Following his highly successful Ella Fitzgerald Tribute in January, producer and musician Graham Hawthorne returns to the stage of Chickie Wah Wah with a celebration of the life of the one and only funk and soul superstar, Prince.
The High Standards Orchestra will perform the music for this special show. Originally conceived, organized, and led by Hawthorne as the Harlem Speakeasy Orchestra, the band became an underground sensation in New York City by bringing the great American songbook to life in a fresh and exciting way. Hawthorne is now a resident of New Orleans.
For this show, Hawthorne will present the music of Prince in a unique way using big band arrangements. Expect to hear many of his hits as well as other tunes inspired by the legendary musician.
Festival season continues in New Orleans with the 11th iteration of the Mid City Bayou Boogaloo. Conceived as a way to help the neighborhood recover, which was devastated in the floods following the federal levee failures after Hurricane Katrina, the event is now an eagerly awaited addition to the live music calendar in New Orleans. The full schedule is here.
This year, thanks to a major grant, the festival welcomes some serious heavy hitters in addition to the local bands which are its mainstay. Friday evening culminates with a performance by the legendary reggae band, the Wailers and Saturday concludes with a performance by the Lowrider Band—the founders of the great funk and soul band, War. Local favorite and R&B legend Irma Thomas is also on the bill.
Friday kicks off at 5 PM with a performance by The Quickening. The guitarist Blake Quick leads the band. They play originals and covers with a deft touch hinting at jam band favorites amid New Orleans funk grooves. The band will feature veteran pedal steel player Dave Easley. He led a Grateful Dead cover band, the Heartifacts, back in the day and always adds a great touch to the proceedings.
The Mid-City Bayou Boogoloo takes place this weekend on the scenic banks of Bayou St. John. Chickie Wah Wah, the fine listening establishment on Canal Street in Mid-City, welcomes the return of the Bayou Boogaloo to the neighborhood with three nights of fantastic music presented by Family Fish Productions.
The weekend begins on Thursday, May 19 with a double bill of Chickie Wah Wah regulars. Cellist Helen Gillet opens the evening at 8:30 PM with a solo set featuring her captivating vocals, virtuoso cello work, and her innovative use of loops and pedals to create a unique soundscape. Vibraphonist Mike Dillon follows with his intense vibraphone/ percussion work and jazz-punk musical stylings at 10 PM. He will be joined by several of his musical friends and special guests are expected.
Friday, May 2, vocalist Erica Falls returns to the intimate club with her band led by bassist Donald Ramsey. Falls has one of the most powerful voices the city of New Orleans has ever seen. She is an in-demand studio singer and solo artist and tours with funk band Galactic as their featured vocalist. Her performance begins at 9 PM.
The Louisiana Music Factory was hopping all during the 10-day stretch of Jazz Fest. I caught several acts including a packed house for Anders Osborne. He played acoustic with support from Eric McFadden on mandolin. Now that the fest is in our rearview mirrors, everybody’s favorite record store gets back to presenting live music on Saturdays.
This week’s offerings include Jamie Bernstein at 2 PM followed by Darcy Malone and The Tangle and Cole Williams at 3 and 4 PM respectively.
Of the three acts, I am most interested in hearing the Tangle as I have not heard the current lineup yet. Rick G. Nelson, a musical savant who has worked with the Afghan Whigs, Polyphonic Spree, and numerous other bands in the past, produced their new album, Still Life. The band’s name is quite literal since their sound is difficult to pin down. From their many influences come a “tangle of genres.”
PHOTOS: EDDY GUTIERREZ | The weather gods can be fickle when it comes to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell. Last weekend’s three perfect days gave way to sporadic showers on Thursday, a mud fest on Friday, gale strength winds and rain coupled with intense flooding on Saturday, and a full day of light rain on Sunday. The festival was shut down early for the second year in a row on Saturday causing the cancellation of five of the biggest names on the bill spanning every genre. TVD was out there every day. Here are some of the highlights.
If Prince’s death set a tone for the first weekend, it was last fall’s sudden departure of New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint influencing the proceedings during the second weekend. Elvis Costello (pictured at top and below) played some choice cuts from his early career before focusing the second half of his set on the work he did with Toussaint in the years after Hurricane Katrina. He brought out the horn players from the duo’s tours and played songs off The River in Reverse, the album they made together when the floodwaters had barely receded.
Costello still seemed emotionally invested in their relationship, telling stories about their time together that had the audience laughing. His crack band was equally as committed, revisiting the songs with intensity and focus.
Saturday may be the biggest day in the history of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell. Every stage is overflowing with talent particularly in the headlining slots at the biggest stages where Stevie Wonder (pictured at top), Beck, Snoop Dogg, Arturo Sandoval, and Buddy Guy vie for the attention of festers. Here are our Saturday picks. The full Saturday schedule is here.
