Author Archives: Jay Mazza

TVD Live: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,
5/5–5/8

PHOTOS: DENNIS MCDONOUGH |  With the exception of a small smattering of rain on Friday morning that delayed the opening of the gates of the New Orleans Fairgrounds by 30 minutes and some sound troubles, the second weekend of Jazz Fest went off as expected with thousands of festers renewing the traditions of a lifetime.

One of the most highly anticipated sets in many years was an acoustic performance of some “lost” original songs by Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Accompanied by three backing vocalists and guitarists Marc Stone and Lo Faber, the funk icon displayed songwriting chops on a set of songs not heard in 50 years.

Despite being hobbled by sound problems at the outset, Nocentelli delivered a sweet set culminating in his unique, guitar-based cover of piano man Elton John’s first major hit, “Your Song.”

On the much smaller Fais Do Do stage, South Carolina-based Gullah musicians Ranky Tanky brought so much spirit it felt at times as if we were in jazz church. The band sang and played their hearts out much to the delight of the smallish crowd.

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TVD’s Jazz Fest Picks
for the Second Weekend, 5/7–5/8

The Marina Orchestra has been around the New Orleans music scene for about ten years. They got their first booking at the Jazz Fest in 2020. We all know what happened to that. Now they are back and opening the second Saturday on the Lagniappe stage.

The band is another of my favorite local acts that mines the connections between New Orleans and the Caribbean. With a trombone and sax player and a steaming rhythm section, the band’s original pop songs positively pop with some of the vibe made famous by much more famous American songwriters, see Paul Simon, David Byrne.

Singer/songwriter Shannon McNally follows them on the same stage. For a time the sultry voiced singer lived in New Orleans and began developing her unique blend of country and Americana. Her most recent album is a reimagining of the songs of Waylon Jennings. She has a deep reverence for the songwriters of New Orleans as well.

Friends recently asked me why Rickie Lee Jones (pictured at top) was playing at the French Quarter Festival a couple of weeks ago since she isn’t known as a local artist. But she has been living in the city for some time and features our own Mike Dillon on percussion in her live band. Guitarist Cliff Hines also plays with her, making Jones a “New Orleans” artist IMO. Expect a nearly fully improvised set, as she reportedly doesn’t make a song list and goes on feeling and audience reaction alone.

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TVD’s Jazz Fest Picks
for Day Five, 5/6

Start the day bright and early with the Stooges Brass Band on the Congo Square stage or for something considerably more intimate, trombonist Charlie Halloran and his Tropicales make for some fine Caribbean music-inspired listening. If only the Cultural Exchange Pavilion served rum boogies or painkillers!

Staying in the Caribbean, consider checking out Cimafunk (of Cuba). This guy is like the Prince of the islands, not actual royalty, but the Purple One. His sound is rooted in Cuban grooves but it’s also funky as hell. He has been playing a lot around New Orleans and will likely have some local special guests.

With three years between Jazz Fests, there have been numerous deaths that have not been commemorated at the Fairgrounds yet. Perhaps none were more profound than Art and Charles Neville, the keyboardist/ vocalist and horn man respectively of the Neville Brothers. The tribute set will feature the Funky Meters with Ivan Neville filling his uncle’s big shoes and the Neville Brothers Band with Cyril and Charmaine Neville. This should be a set for the ages and since Leo Nocentelli plays right before on the same stage, I expect him to sit in as well.

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TVD Live: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,
4/29–5/1

PHOTOS: DENNIS MCDONOUGH | When the gates of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival opened on Friday for the first time in three years a round of applause followed an audible roar as people were clearly very excited to once again walk the festival grounds. There were a few kinks to be worked out after the two-year pandemic pause and a slight delay in opening on Sunday due to rain. But all in all, it was a beautiful first weekend with smiling faces all around as friends old and new got reacquainted with the traditions.

One of best parts about attending the Jazz Fest is discovering new bands and getting reconnected with old favorites. One group I was excited to see, Son Rompe Pera, is a Mexican act that can only be described as cumbia punk. Five heavily tattooed ace musicians tore it up twice in one day at the Jazz and Heritage stage and in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion.

