Author Archives: Jay Mazza

TVD Live Shots: Ed Volker’s Jolly House
at SideBar, 10/25

PHOTOS: DENNIS McDONOUGH | The Radiators’ keyboardist, singer and songwriter Ed Volker has long indulged in side projects going back to the early days of the Rads in the 1980s. His latest venture, a reconstituted version of Jolly House, played two sets on Friday at the SideBar, New Orleans’ newest, most intimate venue.

For this gig in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd, Volker left his keyboard at home and played the show with just his familiar percussion rig. Without a chordal instrument, bassist and Radiators’ bandmate Reggie Scanlan had his work cut out for him. Of course, he rose to the occasion while staying seated.

Saxophonist Joe Cabral and percussionist Michael Skinkus, longtime partners in Volker’s various solo projects had no problem filling out the sound as Volker presented some Radiators’ chestnuts including an old fan favorite, “Rainbow,” which segued into “Take Me to the River” along with his inimitable versions of classic blues and R&B tunes like Earl King’s “Trickbag.”

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Lakou Mizik’s HaitiaNola
in stores today, 10/25

Back in July, TVD highlighted “Iko Kreyòl,” the first single from the Haitian band, Lakou Mizik’s new album, which was partially recorded in New Orleans. The full album is out today on Cumbancha. The record features numerous New Orleans musicians including Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, and Jon Cleary.

Haiti and New Orleans are connected in myriad ways. After the 1791 slave revolt on the island then known as Santo Domingo, part of the vast diaspora immigrated to the Crescent City. The latest connection is represented by this great new album, which also features Régine Chassagne and Win Butler of the indie rock band, Arcade Fire.

Chassagne has Haitian roots, though the rock star couple currently lives in New Orleans. They helped develop the relationships between the local musicians and the Haitian ones. Chassagne and Butler have also started a carnival organization, Krewe du Kanaval, which celebrates the connections between Haiti and New Orleans and donates money to causes on the financially impoverished, yet cultural rich island nation.

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Album release party
for Dave Jordan’s Burning Sage at the Maple Leaf, 10/5

One of the hardest working musicians in New Orleans will be celebrating his fourth solo album at the Maple Leaf Bar on Saturday night. Dave Jordan is a veteran of the New Orleans music scene going back to his days playing bass with the jam band Juice in the 1990s.

Having reinvented himself as an acoustic guitar-playing, emotive singer/songwriter of heartache ballads, country-tinged Americana, and full-throated horn-driven rock, Jordan is fully entrenched in the music scene performing and recording with a wide range of local musicians.

The new album is co-produced by Jeff Watkins, the saxophonist for the New Orleans Suspects and a legend for his stint with James Brown. This album also represents the first time Jordan has recorded with some of the finest musicians of less vintage pedigree. He’s working with young players including drummer David Shirley of Sweet Crude and Cardinal Sons, guitarist Alex Mallet of Sam Price & True Believers, and Lynn Drury and vocalist Mikayla Braun of the Crooked Vines.

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Marc Stone celebrates the release of Live at Tipitina’s Thursday night at Tipitina’s, 10/3

Guitarist, bandleader, and singer/ songwriter Marc Stone has played at Tipitina’s many times over his long career. However, when he gets on stage on Thursday night to celebrate the release of Live at Tipitina’s, it will be the first time he has headlined the storied club. The album documents a solo performance opening for the Radiators.

As is fitting for a musician who wears many musical hats, the show will feature his regular band, bassist Noah Young, keyboardist Mikey “B3” Burkhart, and drummer Terry Scott Jr., plus numerous special guests.

Primary among the special guests is 1960s soul singer Marilyn Barbarin. Stone has engineered her career resurgence and created a new edition of the band she fronted, the legendary Eddie Bo’s funk and soul band the Soul Finders. Dubbed, the New Soul Finders!, the band includes guitarist Papa Mali and bassist Reggie Scanlan. As a special treat, the New Soul Finders! debut single, “The Truth (Is What I Wanna Know)” will be released before the show and the video will be recorded during the segment with the band.

