Category Archives: TVD New Orleans

The Danny Barker Banjo
and Guitar Fest kicks off today, 1/14

Danny-Barker

The second annual festival to honor the great and influential jazz musician, Danny Barker, born yesterday, January 13 in 1909, will be presenting performances and other events at several venues around the city culminating in a show at the Carver Theater Saturday night. Snug Harbor is the place to be Thursday night for the first performance.

Danny’s Birthday Bash will feature musicians who trained directly under Barker’s tutelage when they were youngsters. The New Orleans native returned to the city in 1965 after a long and successful career in New York and began reviving brass band music.

Expect to see trumpeter Gregg Stafford, drummer Shannon Powell, and trombonist Lucien Barbarin among other musicians with special guests guitarist Steve Masakowski (the proud owner of one of Barker’s guitars) and banjoist and guitarist Don Vappie. Performances are at 8 and 10 PM.

There are clinics, panel discussions, a parade and lots more performances at various venues around town. The full schedule is here.

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SongDogs reunite at the Maple Leaf Bar, 1/9

PHOTOS: SPIKE PERKINS | It’s extremely rare for a band to get back together after a 25-year absence. But that’s exactly what happened on a Monday night last month. And it’s happening again Saturday night at the Maple Leaf Bar.

The SongDogs were a sensation in New Orleans for three years in the late 1980s. Seven seasoned local musicians formed a super group of sorts whose intent was to honor the songs each had written while keeping the dance floor hopping.

With the vivacious Alison Young out front on lead vocals and keyboardist Lisa Mednick singing back up, the group carved out a niche in a crowded musical marketplace and created a stir that roused national interest. The twin guitar attack of Bruce McDonald (pictured at top) and Red Priest kept even the hardest rockers interested in the band’s compelling sound. Drummer Paul Santopadre, bassist Paul Clement, and violinist/vocalist Tom Marron rounded out the group.

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The Ninth Ward invades Mid-City this weekend

Family Fish Productions has a fabulous lineup for Friday and Saturday nights, January 8-9, 2016. Four of the Ninth Ward’s most prominent musical acts will be invading Mid-City for a two-night stand at Chickie Wah Wah, the fine listening establishment on Canal Street.

Friday night begins at 9 PM with cellist Helen Gillet and her spectacular solo show, which features her compelling vocals in both French and English as she uses pedals and loops to create an emotive full band soundscape.

The Happy Talk Band, playing an acoustic show, headlines the evening.

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Carnival season in
New Orleans kicks
off tonight!

Hot on the heels of the holiday season comes Carnival season in New Orleans. This year will be a very short one as Mardi Gras is on February 9—barely over a month between the auspicious beginning on Twelfth Night (January 6), also known as King’s Day and the Feast of the Epiphany, and the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Though rooted in the Catholic calendar, our celebrations are more secular. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of 40 days (not counting Sundays) of fasting and penance before the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

My favorite way to begin the season is to head over the streetcar barn on Willow Street just off of Carrollton Avenue and watch the Phunny Phorty Phellows load up a streetcar and take off towards St. Charles Avenue. The Storyville Stompers Brass Band always provides the musical merriment to the maskers of the PPP.

The group is a revival of a much older 19th century organization, which came back into existence in 1981. They choose their king based on an old tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. He is known as “the boss.” Their motto is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”

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Calvin Johnson brings the Winter Wonder Jam to the Trinity Episcopal Church on 12/20

PHOTOS: HOWARD LAMBERT | The Trinity Artist Series at Trinity Episcopal Church is one of the great weekly events that happen in New Orleans. For years, they have brought in world-class talent for free concerts on Sunday evenings. This week is extra special as saxophonist Calvin Johnson, one of the leading lights of the next generation of New Orleans musicians, is pulling out all the stops with a great production.

Johnson has put together an impressive Christmas program, which will be augmented by two very special guests—trombonist and vocalist Glen David Andrews and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The show will feature ten musicians including a string section. It benefits Habitat for Humanity and will be broadcast on WWOZ, 90.7 FM.

30-year old Calvin Johnson, Jr. comes from another illustrious musical family in New Orleans. His grandfather George Augustus “Son” Johnson led Works Progress Administration bands during the Great Depression and taught at the famed Grumswald School of Music. Four of his uncles are well-known musicians as well.

