Author Archives: Jay Mazza

Lakou Mizik + 79rs Gang’s “Iko Kreyòl”
in stores today, 7/19

“Iko Kreyòl,” the first recording from a highly anticipated collaboration between the Haitian band, Lakou Mizik and the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian collective, the 79rs Gang, is available today at digital outlets. The EP features four versions of the New Orleans classic, “Iko, Iko.” The full album, HaitiaNola, arrives in stores on October 25 and will be released on vinyl.

Besides, the Mardi Gras Indians, the song also features higher profile guest artists—Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne and Win Butler as well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The EP includes the album version of the tune and three alternative mixes.

Numerous other artists have covered the iconic New Orleans song, which was made famous by the Dixie Cups on a record from back in 1964. For this latest retelling, Lakou Mizik and 79rs Gang trade off new verses in Haitian Kreyòl and English that celebrate the latest cultural reunion of Haiti and New Orleans. The connections between these cultures are on full display as the traditional Haitian rara horns mix with the New Orleans second line beat of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

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Motel Radio to preview debut vinyl release at Tipitina’s, 6/21

New Orleans’ own indie rock band Motel Radio will drop Siesta Del Sol on July 12. They’ll give hometown listeners a chance to hear the new music when they open for Dave Jordan and NIA at Tipitina’s on Friday night. It’s a free show that is part of the club’s Foundation Free Fridays series.

I first saw Motel Radio when they played their first show at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I was struck by their intricate harmonies and great instrumentation as they built melodic guitar lines around a solid 21st century Laurel Canyon sound. Siesta Del Sol is their first full-length release after two well-received EPs. Listen to the debut single below.

The band features Ian Wellman and Winston Triolo on guitars and vocals. They began their songwriting collaboration while attending college in Baton Rouge, where they met Eric Lloyd (drums and vocals) and Andrew Pancamo (bass and vocals) and formed the band in 2014. They  relocated to New Orleans and keyboardist and singer David Hart joined the group shortly thereafter.

Siesta Del Sol was written and recorded with producer and engineer Eric Heigle at Wix Mix Productions and the band’s home studio in New Orleans. The band will kick off a national tour in support of the new album followed by a 5-week summer tour with Summer Salt.

Show time is 10 PM. Doors are at 9 PM.

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Amoebotics from songwriter Greg Schatz
in stores now on vinyl

I have admired the songwriting prowess of pianist and accordionist Greg Schatz since his days with his band, Schatzy. With his latest release, Amoebotics, he has taken the focus of his songs into the realm of science. The album is available on all platforms including on vinyl pressed at our own New Orleans Record Press.

On Amoebotics, Schatz’s trademark rhyming skill and inventive melodies are fully intact, while the subject matter has shifted dramatically from his slice-of-life tunes about romance and living in the city. The songs explore a modern ecosystem specific to Shatz’s idiosyncratic world view, hence the neologism of his title—a portmanteau of “amoeba” and “robotics.”

The lyrics are quite ingenious pointing to a not so distant, mostly already here future where, “machines are making machines and they don’t need me” and “I’m building a robot to take my job building robots.” The lines are exquisitely crafted.

Other songs on the album are about the human body and its relation to the natural world. “The Amoeba” is about a very dangerous bug that vexes city water systems and which made the news recently down in St. Bernard Parish. “The amoeba ate my brain, it doesn’t matter who’s to blame” is just one example of his skill with rhymes.

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Mike Doussan celebrates Yesterday’s Troubles vinyl release tonight at the Maple Leaf Bar, 5/31

Guitarist Mike Doussan will be celebrating the release of his sophomore effort, Yesterday’s Troubles, with a party tonight at the Maple Leaf Bar. A limited number of autographed, green vinyl records are available through his website.

The album is being released on CSB Roxy Music and was produced by Charlie Wooton. Yesterday’s Troubles features a who’s who of local musicians including bassist Wooton, drummer Doug Belote, keyboardist Keiko Komaki, trombonist Mark Mullins, guitarist and cello player Marc Paradis, saxophonist Jeff Watkins, and vocalist Arsene DeLay.

The record is being released on the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month in honor of Doussan’s brother, Brett, who died by suicide in 2014. A portion of the proceeds from the vinyl release will be donated to the Brett Thomas Doussan Foundation.

