New Orleans is known for its great musical families and jazz lineages where music is a craft, a business and a passion passed on from one generation to the next.
April offers an excellent chance to catch the diverse talents of three musicians, all daughters of prominent musician fathers, as they present their respective projects—ranging from rock to big band to electronica—that both honor paternal inspirations and explore new sonic territory. Profiled below, these second-generation talents are now recognized on their own merits, and by their own names, as they rise in star power in both local nightclubs and on the national scene.
“I love jazz but my interests are somewhere else.”
It might have taken Sasha Masakowski moving to New York City to find her voice.
“It’s very much on and off between here and New Orleans,” the 30-year-old daughter of Astral Project guitarist and University of New Orleans Chair of Jazz Studies Steve Masakowski says by phone from her home in Brooklyn. “It was a good move. It’s been amazing—I’ve met and collaborated with some incredible musicians.”
Noting that she has “been doing some really cool stuff” musically of late, Masakowski explains that delving into the realm of electronic music while in New York has led to her new project, Tra$h Magnolia. “It’s my alter-ego, electronic, art-rock vehicle for all these songs I’ve been writing,” the singer—and now producer and multi-instrumentalist—says. “I have complete control over everything: all the drum programming, the synthesizer parts, the sampling.”
Though adding that she’s always been interested in that style of music, pointing to Hildegard, her collaboration with local guitarist Cliff Hines, she admits it wasn’t until moving to New York City that she “dug deeper” into the genre. “When I first got up here, I just figured I’d do the jazz thing, since that’s my background, my history,” she says. “But I wasn’t really feeling the modern-jazz scene here and decided I didn’t want to put my time and focus there.”
While home over Mardi Gras, Masakowski brought Tra$h Magnolia to the Ace Hotel on Lundi Gras to a rabid crowd response. In April, she returns to New Orleans for two gigs at Blue Nile’s Balcony Room with Tra$h Magnolia (on April 19 and 26). An April 30 jazz showcase is also scheduled at Mag’s 940.
She’s assembled top local talents for the project, local players adding electronica flourishes to fill out the experimental sound: a jazz drummer will incorporate effects, while saxophonist Rex Gregory and bassist Max Moran will play their instruments through synthesizers.
While Masakowski’s childhood included going to hear Astral Project at various festivals, it was the sound of her mother, Ulrike, practicing piano as she went to sleep that stands as her earliest memory of music. “It was a really comforting thing to her,” she says of her mother’s piano play.
Having studied at UNO under her father, who she calls a “harmonic freak genius,” Masakowski says she felt some outsider expectations “that I’m going to be the next jazz singer. I love jazz but my interests are somewhere else. My career is going to be what I determine it to be.”
Yet, along with brother Martin, she’s made a jazz album with her father, N.O. Escape, and last month performed with the family band (plus Paul Thibodeaux on drums) in New York City and Atlanta. “It’s great—really fun and super easy,” Masakowski says of recording and playing with her family. “Gorgeous, haunting songs that are all of my dad’s original compositions with lyrics by Jay Griggs based on the novel A Confederacy of Dunces.”
“As a family we do a record every two years—which is great because it documents where we are at a certain point in time as we’re all always getting into new styles of music” she says. “Sometimes we get a little disorganized, so it can be hard for us to handle the business side of things. But that’s because we’re not business people—we’re all musicians.”
“As long as we’re playing, I’m happy.”
Darcy Malone Boye went to her first Jazz Fest when she was still in the womb. Now 38, she has her own kid in tow when she sets out to experience live local music: four-year-old Elliot David Boye, his middle name a homage to his paternal grandfather, rocking Radiators icon Dave Malone.
Talking over coffee at a spot not far from the Lakeview home she shares with husband/bandmate Chris, the vocalist/bandleader says that her son has already shown a proclivity for painting. Allowing space for artistic pursuits is a family trait, her first musical memories consisting of Rads shows on the Tulane quad and Sundays spent with her mother, original Pfister Sisters member Susie Malone. Boye would accompany her mom on her Sunday gig circuit from Gazebo Café to Café Sbisa on lower Decatur Street before hitting Snug Harbor. It was at the Frenchmen Street jazz club where she would first sing on stage.
“I was seven and it was with Charmaine Neville,” Boye says with a giggle to introduce the tale. “They couldn’t get me off stage. I sang ‘Sleepy Time down South’ and when it was done I just busted into [Whitney Houston’s] ‘Greatest Love of All.’ It was a cappella. And Charmaine was like, ‘Just let her finish.’”
The gracious communal camaraderie among New Orleans musicians that allowed Boye on stage as a child is a spirit that’s always surrounded her and one that inspired (and sustained) her band, rising cross-pollinated rock outfit the Tangle. When she first met her future husband 14 years ago, the guitarist was involved in an instrumental project. They soon began putting together different band variations, “but it never really clicked,” Boye recalls, “and when we went to Austin after Katrina, it all fell apart.”
This exile in Texas taught a valuable lesson. “I love Austin, it’s great, but the music scene is really disconnected,” Boye explains. “And competitive. Like, ‘I’m a musician and I don’t want to talk to you because you’re another musician.’ Here in New Orleans, it’s more, ‘What can I do to help you?’
