What to do beyond Jazz Fest for the rest

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Far from the madding crowds, there are plenty of options for those who aren’t terribly festival when it comes to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, or maybe not even the ancillary musical shows around the city over a two-week period.

And truth be told, it can often feel like Jazz Fest sucks the oxygen out of the cultural air even if New Orleans somehow continues to motor along outside the of the Fair Grounds. Not unlike Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest has its own rhythms, its own allure, its own vibe. And it’s not for everyone. There are other options.

“Jazz Fest is a premier music and cultural celebration in the City of New Orleans. Every year residents and visitors from across the world gather for two weekends of music, food, and fun,” said NORD CEO, Vic Richard. “What many don’t realize is there are lots of other fun things to do across our city, and NORD plays host to several family-friendly events.”

Other options have their own festive vibe.

“It may come as a surprise to some, but Jazz Fest is not the only place to enjoy great music and mouth-watering New Orleans food on the first Friday in May,’’ said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “For four decades, Audubon has presented what’s now known as Whitney Zoo-To- Do on the picturesque grounds of Audubon Zoo. We like to call our black-tie fundraiser a party with a purpose because it has helped Audubon build and expand countless animal habitats and other Zoo projects over the years. And since the festivities don’t get going until 8 p.m., the young at heart can take in Jazz Fest and still have time to head on down to the Audubon Zoo for a little after-hours partying.’’

Here’s a little roundup to give you some ideas.

Zurich Golf Classic
April 23-29
TPC Louisiana, Avondale

The Zurich Classic is like Jazz Fest for golf fans; each of the 18 holes sets a stage for some of the best the PGA has to offer, most notably Masters champion Sergio Garcia and two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. The tournament, in an attempt to boost attendance, agreed to create a two-man team format in 2017 and the results (beyond an attendance spike) included Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith taking the title in a playoff. The tournament also features an Executive Women’s Day, Celebrity Shootout, a Pro-Am, and a performance by Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters following the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday evening. Single-Day Grounds Pass: $35; Weekly Badge: $85.

International Jazz Day
April 26
Treme Rec Center

NORD sponsors this opportunity to connect with music and community in the heart of Tremé. There will be a jazz concert in celebration of International Jazz Day in the birthplace of jazz, which will include a special performance from New Orleans Jazz singer Charmaine Neville.

NORD’s Movies in the Park
“The Princess and the Frog”; April 27, Lafitte Greenway
“Ghostbusters”; May 4, Behrman Playground
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Girl’s Got Rhythm: All-woman AC/DC tribute band Shoot to Thrill explains their highway to HOB on Saturday


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WHAT: All-woman band pays tribute to the legendary hard-rock band
WHEN: Sat. (March 10), 8 p.m.
WHERE: House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.
MORE INFO: Visit the House of Blues ticket event page

“She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean. / She was the best damn woman I had ever seen. / She had the sightless eyes, telling me no lies. / Knockin’ me out with those American thighs. / Taking more than her share, had me fighting for air. / She told me to come but I was already there.”

Don’t forget the guitars.

As lead singer Kara explains it, her bandmates in the all-woman AC/DC tribute band Shoot to Thrill can do everything the menfolk can do when it comes to capturing the spirit one of the most celebrated hard-rock bands ever. And this is a band so popular to emulate, there’s not just one, but at least three other AC/DC tribute bands named Shoot to Thrill, though more in keeping with the original gender portfolio.

“It’s all love,” she responded in a follow-up question after our earlier phone interview. “There’s plenty to go around. We’re cool with everyone.


Lead singer Kara

Including their fans and those of AC/DC, as they pull into New Orleans on Saturday for a gig at the House of Blues — which, along with Southport Hall, have become favored stops for tribute bands.

Kara is a newcomer to this Raleigh, N.C.-based band that formed seven years ago. More familiar the blues music and having previously worked with cover bands, she joined Shoot to Thrill last fall after they caught her singing back-up at a gig. Now she’s all about to rock, and we salute her with this edited Q&A pulled from our phone conversation hours before he band was to load up heir gear and head to New Orleans.

When did you form the band? How long have you been performing?
I’ve been performing since I was a child. The band itself has been together for seven years, with a few rotating members. I myself have been with them since September. I was in another original band out of Raleigh (as) a back-up singer. As a lead singer, up in New Hampshire, I was part of a cover band called Close Range.