The release party will feature Doussan on guitar and vocals, Wooton on bass, Komaki on keys, Rurik Nunan on fiddle, Dave Freeson on guitar, and DeLay on backing vocals. Jermal Watson will be on drums. His band, Watson’s Theory, will be kicking off the evening at 8 PM.

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New Soul Finders!
bring classic Eddie Bo
45s to stage at Little
Gem Saloon, 5/31

I have written about the New Soul Finders! a few times in the past. A highlight of their shows is the still-vibrant vocals of the legendary Marilyn Barbarin. She is responsible for some of the hottest and most revered tracks in the New Orleans funk and soul canon as a member of Eddie Bo’s Soul Finders in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They perform on Friday night at the Little Gem Saloon.

An added treat will be the addition of bassist Noah Young and the horn section from Naughty Professor. Since emerging out of Loyola University’s music program, Naughty Professor has crisscrossed the country bringing their unique horn-driven funk to festivals and nightclubs hungry for the latest development in the ever-evolving New Orleans sound.

This will be the second time Naughty Professor as collaborated with the New Soul Finders! in concert. They also provide the slick and soulful horn arrangement for the New soul Finders! upcoming debut single.

Show time is 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. They are available here.

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New box set Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz
& Heritage Festival
in stores tomorrow, 5/10

A five-disc box set featuring 50 live recordings from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be released Friday by Smithsonian Folkways right on the heels of the conclusion of the highly successful 50th edition of the iconic festival that began in New Orleans in 1970. The package has recordings dating back to 1974 and includes some of the most important artists to have emerged from New Orleans and Louisiana in the 20th century and beyond.

Let me state at the outset that this is the most impressive creation detailing the history of Jazz Fest that has ever been produced. The accompanying book, which is 136 pages long, includes essays by local writers who have been on the ground documenting the fest for decades including Keith Spera and Karen Celestan, nationally known writers including Jon Pareles, senior critic for the New York Times, and local experts including Rachel Lyons, the director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s archive.

The book is also overflowing with exclusive photographs drawn from the archives of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the Historic New Orleans Collection, and independent photographers. Even if you are an avid collector and/or photographer of the festival, there are images contained within the book that will blow your mind.

The package itself is simply one of the best box-set presentations I have ever seen. Designed in the shape of a record album, it is a pleasure just to turn the thick pages before even diving into the writing or the music. Once you dive in, you may not come up for air for quite some time.

The 50 tunes are loosely organized based on the singular experience of walking around the Jazz Fest. None of the nationally known acts that have been part of the festival since day one—think Duke Ellington—or stars of a more recent vintage are included.

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TVD Live: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,

PHOTOS: BILL BOELENS | The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival dodged a second weather-related bullet when more severe storms rolled through the New Orleans area early Saturday morning. The opening of the festival gates was delayed by 90 minutes, but miraculously the extremely dry ground absorbed most of the torrential rains leaving a lot of mud, but little standing water. Here’s a look at some highlights.

Right at the top of the list has to be the appearance of legendary singer Aaron Neville on the Acura stage for the first time since his last show with the Neville Brothers in 2013. He was one of several big names, including Jimmy Buffett, Rita Coolidge, and Irma Thomas to participate in the Tribute to Allen Toussaint. Neville dedicated “All These Things” to his ailing older brother Art “Poppa Funk” Neville.

Aaron also joined his younger brother Cyril (pictured at top), his son Ivan and his nephew Ian during an emotional mini-set as Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue wound down the 50th Jazz Fest. While Cyril, Ivan, and Ian were expected to join Andrews since they did so last year, few thought Aaron would appear.

After he sang a touching version of “Yellow Moon,” the Neville family reprised their medley of “Amazing Grace” and Bob Marley’s “One Love” for the first time in six years. For decades, that medley was the last music many festers heard as they were leaving the Jazz Fest.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks for the Second Weekend,

As the 50th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival comes to a close over the final two days, I recommend looking deep into the schedule. Consider abandoning your preordained plans, your over-highlighted cubes, and wander the Fairgrounds hoping for the mystical Jazz Fest “stumble.” Here are our picks for Saturday. The full schedule is here.

Rick Trolsen is one of the most genre-diverse musicians in a town full of them. He leads a traditional jazz band, a Brazilian choro group, and plays piano in a dive bar on the West Bank. But on the second Saturday he will be leading his Neslorchestra. It’s a big jazz band playing esoteric music for the mind.

