photo: Michael MacDonald/Flickr
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The English-born New Orleans piano player would have you check out the patio behind the Maple Leaf bar. “It’s sort of a sorry testament to my inadequacy as a bricklayer,” he admits.
Jon Cleary laid that patio years ago, in exchange for half-priced beer during shows and free beer during the day.
Now, Cleary is much in demand for his skills on the keyboard. His bricklaying? Not so much.
Shannon PowellThe only thing more fun than talking to Shannon Powell is listening to him play. Powell is one of the most charismatic drummers to ever grace a stage. His secret? “I’m happy,” Powell tells Gwen. “I was a happy child. I’m a happy spirit.”
From his early years playing with jazz greats Danny and Blue Lu Barker, Powell has been spreading the joy. He’s recorded with scores of artists. And he’s traveled the world with Ellis Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and Diana Krall.
The man who calls himself the world’s greatest drummer knows how to wail when he has to — and when to treat the drum nice.
Benh Zeitlin’s film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” captivated audiences and critics alike. Zeitlin took home a number of the film industry’s top prizes with his debut feature-length work. He collaborated with composer Dan Romer in telling the story of a young girl from the bayous of Louisiana and her family.
And music plays a key — but measured — role in that storytelling.
But, as he demonstrates in our interview (audio clip with Shannon Powell, above) not all of Zeitlin’s music is subtle.
Listen to the hour “Lights! Camera! Music!”
Few piano players are as tall, glam and terrific as Marcia Ball. Born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and schooled in the dance halls and roadhouses of the Gulf South, Ball can’t help but make you boogie woogie. That is, unless you wanna two-step. Or boogaloo. She does that too.
Ball’s songs are postcards of small town life in this region and the dilemmas that drive people to the choices they make.
This week she tells us about love songs and get-out-of-my-life songs that she’s written for the same husband. And yes, she’s still married. But Ball can make any rascal want to be a better man.
Dr. Michael White
“I listened to Johnny Dodds’ recordings. I listened to Sidney Bechet. I listened to George Lewis. I listened to Edmond Hall. I listened to Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, and so many others. And you listen to that and you say, ‘Wow, I would like to capture that feeling.’”
And he has. And he’s captured the spirit of a city with his clarinet.
He told us that George Lewis’s recording of Burgundy Street Blues changed his life.
It just opened up and expressed what it felt like to be from New Orleans.
It was like all of the things that are unique and special about New Orleans life and living — the way people laugh, gumbo, the smell of the cut grass and flowers in the Spring by City Park, the bayou, the river, being around the French Quarter, going to fish fries and penny parties, having people sit out on their stoop, learning your news from them, going to local restaurants and meeting strangers, all those things that are very unique about the city — it seems all those things were in the music.
As noggins in New Orleans go, there is no noggin like that of singer-songwriter Alex McMurray. He’s got more original characters in his head than a Hollywood film library. Why else would McMurray write a song about the man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance? (Spoiler Alert: John Wayne is in the crosshairs).
McMurray also writes about mad men and aging courtesans and even real-life singer Ernie K-Doe, who was perhaps the most original character of all. In addition to his regular catalog of songs, McMurray returned from a work stint in Japan with a pocketful of original sea shanties that he sometimes performs in New Orleans.
This week, he describe the origin of a lyric to a torch song.