Twenty years ago the Squirrel Nut Zippers were an international sensation. The band, which many had initially considered a novelty act playing retro lounge music, sold over 1.3 million copies of their second album Hot on the strength of the single “Hell.” The band is back on the road and will celebrate the reissue of the landmark album Saturday night at Tipitina’s.
The newly remastered version of Hot, along with a bonus track “The Puffer,” is in stores today on Hollywood Records. The album, long out of print on record, makes its glorious return to wax on 180-gram vinyl.
While their debut album, The Inevitable was critically lauded in some circles, times were different in the summer of 1996. While the neo-trad movement had taken hold in New Orleans—I have argued led by Kermit Ruffins’ solo career and a swing revival said to be underway nationally—the widespread movement away from electric instruments towards acoustic guitars, horn sections, fiddles, and old timey roots music was still in the future.
Bassist Albey Balgochian describes his new project, Bassonic, as a “thrilling mix of funk, spoken word, and improvised music.” The world-renowned bassist recently relocated to New Orleans after years in New York City where he worked with legendary pianist and avant-garde master Cecil Taylor among numerous others.
The concept of the new band is a perfect fit for the fine listening environment of Chickie Wah Wah. Spoken word artist Jane Grenier recites her work over percolating improvised funk rhythms courtesy of bassist Reggie Scanlan (the New Orleans Suspects, the Radiators) and drummer Raymond Weber (Dumpstaphunk, Charmaine Neville). Balgochian improvises bass lines, lead parts, and bowed sections in counterpoint to Grenier’s words on both electric and acoustic basses.
Balgochian elaborated on the concept, “I love to play blues and funk on the electric (bass), I also love playing improvised music. (But), I want to do it in way that keeps it grounded, ultimately I want to put it in a context that people dig.” In other words, this is dance music for your head, or head music for your feet.
The ever-adventurous eight-string guitarist’s eighteenth album as a leader appears in record stores today on GroundUP Music/Verve. It features three musicians who have appeared with Hunter over the years—trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, drummer Bobby Previte, and cornetist Kirk Knuffke.
The whimsical title is a quote from boxer Mike Tyson and it sums up part of Hunter’s philosophy about the reality of trying to make a living playing music in these changing times for the music business. Ironically, the album appears on a major label affording a chance for Hunter’s music to be heard by a considerably larger audience.
It was recorded live in the studio and is an exploration of the blues and R&B in a way only Hunter and his partners could accomplish. This is some of Hunter’s most accessible music for audiences less attuned to modern jazz. Hunter said,” The concept was to play and not think of it as jazz, but an improvisation of the blues and R&B. This is not from a jazz harmonic place, but straight blues and R&B improvising.”
PHOTO: PETER DERVIN | On Friday night, Chickie Wah Wah continues its summer-long trend of presenting new and interesting music to open-minded fans who are not hobbled by genre restrictions. The opening act is two guitarists, New Orleans’ own Jimmy Robinson and Lily Kiara, an eclectic Dutch performer, performing solo and as a duo. The headliner, Nikki Hill (pictured) is a singer originally from North Carolina who currently resides in New Orleans.
More specifically, Nikki Hill is a soul singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band and has been touring with an explosive high-energy live show showcasing her raw voice filled with the passion and dynamics of the greatest blues shouters of the past.
She released her self-titled debut in 2012. Her sophomore effort, Here’s Nikki Hill followed in 2013. This past year saw the release of Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists. While her recordings are substantial, it is her memorable live performances that have had clubs calling her “the Southern Fireball,” “the New Soul Sensation,” and “the new Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
For fans of innovative takes on traditional jazz sounds and instrumentation, the Spotted Cat has been the place to be for several years. This Thursday night, one of the city’s finest young singers celebrates the release of her fourth album with a free show from 6-10 PM.
Many people know Miss Sophie Lee in her role as one of the three restaurateurs behind the successful Frenchmen Street nightspot, Three Muses. Her singing career has taken off in tandem with her businesses, which also include an uptown location of Three Muses, opening soon, and Seoul Shack, which will feature Korean/Soul food and live music.