For the 50th anniversary, Jazz Fest has been bringing back many of the world music bands that have graced its stages over the years. Boukman Eksperyans of Haiti is one such group. They play high-energy dance music and will be appearing on one of the smallest and most exciting stages at the fest—the Cultural Exchange Pavilion—on the second Saturday. I expect a dance party par excellence. They also play a bit later in the day on the Jazz and Heritage stage and elsewhere on Sunday.

Boukman last played at the Jazz Fest back in 2011, but their first time was way back in 1991. I was at both gigs. To hear a world music band of more recent vintage consider checking out Jupiter and Okwess of the Congo. They played last year and blew minds with their great stage presence and killer guitar work.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Day Six, 5/3

Get ready for the home stretch. With eight days of festing, pacing is in order. The second Friday of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is packed with great bands. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

A few years back Jazz Fest brought in a group from the African country of Benin and they promptly blew peoples’ minds with their elaborate dance styles, frenetic percussion, and outrageous costumes. This year another group from of Benin, 3L Ifèdé, will kick off the Gentilly stage on the second Friday. I couldn’t find out much info as all of their publicity materials are in French, but suffice it to say that this group will be well worth checking out.

Cellist Leyla McCalla has been putting on amazing sets at the Jazz Fest since her first solo appearance back in 2012. But all of those performances were on the Lagniappe stage with its restricted views and seated crowds. This year, she has graduated to the Fais Do Do stage. I expect a huge crowd, so get there early.

Leo Nocentelli played with the Meters at the first Jazz Fest 50 years ago. He lived in Los Angeles for decades but is back home in New Orleans. This should be a chance for the guitarist to really show off his skills on a day when two other acclaimed, but much younger guitarists, Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and Gary Clark, Jr., follow him on the Gentilly stage.

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TVD Live: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,

PHOTOS: STEVEN KASICH | The first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival got off to a wet start when massive storms forced a delayed opening on Thursday and soaked the New Orleans Fairgrounds. But after the front passed, the weather was picture perfect the rest of the weekend, although the grounds were still a bit soggy on Friday and Saturday.

Carlos Santana (pictured at top) and his namesake band drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend dwarfing first time festival performer Katy Perry and many of the other big names. Allotted a two-hour set, the Woodstock veteran pulled out all the stops creating a Latin soul dance party on the Acura stage.

Santana was even given an extra twenty minutes past the usual cutoff time of 7 PM. He used it well by inviting local hero Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews on stage. The two traded licks and then a hug to huge cheers from the smitten audience.

Local bands fared well including Kumasi. Their horn section set the tone for an Afrobeat set that had everyone dancing at the considerably smaller Jazz and Heritage stage.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Day Five, 5/2

PHOTO: DAVID GRUNFIELD | I don’t envy the extra work that went in to figuring out how to reconfigure the schedule for what was supposed to have been “Rolling Stones Day.” But the fine folks at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival rose to the occasion and created a delightful lineup out of a debacle. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

Big Chief “Little” Charles Taylor of the White Cloud Hunters is one of the most revered of the downtown black Indians with an instantly recognizable voice. His skills with the needle and thread are formidable and over the years he has created some really memorable suits. But it has been some years since he sewed a new suit. Don’t miss seeing him and this year’s creation first thing in the morning.

I will be torn in the second time slot between two of the best local rock bands in New Orleans. I saw both Egg Yolk Jubilee and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes (pictured at top) at the recent French Quarter Festival and believe they both put on one of their best shows in recent history.

It’s hard to believe that at one point in New Orleans history, in the late 1960s, the brass band tradition was dying out. The story is long, and it almost happened again in 2005 after Katrina and the failure of the federal floodwalls devastated the city. But now there seems to be more brass bands in town than ever. Case in point, are the Sons of Jazz. This group of young musicians is on fire.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for the First Weekend,

When Saturday and Sunday roll around at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, festers have to contend with massive crowds. One strategy I find that is fool-proof is to go where they’re not. So today, I’m not even going to mention the big acts. If you’re reading this, you already know about them. Here are our picks for Saturday, April 27. The full schedule is here.

Veteran New Orleans guitarist and singer Spencer Bohren leads a band of younger musicians appropriately called the Whippersnappers. The group features his son Andre on drums among other luminaries of his generation. They are super entertaining and superb musicians to boot.

Dobet Gnahoré (pictured) is a young singer from the Ivory Coast in Africa. She has a killer band complete with lilting guitar parts and a great rhythm section. The videos I have seen feature some wild dancing while the band vamps. It should be a fun set.

