Jeff Hannusch, our columnist for “Talkin’ Bout New Orleans,” said that these were his favorite “musical moments” off 1998:
1) Otis Clay at the Victoria Pavilion, Kitchener, Ontario. The God of Chicago deep soul, Clay ignited a building full of Canadians on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) with just a moan.
2) Boozoo Chavis at Landry’s Ranch, somewhere on the Louisiana prairie. It was the first Saturday night of Lent and I got lost trying to find a shortcut from Ville Platte to Lawtell. It was pitch black for miles when I saw an illuminated sign that read, “Tonight: Boozoo & the Magic Sounds,” in front of what looked like a stable with a couple of trucks parked in the lot. Who wouldn’t have stopped and spent a few hours listening to the Lake Charles Atomic Bomb and enjoyed some good boudin?
3) Bumping into Fats Domino at the Home Depot. Fats was shopping for fixtures for his new bathroom. Only in New Orleans.
4) Ernie K-Doe’s anniversary party. Backed by guitarist Irving Banister, K-Doe did a head-turning Sam Cooke medley that ended with him on his knees next to the table full of party condiments.
5) Dave Bartholomew‘s set at the Jazz Festival.The originator of the big beat wowed an appreciative audience at the Ray Ban stage.
6) Ronnie Dawson at the Rock ‘n’ Bowl.The blonde bomber of rockabilly had the cats and kittens turning over chairs and tables in order to get to the dance floor.
7) Magic Slim & the Teardrops in Kitchener, Ontario. Slim and the Teardrop’s equipment looks like it was purchased at a pawnshop fire sale, but they put down a sound that leaves all the current crop of heavy metal blues Fender guitar stars in the dust. Nobody plays Chicago blues better than this giant.
8) Latimore at Bally’s Casino. Gambling Hall gigs are pretty predictable, but Latimore put on a first class blues and soul show, the kind that are getting all too scarce.
9) Finally hearing the legendary live Slim Harpo tapes from 1961. Rumors that these tapes existed circulated for years, but Ace didn’t release them until this past year on Sting It Then!
10) Listening to Frank Mitchell recall his remarkable R&B career for an entire fall afternoon.
11) As Assistant Commissioner General of the JazzFest Musician’s parking lot (I got to wave the orange flag), I had the pleasure of detaining Jimmy Buffet’s tour bus for half an hour and deny them entry to the festival. I pulled the authority trip because their smarty pants road manager refused to show the proper credentials.
Frequent contributor, Roger Hahn, offered his take on 1998 this way:
It’s amazing how much good music is coming out of New Orleans right now. In my attempt last year to check out as many CDs produced by New Orleans artists as I could, I counted almost two dozen recordings worth recommending (not including prospective candidates from Don Vappie, Doreen Ketchum, and Earl Turbinton that I never got my hands on). Below are the ten I’d choose for an “A” list (listed alphabetically):
1) James Andrews, Satchmo of the Ghetto (NYNO). With support from legendary producer Allen Toussaint and the inimitable Dr. John. James Andrews triumphs on the basis of his unmistakable charisma, street-gravelled vocals and ancient-sounding trumpet. The high spirits of the parade tradition combined with the R&B legacy of Andrews’ grandfather, Jessie “Oop-Poo-Pah-Doo” Hill, the jazz stylings of mentor Danny Barker, and the Caribbean roots of native New Orleans music.
2) Henry Butler, Blues After Sunset (Black Top). No blues album at all, rather an occasion for the idiosyncratic Butler to express himself through a sensibility based in blues composition but essentially exploratory and improvisatory in nature. The heart of the album is a steady stream of truly scarifying piano chops rendered in a forceful style all the more notable for its speed, harmonic invention, and rhythmic articulation.
3) Los Hombres Calientes, Los Hombres Calientes (Basin Street). Combine young New Orleans jazz phenoms (drummer Jason Marsalis and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield) with a well-traveled percussion veteran (Bill Summers of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, currently in residence in the Crescent City), layout some Latin arrangements, pour over a bed of thick Afro-Cuban rhythms, add liberal portions of hot-blooded plano and sensuous bass. Surprisingly lively.