When they hit the stage I was astonished to see two musicians playing a single vibraphone! One of the two switched back and forth to playing manic guitar parts depending on the song. The bass player and drummer thrashed like the rhythm section for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Meanwhile, a percussionist on bongos and guiro with giant earlobe extenders (pictured at top) occasionally left his kit to sing with the emotion and energy of Anthony Kiedis of the aforementioned L.A. rockers.

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TVD’s Jazz Fest Picks
for Day Four, 5/5

I always like to get “Locals Day” started with the music and spectacle of the Black masking Indians of New Orleans. It’s hard to go wrong with Big Chief Kevin Goodman and the Flaming Arrows. Hailing from the downtown 7th ward neighborhood, Goodman, like most of the Mardi Gras Indian community, comes from a long line of Indians in his large extended family.

One of the advantages of the smaller crowds on Thursday is a chance to get up front at one of the main stages. The Shell Gentilly stage has a great lineup from the opening of the gates. The New Orleans Suspects follow the Iguanas—two different styles and generations of New Orleans musicians with one fairly specific commonality. They both called the Maple Leaf Bar home in their early years.

But the act I’m most looking forward to is an acoustic performance by the Meters’ guitarist and Grammy lifetime award winner, Leo Nocentelli (pictured at top). Subtitled, “Presents Another Side,” the short story is that a singer/songwriter record he made in 1971 was shelved after The Meters took off nationally. The songs are great including a cover of the now-classic Elton John tune, “Your Song,” which was just a few months old when Nocentelli recorded his version. This should be an epic, perhaps one-time-only performance.

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TVD’s Jazz Fest Picks
for the First Weekend, 4/30–5/1

Saturdays have traditional been the most popular days at the Fairgrounds and feature the biggest names on the seven-day roster. This year of renewal is no exception with an encore performance from one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most enduring bands, The Who, along with roots rocker Jason Isbell, hip hop veteran Nelly, and Latin legend Jose Feliciano. But my picks as regular readers know are less well known but equally deserving of your attention.

Start your day with a jolt stronger than a double espresso, which you may need if you were out late last night, and go check out Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Another of New Orleans’ long lasting rock bands, this group of classically trained musicians has carved out a niche with hardcore fans and great songs fleshed out with killer arrangements. Take a special listen to the horn section.

Lakou Mizik of Haiti first burst on the scene in New Orleans at Jazz Fest several years back. Since then they have spent considerable time in the city and have recorded with some of the city’s finest including Preservation Hall musicians and local Haitian American Leyla McCalla. They have also featured members of indie rock band Arcade Fire on their sets. I expect Caribbean roots sounds with a healthy dose of New Orleans influence. Listen for their version of “Iko Iko” sung in Haitian creole.

Another one of my favorite bands that used to play only at the Jazz Fest is Trumpet Mafia. Led by trumpeter Ashlin Parker, the band has been a mainstay during the pandemic turning up on the balcony of the Jazz Museum and on a porch uptown among other places. Their Jazz Fest sets feature at least twenty trumpeters!

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TVD’s Jazz Fest Picks
for Day One, 4/29

It’s been three long years of stops and starts and teases as the fine folks at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have tried to manage the pandemic. This includes two scheduled fall dates, meaning we have theoretically missed out on four chances to dance at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. I’m back at it for the next two weeks with picks and reviews.

One of the hallmarks of the Jazz Fest is conflict in each time slot over the course of the eight hours of music each day. Festers interested in the traditional sounds of New Orleans will have to make their first decision early. The Shake ‘Em Up Brass Band is lined up alongside the Semolian Warriors Black Indian tribe.

Shake ‘Em Up is an all-female brass band, the second in the city as far as I know, along with the venerable Pinettes Brass Band. The Semolian Warriors are a relatively new tribe led by Big Chief Yam. They are an uptown-based gang.

For even more traditional roots music, check out Michael Skinkus and Moyuba. This band takes its cues from the Yoruba culture of Africa as it was transferred via the Middle Passage to Cuba. Skinkus is one of the best percussionists to ever call the Crescent City home.

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Mostly Alive from The Crooked Vines in stores today, 2/12

The New Orleans rock-pop collective The Crooked Vines’ new album Mostly Alive uses an unusual production technique. It’s a hybrid album featuring live tracks from over the past five years, which are augmented with overdubs and editing to create entirely new performances of favorite songs from their catalog.