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TVD Recommends: Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s Birthday Bash at the Maple Leaf Bar, 12/19

Saturday night, the Maple Leaf Bar will be filled with musical stars and fans as the legendary guitarist and vocalist Walter “Wolfman” Washington turns 72. Expect numerous special guests including bassist George Porter Jr., guitarist Leo Nocentelli, saxophonist Roger Lewis (Dirty Dozen Brass Band), and keyboardist and Washington’s longtime musical partner Joe Krown, in addition to his ace band, the Roadmasters.

Music writers including myself bandy around the term “legendary” far too often. But in the case of Walter “Wolfman” Washington, nothing could be further from the truth. Washington’s career began when he was a youngster backing some of the biggest names to emerge from New Orleans during the 1950s R&B heyday. Particularly significant is his long tenure leading the band of the great vocalist Johnny Adams.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Adams played at numerous back ‘o’ town clubs including Dorothy’s Medallion, a storied venue where sets didn’t start until after midnight and lasted until after dawn.

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Leo’s Back!

There are only a handful of musicians who are known by a single name. Leo Nocentelli is one of them. The famed guitarist and founding member of the seminal funk band, the Meters, has moved back to New Orleans after living in California for 33 years. This Thursday night, December 17, a veritable who’s who of New Orleans music will welcome him home at Tipitina’s.

Nocentelli burst into the public consciousness with a series of groundbreaking recordings in the late 1960s and early 1970s which scorched all previous conceptions of guitar playing. Known primarily for his sparse, fiery licks on tunes like “Cissy Strut” and “Chicken Strut,” he pioneered funk rhythm guitar.

Then over the course of the next decade or so, he transformed himself into a strutting lead guitar superhero with a new mode of attack—blistering runs up and down the neck at breakneck speed. His crisp, taut lines inspired a new wave of funk musicians all aspiring to rip it up like Leo.

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TVD Recommends: Muevelo at the Latin Jazz Fest, 12/11

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PHOTOS: SCOTT MYERS | There’s a new band in town packed with familiar faces and they intend to get the dance floor moving when they open the 5th annual Latin Jazz Festival at the People’s Health Jazz Market on Friday night. The fest goes all night, but I advise getting there early since Muevelo kicks off at 7 PM.

The band features vocalist Margie Perez singing songs from the great Cuban singer and Queen of salsa Celia Cruz’s songbook, including tunes she performed with Tito Puente. Perez formed the band with saxophonist Brent Rose and the group includes some of the best Latin players in New Orleans.

You can’t have a great Latin band without great percussion, and this group is going back to the source with Alexey Marti on congas. He hails from the island nation and is in New Orleans studying at the University of New Orleans. Venezuelan native Gabriel Velasco is on timbales.

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Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling to record and perform in New Orleans

The next four nights represent something of a coup for Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro. Always considered the prime venue for jazz in the city, the Frenchmen Street club will play host for the next four nights to two of the most prominent names in jazz. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis will play Thursday through Sunday (12/10-13) with his world-class quartet along with premiere vocalist Kurt Elling in preparation for recording a new album next week.

The name Marsalis is synonymous with jazz in New Orleans. Yet, pianist Ellis Marsalis’s two eldest sons, Branford and trumpeter Wynton, rarely headline gigs in their hometown. A variety of factors explain this including scheduling, but suffice it to say that this engagement is a historic homecoming.

What makes it even more special is Marsalis is bringing his band, which features pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner. Calderazzo and Revis are highly in demand in their own careers. Their rapport with Marsalis has been honed over many years of playing together. Faulkner is a relative newcomer who has been delighting audiences with his captivating presence and powerful soloing.

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TVD Recommends:
Sam Baker at Chickie Wah Wah, 12/9

Leave it to the impeccable musical tastes of the folks at Chickie Wah Wah and Family Fish Productions to bring another hard-to-categorize musical gem to the fine listening establishment on Canal Street since Austin-based Sam Baker has mostly flown under the radar of other booking agents in New Orleans. He makes an appearance at the intimate club on Wednesday night (12/9).

Though other musical poets have blamed/claimed demons that vex and/or inspire them, Baker’s entre into the world of professional music came via external forces far from home. The upstate New York native was traveling to Machu Picchu in Peru when a bomb placed by terrorists exploded in the bus he was aboard. It killed seven other passengers and forced the then-amateur musician to reinvent himself.

He had to relearn everything including playing guitar, which he was forced to play left-handed because of injuries to his fingers. His first album came out a place of anger, but since then he has traveled within himself to find a place of grace.

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