4) Dr. John, Anutha Zone (Pointblank). Mac Rebennack contends he’s discovered the passageway to “anutha” zone, pointing out, for example, the possibility of tunneling from the Crescent City to the geographically-linked Lhasa, Tibet. Maybe he has. Joined by a host of Britain’s sonic youth, this latest offering reflects a dramatic renewal of energy, resulting Mac’s most polished and least self-indulgent rock-n-roll release since his 1968 debut as Dr. John.
5) Clarence Johnson III, Dedicated To You (STR). Add saxophonist Clarence Johnson to the list of 20-something players who already display not only instrumental mastery but also evidence of real originality. Mixing gospel, bop, funk and the avant-garde within a style that incorporates references from Texas bar-honkers to New Age Coltraneism, Clarence Johnson already possesses what old-timers covet most: a singular sound. Probably the most overlooked jazz debut in the country last year.
6) The Ellis Marsalis Trio, Twelves’ It (Columbia). On a program of originals and the most familiar of standards, this is Big Daddy E. the way you want to hear him, ensconced in his resident gig at Snug Harbor and swinging like a madman in a style so thoughtful and elegant it could lull a baby to sleep. On drums, number-four son, Jason, in his major-label debut, adds perfect sparks, searingly hot and inimitably quiet.
7) New World Funk Ensemble, New World Funk Ensemble (Turnipseed). Plenty of smoking grooves and shooting star guitar solos, eclectic instrumentation that includes didgeridoo and African vahlia, and some unexpectedly sophisticated (and lengthy) compositions, not to mention complexly structured arrangements, and excellent, tothe- point, improvisational virtuosity. Most of all, a modern jazz sensibility noticeably lacking in the latest wave of neo-funk aggregations.
8) Nicholas Payton, Payton’s Place (Verve). As good as classical neo-bop gets, with elegant tunes and smoldering performances. The 25-year-old New Orleans trumpeter and composer hits the mark on his third outing as leader accompanied throughout by his blistering quintet, with guest turns from homey Wynton Marsalis and fellow young turks Roy Hargrove on trumpet, and Joshua Redman on saxophone. The impressive coming-of-age of a phenomenal talent.
9) Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Because of You (Sony). Noble, funky, and sophisticated, the band preserves and renews an urban folk tradition on a program of old-time love songs. With Wendell Brunious and David Grillier in the front line replacing the Humphrey brothers, the entire band settles into a winning streak of relaxed virtuosity, with vocals divided almost equally between the smoothly hip Brunious and 89 year-old Narvin Kimbal.
10) Various Artists, The Atlantic New Orleans Jazz Sessions (Mosaic). The first 11 tracks, among the most highly regarded documents of the time-honored New Orleans street band tradition, reprise a 1957 recording by the Young Tuxedo Brass Band for many years out of print. Altogether, three very different sessions-a New York City studio recording, the Young Tuxedo band recorded outdoors, and a series of early Preservation Hall documents consolidate the whole of the New Orleans jazz tradition in one superbly produced 4-CD or 6-LP package. (Exclusively from Mosaic Records, 203-327-7111).
The “B” list (but in a very close race): Johnny Adams, Man of My Word (Rounder); Wess Anderson, Live at the Village Vanguard (Leaning House); Marcia Ball. Tracy Nelson. Irma Thomas, Sing It! (Rounder); Eddie Bo, Nine Yards of Funk (Bo-Sound); Davell Crawford, The B-3 and Me (Rounder); Jessie Davis, First Insight (Concord); Geno Delafose, La Chanson Perdue (Rounder); Chris Thomas, King Mud (BlackTop); Cool Riddums & Sista Teedy, Pledge to My People (NYNO); The Yockamo All-Stars, Dew Drop Out (Hannibal).
Deserving honorable mention (and still running strong at the finish line): Victor Goines, Joe’s Blues (Rosemary Joseph); Tom McDermott, Louisiananthology (STR); Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Funk is in the house (Rounder).
