Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Texas, along with Bhutan and NASA (yes NASA) are featured at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is held on the National Mall between Congress and the Washington Monument. A wide range of Texas music is featured including country and swing from the likes of Guy Clark and Jody Nix and The Texas Cowboys, Conjuncto from accordionist Mingo Saldivar, gospel from the Jones Family singers, zydeco from C.J. Chenier and older creole style music from Les Amis Creole, Augie Myers, Joe Ely, blues from Texas Johnny Brown (this week thru June 29) and Tutu Jones (next week July 2 through July 6). Also appearing will be Marcia Ball and Tutu Jones. There are two main stages for music at the Texas Exhibit, the Texas Opry House and the Texas Music Hall. It is this latter stage at which I caught Texas Johnny Brown performing today. Brown, who turned 80 in February, remains vigorous and was terrific with his urbane modern blues. He first recorded nearly 60 years ago, toured with Amos Milburn, Junior Parker, wrote Bobby Bland's "Two Steps From the Blues." Roger Wood, author of the essential books on Houston blues and Texas Zydeco was a presenter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dick Waterman Blues Photo Exhibit Returns to DC

Those living in the DC area may want to make it to the Govinda Gallery's new Prince George's County location at National Harbor which will be exhibiting Dick Waterman's music photography. Govinda Gallery in 2003 hosted the exhibit of Waterman's acclaimed and historic photography at The gallery's Georgetown location. That exhibit was memorialized in the wonderful book, Between Midnight and Day which is available from Dick Waterman's website, The exhibit includes images of legends like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf, and numerous others. The present exhibit is between July 4 and August 31 at Govinda Gallery at National Harbor, 189 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD.

waxpoetics™ is Music Lovers Delight

Shout out to praise a publication I discovered this year at Barnes & Noble's magazine rack. waxpoetics™ is a magazine that certainly will appeal to those with eclectic musical tastes. I had the mistaken impression it was a hip hop magazine but actually reading the issue, there is a focus on beats, dee-jays, but also plenty on soul, funk, jazz and even blues. The most recent issue (No. 29) has Herbie Hancock on the cover and a feature on his Mwandishi Band along with stories on soul-blues singer Lee Fields; saxophonist-composer Sam Rivers, composer and pianist Lalo Schifrin, rapper Spoonie Gee along with rediscovery of rare vinyl 45s and albums. Prior issues I have purchased have had feature-interviews on Chuck Brown, Al Green and a similar mix of material that is lively and well-written and a refreshing change of pace from more genre-specific publications.

Wax Poetics has a nice website which includes a digital store as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

John Jackson Honored By Falls Church Blues Festival

It was not as full a day of blues, Saturday July 14, as I was hoping, but the first John Jackson Blues Foundation presented by the Tinner Hill Foundation was a delightful first event of what will grow as an annual event.The Tinner Hill Foundation celebrates the first rural NAACP Chapter in Virginia (Falls Church to be precise), and had been putting on an annual Festival which had featured a variety of local acts including the late John Jackson and the late Sonny Warner. Unfortunately the festival usually was scheduled opposite the Western Maryland Blues Festival. This year the festival was initially renamed as the Tinner Hill Blues Festival, but later renamed in honor of the late Piedmont blues guitarist and songster whose last performance was part of the annual New Year’s Eve celebration put on in the City of Falls Church.

I arrived at Falls Church’s Cherry Hill Park after the initial performance by Danny Blue and the Blues Crew for the performance by the Acme Blues Company. While a capable bar band, they were not very good. Waverly Milor, who fronts the band, plays harp and vocals has a flair and a sense of showmanship, but a limited raspy vocal range that he is not able to enliven with phrasing or other vocal devices and the rhythm of the band was pretty mechanical this day. They were followed by popular favorite Catfish Hodge, who backed by harp and keyboards, may not have performed a straight blues set but was blues-based and was certainly entertaining.

Next up, after Mike Baytop did a demonstration of the bones, was Deanna Bogart with her quartet. Deanna has certainly evolved and matured as a pianist and vocalist and her boogie woogie-derived music is less of a gimmick. It is particularly as a singer that she excels with a honey-drenched soulful delivery. Why she did not play any saxophone, her piano and her band had a nice tight groove, and her vocals were outstanding. After her set, bobby parker, who less than two months prior had serious stomach issues and had successful surgery. Parker was in excellent form with renditions of Guitar Slim’s ‘Nothing but the Blues,’ and some Albert King classics.

