Oolah Malla Walla is a record of new compositions written in the style of Professor Longhair and played by an All-Star New Orleans R&B band made up of Walter Wolfman Washington and June Yamagishi on guitars, James Singleton on bass, Johnny Vidacovich on drums, Professor Longhair’s accompanist Alfred “Uganda” Roberts on congas and a horn section of Craig Klein on trombone, Calvin Johnson on saxophone and Shamarr Allen on trumpet.
The piano parts were written out by hand and performed by “the Legendary Doctor Generosity,” a piano program manipulated by Jimbo Walsh, who also wrote the horn charts. It’s kind of a science fiction scenario come to life, produced by one of the more out-of-the-box thinkers in Louisiana music history, Mark Bingham.
Bingham has always looked to combine seemingly disparate elements in search of unique music, and this time he may have opened Pandora’s Box.
The piano parts were written by Longhair enthusiast Paul Burstyn, who then consulted Bingham about how to proceed.
The results are pretty amazing. It doesn’t take much of a suspension of disbelief to hear this as Professor Longhair music—a little formal around the edges to be sure, but fully in touch with the spirit of joy and sensual abandonment that Mr. Byrd embodied.
Tracks like “Beans, Beans, Beans,” “Doctor Professor,” “What Carnival For” and the title track spin out of the box with such authority that questions of authenticity become academic. Regardless of the provenance of the actual songs—all instrumentals—the performance by this outstanding group has a warmth and presence that screams New Orleans.
The record is like a bag of Zapp’s—one taste and you’re hooked for the whole thing.