OffBeat editor David H. Jones picked the following events and shows;
1) Jazz Fest Reborn. With the new grandstands offering upgraded venues (the BellSouth Mobility Lagniappe Stage for instance) and more room on the infield than ever before, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is here in a new era. Even the new, single-day record of 98,000 people on the second Saturday didn’t dampen enthusiasm from locals and visitors alike. Also, it didn’t hurt that the El Nino-influenced weather patterns gave us seven consecutive days of absolutely perfect weather.
2) Osvaldo Ayala Y Su Grupo of Panama. During this year’s Jazz Fest this was the band to catch. Blending high-energy Latin rhythms with infectious accordion at its danceable best, the band was fronted by two dancers who kept the crowd on their feet and in the musical Bow. People talked about this group for weeks afterward. And rightly so. Come back soon, Osvaldo.
3) Gillian Welch/David Rawlings at Howlin’ Wolf. Appalachian music never sounded as sweet as it does when Gillian Welch (along with her excellent partner, David Rawlings) is handling the heart-wrenching vocals. The duo’s harmonies and acoustic guitar/banjo playing were transfixing. Go see them the next time they’re in town! You won’t be disappointed.
4) Lucinda Williams at House of Blues. Touring in support of her excellent CD, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams put aside her temperamental artist-attitude and instead of concentrated on the music. The resulting performance was what nights of music are meant to be.
5) Itzhak Perlman with the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra. The Orpehum was filled to capacity to hear Perlman work his magic with the violin and no one went away disappointed. After a rousing opening segment, which included the “William Tell Overture” and a bit of incidental music from a “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Perlman appeared and made his way to the riser to thunderous applause. He played Beethoven’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op.61.” He played all the notes (and everything in between the notes) to pure perfection.
6) Junior Brown at House of Blues. His Stetson may have been missing on this particular night but that was about all. Junior romped through his classics and even pulled out an extended instrumental finale that captured the guitar noir of “Secret Agent Man” and more.
7) The Iguanas at Rock-n-Bowl. During the release of their latest, and best CD, Sugar Town, the boys put one memorable show after another in the hall where people go for a good time. The Iguanas’ music fits right in, as if they were the house band for this place or something.
8) The Hackberry Ramblers at the Mermaid. The band members and their instruments took up a whole wall at the tiny Mermaid Lounge. Their wives took up another wall. But what space was left was plenty as this band filled the air with their magic, family-style Texas swing. Dawg, if people weren’t swingin’ partners and dos-ee-doe-ing till dawn.
9) Morcheeba at House of Blues. This trip-hop band from England has really hit their stride since they were in town last. Their live show is now transcendent, featuring Skye Edward’s ethereal vocals, the OJ scratchings of Paul Godfrey and some great lead guitar work by brother Ross. Morcheeba is the real thing, baby.
10) LeAnn Rimes at UNO. This precocious youngster showed why she’s the heir apparent to the throne formerly occupied by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. High energy and solid country music delivered from this teenager who seems hell-bent on a mission of success.
Associate Editor and Bluesworthy columnist Scott Jordan‘s Top 10 musical experiences, recorded and live, were:
1) Johnny Adams—Man of My Word (Rounder) – Masterful southern soul and funky R&B from one of America’s all-time greatest singers.
2) Dr. John—Anutha Zone (Pointblank) Gris-Gris for the ’90s, rounded out by a batch of richly textured R&B songs with a spiritual side.
3) Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys—Bayou Ruler (Rounder) The most adventurous record of the year, with Riley and his band cranking out a topnotch collection of South Louisiana-stamped rock and roll, cajun and zydeco tracks that defy categorization.
4) James Andrews—Satchmo of the Ghetto (NYNO) Backed by Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, gritty trumpeter and natural entertainer Andrews struts his way through the New Orleans party album of ’98.
5) Tiny Town—Tiny Town (Pioneer) Intelligent, soulful rock and roll. The front-line singing/songwriting/guitar duo of Tommy Malone and Pat Mclaughlin is one of the best tag teams in roots-rock.
6) Joe Krown—Nothing But the Piano, Nothing But the Blues (STR Digital) Like a well-worn pair of jeans, this no-frills solo piano album feels just right, mixing New Orleans classics (“Big Chief”) with original’ blues and stomping boogie-woogie tracks.
