Author Archives: John Swenson

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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Fest Focus 2014: Clive Wilson

New Orleans music is a siren call for players from all over the world. Trumpeter Clive Wilson emigrated here from England to immerse himself in the Black American ethos at a time when New Orleans was struggling to overcome entrenched racial hostility. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was illegal for blacks and [...]

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Fest Focus 2014: Roy Rogers

Slide-guitar wizard Roy Rogers has racked up a great history of Jazz Fest performances over the years and should add to that list in his set at this year’s event. “I have a great time down there,” says Rogers. “It’s always been a good time. I’m bringing a special guest, Carlos Reyes. He plays violin [...]

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The Life of Rebirth Brass Band

The Rebirth Brass Band is one of the great musical institutions in New Orleans history; the group best defines the transition between traditional and contemporary brass bands. Rebirth is about to release a new album, Move Your Body, its first since the Grammy-winning Rebirth of New Orleans in 2011. Rebirth’s creative depth, versatility and personal [...]

Fishhead Man Ed Volker Returns to Jazz Fest

Ed Volker became the shaman of the New Orleans “Fishhead” subculture back in the 1970s when he described his band’s style as “Fishhead music.” Now he is bringing it all back home at Jazz Fest 2014. Volker will perform with Joe Cabral on baritone saxophone and Michael Skinkus on percussion as Trio Mollusc, and will [...]

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