Archive for the ‘new orleans’ Category

Happy B-Day Dr. John!

November 24, 2010

Dr. John in Vienne France, 2006

Yes, the Street Parade is a few days behind schedule on one of its important dates. Dr. John, Mac Rebenack, celebrated his 70th birthday on Nov. 21 and the Street Parade wishes him a happy one.

I remember when I was a teenager, all I knew of Dr. John for many years was his wonderful rendition of “Such a Night,” on the Band’s Last Waltz. I had no idea really of how important he is as a musician for probably a decade until, in my mid-20s I was fortunately turned on to his real body of work. New Orleans second line music, rhythm & blues, a touch of psychedelia and you get amazing albums like “Gris-Gris,” “Gumbo” and “In the Right Place” (recorded with the Meters and Allen Toussaint).  As a session musician, he has recorded with the Rolling Stones, the Band, the Meters, Van Morrison, Carly Simon, and the Neville Brothers among others. He has become the voice of New Orleans, and to celebrate his birthday, here’s a little sample of his bad muppet voodoo self from the early 70s:

Veggie Gumbo

February 25, 2009

In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d give any veggie lovers out there my recipe for gumbo. Yes, I know all you meat lovers out there will scoff and say this goes against the very grain of gumbo, but I’ll stand strong on this one and say it’s worth a try.

First, we need a stock:
1 onion rough chopped
2-3 carrots r.c.
several slices of celery r.c
a head of garlic r.c.
1 green pepper r.c.
1-2 jalapeno r.c.
put all the veggies in a hot pan with peanut and/or sesame oil and brown them well. Add water and salt and let simmer for as long as you want.

Then, we need a roux:
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. flour
stir the flour and salt into the vegetable oil and keep on low heat for at least 15 minutes. This step is crucial. Watch your roux and stir pretty consistently. You want to let it get to the copper color of a penny (or darker, but don’t burn it). The deep roasted flavors of a slow cooked roux are essential.

Now, we need our veggies. Dice the following:
1 large yellow onion
2 green peppers
6-8 stalks of celery, with leaves
1-2 jalapenos (dice these small, and go ahead and keep the seeds)
When your roux is ready, add these to the mix along with a bit of thyme, some cayenne pepper, and a few bay leaves.  The mix will be really thick, so stir constantly for a few minutes.
Add two cans of diced tomatoes. (I’ve also added a dark beer at this point to good effect).
Then add the stock (you should end up with 7-8 cups of stock).
Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and let simmer for 1-2 hours.

Next, we need some okra:
Of course, fresh is best, but frozen will work as well (I say now that I live in Iowa rather than when I learned to make this in Florida).
Fresh or frozen, slice your okra into medium thick slices.
Saute the okra in some peanut oil until it turns slightly brown and crisp (if it’s frozen, in particular, it will be kind of slimy but the sauteing will get rid of that).
Add the okra to the pot.

Now, we need some meat for the mix:
One box of Boca Italian Sausage (4 sausages). Cube the sausage into good-sized cubes, then brown in veggie or peanut oil.
One bag of Quorn “chicken tenders” (these are surprisingly good). Saute these as well until they are browned.
Add the sausage and quorn to the pot.  When you get to this stage, you can turn the pot off and let it steep.

It’s also important to listen to the right music while you cook.  I recommend the following:
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, “Bon Reve”
Clifton Chenier, “Bogalusa Boogie”
Neville Brothers, “Yellow Moon”
Earl King, “Street Parade” (but, of course)
Rebirth Brass Band, “Kickin’ it Live”
Preservation Hall, “Shake that Thing”
Beausoleil, “La Amour ou la Folie”
Boozoo Chavis, “Johnny Billy Goat”
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, “Funeral for a Friend”
James Booker, “Junco Partner”
of course Dr. John’s “Gumbo”
and one of my all-time favorites, Kid Simmons and the International All Stars, “Live at the Louisiana Music Factory”
I could go on on this front, but that’s plenty of good listening to get through a pot of gumbo.

For eating, cook some basmati rice with garlic and salt.  Right before serving, add some Gumbo File to your gumbo and serve. Add generous doses of Louisiana hot sauce (certainly any hot sauce works, but for this dish I find the pretty vinegary ones like Louisiana style are best).  Enjoy steaming hot!