7) Any Walter “Wolfman” Washington show at the Maple Leaf.
8) John Mooney at JazzFest—After a two-year hiatus from New Orleans, Mooney scorched the Fairgrounds with his wicked blend of deep Son House influenced Delta blues and second-line electric rhythms. When he jumped on top of Jeff Sarli’s bass for his encore without missing a beat on his guitar solo, he was standing on top of the world.
9) Aubrey Ghent and Sacred Steel at JazzFest––In the beautiful new setting of the Grandstand’s open-air Lagniappe stage, Ghent made his pedal-steel guitar weep and holler in service of the Lord, and reaffirmed the musical bond between gospel and blues.
10) Ronnie Earl and Irma Thomas at City Stages, Birmingham, Alabama—In the middle of a typically searing set from blues guitar virtuoso Earl, .the Soul Queen of New Orleans joined him on stage for a spine-tingling version of “I’ll Take Care of You” and a full-throttle take on Irma’s classic “You Can Have My Husband” (But Please Don’t Mess With My Man.”)
James Lien, Freelance writer, WTUL Jazz OJ, OffBeat contributor:
1) Nicholas Payton – Payton’s Place (Verve) – What’s the sure sign that you’ve made it? All year long, I would meet strangers, and when we’d get around to talking about jazz they’d all mention how they knew Nicholas way back when.
2) Blue Lu Barker – Live At The New Orleans Jazz Festival featuring The Legendary Danny Barker & His Jazz Hounds (Orleans) This is the story of a dapper gent and his childhood sweetheart the blues diva. Along the way through the sixty-odd years of their lives together, they helped shape the course of the music called blues and jazz. This is what it’s all about.
3) Galactic – Crazyhorst Mongoose – (Capricorn) – 1998 was the year of Galactic. When Medeski Martin & Wood played Tip’s did you dig how they were there in the crowd, working the floor, greeting people like it was their party -and the truth is that everybody really was glad to see them there.
4) Wess Anderson – Live At The Village Vanguard (Learning House) if it were me up there in front of the red curtain at the Vanguard, on that stage where all those heavy cats made their legends, I’d be quaking in my boots. Listen to this album side by side with any other classic album cut at the Village Vanguard; it holds its own. Close your eyes and you’re there.
5) Daktaris – Soul Explosion (Desco) – This album showed up pretending to be a reissue of a rare LP from an obscure Nigerian Afro-beat band from the ’70s, complete with photos of lions and vultures on the cover and liner notes that appeared to be badly translated from French. It’s actually a bunch of killer funk musicians from Brooklyn playing around on vintage recording gear. Previous offerings from Desco label include a fake kung fu blaxploitation soundtrack and singles by bogus female James Brown, backup vocalists.
6) Lalo Schifrin – Metamorphosis (Aleph) – Composer/arranger Lalo Schifrin oversaw the soundtracks to several Hitchcock moves and also made some of the most bizarre jazz albums of the ’60s and ’70s, including titles like The Dissection And Reconstruction Of Music From The Past As Performed By The Inmates Of Lalo Schifrin’s Demented Ensemble As A Tribute To The Memory Of The Marquis De Sade and Dizzy Gillespie’s lone disco album. This album includes a jaw-dropping version of Gil Evans’ “La Nevada” that turns Out Of The Cool into the telephone booth sequence from The Birds.
7) Preservation Hall Jazz Band – My mom took me to Preservation Hall when I was a ‘ little kid, and in this ludicrously hyperactive and hectic world we live in, it’s comforting to know that there’s still great music to be heard there. How can you not help but smile?
8) Robert Cage – Robert Cage Can See What You’re Doing (Fat Possum) – Bluesman Robert Cage is equal parts Mississippi John Hurt and Junior Kimbrough. He’s part American Indian, part Native New Orleanian, part of the roster of controversial blues label Fat Possum records, and wholly a genuinely mystical soul who can change the energy of an entire room just by being in it, without saying or doing much of anything. When he sings “Liza Jane” she practically walks in the door, and when you hear him live covering Guitar Slim’s “The Things That I Used To Do,” the New Orleans roots come shining through.
