Dr. John

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Rickie Lee Jones with guitar

Rickie Lee Jones

Our friend and neighbor Rickie Lee Jones has a lot going on, according to an article in the paper.

Don’t have the time? No problem. We’ve got the TLDR version, right here.

First of all, Jones says she’s going a little stir-crazy these days. (Aren’t we all…) So, she’s streaming a live Facebook concert tomorrow (Sunday, June 27, 2020) at 12 noon, Central. Needless to say we’re eager to hear that.

Rickie Lee Jones livestream "From My Living Room"

She’ll be accompanied by percussionist Mike Dillon and according to the article she’ll “showcase songs from throughout her career, with an emphasis on her … 1979 debut.” Which is one of our favorite albums, not the least because it lets us use the word “eponymous.” As in Rickie Lee Jones’s eponymous album, featuring Dr. John on piano:

Rickie Lee Jones album. Original release date: October 25, 1990

And now, after more than 40 years, Jones has recovered the rights to it. Which means she’ll be issuing a brand-new, remastered version later this year. Maybe even in vinyl (we hope).

Speaking of Dr. John, Rickie Lee Jones recorded with the late Doctor on a number of unreleased tracks. She says “Mac sounded a little weak, but what a unique voice he had. I always loved him. The more you hear him, the more you recognize, ‘What an important American figure.’”

Oh, and did we mention there’s an autobiography in the works? There is; it’s apparently being edited and typeset as we speak. She says, “I hope it reads well. It’s kind of like Forrest Gump as told by Charles Dickens.” Should be published early next year.

And a new album is coming, too — a follow-up to Kicks, which came out in 2019.

Heck, it may be time for another interview.

Miles Davis on Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street Musicians

The musicians left Frenchmen Street right before St. Patrick’s Day. Ironically that’s when New Orleans began its lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Bars, restaurants and entertainment venues were closed. That included the dozen or so music clubs scattered along Frenchmen, located just downriver from the Quarter.

Doors and windows boarded up, this once vibrant arts and entertainment district became a plywood-paneled ghost town overnight. Deprived of their usual music venues, some musicians went on-line, playing virtual gigs on Facebook.

But while the entertainment part of Frenchmen Street fell silent, art continued to thrive. Muralist Josh Wingerter used the boarded-up windows as his canvas, creating quarantine-inspired artworks of familiar musicians and other pop figures. Several of them became Internet memes, including a portrait of Louis Armstrong with pandemic-appropriate PPE:

Louis Armstrong on Frenchmen Street
Louis Armstrong

We weren’t able to photograph Wingerter’s art until after some other “artists” had tagged the empty spaces surrounding his images. Fortunately, these graffitists had mostly kept their spray cans away from his work.

Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson
Dr. John
Dr. John
Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair
James Booker
James Booker

For now it’s heartening to see these musicians still entertaining Frenchmen Street passers-by. With restrictions easing, some clubs and restaurants may soon re-open … making us wonder: what’s going to happen to all those artworks?

Terence Blanchard

Terence Blanchard Hosts “Up From the Streets”

Mark your calendar: New Orleans composer and trumpeter Terence Blanchard will be coming to your home in just a few days. No need to clean up the place, however. Blanchard is hosting the award-winning New Orleans documentary, “Up From the Streets.” This “virtual cinema release” will begin streaming on May 14.

Here’s how it works: Tickets to watch the film are $12 each. They’re available from over 75 participating movie theaters in the U.S. Your ticket will be good for seven days, and you’ll have 72 hours to finish the film once you’ve started watching. A list of participating theaters (and virtual tickets) is available online.

The idea, of course, is to support your local independent movie theater while sheltering safely in place. But a portion of the proceeds also goes to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Music Relief Fund. This initiative supports Louisiana musicians who’ve lost income during the pandemic. So it’s a win-win-win.

Up from the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music (Trailer)

“Up From the Streets” is both a history and celebration of the music of New Orleans. It premiered last October at the New Orleans Film Festival. The festival jury nominated it for best feature-length Louisiana documentary. Awards at other festivals in Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Houston followed.

Terence Blanchard is on-camera host and narrator. “Up From the Streets” has interviews by Harry Connick Jr., Wynton and Bradford Marsalis, Aaron Neville, Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Sting, Allen Toussaint and Bonnie Raitt among others. Such legends as Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, and, of course, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band appear in archival and newly filmed performances.

Michael Murphy is the producer and director. His previous New Orleans documentary was 2005’s “Make it Funky.”

Five Albums We Love

Tough times call for time-tested music. Here are five albums we’ve listened to over and over again throughout the years — on vinyl, compact disc, streaming … some even on cassette!

We’re not saying these are the best in whatever musical category they happen to occupy. Nor do we claim each album’s the best offering from that particular artist. “Best” is not a debate we want to get into.

What each album offers is good company. A musical sanctuary for those who just need to make the rest of the world disappear for about 40 minutes or so.

1. Dr. John, Gumbo

Five albums we love

Hard to believe this recording’s almost fifty years old! The songs on Gumbo are so different from the pop and jazz of the early 70s they might as well have landed from outer space. They had — and have — an infectious, driving, carefree yet wistful quality that’s a defining characteristic of New Orleans music. And co-produced by Harold Battiste, how could they not?

While Gumbo is available online and on CD it’s worth seeking out a vinyl copy (either the 1972 Atco original or the 1986 Alligator re-issue) in order to read Dr. John’s liner notes, strangely missing from the other formats.

2. Fats Domino, Greatest Hits: Walking To New Orleans

Five albums we love

They’re all here: “Blueberry Hill” … “I’m Walkin'” … “Blue Monday” … the songs you need to get you through these hard times. Bonus activity: put “Ain’t That A Shame” on repeat, pick up a saxophone and pretend you’re Herb Hardesty.

3. King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree, Blues at Montreux

Five albums we love

Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland on June 17, 1971, but it could’ve been a decade earlier at the Drop on LaSalle. Everybody’s having so much fun here. On “Junker’s Blues” Jack plays fast and loose with the 12-bar format, dropping a measure here and adding one there as the band struggles to keep up. “When it comes to bars,” he says, “the only ones I know about are those you drink in and those in prison cells. I don’t count bars, I play by feeling.”

4. Aaron Neville, My True Story

Five albums we love

Produced by Don Was and Keith Richards, with Richards on guitar, this album of doo-wop standards may seem as far removed from New Orleans as you can get. But oh, that voice. That soul, that wellspring of controlled emotion. “These songs helped to mold me into who I am,” says Aaron Neville. “They’re all dear to my heart, and they rode with me, in my bones, through all these years.”

We could listen all day long.

5. Allen Toussaint, American Tunes

Five albums we love

I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music came from New Orleans.

Ernie K-Doe, 1979 

We referenced this on a recent blog post featuring Paul Simon’s timely video, “American Tune Til Further Notice.” Now it’s time to play the record in its entirety. While you’re listening you may want to read an insightful revue by another virtuoso New Orleans pianist, Tom McDermott. A fitting testimonial to an astonishing career. Thanks, Mr. Toussaint, for helping us get though this period of isolation and loss with your unyielding optimism and matchless grace.