Author Archives: John Swenson

Peter Stampfel, Better Than Expected (Don Giovanni Records)

As Mark Bingham began the process of closing down Piety Street Studio he began lining up the projects he would work on in the future. His impact as a producer overshadowed his considerable skills as a musician, so one of the things he had in mind was to play more. Better Than Expected is a [...]

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Dennis McNally, On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom (Counterpoint Press)

Dennis McNally has written two very useful books on American culture—an extremely well researched biography of Jack Kerouac, Desolate Angel, and an inside onlooker’s slightly jaundiced account of the Grateful Dead’s history, A Long Strange Trip. Highway 61 is another kind of book, a brilliant and provocative polemic that is about culture as a flashpoint [...]

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Michael Cerveris & Loose Cattle, North of Houston (Broadway Records)

As a fan of the Who dating back to the band’s earliest American performances, I approached the Broadway production of Tommy with trepidation, fearful of another degradation of Pete Townshend’s spiritually sophisticated rock masterpiece. Not only did I find myself enjoying the production, I was knocked out by the young actor who played the title [...]

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Jimmy Carpenter, Walk Away (Vizztone)

Saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter is one of the unsung heroes of the 24/7/365 world of New Orleans music, a mainstay from Frenchmen Street to the Maple Leaf in a variety of settings and an indispensable element in one of the city’s hottest working bands, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters. Carpenter showed he had a frontman’s [...]

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Wynton Marsalis on Louis Armstrong, New Orleans, and America

When Louis Armstrong was only age 21 at the dawn of the Jazz Age, he left his hometown of New Orleans to seek his fortune. By 1928, he’d become the toast of the town in New York City after making a series of recordings that essentially defined jazz. A half century later, Wynton Marsalis, another [...]

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New Mosaic Records Box Set Redefines Louis Armstrong’s Legacy

  Forty-three years after his death, Louis Armstrong’s later career is undergoing a serious reevaluation. Historians are re-examining the critical consensus that Armstrong’s brilliance was confined to his early career. No one disputes that his early recordings, including the magnificent Hot Five and Hot Seven sides from 1925-28, set a standard for jazz performance that [...]

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Wynton Marsalis Talks About His New Orleans Show at the Saenger

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis performs at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans on Sunday, July 27, 2014. The concert benefits Tipitina’s Foundation, and is presented in partnership with the soon-to-reopen Orpheum Theatre and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Marsalis is putting a special program together for the concert. “We’ll be playing a [...]

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Lynn Drury, Come to My House (Old Shoe Productions)

With her last release, the powerful Sugar on the Floor, Lynn Drury came into her own as a singer-songwriter. Backed by what might humorously be called the Royal Fingerbowl mob, with drummer Carlo Nuccio as the producer, Matt Perrine contributing arrangements and guitarist Alex McMurray offering stellar support, Drury’s passionate tomboy grace found appropriate accompaniment. [...]

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A Fitting Tribute to Dr. John at the Saenger Theater

Dr. John didn’t go to Jazz Fest this year, but Jazz Fest came to him. Many of the festival’s key players participated in a gala tribute to Dr. John (with top prices going at $500 per seat) at the Saenger Theater, an event shepherded by Blue Note president Don Was, who served as musical director [...]

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Rotary Downs, Traces (Rookery Records)

Rotary Downs is an unclassifiable New Orleans band. Therein lies its greatness, nestled right alongside its obscurity. The word used most often to describe RD is “psychedelic” but in truth this band has nothing to do with the general impressions engendered by that word. RD sounds nothing like the San Francisco bands of the later [...]

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