Wed, 20 May 2009
He's the big man with the big baritone horn in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Roger Lewis took a few minutes to talk with me last week as he recovered from a busy New Orleans Heritage Festival. The DDBB hits the road this week for yet another busy summer, celebrating 30 years of grooving together. They will be here in Western Massachusetts on May 21 at the Iron Horse Music Hall.
Lewis is a living encyclopedia of New Orleans music,having played the “chitlin circuit” with New Orleans legends like the late pianist Eddie Bo, singer Irma Thomas and the legendary Fats Domino. He attended Southern University, where he hooked up with trombonist Charles Joseph, who was a factor in his joining the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Despite the inevitable personnel changes, thirty years later, they are still going strong.
A survivor of Hurricane Katrina, Lewis lost his home in the storm and resulting levee breach. He continues to rebuild and play in town, with bands like the Treme Brass Band (for second-line parades and jazz funerals), and Delfeayo Marsalis' Big Band.
Podcast 145 is an interview with Mr. Lewis and overview of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's sound, including memorable tunes like:
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Bongo Beep" from My Feet Can't Fail Me Now. This is the 25th anniversary of the release of the DDBB's salute to their favorite jazz standards. Roger points out in the interview that listeners still wonder how they played so fast on this cover of the Charlie Parker tune.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Kidd Jordan's Second Line" from The New Orleans Album. A 1989 album featuring guest appearances by New Orleans legends Eddie Bo, Danny Barker and Dave Bartholomew, as well as Elvis Costello. The song was written for them by Edward "Kidd" Jordan, a professor at Southern University at New Orleans who was crucial is putting the group together.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "I Shall Not Be Moved" from Funeral For a Friend. Howard Morris' song is part of the suite of material the DDBB chose for their critically acclaimed "New Orleans Jazz Funeral" album. For those unfamiliar with the importance of musical accompaniment to burial in the Big Easy, check out this excerpt from Wikipedia:
A typical jazz funeral begins with a march by the family, friends, and a brass band from the home, funeral home or church to the cemetery. Throughout the march, the band plays somber dirges and hymns. A change in the tenor of the ceremony takes place, after either the deceased is buried, or the hearse leaves the procession and members of the procession say their final good bye and they "cut the body loose". After this the music becomes more upbeat, often starting with a hymn or spiritual number played in a swinging fashion, then going into popular hot tunes. There is raucous music and cathartic dancing where onlookers join in to celebrate the life of the deceased. Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the second line, and their style of dancing, in which they walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air, is called second lining.
New Orleans Online also has an article worth reading on the history of the Jazz Funeral.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" from What's Going On. In response to Hurricane Katrina, the DDBB worked with friends and musical collaborators alike from rapper Chuck Dto singer Bettye LaVette to recreate Marvin Gaye's classic album through the prism of the resulting confusion of post-hurricane New Orleans. This track includes G. Love on vocal, over an electrifying horn chart.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Dirty Old Man" recorded live in Las Vegas May 10, 2008. Roger's "theme song" ("I'm a Dirty Old Man/Dirty Old Man/I Feel Like Spanking Somebody!") is usually the tune that send the audience home grooving on his baritone sax line.
Sat, 9 May 2009
When I learned of "The Cat Who Went to Heaven", my curiosity was piqued (OK, OK, here's where you make the joke about what curiosity did to the cat). Nancy Harrow, who had briefly made a name for herself in the late fifities and early sixties as a jazz singer, has reinvented herself by writing jazz "song cycles" for the past ten years based on a variety of literary sources. She's set works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Willa Cather to music, and is fine tuning a project on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her jazzy adaption of a children's book, "Maya the Bee", had a seven year run Off-Broadway and is now in demand overseas.
She's turned to another children's book. a 1931 Newberry Prize winner by Elizabeth Coatsworth entitled "The Cat Who Went to Heaven". Now subtitled "A Story in Jazz", the recording has been available for a few years, featuring (among other notable players) Ms. Harrow, Grady Tate, Clark Terry, Kenny Barron and Frank Wess. A production of the work with puppets at the Harlem School of the Arts, is now set for next week in collaboration with the Culture Project.