Traverse this Universe takes her music into a fresh direction from her traditional jazz roots. It features the cream of the crop of downtown musicians and reaches musically towards other genres including reggae, salsa, and swing.
Even though TVD was on vacation last week, the music never stopped. Saturday night, the second installment of the “Sultans of Swamp,” C.C. Adcock and Lil’ Buck Sinegal’s Cowboy Stew Blues Revue, takes over Chickie Wah Wah with special guests Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and Papa Mali.
Adcock and Sinegal are two of south Louisiana’s foremost guitarists. Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal is best known for his long tenure as a zydeco sideman principally with the legendary master and acknowledged “King of Zydeco” Clifton Chenier and currently with Buckwheat Zydeco.
The Cowboy Stew Blues Revue is a roll through the career of the 74-year-old Sinegal beginning with the smash hit, “I Got Loaded,” which was originally recorded in 1965 by Little Bob and the Lollipops and has since been covered by dozens of artists including Los Lobos and Tab Benoit. Adcock also adds his unique touch performing songs from Bobby Charles, the Lil’ Band of Gold, and other icons of swamp pop.
The Americana band with folk and country influences based out of Mobile, Alabama, will return to Chickie Wah Wah on Friday, July 15, 2016. The band is touring in support of their second album, Via Portland.
The Mulligan Brothers took their name from the popular concept among amateur golfers that means, “taking a second chance.” No one in the band is named Mulligan and they are not even brothers in the familial sense.
Led by singer/songwriter and guitarist Ross Newell, the band also features Gram Rea on fiddle, mandolin, viola, harmonica and vocals, Ben Leininger on bass (a homemade instrument made from two old suitcases), and vocals and Greg DeLuca on drums and vocals.
With TVD closed for summer vacation next week, I thought I would alert our readers to a great album which will be released next Thursday. For fans of world music, Fire, Sweat & Pastis is a fascinating listen and is destined to become a dance floor favorite. Fans in Canada can expect a tour followed by an appearance at the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival on July 7.
Finnish guitarist Janne Halonen leads the Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble, which features West African and Scandinavian musicians playing a unique blend of jazz, funk, R&B, and the traditional music of Benin. The hallmarks of the sound will be familiar to anyone who digs percussive rhythms, funky bass lines, soulful call-and-response vocals, and virtuosic brass and woodwind melodies.
While most readers know Helsinki as the capital of Finland, Cotonou is Benin’s most populous city hence the name of the group. Halonen first traveled there in 2009 and connected with vocalist and percussionist Noël Saïzonou. A band and a new musical hybrid were born.
Saturday night at 9 PM Chickie Wah Wah is the place to be when an all-star group of New Orleans musicians will gather to celebrate the tunes one of the greatest American songwriters, Louisiana’s own Bobby Charles.
Guitarists Dave Malone (The Radiators, Raw Oyster Cult) and Jake Eckert (The New Orleans Suspects, Dirty Dozen Brass Band) will lead the band. The rhythm section will feature keyboardist John Gros (Papa Grows Funk), bassist Reggie Scanlan (The Radiators, New Orleans Suspects), and ace session drummer Doug Belote. Special guests are expected to appear.
Born Robert Charles Guidry in southwest Louisiana’s Cajun Country, Bobby Charles was an early purveyor of a hybrid musical style known as “swamp pop.” His first songs to hit the charts were “See Ya Later, Alligator,” which was immortalized by Bill Haley and Comets, and “Walkin’ To New Orleans,” which became one of Fats Domino’s signature songs and has since been recorded by hundreds of artists.
The annual celebration of the life and music of Louis Armstrong has moved from it’s longtime home on the grounds of the old U.S. Mint to Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. It’s scheduled for August 5-7, 2016. The Vinyl District is back as an official media sponsor of the festival for the sixth year in a row.
The festival continues to evolve as they have also added an indoor stage, which will be a welcome addition for dancers and music lovers eager to get out of the heat of early August in New Orleans.
The new “Back o’ Town” stage will be located inside the Louisiana State Museum’s Arsenal, which is right off of Jackson Square at 600 St. Peter Street on the second floor. The “Back o’ Town” stage will feature a dance floor, NOLA Jitterbugs, and live dance music on Saturday and Sunday.