DownBeat magazine called Harold López-Nussa, “the latest in a line of extraordinary keyboardists to emerge from Cuba,” and compared his playing to the work of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. He plays the Mid City fine listening establishment Friday night with his trio.
As the relationship between Cuba and the United States gradually opens up, we should be seeing more performers from the musically sophisticated island. López-Nussa will be appearing with his trio featuring his younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion and Senegalese bassist and vocalist Alune Wade.
Significantly, the conservatory-trained pianist is the first Cuba-based musician (he has dual citizenship in both Cuba and France) to release an album internationally since the lifting of many of the restrictions associated with the longstanding trade embargo.
The organizers have moved the annual event up on the calendar in order to take advantage of better weather. They have also continued the tradition of hiring stellar musicians who are connected to the Maple Leaf Bar. Here are some of the highlights.
Since food is really the main driver of people to the Po-Boy Fest, the music starts earlier than most other festivals. Darcy Malone and the Tangle kick off the festivities at 10:15 AM inside the Maple Leaf Bar. I suspect this is the earliest a band has ever graced the historic stage. The Leaf will take a break from music to show the Saints game on the big screen beginning at noon.
Pint Alley, the smaller stage located at Leonidas and Willow streets, gets going at 10:30 AM with the 101 Runners Mardi Gras Indian band. This group features an all-star band led by percussionist Chris Jones and fronted by Big Chief Juan Pardo.
Trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom wears many musical hats. Since mid-July he has been touring with the funk power aggregate Lettuce. The group is on its “Sounds Like A Party” tour and will be playing dates through the end of the year. They did two killer sets at the Bear Creek Bayou fest at the end of September.
But with a few days off, Bloom has booked two shows in New Orleans to keep his chops fresh and explore different styles of music He plays tonight at the Mid City fine listening establishment. For fans of Lettuce, this is going to be a different kind of show. Bloom promises to play “grown up music,” which translates to modern jazz.
His group, the Melodies, features three players steeped in the jazz idiom. Pianist David Torkanowsky is a local legend. For over three decades he has been putting his musical stamp on wide range of sounds. Most recently he has been playing a regular jazz gig with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore at Snug Harbor. But he is versed in every style of music. I remember him playing funk with members of the Meters back in the day.
Saturday night is the anniversary of the birth of the legendary Nigerian singer, bandleader, saxophonist, and African social resistance icon, Fela Kuti. Gov’t Majik, “The Dirty South Afro-beat Arkestra,” will be headlining the annual party at the Blue Nile, known as FELAbration! Ghana-born percussionist Weedie Braimah is also on the bill with his musical friends.
Like his Jamaican compatriot, Bob Marley, Fela changed the face of music. He is the inventor of Afrobeat—a style of music that combines traditional Nigerian music with soul and funk influences from the United States. His music and life have been celebrated throughout the world most recently on Broadway with the acclaimed musical FELA!
Gov’t Majik features some of my favorite musicians from a variety of genres. If you haven’t seen this band, Saturday is the night to see them since they will be at full strength and highly motivated as they celebrate the life and music of one of their heroes.
1-800-WOLF! Is latest recording from a band that almost didn’t exist. The group, which features guitarist Scott Metzger, bassist John Shaw, and drummer Taylor Floreth, is a jazz trio of sorts. They play instrumental music, but it is hardly jazz in usual sense of the word.
The band got their start when a singer (who is not to be named) failed to show up for a gig in Brooklyn, New York. The musicians, who never actually considered themselves a band, soldiered on and improvised a set of music on the spot.
The result was a new band that is as fascinating as their unlikely origins. The music veers around widely among genres while keeping a sideman ethic among the members who all broke into the competitive scene in New York backing up other artists.
Though Metzger is the ostensible leader as the guitarist in a trio, their goal is to play without ego while honing their interpersonal musical telepathy. The result is a collection of songs that emphasize texture and atmosphere. The spaces in between the notes are as important as the notes themselves.
The name of the group is also the name of the god of inspiration in the mythology of the ancient African kingdom of Dahomey. But more importantly for jazz lovers, it’s a collaboration between bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and drummer Eric Harland. Look for it on Friday in physical form including vinyl while an exclusive stream is available on Apple music between now and then.