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Greensky Bluegrass brings All For Money to the Joy Theater, 10/4

They are known as one of the best bluegrass bands in the land playing the instruments of that classic country sound—banjo, dobro, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass—to create a live sound, which is without peer on the close-knit circuit of Americana bands. Greensky Bluegrass brings its music to the Joy Theater on Friday night.

Taking cues from the Grateful Dead and other like-minded bands, Greensky, as everyone on the scene refers to them, never play the same set list twice. The band is also are known for playing covers of all different styles of music even veering into seemingly disparate genres like metal. The video below is a cover of a Dead song they played a couple of nights after the Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter passed away.

Their latest album, All For Money, was crafted with the live show in mind. Mandolin player Paul Hoffman says, “We have a motto where we want every show to be harder, better, longer and faster. With All For Money, I felt like we were serving the performance more by writing and arranging material in a way we would intend to play it on stage.”

The centerpiece of the new album is the nine-minute tour-de-force, “Courage for the Road.” “Without you around, maybe I could change,” the lyrics intone, “I need a little courage for the road.” It’s clearly a breakup song, but the music, complete with ripping leads, keeps the vibe positive while looking towards the future.

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John Medeski’s Mad Skillet brings “Invincible Bubble” and eponymous debut to the Republic tomorrow night, 10/1

Ever since the Medeski, Martin and Wood keyboard player’s supergroup featuring New Orleans’ own uber-sousaphonist Kirk Joseph and ace drummer Terence Higgins released their eponymous debut, local fans have been waiting to hear the group play the material live. We get the chance tomorrow night when the band, which also includes stellar guitarist Will Bernard, brings its eclectic sound to the Republic.

Mad Skillet came together like so many other cobbled together bands during the musical madhouse that is the after-hours shows at Jazz Fest. However, this one stuck due to the nearly telepathic interplay between the four members. Each brings unique skills to the equation, where the sum is certainly greater than the equal of its parts.

The connection between the two New York-based musicians and the two New Orleanians goes back to 1999 when Medeski, wearing one of his other hats, produced the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s album Buck Jump. While Joseph is a founding member of the Dozen, Higgins was one of several drummers who has played with the band over the years and is featured on Buck Jump.

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Bonerama teams with Michael McDonald for Allen Toussaint tribute, “Empty World”

The legendary singer Michael McDonald will be featured on a new song from the horn-driven rock band, Bonerama. The song, “Empty World,” is a tribute to the late great New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint and will be released on October 4 on Basin Street Records.

The lyrics reference a few of Toussaint’s songs, while painting a picture of the kind of person he was and expressing the sadness so many people feel, including the huge numbers of musicians that were influenced by his genius. The song also has an alternate meaning as a dedication to all of lost legends of New Orleans. Check out the promo video for a taste of the new song and pre-order now here.

Bonerama co-founder and songwriter Mark Mullins explains, “I was pretty much devastated when I heard the news of Allen’s passing. His influence on me as a musical hero, arranger, composer, producer is immeasurable.” Mullins penned “Empty World” on the very same day he learned of Toussaint’s passing.

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Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool screening set for the Zeitgeist Theatre, 9/16

World-renowned drummer Brian Blade and New York-based saxophonist Joel Frahm will join some of New Orleans’ finest musicians in a musical tribute to the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis on Monday night. A screening of the acclaimed new documentary, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool will follow the performance. The evening at Zeitgeist Theatre begins at 6:30 PM.

The band also features trumpeter Ashlin Parker, pianist Matt Lemmler, bassist Nathan Lambertson and other guest artists. They will pay homage to the late great trumpeter’s music by bringing to life the atmosphere and mood that made his music so distinctive.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is the latest effort from the award-winning Stanley Nelson who also directed The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. HIs latest work has been receiving rave reviews since it was released in August.