Part of the reason for using these techniques is a fact of life for many bands in the trenches of the close-knit, but competitive New Orleans music scene. Personnel changes are inevitable. So, the band created a record that included as many of those previous members as possible.

Having seen them live several times, I can attest that the techniques work. For a band that is known for vibrant performances, the album manages to maintain the electric undercurrent of a live show.

The Crooked Vines released their eponymous debut in 2015 and their second album, Alive, in 2017.

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TVD Premiere:
The City Champs,
“Thinking of You”

PHOTO: JAMIE HARMON | An instrumental cover of Tony! Toni! Toné!’s 1990s R&B hit “Thinking of You” is probably not the first song you think of coming from Memphis organ trio The City Champs after a ten-year hiatus. But the trio, known in the early 2000s as a soul combo rooted in Memphis grooves and influenced by the classic Blue Note organ sound, are stretching into new sonic territory on their forthcoming album, Luna 68.

According to guitarist Joe Restivo, the pairing of the band and the cover isn’t as unlikely as it seems on first glance. He said, “We went through a bunch of (ideas for cover) songs and settled on the 1996 Tony! Toni! Toné! single, “Thinking Of You,” which is a song I had played many times in Memphis clubs and sounds like it could have been written for Al Green at the height of his Hi Records years.”

Though the band was on hiatus for ten years, none of the members have been idle. Restivo worked with soul legends Don Bryant and Percy Wiggins as well as on the soundtrack to the Netflix/Eddie Murphy film Dolemite Is My Name. Organist Al Gamble worked with St. Paul & The Broken Bones and the Hold Steady, and drummer George Sluppick toured and recorded with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Bruce Watson (of Fat Possum) produced Luna ’68 at his Delta-Sonic Sound studio in North Memphis. The full album comes out March 19 in all formats via Big Legal Mess.

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Our New Orleans, post-Katrina benefit album featuring 5 previously unreleased tracks in stores today, 1/29

Our New Orleans is available on vinyl for the first time through Nonesuch Records. The album has raised $1.5 million to benefit Gulf Coast survivors of the devastating 2005 hurricane via Habitat for Humanity.

The new version of the album, which features songs recorded by New Orleans musicians immediately after Hurricane Katrina, includes tunes by Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irma Thomas, the Wild Magnolias, Buckwheat Zydeco, Randy Newman and more.

The album received rave reviews when it was first released. The Washington Post said, “Rife with stirring performances, Our New Orleans has the soul of the city.” The New York Times called it, “An album full of mourning, obstinacy and longing for redemption.”

The two-LP set, also available digitally, includes five previously unreleased tracks: “Do You Know What It Means,” by Davell Crawford; “Let’s Work Together,” by Buckwheat Zydeco and Ry Cooder; “Crescent City Serenade,” by Dr. Michael White; “Do You Know What It Means,” by The Wardell Quezergue Orchestra featuring saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. and “Walking By the River” by Dr. John (the above video was recorded in a New York City studio in September 2005).

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Bring Music Home
coffee table book benefiting live music venues available for
pre-order now

Bring Music Home is a unique, full color coffee table book that is the first of its kind. Weighing in at almost nine pounds and nearly 400 pages, this gorgeous product features many of the people and places that make up America’s live music ecosystem. Click here to pre-order now.

A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this book directly benefit the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) as well as support more than 60 individual photographers, producers, designers and writers who helped make this project a reality. Full disclosure—I wrote the essay about New Orleans music.

Over the past eight months, this ace team of creatives from all across the country came together to document the collective experience of live music in the United States and showcase nearly 200 music venues and their staff from around the country. The book features clubs in 30 cities including Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the Empty Bottle in Chicago, and the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.

Each city is also honored with a one-of-a-kind, museum quality graphic art poster. The New Orleans poster (pictured above) was designed by Jay Sayatovic. Click here to purchase it. Over 375 individuals were also interviewed and photographed from venue owners/ operators to longstanding employees and artists. Variety reported, “Bring Music Home is the only team currently documenting more than 200 music venues across 30 U.S. cities—a story of music culture’s unsung heroes, the real-life people behind live music.”

Pre-order your copy today to keep live music alive in the United States.

