A member of 11 New Orleans bands, Joshua Gouzy gigs at least seven days a week. The bassist also founded one of those bands, the New Orleans Catahoulas. Specializing in the city’s classic rhythm and blues, the Catahoulas feature lead vocals and drums by Gerald French, a member of the city’s generations-deep French family of musicians.
The Catahoulas recently released their album debut, Homegrown. Recorded live at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, Homegrown includes infectious and fun renditions of Dave Bartholomew’s mambo-spiced “Shrimp and Gumbo,” Earl King’s early funk classic “Let the Good Times Roll,” and Alvin “Shine” Robinson’s earthy “Down Home Girl.”
“That music is so in my blood and it’s in Gerald’s blood,” Gouzy said of the Catahoulas’ time-and-place specific repertoire. “It’s the most accessible music I’ve ever known. You just move and groove to it.”
“It’s a funky good time for me,” French agreed. “We’ve been together for a little over a year now and the band has really come together. It’s great, man, to play classic New Orleans R&B with guys who respect that music.”
“I don’t know any drummer other than Gerald who can do what he does for that music,” Gouzy added. “The rhythm we create has an undertow. It carries people away.”
French and Gouzy both have a direct connection to the local R&B standards recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in the 1950s and ’60s. French’s father, bassist and singer George French, played for Fats Domino’s recording sessions as well as the sessions that yielded Earl King’s “Trick Bag” and Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’.” George French’s sideman stage work included the Dixie Cups, the local girl group that released the national number one hit, “Chapel of Love,” in 1964.
Like French, Gouzy comes from a musical family, the Floranes. On his mother’s side, there’s his great-grandfather, trumpeter Dee Florane; his great uncle, Alcide Florane, led the Florane family jazz band in the 1910s; his great aunt, Leah Florane, played organ for silent movies at the Saenger Theatre. And Gouzy’s grandfather, Lloyd Florane, played bass for “Last Chance,” the 1959 regional hit by Collay and the Satellites that also reached number 82 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“It’s in classic 6/8 time,” Gouzy said of “Last Chance.” “Some St. Bernard Parish girls sang background, so it sounds like a bunch of yats. It’s kind of harsh, but I love it.” Lloyd Florane also knew the local and national stars Frankie Ford and Lloyd Price and he briefly played in a band with a young guitarist named Mac Rebennack, the future Dr. John.
Growing up in Chalmette, Gouzy played piano by ear from early childhood. When he was 11, his grandfather bought an electric bass for him at a local pawnshop. That instrument was a revelation. “When I got the bass in my hands, I knew, no question, I am a bass player and always will be a bass player. I’ve never made a living from anything other than music. I’m very grateful for that.”
Gouzy’s grandfather gave his grandson some bass pointers and, in just a few months, he was playing bass at his church’s Sunday services. His grandfather also promised to bequeath his vintage Fender electric basses to Gouzy. “He had a collection of extraordinary basses and he always told me, ‘When I’m gone, these are going to be yours.’ Unfortunately, he lost everything in the flood in 2005.”
New Orleans R&B and the gospel and contemporary Christian music Gouzy performed in church comprised most of the music he heard during his childhood and youth in Chalmette and Mandeville. In those years, he didn’t even hear contemporary pop, R&B or hip-hop. But his musical world expanded greatly with his enrollment in Loyola University. “Loyola was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” he said. “They gave me all of the tools that I needed and more to be able to do what I do now.”
Gouzy began playing non-church gigs at the halfway point to his bachelor’s degree. He joined a trio with saxophonist Tony Dagradi and guitarist Steve Masakowski, local jazz veterans and faculty members at Loyola and UNO respectively. “I didn’t feel ready for it, but I kept the gig until they shut down,” the bassist recalled.
Subsequent gigs included an eight-year run with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers. Gouzy recruited three Vipers—trumpeter Kevin Lewis and father and son saxophonists Earl and Oliver Bonie—for the New Orleans Catahoulas. Pianist Steve DeTroy and guitarist Bert Cotton are the other band members.
In addition to the Catahoulas, Gouzy performs with the Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band, Russell Welch Hot Quartet, Aurora Nealand, Miss Sophie Lee, the On the Levee Jazz Band, Fritzel’s All-Stars, Richard Scott’s Twisty River Band, Haruka Kikuchi and the Big 4 Tune, Cristina Perez, and an Edith Piaf tribute band, Pardon My French.
“The musicians I work with in all these bands, they’re friends,” Gouzy said. “Playing music with people, that’s an intimate thing. You need to trust each other and listen to each other. I believe in fostering that friendship and helping the music grow.”
The Catahoulas are performing August 2 at the Hi-Ho Lounge; August 3 at The Spotted Cat; and August 10 at the Maple Leaf Bar.