Author Archives: Jay Mazza

The Optimist, solo LP from Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong, arrives in stores today, 8/17

When Vulfpeck played at Tipitina’s this past spring, they sold out two nights in a row. Numerous friends went both nights. I had never even heard of the band, so when the sophomore solo effort from the band’s guitarist Cory Wong popped onto my radar I immediately popped it in. Though I listened to a pre-release download, the album will be released on vinyl today.

Wong surrounds himself with great musicians on The Optimist. The opening song, “Jax,” features members of Prince’s horn section. It is funky in a way that the Purple One would certainly have enjoyed.

“The Hornheads are best known as Prince’s horn section,” explains Wong, “and their leader, Michael Nelson, did most of the horn arrangements for Prince. The guys are all 20-30 years older than us, but we fit right in as friends because they love seeing young musicians with such passion.”

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Debut from Noisewater in stores today, Tipitina’s release party Saturday night, 8/11

They play instrumental music that is all over the map genre-wise, but one thing you can certainly be sure of with Noisewater—they rock out live. The band’s eponymous debut album arrives today on Louisiana Red Hot Records. They celebrate the release with a show tomorrow night at Tipitina’s.

Since writers always want to pigeonhole bands into a specific genre, Noisewater has opted to call their music funk rock. But to my ears, both on the album and in the live setting, the band inspires comparisons to Galactic for three reasons. They have a distinctly jazzy approach to their sound with a saxophonist, Ole Anders Oddlokkken, out front on many of the tunes.

The second reason is their instrumental sound. Though it’s true they have elements of other genres including metal, reggae, and prog rock, they come across as jazzy funk to the casual listener. Thirdly, this band flat-out jams.

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Satchmo Summerfest Weekend Picks, 8/4–8/5

Saturday morning Satchmo Summerfest kicks off the same way as it did on Friday with a performance on the neutral ground. This time it’s the Edna Karr Marching Cougars and the Satchmo Sound Off. Here are our thoughts for Saturday and Sunday. The full schedule is here.

Trumpeter Doyle Cooper makes his Satchmo Summerfest debut at 12:15 PM. Known in some circles as Trumpet Red, I have been listening to him play since he was a pre-teen. He’s now a leader with a crack band. Check out the future of New Orleans jazz.

When I first saw Japanese trumpeter Yoshio Toyama back in the early days of the Satchmo Summerfest, I thought his act was a bit of a novelty predicated on his ability to imitate the vocals stylings of Armstrong. But then I found out all the good work he’s done on behalf of the music students of New Orleans and I realized his homage was genuine. Now getting up in years, this could be his last year back in the city. Check him out while you can and see how far the influence of Armstrong has traveled.

Dr. Brice Miller, now an important member of Mayor Cantrell’s administration in charge of the cultural economy, has led the Mahogany Brass Band for years. They will definitely put on a spirited set.

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Satchmo Summerfest Picks for Friday, 8/3

This year the Satchmo Summerfest kicks off with a treat for marching band lovers and New Orleanians invested in our city’s musical future. The youths of the nationally acclaimed Roots of Music program will set up on the neutral ground of Esplanade Ave. and deliver a rousing introduction at 11:15 AM on Friday. TVD is proud to be a media sponsor of the fest for the seventh year in a row. Here are our picks for the opening day. The full schedule is here.

With two music stages operating on a slightly staggered schedule around the grounds of the old U.S. Mint, it’s easy to catch bits of each of the acts or hang out for a full set. In the first time slot, the Preservation Hall Brass group brings a super-tight second line band set-up to the stage. Around the other side of the building, get a taste of some great traditional jazz with Clive Wilson’s Satchmo Serenaders.

The fact that Aurora Nealand (pictured at top) and her Royal Roses are making their Summerfest debut took me by surprise. Then I realized the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist is usually out of town during the summer pursuing one her many musical interests. Here Nealand and her ace band bring a thoroughly modern approach to trad.