I spoke with Ms. Harrow this week about her career as a singer, her choices of projects and the inspiration that went into adapting a children's classic as a jazz song cycle. Podcast 144 gives you highlights from that interview, along with selections from Ms. Harrow's work as a singer and "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" album. Click here to listen to:
Nancy Harrow - "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" from Voices of Cool: Atlantic Jazz Vocals, Volume 2. Nancy's first album is sadly out of print, but you can find this Billie Holiday tribute on an Atlantic Jazz compilation, and a Warner Jazz recording entitled Music For A Bachelorette's Pad.
Nancy Harrow - "Barney (Martha)" from Street of Dreams. Nancy reverses the gender on a Tom Waits composition, and brings a different perspective to a soulful tune. The band on the album is Jim McNeely on Piano, Steve LaSpina on Bass, Richie DeRosa on Drums, Bob Brookmeyer on Trombone and John Basile on Guitar.
"Celebration -jazz interlude" from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Ms. Harrow was a long-time collaborator with the late piano great Sir Roland Hannah. She's very fortunate to have one of today's great players, Kenny Barron, along to improvise on her tunes for one of several jazzy instrumental interludes on the CD.
"But Not the Cat" and "I'll Paint Her In" from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Ms. Harrow's son Anton Krukowski plays the Buddhist Priest on the album, and Grady Tate plays the artist. Tate, a widely recorded hard-bop drummer, has lent vocals to a number of albums inthe past, most notably Jimmy Smith's Go For Whatcha Know. Among his most widely heard vocal performances are the songs "I Got Six", "Naughty Number Nine", and "Fireworks" from Multiplication Rock and America Rock, both part of the Schoolhouse Rock series.
"Imagine That " from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. The jazziest tune on the album features a vocal by Clark Terry, the famous trumpet player who scatted on an overdub after Barron and company had laid down the groove.
Six performances of "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" will take place at The Harlem School of the Arts> Theater, 647 St. Nicholas Avenue between West 145th and 141st Streets, New> York, NY 10030 as follows:
Wednesday, May 13 at 7 p.m. , May 16 at 11a.m. Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Fri, 8 May 2009
Keyboard player Marco Benevento is a logical candidate for "hardest working man in jazz". He performs solo; in a duo on organ with his long-time friend drummer Joe Russo; in a trio currently on tour; and numerous other formats. He recently played the New Orleans Jazz Festival and gigged across the city with the Benevento/Russo Duo, Garage A Trois (featuring Stanton Moore) and has been fronting an all-instrumental Led Zeppelin cover band called Bustle in Your Hedgerow. You can see him at small jazz clubs, large hippie festivals like Mountain Jam and everywhere in between.
I spoke with Marco in advance of his performances in my neck of the woods, May 8 at the Iron Horse Saloon in Northampton, Massachusetts and Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. We talked about his various gigs, the basis for his unique sound, and the state of music today.
Click here to listen to the Podcast, which includes the interview, along with the following songs, some of which Marco commented upon:
Marco Benevento Trio - "You Must Be a Lion" and "The Real Morning Party"recorded live 2009-04-07 at the Hideaway Saloon, Louisville, KY. The Trio for this happening performance was Benevento on piano, Simon Lott (Charlie Hunter Trio) on drums and Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) on bass.
Marco Benevento - "Sing It Again" from Me Not Me. The Trio for these recording sessions were Benevento, Mathis and either Matt Chamberlain (Floratone with Bill Frisell) 0r Andrew Barr of The Slip. It's a highly lyrical cover of a Beck tune from the Mutations CD.
Marco Benevento - "Atari" from Invisible Baby. A funkier side of Marco's personality shows up here, as the same group as in Me Not Me goes electric with Benevento on organ, piano, mellotron and a host of other electronic goodies.
Bustle In Your Hedgerow - "Trampled Underfoot" recorded live 2005-07-31 - at the Subterranean, Chicago, IL. An all-Zep set was played that night, featuring Benevento on Hammond B-3 organ, Wurlitzer, and Circuit Bent Toys, Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) on Bass, Scott Metzger on Guitar, and Joe Russo on drums. Hammer of the Gods indeed!