What intrigued you to get involved in an all-woman, tribute band for AC/DC?
Well, actually I kind of stumbled across it. It wasn’t something that I had originally in my plan, as I’m kind of more of a blues singer. But the girls took an interest in me at a venue that I was opening for them at and they asked me to come try out, and it clicked and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

Were you an AC/DC fan growing up? What did you like most about them?
[My family] spent a lot of time out on Lake Winnipesaukee, in one of my uncle’s speedboats as a kid, and we used to go out to the sandbar and listen to all kinds of different classic rock, and AC/DC was one of his favorites. And it just is part of my childhood and hearing that type of music.

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Alan Cumming to return to New Orleans on Jan. 21, 2017, with new show, new album

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Tony Award-winning performer Alan Cumming will make a return to New Orleans, and the Joy Theater, with a Jan. 21, 2017 show, promoter and producer Daniel Nardicio announced Tuesday (Dec. 20).

And this time, Cumming’s coming with a new album: “Sings Sappy Songs — Live at the Cafe Carlyle.” Tickets went on sale immediately.

Nardicio noted in the press release:

Backed by Cumming’s longtime musical director Lance Horne on piano, Eleanor Norton on cello and Chris Jago on drums, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs premiered in Spring 2016 for a limited run at the iconic New York supper club Café Carlyle, garnering such critical praise that Nardicio approached Cumming about bringing the show to Carnegie Hall and then New Orleans for a one-night-only performance. … (The album) includes his singular interpretations of pop hits (Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon,” Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” Rufus Wainwright’s “Dinner at Eight”), musical theater songs (“The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, “You, You, You” from Kander & Ebb’s The Visit, “If Love Were All” by Noël Coward) and numbers that Cumming has collected from around the world (“Mother Glasgow” from Scotland, “La Complainte de la Butte” from France, “How Do Humans Live” from Germany).

Tickets range from $45 to $150; there also are seats available that include admission to Cummings’ personal after-party “Club Cumming,” which was his nightly post-show performance dressing-room celebration during the recent Broadway production of “Cabaret.”

Cumming last performed at the Joy in April 2015. Check out his most recent appearance on NPR, as well as his appearance on “Dinner Party Download.” Check out a review of his tour here.

Cumming has long been known for his versatility. Time Magazine has called him one of the most fun people in show business. A Tony winner for his role as the MC in “Cabaret,” Cumming more recently has gained fame for portraying political operator Eli Gold on CBS’s “The Good Wife,” which has gained him honors including Golden Globe, Emmy, SAG and Satellite Award nominations. Earlier in 2016, he finished his most recent turn in “Cabaret.” He also is host of PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery” and appears opposite Lisa Kudrow in Showtime’s “Web Therapy.”

OperaCréole sings out against gun violence with “Concert Across America”

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Music lovers might have missed out on OperaCréole’s performance at the Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday (Sept. 25) for the “Concert Across America,” co-sponsored with Ashé Cultural Arts Center, and part of a nationwide musical response to gun violence at more than 200 venues.

OperaCréole is a beautiful group to witness as it covers classical music across the African Diaspora, so it’s sometimes puzzling to see what at least feels like a lack of greater popularity in the New Orleans area. (I first saw, and wrote about, them at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz Fest, and with better photos.) But Sunday was a delight, if a somber one, given the tone of the evening as leader Givonna Joseph rooted the music in our nation’s long history with gun violence — stretching all the way back to the beginnings of slavery.

The performance was broken down into four major themes:“Mourning Our Ancestors: Africa to Reconstruction,” “Freedom Fighters,” “For Our Children” and“Change for the Future.” Working in collaboration with the Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church’s Chanel Choir, OperaCréole provided a space for each of its members to shine. OperaCréole opened with a beautiful team effort on “Great Creator” from Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s long-lost work, “Thelma” (rediscovered in 2012, a century after its debut), and then deftly blended “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” with the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

Tenor Prentiss Mouton delivered a stirring version of Hall Johnson’s “Po’ Moner Got a Home At Last” (with accompaniment by pianist Marcus St. Julien). Bass-baritone Ivan Griffin dug deep on his take on Glenn Burleigh’s traditional “Go Down Moses.” Soprano Kenya Lawrence Jackson wished a sweet “Prayer” from Langston Hughes by way of Ricky Ian Gordon. Mezzo-soprano Aria Mason (Joseph’s daughter) had to literally compose herself for her personal tribute to a former student, George Carter III, a local third-grader, who later became a victim a gun violence as a teen, with her “Being Good” from “Hallelujah, Baby!”