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Professor Longhair exhibit at the New Orleans Jazz Museum debuts tomorrow, 8/2

“Me Got Fiyo: The Professor Longhair Centennial,” a new exhibit celebrating the life and legacy of piano player extraordinaire Professor Longhair opens on Thursday just in time for visitors to Satchmo Summerfest at the U.S. Mint. This exhibit showcases the life of Henry Roeland Byrd, aka “Fess,” starting with his roots and development to his early hits such as “Tipitina,” “Mardi Gras In New Orleans,” and “Big Chief.”

“We are excited to create this exhibit celebrating Professor Longhair and his contributions to the great musical and cultural legacy of New Orleans,” said Greg Lambousy, Director of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. “We are particularly thrilled to see one special artifact—the electric piano first used by Fess and then by another great New Orleans pianist, Eddie Bo.”

Henry Roeland Byrd was born on December 19, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, about seventy miles north of New Orleans. Professor Longhair’s influence on New Orleans music is incalculable. His music defines an era in New Orleans music and has influenced virtually every piano player who has ever heard his unique amalgamation of blues, R&B, and Caribbean rhythms.  His unconventional lyrics portray unique characters and situations that seem to happen only in New Orleans.

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The Iceman Special celebrate debut album at the Maple Leaf Bar, 7/21

They burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere, blowing away audiences with their powerful mix of rock ‘n’ roll influences, intense stage presentation, and compelling original songs. The Iceman Special will celebrate the release of their first recording on Saturday night at the Maple Leaf Bar along with their own Carnival organization, the Krewe de Void.

I have seen the band a few times and can attest to the fact that this group has the goods. They are an intergenerational outfit featuring two brothers, Will and Charlie Murry on guitar and bass respectively and Hunter Romero on drums. The ringer in the group is 60-something year-old lead guitarist Steve Staples.

Together the band creates a sound they describe as swamp funk. While I won’t argue with the idea of promoting a band based out of south Louisiana and New Orleans using those genre markers, but to my ears these guys play straight up funky rock ‘n’ roll.

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TVD Video Premiere: Future Cowboys, “Choose”

Jamie Bernstein wears many hats in the world of the arts. He is a singer-songwriter, an actor, and a record producer in New Orleans best known as an Americana artist who has recorded as J. the Savage and under his own name. With his new project, Future Cowboys, he veers off his well-trodden path. TVD is proud to present the world premiere of “Choose,” the first single from their debut record.

The track is a collaboration between Bernstein’s well-honed songwriting skills and the production work of Eren Cannata, an Emmy award-winning producer from Los Angeles. Miguel Oliveira, the owner of the production company Pantherburn Studios, is the mastermind behind the partnership between Bernstein and Cannata. They have created a fresh sound by adding modern production techniques to what is essentially singer-songwriter music.

The video was shot in the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans and in Metairie, Louisiana on June 18th, 2018. Bernstein enlisted local actor, director, and producer Armando Leduc to bring the song to life. Leduc recruited cameraman and lighting specialist Nick Pino and cast local burlesque dancer and actress Cherry Bombshell to play the female lead. Kyler Poche plays the male lead.

The full Future Cowboys’ recording will be released in October on vinyl, which is being pressed at the Crescent City’s new production facility, the New Orleans Record Press. The rest of the music can be previewed here.

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Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet, 1951–2018

Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet, the soulful New Orleans singer and occasional actor who was best known for his role as featured vocalist in the early days of the funk band Galactic, passed away on Sunday, July 15 at 66. He had been ill for some time and was in hospice care.

DeClouet was a singer with an emotion-laden, wide-ranging voice that could swoop to the heights like his mentor Johnny Adams, but was often likely to dig to the depths bringing out the socially conscious pathos in his original songs like “Ain’t No Yachts in the Ghetto” and “Pocket Change,” and covers like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” or Edwin Starr’s soul classic “War (What is it Good For?).”

