakowski has a varied career as an artist in New Orleans and a vocalist touring the globe. Today, TVD presents the world premiere of the first video off her new album, Art Market, which will be in stores on Friday, June 8 on Ropeadope Records.

The album title is a reference to street markets, the ubiquitous collections of shops and stands that are omnipresent around the world. Like the unique offerings in street markets, “each song is its own little universe, really. Each part is there with intention,” says Masakowski.

“Jockamo/Candy” is a case in point. It’s a fascinating remix of sorts of a tune that is seared into the musical memory of every New Orleanian and most likely most Americans of a certain age. Best known as “Iko, Iko” from the timeless recording by the Dixie Cups, it was originally released by James “Sugarboy” Crawford as “Joc-A-Mo” in 1954. Masakowski wrote her own original lyrics creating a new classic version of a song, which has had numerous iterations over the years.

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Leftover Salmon brings Something Higher to the House of Blues, 6/1

Before Americana was even a genre, back when musical influences were mostly separated by physical and/or philosophical distances, Leftover Salmon was distilling their inspirations—bluegrass, Cajun, old-time country, and roots blues—into a delicious beverage that was all their own. With over thirty years on the road, the band returns to New Orleans to play at the House of Blues on Friday night.

Leftover Salmon is touring in support of their great new album, Something Higher. The recording is a departure, but not an unexpected one for anyone who has heard the band in concert recently.

The group, which was known mostly as an acoustic bluegrass ensemble in their early days, has continued to evolve and add more influences. Something Higher features horns that evoke R&B and production effects that would have been out-of-place when the band formed. But their string-based, classic instrumentation is still fully intact despite the electrified nature of some of the new music.

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TVD Live Shots: Anders Osborne and Motel Radio at Lafayette Square, 5/16

PHOTOS: DENNIS McDONOUGH | The Young Leadership Council made an excellent choice when they booked Anders Osborne to headline this past week’s Wednesdays at the Square concert. Motel Radio, an up and coming indie pop band, made perfect sense as an opening act.

Osborne was clearly enjoying playing for the hometown crowd. He gave several shout outs and made local references including asking at one point if anyone in the crowd was from Mid-City—the part of the city where he makes his home. He was also relishing performing with his latest ensemble. The band features keyboardist David Torkanowsky, bassist Ron Johnson, and drummer Chad Cromwell.

Johnson and Cromwell make a formidable rhythm section. They both have deep careers in the music business and their rapport makes for a special experience for the audience. Torkanowsky has a long resume playing funk, soul, R&B, and jazz in New Orleans. When I first saw him playing with Osborne at Jazz Fest, I was surprised to see him in a rock ‘n’ roll band. But his organ playing adds so much that it makes perfect sense.

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New albums from Catherine Bent and
Molly Tigre in stores today, 5/18

World music lovers should head out to their favorite record store today to pick up two great new recordings. Catherine Bent is a cello player and her new album, Ideal, explores the world of Brazilian choro music from a new perspective. Brooklyn’s Molly Tigre’s eponymous debut is a different animal entirely as it asks the musical question—what would the desert blues of Mali sound like if no guitars were involved?

Bent is a Berklee College of Music professor who found herself in Brazil, with no Portuguese to speak of available to her, but she quickly was embraced by the choro community in Rio de Janeiro. Choro is an old style that predates the samba and bossa nova for which Brazil is best known. It’s string-based music, so even though Bent didn’t speak the language, her instrument did the communicating for her.

Ideal features original compositions by Bent that she tackled after first fully immersing herself in Brazilian music and culture over a couple of summers. The musicians on the album represent some of the best choro players in Brazil.

The songs are not exactly choro in its original form, although they retain many of the elements. The six and seven-string guitars are present representing the tradition, but with her cello dominating on many of the tunes, she truly explores the expressive possibilities and expands upon what some would consider a hidebound genre.

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Nyce!’s The Smile Series makes its debut tonight at Tipitina’s, 5/17

Two years ago, the alt-pop band Nyce! started a DIY event in a New Orleans backyard. The event has grown organically and the organizers are bringing it to the granddaddy of New Orleans clubs. The doors open at Tipitina’s at 9 PM.

The semi-monthly concert series features local musicians, artists, and vendors. By creating an intimate environment, they bring together people who value creativity. Nyce! is headlining the event. The other bands on the bill include Loose Willis, Fruta Brutal, and the Braun-Wood Band.  Visual art will be on display by Kara Heck and Allison Franz. Brown Girl Kitchen provides the food.

Nyce! has been featured twice in TVD. Last October we presented the premiere of their video “Sweet Samantha” and this past June we debuted “Where Do I Go From Here,” a new song off their album Quarter Life Crisis.