9) Olu Dara – In the World From Natchez To New York (Atlantic) – You know the old adage about people having their whole life to make their first album? Well jazz multi-instrumentalist Olu Dara didn’t just have his whole life to get ready,he had the whole history of blues, jazz, and African music to pull from when he made this record. In record store circles, this is known as the kind of record that truly sells itself. once you put it on the house speakers and people hear it, they’re bound to walkout with it.
10) Henry Butler – Blues After Sunset (Black Top) – It sometimes takes a few years to appreciate a classic, but this might have been Henry’s best record yet.
Over at the Funky Butt, Chris Collins, who is filling in for Richard Rochester (last seen in Thailand searching for inner peace), gave us these top ten shows of 1998.
1) Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians – The day after the last day of JazzFest, an incredible vibe-magical!
2) Los Hombres Calientes with Wynton Marsalis – Wynton played most of the show with the band, and then played until the sun came up with pianist Victor Atkins. Also, Ellis Marsalis came in and the place parted like Moses and the Red Sea. The respectful musicians gave the stage to the unbelievable trio of Ellis,Wynton and Jason Marsalis.
3) Donald Harrison Jr. and Nicholas Payton – The night of the Big Chief’s funeral, Donald Harrison Jr. wanted to do the gig as a tribute to his father, and none other than Nicholas Payton showed up and did the whole show with him. Shame on New Orleans’ jazz fans…only about 30 people were in the house for this mind-blowing show.
4) Harold Battiste Tribute – Many past and present students came to pay homage to this extraordinary gentleman.
5) Walter Payton’s Snap Beans with Albert “Dogman” Smith – The week between Jazz Fest weekends. The Dogman did a duet with a girl from the audience that brought the house down! I still get chills thinking about how beautiful that was.
6) 3 Now 4 Record Release Party incredibly inventive, and short-lived band. Showed how, good improvisation can be.
7) Corey Harris followed by Henry Butler – The place was packed. Word got around that Dave Matthews was coming to play with Corey.Well, he showed up alright, but he was too smashed to play. Corey did a great show of acoustic blues and then Henry “tore the roof off the sucka” with a rousing, late night jam until 5 a.m.
8) Johnny Vidacovich trio and Moore & More – The trio down in the lounge and Galactic drummer Moore’s side project upstairs. Two great bands, swingin’ and funkin’ and funkin’, and swingin’!
9) Pistol Pete & Popgun Paul Birthday Variety Show – Not our usual music, but very cool. Pete and Paul are excellent “folky” songwriters, and two of the nicest cats in show business. They brought some very talented artists and a great group of hipsters.
10) Don Vappie‘s Tribute to Danny Barker – Don did a great job of picking up some of the subtle things that made Danny Barker truly an outstanding musician, songwriter and gentleman. An awesome night that celebrated the man who inspired Richard to open this club in the first place. Danny Barker will always be our hero!
Nina Buck at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe picked the following:
1) The Johnny Adams Benefit Night when so many musicians showed up and played in some great combinations- Henry Butler with the Iguanas, Eddie Bo with Big Al Carson, Walter “Wolfman” Washington with the Palm Court Band and Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone. The feeling was electric that night.
2) The Jazz Fest concerts in April. The Hot Swing All-Stars (Al Grey, AJ. Casey, Arvell Shaw and Sam Rimington) playing with Henry Butler and Wendell Brunious. A fine and polished performance.
3) The fine October show featuring the Legends of the Swing Era. This show featured the great Jay McShann, Claude Williams, Franz Jackson, Dan Barrett, Tom Baker, Trock Parham and Trevor Richards.
4) The New Year’s Eve Bash featuring the Lionel Ferbos High Society Band with vocalist Thais Clark. Always a fun evening at the Palm Court with great music and second lining.
5) The rest of my picks would be all the other evenings of wonderful music that we have throughout the year with people like: Greg Stafford & the Jazz Hounds; the Crescent City Joymakers featuring Lloyd Washington (one of the original Inkspots); Thais Clark belting out jazz and blues; and, the harmony of the Lionel Ferbos Band. I love them all!