Saturday, January 9, 2016

The New Orleans Sound



I don't listen to music according to what's new, so I can't offer a Best of 2015 list. I did spend a fair amount of time last year listening to New Orleans music, inspired by our trip there in August. I listened to three recordings in particular.

1. James Booker, Classified. Booker is in the New Orleans piano tradition of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair and others. This record really nails the New Orleans funk. For me, "One for the Highway" is the quintessence of the NO sound. They call NO the Big Easy, and you can hear it here in the way the rhythm section takes its time, strollin' and hangin' toward the backside of the back beat, and even more so in the supremely relaxed tenor sax solo.

2. Allen Toussaint, The Bright Mississippi. For this LP the late maestro of funk, R&B, and soul assembles a bunch of modern jazz greats to tackle New Orleans classics in an elegant and stately manner. The soloists push a bit at the edges, which strengthens this wonderful set.

3. Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy. This is actually bluesier than Satchmo's typical sound, and that's just fine. I wish Louis would stretch out more, but his sound is at once funky and authoritative -- what chops! -- and he leads everyone through a rather joyous recital.

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