Saturday, November 05, 2011

"Our New Orleans" Was Rhythm And Blues After Katrina

In April 2006 I wrote reviews on several post-Katrina benefit albums. I will be posting these in the next few days (not necessarily consecutively). Here is the first which originally appeared in the April 2006 (issue 281) of Jazz & Blues Report as well as the April 2006 DC Blues Calendar, then the DC Blues Society’s newsletter. Some of the artists on this have passed on and it is still in print. I likely received a review copy, not sure if from the record company, a publicist or Jazz & Blues Report.

Our New Orleans on Nonesuch is a collection of new studio recordings by New Orleans and other Louisiana musicians recorded in various cities last September and October. The emphasis is less towards jazz and more towards blues and rhythm & blues.

Allen Toussaint opens with his Yes We Can Can, a song he originally wrote for Lee Dorsey and the spirit of helping each other make it is especially apt. Dr. John’s morose World I Never Made is followed by Irma Thomas, backed by Toussaint, singing an unfortunately topical Back Water Blues, singing “My house fell down and I can’t live there no more.” Davell Crawford adds a touch of gospel with his marvelous Gather By the River, one of several fine solo piano performances including Eddie Bo’s slow drag interpretation of When the Saints Go Marching On, Carol Fran’s Tou' Les Jours Ç'est Pas La Même with New Orleans rhythm accents as she sings bilingually about her man, “where were you when I passed by?”, and Allen Toussaint’s instrumental Tipitina and Me.

Traditional jazz is represented by clarinetist, Dr. Michael White, on a lively salute to King Oliver on Canal Street Blues and Preservation Hall on Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; cajun and zydeco are represented by Buckwheat Zydeco’s Cryin’ in the Streets (with a sullen feel and one of the best vocals I have heard from Mr. Dural with Ry Cooder on guitar) and Beausoleil’s bittersweet instrumental L’Ouragon; and street sounds of New Orleans are sampled by the Wild Magnolia’s Brother John is Gone/ Herc-Jolly-John, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.

Charlie Miller plays sings and provides the only accompaniment on his trumpet on Prayer to New Orleans, while Donald Harrison’s alto is featured on The Wardell Quezerque Orchestra’s rendition of What a Wonderful World. The disc concludes with Randy Newman reviving his unfortunately appropriate Louisiana 1927 (about the flooding of cajun country in 1917) backed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with members of the New York Philharmonic singing about “they are trying to wash us away,” a lyric that rings unfortunately true.

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