During Bobby’s set, the sky darkened and an announcement was made about possible severe thunderstorms heading our way, so I headed indoors where in a gymnasium, Rick Franklin and Mike Baytop did a wonderful performance of classic country blues in the vein of their excellent album, “Searchin’ For Frank.” They both are quite accomplished. Franklin has been performing for over twenty years, often with fellow guitarist Neil Harpe and percussionist Rick Usilton, while Baytop, originally came to my attention for his harmonica playing with the late Archie Edwards and also Mike Roach. After Archie’s death, he became President of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation, and became an impressively talented multi-instrumentalist. Playing on the gymnasium’s bleachers without any amplification, two pair handled tunes associated with Frank Stokes, the great Memphis blues singer and guitarist of the first part of the 20th Century and his contemporaries. One highpoint of their sets is Franklin’s hokum-tinged rendition of a Hawaiian number, “Big Kanocka,” but other songs like “Tain’t Nobody’s Business,” are delivered in a lusty, exuberant manner on material that many acoustic blues artists today are unfamiliar with as these other artists churn out their mediocre renditions of Robert Johnson numbers. There efforts were warmly appreciated by those who heard them.

The rain stopped me from enjoying other acts outside. I understand Bobby Parker’s set was cut short, but performances by Nadine Rae, Robert lighthouse and Memphis Gold went on, although with a much smaller audience. Nadine is one act I wanted to see and hopefully will get that chance in the not too distant future. Robert lighthouse did his Hendrix thing from reports I heard. A promising debut festival with hundreds enjoying the music. Hopefully, the word on this will grow so that more will enjoy it next year, and even more importantly, the weather will cooperate.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Billy Boy's Heartfelt Tribute to the First Sonny Boy

Its been sixty years ago that John Lee Williamson, best known as the original Sonny Boy Williamson, was murdered. His death left a major impression on his fellow Chicago musicians and was a topic many volunteered to Paul Oliver when he visited the United States in the early 1960s and interviewed many blues musicians. One of those affected by Sonny Boy’s death was William ‘Billy Boy’ Arnold, who as a youngster met and given a lesson by his idol. Now Arnold pays tribute to the blues pioneer on his new Electro-Fi recording, “Billy Boy Sings Sonny Boy,” performing 14 songs of Williamson and three originals that are very much in the same style. Backed by a band that includes Billy Flynn on guitar and mandolin, Bob Stroger on bass and Willie Smith on drums, with Mel Brown guesting on both piano and guitar, Arnold revives such well known blues that Sonny Boy made popular like ‘Half-a-Pint’ (‘Sloppy Drunk Blues’), ‘Good Morning Little School Girl,’ ‘Cut That Out,’ and ‘Sugar Mama,’ along with such choice numbers as ‘Mellow Chick Swing,’ ‘Polly Put That Kettle On,’ ‘Black Gal Blues,’ ‘Tell Me Baby,’ and Billy Boy’s own ‘Squeeze Me Tight,’ which sounds based on Sonny Boy’s ‘Rooted Groundhog Blues’. Arnold brings a relaxed vocal style and his harp playing still shows his indebtedness to Sonny Boy’s choked, crying style. Listening to his direct delivery of the ironic ‘Decoration Day Blues,’ on which Sonny Boy lamented the death of a girl friend. The irony was Williamon was murdered on Decoration Day. Another fine performance is the lively ‘Polly Put the Kettle On,’ with its easy swing and a swinging solo by Flynn that evokes Willie James Lacey who played on many of Sonny Boy’s latter recordings. Stroger and Smith keep the backing simple and Brown’s guitar and piano fills out on several tracks the understated, but most effective backing throughout. Arnold’s heartfelt love of Sonny Boy is evident throughout and the backing complements his own delivery resulting in this very charming and moving musical remembrance.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Live Nation Rep says statement about Plans to Eliminate Jazz from American Culture was Joke

Here is a link from the website Pertinent quote from the story, "“We're doing everything we can to eliminate jazz from American culture, SO NO JAZZ!" Mike Luba of Live Nation Artists told commissioners, eliciting a few “boos" from the audience."