Guitarist and bandleader Deacon John is a legend in these parts—a man who has weathered every change in the music business since the 1950s. He must also be an early riser as he is opening the Acura stage at 11:30 AM. This might be puzzling given his stature except for the fact that he was scheduled at 11 AM at the French Quarter Fest three weeks ago.
Putting Sweet Crude, Louisiana’s favorite (only?) percussion-heavy, francophone indie rock band on the same stage as Beck is pure genius. I love the joie de vivre this band exhibits when they play and I hope Beck is in the wings checking them out.
I am seriously torn about the options in the third time slot around 1:40 PM. Jon Batiste, the bandleader who replaced the irreplaceable Paul Shaffer, along with his band Stay Human, is opposite the Midnite Disturbers, a brass band super group. I have watched Batiste mature since his first Jazz Fest appearance and I have seen every Disturbers show (as far as I know they only play at Jazz Fest). I guess the decision will have to be made at the time.
Get out your energy drinks, carbo load, eat a good breakfast and do whatever it takes to fortify your body and spirit because the four consecutive days of the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Festival presented by Shell are not for the faint of heart. Here are our picks for day two (or five if you’re in it for the duration). The full schedule is here.
Big Chief “Little” Charles Taylor (photo below by Skip Bolen) is one of the most respected Mardi Gras Indians in the tight-knit community. Known for his elaborate, three dimensional suits in the downtown style and his unmistakable vocals, he kicks off the Jazz and Heritage stage with his tribe, theWhite Cloud Hunters at 11:15 AM. Be sure to see an Indian every day at the Jazz Fest!
Last year, Tony Hall’s New Orleans Soul Stars were playing when the first of several massive waves of rain and wind hit the Fairgrounds prior to organizers eventually shutting the whole thing down. They persevered in the face of some of the worst weather I have ever seen at Jazz Fest. Here’s hoping the day is pretty when they reprise their tribute to James Brown.
Longtime festers used to call the Thursday that kicks off the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell “Slacker’s Day.” With the lineup this year, we can put that moniker to rest. The day is as impressive as any of the seven. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.
Guitarist Spencer Bohren is a beloved folk and blues troubadour known across the globe for his encyclopedic knowledge of roots music. He appears at 12 noon with a band, the Whippersnappers, which features his son Andre on drums as well as some other relative youngsters—bassist Dave Pomerleau, keyboardist Casey McAllister, guitarist Alex McMurray, and saxophonist Aurora Nealand.
At 1:50 PM, one of the hardest working musicians in New Orleans, singer/songwriter Dave Jordan is making his first fest appearance since his much-beloved funk band Juice appeared in 2000 and 2001. Jordan and his current outfit, the Neighborhood Improvement Association, just released a new album of scintillating compositions. They will also be appearing at Rosy’s Jazz Hall on a triple bill of three of New Orleans’ best local, original roots rock bands on Saturday, April 30. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Honey Island Swamp Band are also on the bill. Go see local music during Jazz Fest!
PHOTOS: EDDY GUTIERREZ | The first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell began with a slight threat of rain and thunderstorms for Friday afternoon. None materialized and festers celebrated the annual event for three full days with picture-perfect, springtime-in-New Orleans weather. There were highlights galore. Here are some of the most exciting moments to my ears.
On Friday, Janelle Monae (pictured at top) dedicated her whole set to Prince, the music icon who unexpectedly passed away a day earlier. He was an early supporter of her soulful, funky style, a mentor and collaborator. Her passion and pain were evident throughout a triumphant set that saw her cover James Brown, the Jackson Five, and of course, Prince amid sometimes scorching versions of her own vibrant compositions.
Tributes to Prince came from some expected and unexpected places over the course of the weekend. A sky writer wrote “Prince 1999” and the glyph that replaced his name during a protracted contract battle with his label in the clear blue sky. Some of his fans were blatant about it including J Cole (pictured above). Others were more subtle acknowledging his role without overtly performing his music.
Since streamlining their act from a trio to a duo, trombonist/ vocalist/ loop artist Carly Meyers and drummer/ loop artist/ programmer Adam Gertner, who record and perform as ROAR!, have been busy in the studio creating their newest phantasmagoric production. We’re pleased to premiere their latest video.
The learning curve has been steep for the musicians. Gertner started programming keyboards, bass, and percussion loops into his sampler and then learned how to play live drums while queuing all the samples. The duo decided to split the bass playing responsibilities, so Meyers learned how to play MOOG Taurus bass pedals while playing trombone.
They have created a fun musical playground where Meyers switches back and forth between vocals, trombone, marimba, and pedals while fronting the band. Gertner wails on the drums while manipulating his effects. The video was recorded live in the studio to give fans, curious music lovers, and future fans of the live show a peek at what they do on stage every night.