The film explores why Davis continues to be a relevant voice in today’s world. It features archival photos and home movies shot by Davis and his colleagues as well as his manuscripts and original paintings. It also includes interviews with a who’s who of famous musicians including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Carlos Santana, members of The Roots, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Zeitgeist Theatre is located at 6621 St. Claude Ave. in historic Arabi, Louisiana. Tickets are available here.

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Shake It from The New Mastersounds in stores tomorrow, 9/13

The New Mastersounds, the funk and groove band from Leeds, England with a deep affection for New Orleans music, will release their latest recording, Shake It, on Friday, September 13. The album will be available on vinyl as well as other formats on producer and guitarist Eddie Roberts’ label Color Red.

The new record is a departure from their well-known focus on slinky instrumental grooves. Shake It features a singer, Lamar Williams Jr., the son of late Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams, on most of the cuts. Williams brings a powerful presence to his tunes and gives longtime listeners fascinating insights into the band’s perspective through the lyrics.

The band also enlists a horn section featuring Mike Olmos on trumpet, a regular guest who has already appeared on albums such as Renewable Energy and Made For Pleasure, and New Orleans’ own Jason Mingledorff on saxophone and flute. The horns add a lot to the proceedings through compelling solos and strong section work.

While the additional musicians including Williams, Jr. freshen up the band’s signature sound, The New Mastersounds don’t leave fans of the old school jazzy soul in the lurch. The production opens up plenty of space for Eddie Roberts’ sterling guitar work and the punchy organ playing of Joe Tatton.

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The Motet brings
Death or Devotion to
Tipitina’s tonight, 9/5

The Motet, the Colorado-based funk and soul band with deep connections to the New Orleans funk and jam band scene, will return to New Orleans tonight for a show in the support of their latest release, Death or Devotion, at Tipitina’s.

Death or Devotion, which was released earlier this year, is the band’s eighth release and their first since 2016’s Totem.

Drummer Dave Watts formed the Motet in 1998. Though they have experienced some turnover of membership over the years, the band sticks to a musical vision that encompasses funk, soul, and R&B.

The last time I saw them in New Orleans was at a celebration for the seventh anniversary of NOLA Brewing back in March 2016. It was the band’s first time in New Orleans with the new members and they were positively on fire at an outdoor set. One of the highlights was two separate guest appearances by Meters’ guitarist Leo Nocentelli over the course of their long show.

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TVD Live Shots: Satchmo Summerfest, 8/2–8/4

PHOTOS: ARMAND DOUROUX | Rain is always in the forecast during the summer in New Orleans, but the music at the nineteenth annual Satchmo Summerfest went off without a hitch on Friday, August 2. The same couldn’t be said for Saturday. The heavens opened up with severe thunder and lightening towards the end of the set by the New Orleans Classic Big Band forcing the staff to cut the music during the performance by the Doyle Cooper Jazz Band.

On Friday, Cyril Neville (pictured at top) put on a dazzling performance with the young musicians in his son Omari’s band, the Fuel. Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers were their own ebullient selves, led by the singer and trumpeter. His pianist, Yoshitaka “Z2” Tsuji, almost stole the show with his fluid, high-energy solos.

Cooper’s trombonist, Miles Lyons, did double duty performing with The Classic Big Band as well as in the shortened set on Saturday. Joining trumpeter and singer Cooper was saxophonist Oliver Bonie (all pictured below).

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Satchmo Summerfest Weekend Picks, 8/3–8/4

PHOTO: PHILIP DUCAP | The Satchmo Summerfest continually innovates by bringing new talent and new band combinations under the big tent that represents the legacy of the great Louis Armstrong. This weekend is no exception with numerous debut performances and a very special set by a new big band set to celebrate the occasion. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

At 12 noon on Saturday the New Orleans Classic Big Band will make its Satchmo SummerFest debut. The group was assembled for the explicit purpose of playing the big band arrangements of the greats from the big band era. They will play arrangements of songs that Louis Armstrong developed for his orchestra in the 1930s.