Well after a bit of emails outraged by his comment, he says it was a joke. This is an excerpt from he full story on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's website.

A promoter seeking city approval to bring a musical festival to Fort Lauderdale beach said Wednesday he was only joking when he said Live Nation Artists wanted to do away with jazz.

But Mike Luba's offhand remark to city commissioners set off jazz enthusiasts, who rallied to defend a treasured American art form.

Luba said he was flooded with e-mails from people who read the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's report Wednesday about a proposed annual weekend concert festival that would start next spring. Jazz lovers were offended by Luba's joke that, "We're doing everything we can to eliminate jazz from American culture."

Luba said he loves jazz and plans to include jazz music in the festivities."

It was not very funny, but then again Live Nation is not about culture.

Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards 200

The awards can be found on the Jazz Journalists Association's webpage,

Some notable winners include:

Record of the year - Sky Blue - Maria Schneider Orchestra - Artists Share
Reissue/Historical release of the year - Cornell 1964 - Charles Mingus Sextet -Blue Note
Reissue/Historical Box Set of Year - A Life In Time: The Roy Haynes Story - Dreyfus Jazz
Arranger of year & Composer of year - Maria Schneider
Trumpeter of the year - Terence Blanchard
Tenor Saxophonist of year - Sonny Rollins
Soprano Saxophonist of year - Jane Ira Bloom
Baritone saxophonist of the year - James Carter
Clarinetist of the Year - Anat Cohen
Drummer of year - Roy Haynes
Pianist of the year - Hank Jones

A fairly amorphous group with some not so obvious winners.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kenny Neal's Most Welcome Return to CD

After having been through some serious health issues, the blues world has to be delighted that Kenny Neal is back and performing, touring and recording. Blind Pig has just issued his latest recording, “Let Life Flow,” and there is a reflective quality perhaps reflects his appreciation of the little things as on the opening title track. Not a shouter, Neal’s country-soul tinged vocals along with his fleet, fret work are as appealing as ever. Certainly his singing is enhanced by the terrific band that includes his son, Kenny Jr., brothers Darnell and Frederick, the late Little Milton’s nephew, trumpeter Joe Campbell among others. In addition to other striking originals like ‘Blues Leave Me Alone,’ Neal also puts his own stamp on Larry Addison’s ‘You Got to Hurt before You Heal’ (best known from Bobby Bland's classic recording), Ivory Joe Hunter’s ballad, “Since I Met You Baby,’ and Willie Dixon’s still very pertinent, ‘It Don’t Make Sense You Can’t Make Peace.’ Kenny Neal's music has always being thoughtful and well-paced. He shows that singing naturally and honestly will come off more convincingly and frenzied emoting. Let’s hope he remains in good health and continues to produce such marvelous music as here. Kenny’s website is

Monday, June 09, 2008

Jimmy Johnson Highpoint of Excellent Dave Specter Live CD/DVD

Guitarist Dave Specter has built up quite a performing and recording resume over the past two decades. His crisp, inventive blues guitar has added elements of organ funk and jazz to his swinging guitar playing. Delmark has just issued the latest in their live CD/DVDs of blues performers, “Live in Chicago” by Specter. Recorded and Videographed at Buddy Guy’s Legends, and Rosa’s Lounge, we are treated to some of his taut instrumentals along with performances by guests Tad Robinson, Jimmy Johnson and Sharrie Williams. The DVD (which my review is based on) runs close to 90 minutes while this writer estimates that the CD has approximately 70 minutes of music.

The DVD opens at Legends with pictures of great blues legends on the wall with Specter and his band of Brother John Kattle on keyboards, Harlan Terson on bass and Marty Binder tearing into a medley of ‘Boss Funk/Riverside Ride,’ some choice soul-jazz blues funk that displayed not only Specter’s hot guitar playing, but the terrific interplay between the band members. This is one terrific rhythm section that swings and keeps the groove rocking in the pocket. keying on the music and the musicians, the camera work was first rate and focused where it belonged the most. After the instrumentals, Tad Robinson is brought up and handles three vocals, ‘What Love Did to me,’ ‘How I got to Memphis,’ and ‘What’s Your Angle.’ Robinson is amongst the most soulful of the blues-eyed blues vocalists working today and he also adds some choice harmonica to the first and third number. His soulful reworking of Tom T. Hall’s ‘When I Get to Memphis,’ may be his most impressive vocal here, and the band does a great job of supporting him, with Specter adding some nice solos.