And finally, you need a good dark beer. I do like to drink a bit of Abita while I cook (frankly, I think it’s an underrated beer.  Sure, it’s not the greatest beer, but it does the job and fits the ambience just right). But when I get to eating this, I want something thick. Tonight, I had an Alameda Black Bear stout that really hit the spot. But anything thick and dark with plenty of roasted flavors (like your roux) will work really well.

And most of all, remember: laissez les bon temps roules!

RIP Snooks

February 21, 2009

Mardi Gras will not be the same this year, as the world lost one of the great New Orleans musicians this week.  Snooks Eaglin died of a heart attack on Wed. Feb. 18 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Born January 21, 1936 in New Orleans as Fird Eaglin, Jr., Snooks is generally regarded as one of New Orleans finest guitarists, playing a wide range of styles including blues, rock, jazz, country, and latin.  His wide repertoire earned him the nickname “the human  jukebox.” At live shows, he would not prepare set lists, and the shows were totally unpredictable, often to his bandmates as well.

He played with musicians such as Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Ellis Marsalis, Dave Bartholomew, the Wild Magnolias, and Earl King. There will, no doubt, be a great second line funeral in New Orleans.

For listening tribute, I recommend 1959’s “New Orleans Street Singer.”  I’d also recommend Lolly Obeda’s “Sugar Shop” on KFAI from  Feb. 20 which includes a wide-ranging tribute to Snooks.  It will  be available here for the next two weeks.


RIP Snooks

Iowa City Jazz Fest, Part II

July 6, 2008

Yesterday we went back down to Iowa City for some more Jazz Fest fun. A great day of music and sun and food and beer all around. We missed out on Euforquestra but showed up in time for some of Garaj Mahal. Garaj really taught me the problems of fusion jazz. While I appreciated the spirit they brought to their explorations, they were so darned earnest about it all that it didn’t really move me. In many cases, there’s a fine line between truly innovative work and boring in fusion, and sad to say that Garaj landed on the latter. Didn’t really do anything for me. We saw some of Groove Ship on a side stage and they put on a solid show (but not up to last year’s side stage band, The Diplomats of Solid Sound–great band!). The IC Fest is really good for veggie street fair, good falafel, soba noodle stir fries, indian food from the veggie restaurant Masala, fine pizza from the Wedge, etc. but they really need a beer booth I think. Beer was strictly a cooler enterprise which we did just fine with.

The headliner of the night was John Scofield and the Scohorns. The horns were a great addition to the Scofield trio sound, really rounding out that jazz guitar. He still puts on a good show with lots of improvisation and a full array of styles. His version of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” with some traditional New Orleans horns thrown into the mix was quite nice. He also played a long jam of semi-country, semi-jazz rambling that really fit the twilight perfectly. As much as I enjoyed Scofield, though, the night truly belonged to the penultimate act, Bonerama. That’s trombones, folks–get your mind out of the gutter.

Bonerama is an astounding band from New Orleans. I’ve always loved the funk of New Orleans Brass Band music, but they stretch even that to its limit. There is a drummer, guitar player, a sousaphone, and four trombones. I don’t care if you do or do not like trombones, if you do or do not like New Orleans jazz, you should see these guys if you get a chance.  They brew up a ridiculously fun stew of funk, soul, r&b horns, and draw from a broad range of styles and covers in their own inimitable style. From Led Zeppelin to Edgar Winter to John Coltrane to Johnny Cash, all in their own voice (yes, in fact, Folsom Prison Blues works just fine as a trombone ensemble). From straight ahead jazz, to contrapuntal syncopated improv, to rock, to freestyle; they shifted seamlessly from style to style and maintained this incredible groove that you couldn’t help but be caught up in. Clearly the highlight of the weekend.

Here’s Bonerama doing a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” in an in-store performance in New Orleans’ Louisiana Music Factory (one of my favorite places). The little bit of vocals here are misleading as the singer is actually incredibly powerful (the previously mentioned version of Folsom Prison Blues was downright scary in his voice) while he’s clearly a bit weakened by the jazz fest festivities here, but the mix of horns gives at least a glimmer of what they do. Like I said, just check them out if you get a chance.