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Irving Banister Sr. RIP, GoFundMe campaign launches to defray funeral costs

The New Orleans guitarist Irving Banister, Sr., best known for appearing on record with a who’s who of New Orleans R&B stars including James “Sugarboy” Crawford (“Jock-a-Mo”) and Danny White (“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”) as well as being an influential bandleader passed away on December 15.

His death has not been widely reported, as the family needs to raise funds to help defray the funeral expenses. A GoFundMe campaign has been established. Donations can be made here. All funds go directly to his family, which includes his wife, Big Queen Littdell Banister and his son, Spy Boy Irving “Honey” Bannister, Jr., both of the Creole Wild West.

Irving Bannister, Sr. was a member of the house band at the famed Dew Drop Inn on Lasalle Street when it was both a proving ground for up and coming musicians and an after hours spot for touring Black artists during the segregation era. Many musicians including some that are still alive including Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Ernie Vincent credit Bannister with influencing them based on his unique style of playing.

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Bon Bon Vivant’s Dancing in the Dark in stores today, 12/4

Back in September, TVD presented the worldwide debut of “Ship Is Sinking,” the first single from Bon Bon Vivant’s new album Dancing in the Darkness. Click the link to read what I had to say. Since then the New Orleans-based, impossible-to-pigeonhole band has been generating positive attention for the release of the full-length album. It’s out today.

The collection is a comment on finding celebration in life even when things aren’t easy or going your way. I think we can all relate to that during this strange year. The album showcases the many musical and lyrical sides of the band. It has its dark moments, but it also relishes in the joy of being alive.

“Hell or High Water,” is a declaration that we must stick to our convictions no matter what. While “This Year” is the acknowledgement of losing loved ones along the journey.

Bon Bon Vivant will celebrate the release of the album tonight (12/4) at the Broad Theater’s outdoor, social distanced space. Tickets are available here.

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Tipitina’s unveils new ‘Tipitina’s Record Club’

Over the course of its decades-long existence, thousands of shows have been performed at Tipitina’s and many of them have been recorded. The club’s latest effort to develop innovative ways of dealing with the severe downturn in business because of the coronavirus pandemic is a new record club featuring exclusive vinyl albums.

Two of the releases already scheduled are live recordings by James Booker and the Radiators. The first release is already out and it’s a killer set by Professor Longhair, the patron saint of the venue, which was recorded at his home back in 1973. It is a limited edition, custom-colored 33 RPM, 180-gram vinyl record exclusive to Tipitina’s record club members.

Future releases will include the aforementioned live sets plus the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of Galactic’s debut album, Coolin’ Off. New albums come out every two months and a yearly subscription features a nearly fifteen percent discount over the bi-monthly price. All details can be found here.

This is another great way to support one of the icons of the New Orleans music scene, an incubator of local talent and a favorite venue for hundreds of touring musicians and many thousands of music lovers.

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Ragas Live Festival to
be reimagined as an epic 24-hour live broadcast, 11/21–11/22

PHOTO: KENNY MATHIESON | The world music festival, which began in 2012, is planning an unprecedented global event featuring world music icons Terry Riley, Zakir Hussain, Toumani Diabate (pictured at top), Betsayda Machado and numerous others. Artists in thirteen cities from Mysore to Madagascar will contribute to a celebration of “Community, Unity, and Harmony.” Raga is the classical music of the Indian subcontinent.

In a sense, the festival, which began as a radio event and eventually began producing live shows around the New York area, is returning to its roots on the air. Performances will be live streamed on the site of one of the sponsors, Pioneer Works and on radio station, WKCR-FM 89.9 FM from 7 PM Friday evening until 7 PM Saturday evening (eastern time).

Some of the cutting edge cross-cultural performances include Terry Riley performing raga-based improvisations from Japan preceded by Brooklyn Raga Massive premiering a 24-person performance in homage to Riley. Amir ElSaffar will be collaborating with the Brooklyn Raga Massive as well as with Raga Maqam, a 14 piece ensemble that explores the intersections between maqam, the tonal language of Arab, Turkish, and Persian traditional music, and raga. Andy Statman, the legend of klezmer and bluegrass will be exploring both Jewish doinas and ragas from the 200-year-old synagogue B’nai Jeshurun.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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