While Gnahoré plays African music with modern instruments, Diassing Kunda is a traditional African drum and kora troupe from Senegal. They have very little internet presence besides a Facebook page. That’s nothing but a good thing in my opinion since you could be among the first to discover them.

Hurray for the Riff Raff hasn’t played Jazz Fest since 2016. That can’t be an oversight on the part of the festival’s organizers since the band, which is a vehicle for the songs of Alynda Segarra, is one of the best young groups to come out of New Orleans in years. More likely it’s because they have been touring constantly in support of their critically acclaimed 2017 album, The Navigator.

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Day Two, 4/26

PHOTO: JIM BROCK | Don’t forget to check out the outdoor carousal brought in from Martinique along with the traditional music of Chouval Bwa before the weekend crowds pack the Fairgrounds for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. It’s open for rides every day from noon until 6 PM. Here are our picks for April 26. The full schedule is here.

A relatively new Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Big Chief Bird and the Young Hunters, make their third stage appearance at the Jazz Fest in the opening slot. They are followed by the second appearance of one of my favorite local bands, the horn-heavy sensation, Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra.

A hardly noted (until now) feature on this year’s schedule are the asterisks that mark performers who played at the first Jazz Fest 50 years ago. Bassist George Porter, Jr. is being interviewed at 12:30 PM. The man plays a rubbery bass, but he has an elephant’s mind. He remembers everything going back to his days with the Meters. It should be a fascinating talk and precedes his set with the Foundation of Funk.

For Rolling Stones fans still stung by their cancellation, consider checking out Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Denson (pictured) is the Stones’ touring saxophonist and I bet he will play at least one of their songs to satiate the desire for some classic rock.

There are a lot of great options in the last time slot. It’s been five years since Santana played the Fairgrounds and his spiritual persona and soaring guitar work are a perfect fit for the Jazz Fest vibe. However, Jose James’ celebration of Bill Withers could be the sleeper find of the first Friday. Why else would it be in the last time slot?

Tomorrow: Our picks for Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28.

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Bonerama celebrates
the release of Bonerama Plays Zeppelin at Tipitina’s, 4/19

The trombone-driven rock band Bonerama has never been afraid to tackle cover songs despite having a deep catalog of originals. For several years they have been adding more of the songs of Led Zeppelin to their live repertoire (“Moby Dick” was featured on the first album) and eventually realized they had enough for a full album. On April 26, their new album of all Zep, Bonerama Plays Zeppelin, hits stores. On Friday night, they celebrate the release of the album at Tipitina’s. The album can be preordered here.

From the first notes of this record, which will also be available on vinyl, you know you’re in for something special. The band tackles ten songs, including most of the classics with the exception of “Stairway to Heaven,” which at least as far as this writer is concerned is nothing but a good thing.

Some of the songs are done straight up with searing vocals that will chill, and that’s saying something considering the singer who first brought these tunes to our ears. Others, the beginning of “Heartbreaker” is a case in point, are rearranged with a jazzy touch. But don’t let that scare you away because when the throaty vocals kick in, the band is right back in classic rock territory.

There are a couple of special guests on the album. Ivan Neville adds organ and clavinet on “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” which has a great trombone arrangement on the chorus, and “The Crunge.” But the biggest revelation might come right at the outset when Mark Mullins’ 18-year-old son Michael wails on “Good Times Bad Times.”

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Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Day One, 4/25

PHOTO: BRAD BARKET | The good folks who run the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have had a tough month with both the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac being forced to cancel because of health issues afflicting their singers. But everything’s finally settled and it’s time to fest. TVD will be bringing you picks for every day. Here’s what looks great on what I am calling “Stones Bonus Day,” Thursday, April 25. The full schedule is here.

I always recommend Mardi Gras Indians to start your day and the Spirit of the Fi Yi Yi with Big Chief Victor Harris and the Mandingo Warriors are on the bill. But percussionist Michael Skinkus and his Cuban band Moyuba will be welcoming trumpeter Michael Ray as a special guest.

Ray has a long resume including performing with Sun Ra and Kool and the Gang. He also lived and played up a storm in New Orleans back in the 1990s. It will be great to see him back on stage at the Jazz Fest. Check out his wicked solo in the above video.

I first saw singer Amy Helm (pictured) when her late father, the Band’s drummer, Levon Helm, owned a short-lived club on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. She has a great voice and will definitely bring out some of the classic songs from her father’s repertoire.

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