After another driving original instrumental ,’Texas Top,’ Jimmy Johnson is brought up and turns in what are even for him exceptional performances. he opens up with an extended take on Jimmy Rogers’ ‘Out on the Road,’ with some brilliant guitar and an even more compelling vocal. Listen to him phrase ,”Take me back, take me back, take me back, baby, darling try me one more time,” to see how takes this tune and makes it his own. It is nothing against David Specter, who has a really fine solo on this number after Johnson’s, to say that the 79 year old Johnson steals the show on his three numbers that also include a strong ‘Feel So Bad,’ and the Willie Cobbs’ standard, ‘You Don’t Love,’ which is not included on the CD. Based on his stint here, Johnson certainly merits his own live CD/DVD.

The DVD shifts gears and moves to Rosa’s Lounge with a nice funky organ-guitar shuffle, ‘The Hollywood Park Shuffle,’ (not on the CD), followed by the funky ‘Is What it Is,’ with plenty of tasty guitar and organ. Then Sharon Lewis brings up her big voice to belt out a trio of songs, ‘In Too Deep,’ ‘Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone,’ (not on the CD) and ‘Angel.’ ‘In Too Deep,’ is a driving shuffle that Sharon belts out about catching her man with another woman, with solid solo breaks from Specter and Kattle, while ‘Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone,’ is a slower number with a nice funk groove as she tells her cheating lover, that every goodbye she makes does not mean she’s gone. the closing ‘Angel,’ suggesting me of a soulful southern rock groove which allows Specter and band to change gears and allows Lewis to show her vocal and musical versatility.

This is an impressive live recording/video. Specter is not simply a first-rate musician and leads a terrific band, but he is also willing to share the spotlight with others. With Jimmy Johnson’s truly stunning performances and the other strong music here, it may be the best live blues DVD that Delmark has issued. Highly recommended.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

2008 JazzFest Day 3

Continuing my write-up of the music I saw in New Orleans the last week of April, 2008, here is the portion devoted to Day 3. The earlier days were all covered in the prior two blog entries. This whole account can be found in the June 2008 Jazz & Blues Report which you can download as a pdf file from that publication's website.

The weather forecast Sunday was even less promising than Saturday, but the morning was sunny, so I ventured back to the Fairgrounds where my first stop was Lionel Ferbos, who made it and led his band through several vintage numbers including the old classic ballad, 'Try a Little Tenderness,’ that was refreshing to hear in its pre-Otis Redding form. On the way to the Blues Tent, the Paulin Brothers Brass band kept alive the legacy of their day, Doc Paulin, who died relatively recently. Into the Blues Tent to catch Little Freddie King who was getting down with his boogie and tend a bit of hot zydeco from Willis Prudhomme on the Fais do Do stage before catching pianist and songwriter David Egan (he has written for so many, and has a gritty vocal style). I stopped in Economy Hall to hear the excellent group led by clarinetist Tim Laughlin that included Tom McDermott (a marvelous ragtime rooted pianist who is a superb Jelly Roll Morton interpreter) and cornetist Connie Jones for some first class music, and with the clouds gathering, I headed to the blues tent to catch Larry Garner, with special guest Henry Gray. Garner’s music, full of wit and irony was delivered in his convincing, understated style before he brought the former Howlin’ Wolf pianist Gray who perhaps carries on the legacy of Big Maceo better than anyone still alive. One last musical stop for me to catch Leroy Jones, trumpeter with Harry Connick and others with an entertaining set. With the crowds getting ominous, I left. regretfully I missed Tab Benoit and the Voices of the Wetlands All Stars with r. John and Cyril Neville amongst others as well as Davell Crawford’s New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, perhaps the two acts I would have wanted to see the most. The rains likely dampened some enthusiasm but after I headed back to my hotel, the music continued with such names as Irma Thomas, Nicholas Payton and Pete Fountain holding forth and the closing acts that day (for those hardier than I) included Tim McGraw, Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint, Al Green and Beausoleil. Even this shortened day did not prevent me from getting a good sampling of music.

