You think you know New Orleans music? Think again and listen up as one of the Crescent City’s own dishes on five bands that will make you feel a good kind of dirty.
It’s easy to think that Colorado and New Orleans have little in common. We’re at or below sea level and Y’all are…way up there. But there is a definite connection between our two communities. Mountain people generally know how to hang and they are great music fans. You like to shake the booty, as do we. Colorado is a favorite destination for myself and my New Orleans musician brothers and sisters. And every spring at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest one constantly is meeting people from out West. Now, while artists such as the Neville Brothers and Dr. John are true legends of the Crescent City Sound, there are lots of other very interesting things going on down here you may not have heard much about. Most of these bands don’t travel much, but you can see them when you come down, which I know you want to do so we can show you all the great stuff we’ve been up to in the last few years.
WORLD BEAT DOWN
Panorama Jazz Band • Come Out Swinging
You say you want world music? The Panorama Jazz Band plays music from all around the globe, and every note and nuance is designed to make you shake your ass. Panorama features the classic New Orleans jazz ensemble instrumentation—a front line of clarinet, trombone and saxophone with a rhythm section comprised of tuba drum set and banjo—and their new release Come Out Swinging features everything from American swing to Klezmer to Bulgarian mazurkas. They’re fluent in every style they tackle. The new CD is a great party record, but better yet, get your butt down here and over to the Spotted Cat early on a Friday evening to witness as they throw down. Think the Asylum Street Spankers without the irony but with a well-worn passport.
Wazozo • Newton Circus
Belgian-born Helen Gillet’s band Wazozo play French chansons and musettes and are, simply put, charming. Gillet sings in French while accompanying herself on cello. Daron Douglas on violin, Luke Brectelsbauer on harp and Gregory Hood on guitar comprise the rest of the ensemble. On their debut CD Newton Circus much of the material is taken from such artists as Edith Piaf and Georges Brassens, but the beauty and wit are entirely original. I don’t speak French, but I don’t think it matters. Get the Wazozo CD and put it on. It is spring. You feel deep and soulful. And whimsical. And you can love again.
Narcissy • Narcissy
Narcissy is the greatest band in the known universe and I’ll tell you why. 1. They have the coolest band name. 2. Front man Jay Holland will play the guitar in his pants. IN HIS PANTS…3. They have songs with such titles as “Stairway To Hell” and “I Hate The South” (full disclosure: Mr. Holland is from Pensacola, Florida). Your chances of seeing this band are about zero, as they almost never play out. They do, however, have an outstanding eponymously titled CD, with another due on the Fourth of July. Jay tells me the band’s favorite outdoor sport is Arkansas Stunt F*$king. It’s a short season, but requires rigorous training. In short, super sludgy RAWK.
The Naked Orchestra • From Pandemonium To A View Of Eidolons
There are 23 musicians and one conductor on the new Naked Orchestra CD and each one of them is indispensable. The brainchild of guitarist/composer Jonathan Freilich, The Naked Orchestra was formed about a decade ago “to see what it would sound like.” For kicks, Mr. Freilich writes operas. Most of New Orleans’ greatest creative musicians are heard here interpreting Mr. Freilich’s compositions, along with offerings by the ensemble’s conductor Dr. Jimbo Walsh and Richard Theodore a.k.a. Harry Lenz. How to describe? Mingus at a barn burning. Almost crime-jazz-y. Not for the faint of heart. The recording was made just a few days before Hurricane Katrina, and was only mixed and released recently. From a seemingly simpler time, but you wouldn’t know it from this record. Don’t be afraid. It’s fun to drive to.
Dumpstaphunk • Listen Hear
You are probably aware of New Orleans’ place in the funk tradition (see The Meters, Allen Toussaint, etc.), but the gnarliest stuff coming out of this town these days is from Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. When I hear them my face contorts into some sort of combination of fear and confusion, like I just crapped my pants on an elevator. Unbelievably tight. Singing their asses off. My favorite part is they have a sense of humor and absolutely do not give a f*$k. Their CD Listen Hear is full-impact funk. And they are road dogs so you can go get hit in the head in person. Imagine if Sly Stone and Fishbone had a baby and lit it on fire.
I play in about a dozen bands. It’s one way of staying alive without having to do something drastic like get a job. And I just happen to be a member of America’s premier sousaphone/washboard/guitar trio. The Tin Men have been at it since 2002. We do everything from jug band music to Led Zeppelin and make a pretty good amount of racket for just three guys with no drums. We have put out two CDs under our own name and are currently working on a third and have released a record of sea shanties with the Valparaiso Men’s Chorus. We are also probably the world’s best wedding band. Strange but true: washboardist, singer and comptroller Charles “Washboard Chaz” Leary served two terms as mayor of Gold Hill. Colorado. In fact. he lived in the Boulder area for many years. For those people not familiar with the sousaphone, it is a kind of tuba one hears in a marching band. Our sousaphonist, Matt Perrine, is a veteran of the New Orleans jazz and brass band scenes and is pretty scary on the horn. It’s been a few years since we’ve been to Colorado. I think it’s time we got a little lightheaded again…