“This city has a soul like no other city in the world,” she continues, “especially as a musician or artist of any kind, as life is just magnified in New Orleans. You can’t escape that soul and it creates this heartbeat that connects us all.”
After returning home, such creative connectivity began to build the Tangle. Drummer Billy Schell was recruited from brother Johnny Malone’s band, the Boondoggles, while “diamond in the rough” bassist Craig Toomey came from Craigslist. Sax/keyboard player Jagon Eldridge played in Dang Bruh-Y?, who Boye used to dig during punk shows at the now-closed Abstract Cafe.
Rounded out by lead guitarist/vocalist JP Carmody, Darcy Malone and the Tangle head into spring and summer with a lot of momentum. The group just wrapped recording sessions at the famed Studio in the Country in Bogalusa for upcoming album Make Me Over, produced by Ben Mumphrey and recorded on tape, not digitally, to capture the band’s raw live-show rock prowess. After Jazz Fest, the band will embark on a lengthy East Coast tour highlighted by a slot opening for Rebirth Brass Band at the Brooklyn Bowl in June.
Being the daughter of Dave Malone has advantages when charting music-career territory. “My dad’s the guy I call when I don’t know what the heck is going on in the music business—which he told me to stay out of, saying it can be awful and ugly and horrible. He teaches me a lot. And he’s my musical hero. He’s not only a great songwriter and singer, but he’s also very captivating on stage, and having always wanted to emulate that, now he helps me do what I do.”
Given her from-the-cradle musical education and current band success, Boye has good reason for her optimism. “The sky’s the limit,” she says when asked what’s next for the Tangle. “The idea behind the Tangle was to get all these genres together and create this sound. When we started, it was indie rock with no direction, and now it’s funk meets rock meets soul meets pop. It’s a big sound. I’m really excited about where I see this going, but really, as long as we’re playing, I’m happy.”
“I try to emulate what he did as far as quality in the music.”
“There’s a lot of creative energy coming out of me,” Lena Prima explains of her pursuit of creative self-expression as both a musician and jewelry designer.
“The music thing for me is the love and energy I’m giving out,” the singer says. “I’m feeling that for myself, too, but also care so much about the people I’m performing for. When I’m making jewelry, it’s like I’m being filled back up. It’s my outlet that allows me to go out and do music again.”
While that other outlet is captured in exquisite fashion in Prima’s 2016 book, Wanderlust: Travel-Inspired Jewelry, she’s been on the music scene since birth. “My first memories of music are being up on stage and watching my dad,” she says of world-renowned singer, bandleader and composer Louis Prima (1910–1978). “I’d be with him when he traveled around and I just loved his music—I listened to him a lot when I was kid. Then I got into the rock ’n’ roll—Ann Wilson from Heart taught me how to sing. Then, living in Las Vegas, I started singing in heavy-metal bands in the ’80s, really having a lot of fun.”
Though the 53-year-old Prima spent much of her adult life in Las Vegas, she was born to her father’s fifth wife in New Orleans. She grew up here, off and on, with memories of her father’s apartment on Esplanade Avenue and house along the golf course, Pretty Acres, he developed in Covington. While she says Las Vegas provided “around-the-clock work” for her rock bands in the ’80s and ’90s, the scene moved toward DJs and circus shows and soon offered “no places for bands to play.”
In 2010, Jazz Fest honored Louis Prima on the centennial of his birth. Coming into town two weeks around her appearance as part of that tribute set, Prima landed gigs at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blue Room, Hotel Monteleone and Royal Sonesta. “Music everywhere—I had an amazing time,” she remembers. “I didn’t want to go back to Las Vegas. As soon as my husband and I got back there, we said, ‘Let’s move to New Orleans.’ We got here Christmas of 2010 and I played French Quarter Fest for the first time in spring 2011. That’s why I always love playing French Quarter Fest—it’s a symbol of coming back home for me.”
Prima co-wrote her first album after returning to New Orleans, 2014’s Starting Something, with her husband of 11 years, Tim Fahey. “It’s a great, wonderful relationship,” she says. “We’re best friends but we also work really well together as a team—and rarely does that kind of thing happen. We love travelling. We love writing music and making music.”
Last year, Prima released Live at the Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall. “It was sold out, the energy was amazing and we were just on fire,” Prima says of her band, featuring Fahey on bass, Thad Scott on tenor sax, Justin Pardue on trombone, Mike Fulton on trumpet, Larry Sieberth on piano and Cori Walters on drums.
“I like to do a high-energy show,” Prima says. “And I tell people about my dad, about travelling around the world with him, and soon as I hit ‘King Louie’ from Jungle Book, all the phones come out, people wanting a piece of this New Orleans legacy. But, you know, I’m honored to represent that and the music is just so great and fun.”
Prima describes her father as “a genius who wrote amazing songs,” and says that, coming from a “beautiful, warm-hearted” family of Sicilian immigrants, “I grew up watching my dad and how he also did things in a very quality way.” “He inspires me. I try to emulate what he did as far as quality in the music. And, like him, I try to give 110 percent every time I perform.”