I have been told that the weather was better the second weekend and among the performers for those four days included Bonerama, Widespread Panic, Randy Newman, Deacon John, Donald Harrison, Mem Shannon,Bettye LaVette, Steve Riley, C.J. Chenier, Papa Grows Funk, Art Neville, Stevie Wonder, John Prine, Trombone Shorty, John Boutté, The Lee Boys, John Hammond, Belton Richard, D. L. Menard, Terence Blanchard, The Subdudes, Jimmy Buffett, Diana Krall, Steel Pulse, The Bad Plus, John Mooney, Pinstripe Brass Band, Geno Delafose, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstafunk, Santana, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, Galactic, The Radiators, Dianne Reeves, Jonathan Batiste, Snooks Eaglin, Derek Trucks, and The Neville Brothers. My protestations of the booking major pop acts does not change the fact that there is so much still to enjoy of the culture and food of New Orleans and Louisiana.

2008 JazzFest Day 2

Continuing my travelogue (sort of to speak) of my 2008 New Orleans vacation, here is my recollections of the Second Day of JazzFest. As I noted before, it can be found in its entirety in the June 2008 issue of Jazz & Blues Report which can be downloaded as a pdf file at that publication's link.

Saturday, April 26, the weather forecast was for showers midday and while the rains came midway and shortened the performances that day, some of the best performances I saw were before the showers. My day began in Economy Hall where I saw several numbers by a fine traditional cornet player, Connie Jones who has a marvelous new CD on Arbors with pianist Tom McDermott. On the way to the Blues and Jazz tents I stopped for a bit of The Black Seminoles Mardi Gras Indians with there chants, songs and dancing. Rockie Charles, a fine singer with a touch of Al Green in his delivery impres me with his soulful blues style. He had an excellent album on Orleans Records a decade ago that is worth searching out. I had not seen the exuberant contemporary cajun sounds of Wayne Toups and the Zydecajun who rocked the Acura Stage with their strong music. Then a chance to see Carol Fran whose recording career stretches back to the sixties and who made two really memorable recordings for Black Top with her late husband Clarence Holliman. She suffered a stroke a few years ago, but that did not stop her from even sitting at the piano and weaving her spell on the audience. She remains a marvelous singer, although one limitation is that a good portion of her set was standards. Still it was wonderful to see her sound so vibrant. From her set I drifted to the jazz Tent to finally see Germaine Bazzle, one of New Orleans most beloved jazz singers and she did not disappoint me with her song selection and her marvelous singing. The charm and joy of Economy Hall beckoned for Greg Stafford’s Young Tuxedo Brass Band which had the crowd, including a sizable contingent from Lillestrøm, Norway, to second line in the tent.

Legendary honker Big Jay McNeely celebrated his 80th Birthday a bit over a year ago, but his performance in the Blues Tent showed the tenor saxophonist with the vitality of someone much younger as he wailed on sax and sang fairly strongly. After several excellent numbers by him I headed to Congo Square where Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington and the Roadmasters were holding forth with his solid funky blues including a couple numbers from his new Zoho release, “Doin’ the Funky Thing.’ With long-time bassist Jack Cruz and saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter, the Wolfman has one of the tightest bands that can really kick the groove around. After several numbers I headed to the Fais Do Do stage to catch Eddie Bo, New Orleans legendary pianist and songwriter (His ‘I’m Wise’ was a hit for Little Richard as “Slippin’ and Slidin.’” In exuberant form he led his band through some solid performances. As he was performing, the rain started getting heavier and I returned to the Blues Tent to meet my wife. I had been hoping to catch Astral Project in the Jazz tent and Dr. John on the Acura stage, but with the rain I settled in for the entire set by James Cotton and his excellent band marked by the terrific guitarists Tom Holland and Slam Allen, with his longtime bassist Noel Neal anchoring things. Allen warmed the tent audience up with several strong vocals and both guitarists are marvelous players. Cotton finally came up, and while he doesn’t sing anymore, Mr. Superharp was wailing on the Mississippi saxophone. He does not fail to satisfy. With the heavy rain, we caught a bus back to the hotel, Billy Joel cut his two-hour set early at 6:15 I understand, but I would have passed on him. I caught on WWOZ a broadcast of the Ponderosa Stomp Revue and the Count Basie Band was in the jazz Tent, but weather shortened all the closing sets. While the weather limited who I had the opportunity to watch, it was an exhilarating afternoon.