New Orleans Music

May 15, 2008

So this post from the Yellow Dog, and this New Yorker piece on essential jazz albums he was responding to made me realize that my last post promised my 10-best list of New Orleans albums. Yes, that’s been awhile now as I guess teaching took precedence over blogging. Go figure. Anyway, here it is:

10. Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Funeral For a Friend. I love brass band music and generally go toward Mama Digdown’s or the Rebirth over Dirty Dozen, but this album has the heart and soul of a New Orleans second line funeral at its core–it’s funky and downright spiritual at the same time. Recorded after the death of New Orleans street musician Tuba Fats, it’s Soulful and fabulous. (thinking Brass Bands, I’ll digress and throw out a word for New York’s Slavic Soul Party, a brass band mixing New Orleans, Klezmer, Eastern European folk tunes, Latin, and a bit of psychedelia into a truly strange and wonderful music–if you ever have a chance to see them, it’s amazing. For the New Orleans connection, listen to their cover of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya-Ya.” Great fun).

9. Daniel Lanois, Acadie. Lanois is a ubiquitous enigma, producing his own haunting sound into the likes of the Nevilles, Willie Nelson, U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris among many others. This album captures his own eerie beauty at its peak.

8. Louis Armstrong. The Complete Hot Fives and Sevens. Need I say any more here?

7. Kid Simmons’ International All Stars. Live at the Louisiana Music Factory. Hmmm, really, I’d put this higher than Louis Armstrong? Well, I suppose it’s sentimental. The LMF is one of my regular music stores–especially if I’m hunting New Orleans music or jazz. Besides, I saw Kid Simmons in the store years back in what really was one of my musical highlights. This album puts you right in the steamy river city.

6. Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In the Sweet Bye & Bye. Another one of my all time favorite bands (oh where are the days when a band like this would actually be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live–gone, gone, gone I suppose). This taps their gospel side really nicely in a haunting collection.

5. Earl King. Come On: The Complete Imperial Recordings. Yes, mr. street parade himself, namesake of this blog. His early, classic material here. Solid R&B.

4. Eddie Bo. Check Out Mr. Popeye. Also a solid R&B sound here, but it’s the fabulous piano work of Eddie that makes this classic. The man call roll the keyboard with the best of ’em–see the next album for his peer, though.

3. James Booker. Junco Partner. Yes, mentioned in my last entry, this is some stunning piano work with Booker’s own inimitable humor and vocals. One of the true characters–out of the many–that this town has produced. From classical to truly funky, he covers the gamut.

2. Dave Bartholomew. The Best Of. Yes, I think the best of is really a cop-out, but in this case it really captures his range. Songwriter, producer, bandleader, Bartholomew helped develop and define the New Orleans sound of the 1950s. He was key in the transition from jump blues and big-band swing to R&B and rock and roll. His music is often known more through other musicians (and his collaboration with Fats Domino was instrumental in shaping a sound) but I think no one does it like Dave. You gotta love “The Monkey Speaks His Mind.”

1. The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The first hybrid coming out of the Meters, which really was the first incarnation of the Neville Brothers. This album still has that good, solid New Orleans funk to it without Aaron Neville overtaking things yet. Give it a nice loud listen.

Okay, I know, I know. What the heck do I mean by the best? Well, I suppose it just means the albums that get the most air time in my world (and it’s all about my world isn’t it?) Another month and I might shift the list around. Besides, now I can cheat by including albums by pointing out what a shame it is that my list wasn’t big enough to include them (I mean we are tied to the “top 10” format aren’t we? A list of the top 15? How the heck could I do that?): No Fats Domino? (well, try Rue Bourbon); No Allen Toussaint? (well, this one does seem a crime–try The Complete Toussan Sessions); No Iguanas? (Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart). OK, the list could go on. This town is really my musical heart.

And of course I haven’t included anything from greater Louisiana, no real cajun or zydeco. And, yes, I’d say that such music is really from out state, but what I love about New Orleans music is the way that influences stream together to make, pardon the cliche, a musical gumbo. Fats Domino? Well, he’s R & B, but he’s also heavily cajun. Daniel Lanois? Well, he’s actually French-Canadian, so if anything he’s tied more to his Cajun roots than New Orleans, but if anyone mixes it all together it’s Lanois. The Nevilles of course have drawn from an incredible range of influences over the years to make their own singular sound. So, perhaps I can cheat even more and add just a few more albums to the mix:

Clifton Chenier. Bogalusa Boogie.

CJ Cenier. The Desperate Kingdom of Love.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Bon Reve.

Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-chas. Hang it High, Hang it Low.

Beausoleil. La Amour Ou La Folie (although Cajunization is also worth a solid listen, if for no other reason than to hear their mix of surf guitar and cajun fiddle in tunes like “Atchafalaya Pipeline”)

Of course any of the oldies you can get your hands on: Dennis McGee, Canray Fontenot, the Balfa Brothers, Bois Sec Ardoin. A little hard to come by, but it’s all fun.