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TVD Live: Jazz Fest,
The Second Weekend, 5/3–5/6

PHOTOS: EDDY GUTIERREZ | With the exception of a slight drizzle on Saturday morning, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival had perfect weather for the second weekend in a row. While temperatures and humidity levels were higher than the first weekend, 2018 marked the first time in a few years where inclement weather didn’t affect the music. Here’s a look back at some of the sets I caught.

I eagerly awaited the first-ever appearance of Jupiter (pictured below) and Okwess, a Congolese band that was scheduled four times over the four days of the second weekend. They did not disappoint. In fact I saw them twice and some friends even sought out the additional performances.

The group was not a strictly soukous act, though that defining sound of Congo in the 20th century was definitely present in their mix. The band had rock touches and an ebullient approach that had people who walked up to the stage with curiosity joining in the throngs dancing.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks for the Second Weekend, 5/5–5/6

The final weekend is here! The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival enters the home stretch with two big days of music featuring some of the biggest acts the festival books and also some of the best local musicians. Here are our picks. The full Saturday schedule is here.

Get your day started with some deep New Orleans culture by heading to the Jazz and Heritage stage for Big Chief Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors (pictured above). Fi Yi Yi, known as Victor Harris when not wearing his Mardi Gras Indian suit, is a 50-year veteran of the ancient masking traditions of the black Indians of New Orleans. His suits are designed to showcase the African roots of the culture. His tribe is a spectacle to behold. They also have a new book out.

Boyfriend is a female empowerment rapper who got rained out last year. It was one of the biggest disappoints among the bands that couldn’t play since it was going to be her first time playing at the Fairgrounds. She returns this year with her family friendly show, because, believe me, her nightclub shows are not for the prudish.

Since I started going to the Jazz Fest in the early 1980s, the fest has always made an important effort to feature the great artists of the 1950s. For some years now, the ever-dwindling number of legends have been participating in a New Orleans Classic R&B Legends showcase. This year it’s the Dixie Cups, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Wanda Rouzan, and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. See the legends while you can!

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Friday, 5/4

The marathon is just getting going for those festers attending every day of the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Friday is a musically strong day. Here are our picks. The full Friday schedule is here.

Start your day at the Jazz and Heritage stage for Kumasi. This giant band takes its cues from the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the great Nigerian superstar. They have a front man who sings and plays saxophone. He also regularly appears in a loincloth. But despite those similarities, Kumasi writes all their own music and will have you dancing before noon.

Brian Seeger is one of the unsung heroes of modern New Orleans jazz. A guitarist and longtime professor in the jazz program at the University of New Orleans, he has a sterling tone and enhances any project he works on. He appears in the Jazz Tent with his Organic Trio.

Tank and the Bangas are a full-on New Orleans musical phenomenon and are poised to reach the highest plateaus of the music business in record time. Just a few years back, the band, led by singer and former slam poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball, was playing small clubs in New Orleans. They recently played at Coachella, a serious tastemaker’s festival, and are now signed to a major label. Check out their new single below.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Thursday, 5/3

PHOTO: EDDY GUTIERREZ | For years, everyone I know called Thursday at Jazz Fest “Slacker’s Day.” I thought it would stick. Now everyone calls it “Locals’ Day.” Fittingly, the powers that be are now offering two $50 dollar tickets for residents with a Louisiana ID. Here are our picks. The full Thursday schedule is here.

Alex McMurray has been booked early in the day virtually every time he has played at the Jazz Fest going back to the 1990s. His act is always a great way to start the day. Expect to see musicians like drummer Carlo Nuccio and saxophonist Joe Cabral supporting his wry songwriting and stellar guitar playing.

Though Belize isn’t often mentioned as part of the African diaspora, the Garifuna are a cultural group descended from runaway slaves who, like the Maroons in Jamaica, escaped and started their own communities. They retained many of the African influences that were erased elsewhere by forced assimilation. They are represented at Jazz Fest by Santiman and Garifuna Generation.

Big Chief Charles Taylor of the White Cloud Hunters is one of the legends still on the scene. I witnessed this in action hanging out with him at the downtown Super Sunday parade on Orleans Avenue. Every black Indian who walked past made a point of stopping to say hello and get his approval. He hits the Jazz and Heritage stage with his tribe at 1:55 PM.

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TVD Live: Jazz Fest,
The First Weekend,
4/27–4/29

PHOTOS: EDDY GUTIERREZ | The weather could not have been better as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented its 49th edition at the New Orleans Fairgrounds in the heart of the Gentilly neighborhood. Clear skies, mild temperatures, and low humidity greeted festers all three days of the first weekend.

It’s a truism of Jazz Fest that the days get more crowded as the hours progress from the 11 AM opening. This year was no exception as fans streamed in to see Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffet, David Byrne, and the other headliners.