The four players are among the most insightful and influential voices in modern jazz and their experience spans decades. Holland is the veteran of the group. He will be honored as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master next year. His deep resume includes performances and recordings with household names such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Bonnie Raitt.
The other three musicians are younger with growing reputations. Potter and Harland are two of the most in-demand musicians of their generation and both have performed with a staggering array of artists.
Pianist/composer Orrin Evans’ latest release is a guitar-saturated exploration of his original tunes and choice covers. The core band on the release is Luques Curtis on bass and Mark Whitfield, Jr. on drums with key contributions from guitarists Kevin Eubanks and Kurt Rosenwinkel as well as reedist Caleb Curtis and effervescent vocalist M’Balia. The album was recorded live in the studio giving it a sense of immediacy.
Each guitarist has a very distinctive sound and though they only appear together on one cut, the moody “Heavy Hangs the Head That Wears the Crown,” they provide an adhesive feeling that holds the album together as a distinct piece. Caleb Curtis’ saxophone and flute work make him someone to keep an eye on in the future as does the up-and-comer Whitfield—the son of the great jazz guitarist, Mark Whitfield.
Though M’Balia only appears on two cuts, they both demonstrate her strengths as an interpreter and improviser. The David Bowie classic, “Kooks” is powerful. The singer escalates the repeating vocal lines of the tune altering them ever so slightly on each pass. The intensity of Rosenwinkel’s guitar and Evans’ piano drives the tune as Curtis plays the basic melody line on his bass. By the end of the song, she takes it into places even Bowie may not have imagined.
PHOTOS: JOSEPH CRACHIOLA PHOTOGRAPHY | Bear Creek left its home in Florida after eight years and set up on the banks of the mighty Mississippi for two days and nights of funk and soul at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. TVD was there to document all the music.
One of the bands I was most excited to see was Soulive since they rarely play in New Orleans outside of the Jazz Fest period. They brought the goods with a stellar instrumental version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Guitarist Eric Krasno, pictured at top and below, stretched the world-famous melody into funky taffy. Drummer Alan Evans (pictured below) and his brother, keyboardist Neal, were locked in tight.
Bear Creek has built a reputation as a festival that encourages jams and they have at-large artists roaming about to facilitate collaboration. Bassist and vocalist George Porter, Jr. and keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall joined Soulive for some spirited interplay, particularly when Porter, Jr. took over the mike for a rollicking version of “Turn on Your Lovelight.”
The music and festivities get started at 11 AM on Saturday morning and continue all day and well into the night. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Here are our picks for the day. The full schedule is here.
I love when festival organizers book up-and-coming bands. Though I haven’t heard Doombalaya, I love their name and given the track record of this fest, I expect they will impress. They hit at 12 noon after a breakfast set from Mardi Gras Indian funkateers, Cha Wa.
Of course, since Doombalaya is up against Zigaboo’s Funk Revue it may be hard to skip one of the originators of New Orleans funk. However, Zig will be reprising his Friday evening set with Foundation of Funk at 3 PM on Saturday, so there’s another chance to hear the drummer from the original Meters.
Florida’s loss is the Crescent City’s gain. After nearly a decade in the Sunshine state, the Bear Creek music festival is moving to New Orleans. Taking advantage of the now well-proven site on the river at Mardi Gras World, the fest is reinvigorating its highly respected brand with two great days and nights of music. Here’s a look at our picks for Friday, September 30. The full lineup is here.
The gates open at 10 AM and the fest kicks off at 11 AM with the duel guitar, multi-percussionist, all-star African-inspired group, Pirate’s Choice. I just saw the band last weekend and was blown away again by Sam Dickey’s scintillating lines and percussionists Luke Quaranta and Weedie Brahmin’s perfectly synced rhythm section. It should be interesting seeing this band before noon.
Four New Orleans funk ensembles kick off at 4PM on alternate stages (with a small amount of overlap) before the main event. Soulive burst on the scene with a post-modern take on the organ trio almost fifteen years ago. Guitarist Eric Krasno, who recently produced and co-wrote Aaron Neville’s latest album, tears it up with drummer Alan Evans and keyboardist Neal Evans. The group rarely plays New Orleans outside of Jazz Fest season, so this is an event for soul jazz lovers. They are also playing tonight (Thursday, September 29) at the official pre-party at the Joy Theater.