If I stretch it out just a little more, so I add a little Mississippi too, I’ll thrown in Otha Turner and his Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, Everybody Hollerin’ Goat.

And though I’ve discussed it before, I’ll add an album that really no list of mine is complete without, Bobby Charles’s Stony Plain.

OK, I could just keep going I suppose, but I’ll stop now. Give ’em a listen. Enjoy.

Today’s musical tidbits

May 4, 2008

Saw Steve Earle last night at the Englert.  A fabulous show, mostly acoustic with a little bit of techno, hip-hop mix behind him on occasion.  The acoustic great; the dance mix behind him not so much.  Fortunately it was much more of the former.  His new wife Alison Moorer opened the show.  She has a great voice, but the music didn’t do a whole lot for me.  Her harmonies with Steve, though, were amazing.  He may be looking like a not-so-gracefully aging cowboy, but he can still rock with the best of them.  So, today’s listening suggestion is The Revolution Starts Now.  I mean how can you beat an album with a love song to Condi Rice or a declaration to fuck the FCC?

For secondary listening pleasure, I recommend Steve’s Transcendental Blues.  Perhaps an all around better album, but his show last night put me in the mood for a bit of revolution.

Also on my day’s playlist is in honor of the end of New Orleans’ Jazz Fest.  Wish I could be there.  The Nevilles closing the show like the old days.  It would be easy of course to suggest some Nevilles or perhaps some Professor Longhair-both appropriate and worth a good listen to today, but I’m reaching a bit further and putting a little James Booker on the playlist.  I highly recommend his Junco Partner. An all-around great eclectic New Orleans piano album.

OK, so a smaller picture of Booker’s album but no less important than Earle’s.  Give ’em both a listen.  I could of course go on with new orleans music.  In fact, maybe I will: upcoming, my top ten new orleans albums.  Stay tuned…

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

February 19, 2008

The great songwriter and singer Bobby Charles turns 70 years young on Thur the 21st. And many happy returns!

A Louisiana Cajun (born Robert Charles Guidry), Charles grew up in Cajun country listening to Hank Williams and Fats Domino. Early on, he wrote such classics as “See ya Later, Alligator” (made famous by Bill Haley and the Comets) and “Walkin’ to New Orleans” (written for the great Fats Domino himself) and then went on to help develop the musical style of Swamp Pop. All of which is great, but for me it gets no better than his 1972 self-titled recording with The Band. This album ranks as one of my all-time top ten. Especially noteworthy tracks include “Save Me Jesus” in which he implores Jesus to save him from “this godforsaken place” and “All the whiskey” with its refrain of “He got all the whiskey and he won’t give me none” (and apparently he got all the women, and he got all the money) written for his then-manager Albert Grossman (yes, the same Albert Grossman who managed Bob Dylan). I think you can see what Charles thought of Grossman’s managing style. Obviously, it wasn’t a long-lived collaboration. In fact, it really signaled the end of recording for Charles. After fiascos with Grossman and other music-biz people, he went to Louisiana and settled back into the quiet rural life. He put out a “return” album in 2004 that I was really excited about–including collaborations with Neil Young, Lucinda Williams and others–and while it has some decent cuts, it’s certainly not the Charles of old. But, then again, I don’t hold that against him. Bobby, you’re still one of my favorites. For the rest of you, if you get a chance, give this a listen:


Happy Birthday Earl!

February 7, 2008

The Great Earl King!

Today, February 7, is the great Earl King’s birthday. Had he lived, he would be 78 today. As I’ve mentioned before, the name of this blog comes from his 1972 song/album recorded with the Meters.  I was in New Orleans in 2003 on the day that he died. WWOZ (one of the nation’s great radio stations, along with Minneapolis’s KFAI) played an all-day tribute the day before his own second-line new orleans style funeral. There were some fabulous interviews and I remember one interview talking about how Earl wrote his songs. Apparently, he’d spend all day at the corner donut shop (not the well-known cafe du monde with its beignets but a small shop on Rampart) and he’d sit at the counter drinking coffee, and people would come in, buy him donuts, and he’d write, and he’d talk, and he’d write some more. All that great music coming from the donut shop! I love it. As tribute (and coincidentally close to mardi gras this year as well) I recommend Come On: The Complete Imperial Recordings. Classic American R & B, good to the core.