In the 1980s he was a perennial performer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and appeared around town with bands like the Lyrics, the a capella band Hollygrove, and his R&B outfit, Theryl and Reel Life. By the early 1990s, he was also gigging with the percussionist Mike Ward and his band, Reward.

His association with Galactic began when the band was in its infancy and had yet to solidify into its longtime lineup of bassist Robert Mercurio, guitarist Jeff Raines, drummer Stanton Moore, keyboardist Rich Vogel, and saxophonist Ben Ellman. Members of the band have issued statements via Facebook attesting to DeClouet’s critical role as mentor and early vocalist for the group.

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Henry Butler,
An Appreciation

The first time I ever saw a performance by Henry Butler, the virtuoso New Orleans pianist and vocalist who passed away July 2 at 69, was shortly after he returned to his hometown of New Orleans after living in Los Angeles where he recorded two critically acclaimed modern jazz albums. Since that solo set on the quad at Tulane University in the late 1980s, I heard him play nearly 100 times as a headliner or as a special guest of a huge variety of musicians.

I didn’t know a thing about him early on, but it was clear from that first afternoon that New Orleans music lovers were dealing with not just a new face in town, but a new phase of a piano paradigm that extended back through James Booker and Professor Longhair all the way to Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

His prowess on the keys was akin to that of Snooks Eaglin on the guitar and caused a similar reaction from the crowd. Whether he was playing the blues, R&B, funk, or rock ‘n’ roll, his playing was simply awe-inspiring and confounding. Other musicians got up close to try to discern exactly how he was creating the storm of music emanating from his chosen instrument. The rest of us danced with our mouths hanging open. And when Butler opened his mouth to sing, the reaction was similar. He had a special voice and was able to sound like a blues shouter, an opera singer, or the bass vocalist in a gospel choir.

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Dr. Michael White’s Tricentennial Rag in stores today, 6/29

The New Orleans tricentennial has occasioned celebrations large and small across the city and the country. Surprisingly, there isn’t much new music being released to commemorate the historic occasion. So, Tricentennial Rag, the latest album from clarinetist, bandleader, and music historian Dr. Michael White is a welcome addition to both his voluminous output and the city’s festivities. After a local Jazz Fest release, the album is in stores today nationally on Basin Street Records.

All of the tunes on the new album are originals with the exception of the record’s closing song, the perennial favorite, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The chestnut is given a treatment that takes the song back to its origins as a hymn. Longtime White sideman, trumpeter and vocalist Gregory Stafford, takes the vocal and brings the song back to the ecstasy of the black church.

Elsewhere on the album, Stafford sings another gospel-inspired original, “I Saw Jesus Standing in the Water.” But don’t think for a second that the album is filled with sacred songs, Stafford also takes the lead vocal on a new addition to the short list of modern-day Carnival originals with his vivacious take on “On Mardi Gras Day.”

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TVD returns as Satchmo Summerfest sponsor, eight acts to make debut in 2018, 8/3–8/5

For the seventh year in a row, The Vinyl District will be a media sponsor for Satchmo Summerfest, the festival that pays tribute to the greatest musician to hail from New Orleans, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. The fest returns to its longtime home at the old U.S. Mint on Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street for the second year in a row after the ill-fated move to Jackson Square in 2016.

The biggest name of the list of artists playing Satchmo Summerfest for the first time belongs to the one and only Irma Thomas. The living legend has been an icon on the music scene both in New Orleans and across the world for decades. Though she didn’t write her most famous song, “Time Is On My Side,” she is quick to quip that she recorded it before those blokes across the pond, the Rolling Stones.

Thomas is the Grammy-winning Soul Queen of New Orleans, a recent Tulane University honorary doctorate recipient, and a member of the Blues Hall of Fame. She earned her Grammy, among several nominations, for her 2007 album After the Rain.

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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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