Since Jazz Fest has something for fans of almost every musical genre, classical and heavy metal/punk being the main exceptions, there is so much music that no single person could even attempt to catch even a small bit of every act. Here are some of my highlights.

David Byrne (pictured above) brought one of the most unusual, interesting, and musical bands to the fest. He had no stage set to speak of—there was nothing on the stage save a bench and a chair that appeared and disappeared as if by slight of hand. All of his musicians wore their instruments and roved around the stage in choreographed routines making the show as much a theatrical performance as a musical one.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for the First Weekend, 4/28–4/29

Saturdays are the biggest, most crowded days at the Jazz Fest, so it behooves you to get there early. With Rod Stewart filling in for Aretha Franklin as the main act on the Acura stage there are bound to be as many disappointed festers as there are those happy about seeing the old Brit tear through his deep catalog. Here are our picks. The Saturday schedule is here.

Mardi Gras Indians are always a good way to start the day. The Commanche Hunters are a newer tribe on a cultural scene that has been growing every year since Katrina almost decimated the indigenous black communities of New Orleans.

Take a trip around the fest before heading back to the Jazz and Heritage stage for Big Chief Walter Cook and the Creole Wild West at 1:25 PM. They are the oldest black Indian tribe in New Orleans dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Or for amazing intergenerational roots rock, head to the Gentilly stage for the Chilluns. Though New Orleans has plenty of intergenerational bands, there are four reasons why the Chilluns are singular among these ensembles. The group hails from three families (Malones, Bohrens, and Clements), features both male and female musicians, doesn’t play jazz or brass band music, and most significantly, rarely performs due to scheduling conflicts.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Day One, 4/27

PHOTO: DENNIS McDONOUGH | Here we go again! It’s time to start figuring out where you’ll be when the gates of the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival open at 11 AM on Friday. Regular readers know I tend to highlight some of the lesser-known acts for our picks every day. You know where to look if you need to find out about the big acts. The full schedule is here.

Conflicts are inevitable at the Jazz Fest and the opening slot on the first Friday is no exception. Michael Skinkus and Moyuba are a great and spiritual way to start the day on the intimate Jazz and Heritage stage. Skinkus is one of the city’s top percussionists and his group plays the sacred sounds of Afro-Cuban music associated with Santeria religious devotion.

For something a bit more contemporary, New Orleans blues and roots master guitarist Spencer Bohren and the Whippersnappers are just the ticket. This band features the veteran with a young-ish band that includes his son, drummer Andre. World music lovers will also have to make a choice in the 1:30 PM time slot. Local resident and Cuban native Alexey Marti brings his hot band into the Jazz Tent.

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Nolatet’s new LP No Revenge Necessary in stores 4/27

When Nolatet released their debut album Dogs in 2016, many observers assumed it was a one-off project from four very busy musicians. But with this Friday’s release of No Revenge Necessary on Royal Potato Family, which follows a successful national tour and with five dates already set during Jazz Fest, it appears the band is here to stay.

Nolatet features three stalwarts of the New Orleans music scene—drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, and vibraphonist/ percussionist Mike Dillon. The pianist Brian Haas is the wild card for New Orleans listeners. Haas, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is the founder the acclaimed experimental jazz trio Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, proves on this recording to be much more than the special guest he sounded like on Dogs.

Haas and Singleton (a prolific creator of music in all of his many projects) each composed four of the nine tracks on No Revenge Necessary. Dillon contributed “Elegant Miss J,” one of the tracks where his touch on the vibraphone demonstrates his ability to shift on a dime and gives Vidacovich a chance to play off the vibes.

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Our French Quarter Fest weekend picks, 4/14–4/15

PHOTO: MOLLY MALDOVAN | The French Quarter Festival expands to twenty-three stages for Saturday and Sunday. There’s more music happening than any one person can even digest, never mind attempt to hear. But your faithful correspondent has spent hours perusing the schedule to find the hidden gems. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

The House of Blues Voodoo Garden stage is one of the secret spots at the French Quarter Fest. Shaded and complete with a small dance floor and tables in the back, it’s the perfect spot to beat the heat and the crowds.

End your day there with Sexy Dex and the Fresh. Dexter Gilmore is one of the city’s rising stars; he plays guitar and presents like a future rock god. With a backing vocalist who sings perfect harmony, this band is one to watch.

Of course, if you want to be right in the middle of things, Otra closes out the Tropical Isle stage in Woldenberg Park. Bassist Sam Price leads this top-notch Cuban jazz dance band. They will get the crowd up and moving whether they want to or not.

Since I have highlighted bands that don’t play around all that much on the previous days’ picks, I would be remiss to fail to mention Egg Yolk Jubilee. This band of rocking, brass musicians plays music influenced by the New Orleans canon, but with their own twisted twist.

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