There is a lot of great music in the Crescent City. More than any other New Orleans is a musician’s town. After all, how many other cities have their airport named after a trumpet player?
If you are looking for music that highlights the rich musical landscape of New Orleans, you can do no better than Dr. Michael White’s Adventures in New Orleans Jazz Part 1. White’s fifth release on Basin Street Records features a traditional New Orleans sound with influences of reggae, as well as African and Caribbean traditions. There are also a few nods to 60’s and 70’s pop music.
FAVORITE SONG: “South African Medley: Pata Pata/The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Mbube).” White’s clarinet is carefree, lighthearted and joyful.
Wynton Marsalis has been a global ambassador for jazz for so long, it’s easy to forget his New Orleans roots run deep.
The Majesty of the Blues reminds us that he never forgot his hometown. The title track is powerful and tight like a stiff shot of bourbon. “Hickory Dickory Dock” shows his penchant for setting nursery rhymes to a jazz beat. And the final tracks demonstrate a very old and established New Orleans’ tradition of the funeral march. In Marsalis' rendition jazz is the body and its funeral is set in three parts:
The lament can be heard in “The Death of Jazz.”
The remembrance can be found in a fiery sermon, “Premature Autopsies.”
The celebration can not be stopped in the toe-tapping strut, “Oh, But on the Third Day.”
Garrison Keillor called BeaSoleil, “The best Cajun band in the world.” Although from Lafayette, BeaSoleil is very much a part of the New Orleans musical landscape. Formed in 1975, they are still out there playing at music festivals and town halls or wherever there is a place to put a band and dance floor. BeaSoleil is in fact the equivalent to Ireland’s The Chieftains, firmly grounded in their own musical tradition, but more than welcoming to other ideas whether it Zydeco, jazz, Tex-Mex, country or blues.
FAVORITE SONG: No doubt “Zydeco Gris-Gris” from Bayou Boogie. The first time I heard it was the beginning of the movie, “The Big Easy,” a crime drama set in New Orleans. The song set a celebratory tone as Police Detective, Remy McSwain, blared his car radio on the way to a murder scene. Who knew solving crimes could be so much fun?
Preservation Hall’s mission is in its name: to preserve the heritage and culture that is the birthplace of jazz. Most people would regard this music as Dixieland and have visions of men on steamboats wearing straw hats and bow ties while playing trumpets, clarinets, banjos and trombones. (Oh yeah, don’t forget the poor guy who has to lug around the tuba.) That certainly was the past but the hall and its players are always evolving.
If you are in New Orleans, you can stop by at 726 Peter Street and listen to nightly music. And if you don’t want to travel, the band may come to you. They are on the road 150 days a year. Recently, they released a new album with bluegrass legend Del McCoury. It doesn’t look like anybody is wearing a bowtie on the cover.
Sing Me Back Home: The New Orleans Social Club is a compilation of a tight-knit group of artists who call New Orleans their home. On the album are the Neville brothers, Ivan and Cyril. There is Dr. John, The Mighty Chariots of Fire and the smooth as can be, John Boutté.
MORE THAN ONE FAVORITE:
John Boutté singing a heartfelt rendition of the Eurythmics’ “Why.”
Big Chief Monk Boudreaux easing into a reggae-infused “Chase.”
Trombone Shorty riding a Caribbean wave in “Hey Troy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You.”
Then there is The Sixth Ward All-Star Brass Band doing what New Orleans does best in “Where Y’At? Medley.”
Speaking of brass bands, I finally know what second line music means. Have you ever been to a parade? Stuffed with mini doughnuts and root beer you feel yourself slightly slipping into the afternoon sun while the classic cars, dairy queens, carnation-covered floats and farm equipment pass by. But before you doze off, your ears perk for off in the distance you hear a rousing marching band. For an instant you are pulled from a sleepy haze until the musicians move down the street. Did you ever wish you could keep listening? In New Orleans you can. You can get off the curb and fall in line, the second line. When you are in New Orleans, why ruin a good time?