That night, my wife and I went to the Palm Court to have dinner and hopefully see 95-odd year old cornet player Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band. We trekked in the very rainy streets till we reached there and stayed to hear the band even though Mr. Ferbos was unable to get out of his home because of flooded streets. The Palm Court has marvelous food and offers terrific traditional jazz nightly and the band, most of whom would play with Ferbos at the Festival on Sunday, were excellent. After dinner and the music we headed back to our hotel, although stopping at Margaritaville to catch some lively blues & R&B by veteran New Orleans guitarist Irving Bannister, who have a regular no cover gig at Jimmy Buffett’s New Orleans establishment.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

JazzFest Still Rocks Despite the Rain - Day 1

This is the first part of my write-up of the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and other events I saw at the end of April in the Crescent City. You can also read the entire article with more pictures by downloading the June 2008 Jazz & Blues Report.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has evolved over the decades into one of the major popular music events. Increasingly over the past decade or so, tensions have risen over the Festival as a celebration of the music and culture of Louisiana and its increasing status as a major music festival. And ticket prices continue to increase so that it now costs $50 a day to attend, and purchasing advance tickets does not save money when one adds in TicketMaster's ridiculously high fees. Every day the festival brings in major pop icons and headliners whose connection to Jazz & Heritage increasingly seems remote. My frustration is while they spend the money to book a Billy Joel, they do not spend the money to bring in say Sonny Rollins, who last appeared at JazzFest in 1995 (the first year I went to JazzFest). They did bring in the Bad Plus, Lizz Wright, the Count Basie Orchestra, and Cassandra Wilson, along with Terence Blanchard, performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic in the Jazz Tent, but I was told that at least one prominent New Orleans trumpeter (not Wynton Marsalis) turned down the Festival's offer as too low. Ellis and Jason Marsalis both appeared, but neither Bradford nor Wynton were performers this year. Prior to Katrina I saw a marvelous Coltrane Tribute band anchored by McCoy Tyner, and while this year's festival sported a tribute to Max Roach with Jason Marsalis and others, they could have booked the amazingly still youthful Roy Haynes, or Chico Hamilton. For a Jazz Festival, they could do better.

This year, I attended the Festival's first weekend and, for the first time since Katrina, the second weekend expanded to four days. The weather was not cooperative this weekend, affecting the Saturday and Sunday of the first weekend. I understand that the weather was better the second weekend. For the first time since the nineties, my wife was with me for the Festival, exploring different performers than I do, such as spending a bit more time at the Fais Do Do stage than I did. I did try to catch and shoot as many different performers, although the weather and other circumstances limited my ability to see some of them.

Arriving at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, Friday April 25, after getting a spicy sausage poorboy, I went to the Economy Hall Tent for a group led by June Gardner, a drummer who once anchored the bands of Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Lionel Hampton as well as having spent five years on the road with Roy Good Rockin' Tonite' Brown. They played some nice, traditionally styled New Orleans Jazz. After enjoying several numbers, I stopped by the always-full gospel tent for the Voices of Distinction, one of the many groups, famous and not famous, that stir the soul over the two weekends. Then to the Blues Tent where I got to see Rufus 'Rip' Wimberly and the Dreamers playing some nice low-down blues. After a few numbers I went to the Acura Stage where Sheryl Crow would close that day for Susan Cowsill. A surviving member of the band the Cowsills, she has emerged as a well-regarded singer-songwriter. Before and after her I caught some performances from the local Delgado Community College Jazz Ensemble, a big band that sported crisp, energetic musicianship and had a pretty darn good singer as well.

