Sound of New Orleans
This week, I decided to forego the usual local-album review and focus instead on New Orleans music, for obvious reasons. Give a listen, and raise a toast to sub-sea-level soul:
• Dr. John, Gris-Gris
The guru of voodoo got his start with this album that can double as sound effects for an impromptu haunted house. Oddly, Dr. John made this record in Los Angeles in 1967 due to being expelled from hometown New Orleans. Spooky funk like “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” still elicits chills. Timeless.
• Jelly Roll Morton, Jelly Roll Morton — His Best Recordings 1926-1939
Legend has it that pianist Morton invented jazz structure by syncopating the ivories with the rhythm of sex. He began performing in bordellos in Storyville at age 12. Supposedly, a secret peephole allowed him to play in synch with the clandestine motions in the other room.
• Louis Armstrong, Stardust
Gorgeous 1930s session by probably the greatest jazz musician of all, whom many cite as creating the role of the jazz soloist as well as the jazz singer. Though Armstrong left his hometown in the early ’20s, this album superbly evokes the N’Awlins spirit.
• The Funky Meters, Uptown Rulers! (Live on the Queen Mary)
In 1975, Paul and Linda McCartney asked the Meters to be the house band aboard the Queen Mary. The result is perhaps the finest live funk album (sorry, Mr. Brown) to date. The marathon version of “It Ain’t No Use” is pure grease.
LAAFF on Lexington Avenue: Five Stars
• Genre(s): Everything
• Be glad you stayed home if: I can’t think of a reason for anyone to have stayed home.
• Defining moment: When Hunab Kru and Fresh Tricks revived ’80s-era breakdancing to the soundtrack of Toubab Krewe’s Malian explorations. It screamed postmodern and neatly encapsulated LAAFF’s personality.
After witnessing a week of despair on the Gulf Coast, it was therapeutic to have a great LAAFF. The fourth annual Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival is the needed Bloody Mary for the malicious hangover that Bele Chere induces on the locals. It’s a festival that cares, free of any corporate tendrils. Musicians (who all play gratis) performed like it was the last day on the planet: Aaron Price and Jordan Bates delivered electronic oddities, Cabo Verde summoned visions of gypsy minstrels, Mad Tea Party got their quirk on with typical vaudevillean abandon, and the delicious Afromotive turned the whole street into a dance floor. I left my reviewer hat at home because, frankly, it seemed disingenuous to criticize something so pure (for now) — an event so rarely and flamboyantly Asheville.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]