Trumpeter and vocalist James Williams (pictured at top), an uncanny Armstrong impressionist best known for fronting the traditional jazz band the Swamp Donkeys, will lead the band, which features a bunch of New Orleans a-list musicians. Ricky Ricardi, the curator of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, NY will act as MC and provide context for some of the arrangements that are being performed live for the first time.

The Doyle Cooper Jazz Band follows the big band. Cooper is a trumpeter and vocalist who recently participated in a tribute to the late, great Al Hirt at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He is a music lifer who first appeared in public as a pre-teen and has matriculated through the New Orleans jazz music pipeline.

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Satchmo Summerfest Picks for Friday, 8/2

The Vinyl District is a media sponsor of Satchmo SummerFest for the ninth year in a row. We are proud to support local music. The festival takes place this weekend at the old U.S. Mint at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street. Here are our picks for Friday. The full schedule is here.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has a new album out that is tearing up the charts. It’s called Tuba to Cuba and it features music the band was inspired to create after visiting and collaborating with musicians on that most musical island. Today, Preservation Brass appears. This is a brass band version of the stage band.

DinosAurchestra is a relatively new traditional jazz band on the scene. However, fans of the genre will certainly recognize some of the members as they hail from some of the best bands in town. Expect to see trumpeter and leader Reid Poole, drummer Simon Lott, Miles Lyons on trombone, and bassist Nathan Lambertson among others.

The last two acts of the day will both be on fire. Cyril Neville (pictured at top) and his family just paid their final respects to the eldest Neville brother, keyboardist, singer, songwriter and all around hip cat Art Neville. Cyril will be appearing making his Satchmo fest debut with his son Omari’s band, The Fuel.

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TVD Premiere: Neal Francis, “This Time”

TVD is proud to premiere the new single from Chicago based rock and soul musician Neal Francis. The song, “This Time,” appears on Francis’ upcoming full-length album, Changes, which arrives in stores on September 20th on Karma Chief Records, a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records.

Francis is a piano player steeped in the history and music of New Orleans. His work has been compared to that of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell with a healthy dose of Dr. John and other artists from the funk and soul scene back in the day.

A piano prodigy, Francis, who was born Neal Francis O’Hara, broke out as an eighteen-year-old touring Europe with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists. In 2012, Francis joined popular instrumental funk band, The Heard. Before long, with Francis calling the shots, The Heard became a national act, touring with Meters’ progeny, the New Mastersounds and New Orleans’ own the Revivalists with appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other major festivals.

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Art Neville,
An Appreciation

When keyboardist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader Art Neville passed away on Monday, July 22 at the age of 81, another connection to the glory days of the 1950s R&B scene in New Orleans, as well as to the seminal gestation period of New Orleans funk, joined the greats in the musical hall of fame that is our collective memories.

I never had a chance to see the Meters in their original incarnation, but the band he led beginning with the definitive instrumental “Cissy Strut” in 1968 is arguably his most influential contribution to American music. However, I did see nearly every performance after the band got together again in the early years of the 21st century.

I also saw Neville in various configurations with one or more of the original members and as a guest performer with many of the musicians that are his musical progeny. But it his early performances with the Neville Brothers band, still in their adolescence as a group and long before their march to international fame that are seared into my brain.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Up Front and Center: New Orleans Music at the End of the 20th Century, which sums up the experience of seeing the Neville Brothers in the sweaty confines of the un air-conditioned first incarnation of Tipitina’s with a special shout out to my editor Alice Horowitz for insisting that I try to put those ineffable experiences into words.

“The music of the Neville Brothers was fresh and novel to many of their listeners. Though they were clearly not the Meters—the vocal harmonies were far beyond what that band was capable of—and despite the presence of Charles Neville and his saxophone, they were not a jazz band either. They played funk derived from the seminal sounds of the Meters, but they also rocked. Screaming electric guitar, not the syncopated rhythm work of Leo Nocentelli in the early Meters, was part of their instrumentation from day one.

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