They were followed by a solid modern jazz band from Holland led by pianist and composer, Amina Figarova, whose interesting compositions were matched by the fine ensemble work. After several numbers I wandered to the blues tent to see the fine Baton Rouge harp player and vocalist, J'Monque'D who certainly delivers his blues with wit backed by an excellent band supporting him, and it was real treat to hear him again in his annual JazzFest performance. A bit of brass band music from the Real Untouchables was up on the Jazz & Heritage Stage followed by a visit to the jazz Tent to catch the mix of modern and contemporary jazz from The James Rivers Movement, one of the Crescent City's most visible saxophonists, before I transversed across the Fairgrounds to hear the cross between New Orleans R&B and Tex-Mex Conjuncto music that characterizes The Iguanas on the Gentilly Stage. From there it was Congo Square Stage for Big Sam's Funky Nation, one of the highlights this day for me with their mix of Brass band horns with a deep funk groove mixed in with some blues seasoning that was exuberantly received. I missed Dwayne Dopsie on the Fais Do Do Stage, but did see Jamil Sharrif's New Orleans Jazz Professors in Economy Hall mixing in the older New Orleans repertoire with some swing before seeing a wonderful singer, Leah Chase singing some Dinah Washington and other classic songs in the Jazz Tent.

One of the few headline acts that interested me were the pairing of Allison Krauss (who as a young prodigy toured with the likes of Claude The Fiddler' Williams and others) with rock legend Robert Plant who really exhibited their considerable empathy and unique musical gumbo. I would have loved to see Leo Nocentlli and His Rare Funk gathering with folks from Living Colour and P-Funk, but the opportunity to see Ellis Marsalis took precedence and his marvelous quartet (vibes, piano, bass and drums) allowed him to explore some of his own underrated compositions as well as that of Monk (his most recent recording is centered on Monk's music) as well as Tab Benoit, whose thoughtful, muscular guitar is matched by a rare expressiveness as a vocalist. My Monday ended split between some marvelous singing from Lizz Wright in the Jazz Tent and Buckwheat Zydeco's strong set in the Blues Tent. The big stages closed that day with Sheryl Crow, Ozomatti and Burning Spear, the latter group being one aggregation I would have liked to see, but circumstances did not permit.

That night after the Festival, we visited Club 300, a jazz bistro where we had dinner and enjoyed some nice jazz from saxophonist Tony Dagradi, whose band backed up the vocalist Mary Jane Ewing, a vivacious ebullient vocalist. Weekdays the Club hosts the likes of Delfeayo Marsalis and Marlon Jordan, Jason Marsalis, and Steve Masakowski. It was an enjoyable dinner and music but the room was not full.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Farewell Denise Daye

I just found out that Denise Daye passed away March 27, 2008. She was 55 (born February 18, 1953).  She is pictured here with her husband Eddie (of The Four Bars fame) at Lamont's back in 2006. It was part of a terrific blues show headlined by Theodis Ealey and about there performance I wrote "Eddie Daye & Denise Daye [ ] did a strong set of oldies and soul before Eddie did what is now his signature tune, "I’m No Dirty Old Man, I’m a) Sexy Senior Citizen" simply out to outrace father time. Denise Daye was amazing in both her outfit and youthfulness. Material ranged from doowop to R&B-soul classics (Eddie did an amiable rendition of Tyrone Davis’ "Turn Back the Hands of Time") while Denise did Ike & Tina’s rendition of "Proud Mary."
The two were a DC institution for years and I remember the enthusiasm that Former DC Blues Society President Mike Roach had when talking about them. He even issued some of Eddie's recordings from Eddie's Dayco label in England on Mike's Stella label. She was a tremendous talent who I was privileged to have seen her perform. Belated condolences to Eddie Daye and family.
Here is a an article by Steve Kiviat from the Washington City Paper on Eddie and Denise Daye.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bo Diddley's Music Lives On

With the death of this legend, you can get a brief fix on you tube.

For a nice appreciation of Bo that also discusses his ties to soul legends Billy Stewart and Marvin Gaye, check out

You will be missed Bo Diddley. You kept rocking until you could not physically do so.

Tenor sax Battle between James Carter and Joshua Redman

Nice video (from Carnegie Hall I believe) of the two backed by a big band ripping through Straight No Chaser, and Now's the Time. This has been posted to you tube several times, but this one benefits from some rather heated comments. I prefer James Carter a bit more (he sounds a bit more gutbucket and bluesy), but Redman is no slouch and both are major players.