Kathleen Halm paid lovely tribute to Verdi’s “Requiem” (1st movement) and then joined OperaCréole on Moses Hogan’s “Walk Together Children.” Everyone chimed in on the finale, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” with members hoisting signs marking the cities that have experienced the most recent tragedies of gun violence. While the program encouraged the audience to contact legislators and community advocates to speak out against gun violence, the song was an apt coda on peace: Let it begin with me.


DJ Soul Sister’s Top 5 “dream invites” to her 10th Annual Birthday Jam — living and dead


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DJ Soul Sister’s 10th Annual Birthday Jam, featuring Chuck Brown Band, New Breed Brass Band
WHEN: Fri. (Sept. 9), 10 p.m.
WHERE: Tipitina’s, 501 Napoleon Ave.
TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 at the door
MORE INFO: Visit event page

Melissa Weber, as DJ Soul Sister, has been that rare New Orleans musical artist, connecting the dots between New Orleans music to the rest of the nation in her never-ending passion to expose audiences to the deepest cuts and the rarest grooves of funk music — without ever lifting an instrument. That is, of course, if you don’t consider a turntable an instrument.

Whether as the host of WWOZ’s “Soul Power” or her “Hustle” shows at the Hi-Ho Lounge, DJ Soul Sister goes far beyond the obvious stars and hits of the genre and digs a little deeper, but always keeping the party going. Her star power has grown over the past decade to the point where she’s become a presence at festivals more known for live music, and to the point where her annual Birthday Jam has become one of the early highlights of the fall music season

On this, the eve of her 10th Annual Birthday Jam — featuring the Chuck Brown Band, backing musicians for the late go-go legend out of Washington, D.C. — we asked DJ Soul Sister for the artists, living or dead, she’d love to have on the guest list.

Chuck Brown — This is an obvious choice but, as the “Godfather” and creator of the go-go sound of Washington, D.C., that I’m dedicating my party to, he will be present in spirit. Like my Birthday Jam last year, I’m having a huge specialty birthday cake created that everyone can enjoy. I was gonna keep it a secret, but I’m too excited to hold it in any longer. This year’s cake, created by Dat Cake Place, will include 100-percent edible conga drums with a painting (again, edible) of Chuck Brown. He’s got his own lottery tickets, memorial park, statue … now he’ll be on a cake! Seriously, this is how much Chuck Brown is loved, and his music and style is so influential to me. I’m thrilled that his band (the Chuck Brown Band) and all of the other go-go bands and musicians in the D.C. area keep his sound alive some 40 years after he started it.

George Clinton — Why? Because George Clinton. Actually, now that I think about it, George has been to one of my birthday parties. Here he is with my mom at a birthday party that I threw at the New Orleans Hard Rock Cafe with other P-Funk Virgos back in 1997. (See slideshow photo.) The Funk must always be present when it comes to a birthday party of mine.

Questlove — Being that Questlove is the music lover’s ultimate music-loving artist/performer/historian/critic/writer/badass that I aspire to be when I grow up, it only makes sense that I’d invite him. Besides, any serious lover of funk music can’t resist D.C. go-go, and I know he loves it. Several years ago, I opened for The Roots at a concert in the New Orleans Main Library on Loyola, of all places. One of the songs I mixed in my set, as it came to a close, was a go-go cut called “4th Gear” by Trouble Funk (1983). When The Roots took the stage, Questlove incorporated that go-go beat in the intro. I was jumping up and down.


Slick Leo (Photo courtesy Leo Coakley)

Slick Leo of New Orleans — I’ve been talking a lot about DJ Slick Leo lately, but he is such an influence on me, even though I was pretty young when I was really exposed to him. I was too young to go see him play at the Famous Disco or places like that. But I learned about Washington, D.C. go-go music from his live on-air mixes on the long-defunct WAIL 105 FM in the mid 1980s. The station regularly had this music in rotation, songs like “Meet Me at the Go-Go” by Hot, Cold Sweat and “Let’s Get Small” by Trouble Funk. I never forgot that sound and how much I loved it, so I credit him with introducing me to go-go. Thanks to him, and my love of funk music, I’ve developed a lifelong appreciation of the music and culture of D.C. go-go, and I just want to share it with others — just like he shared it with me. People should know that he’s a legendary music figure in this city, and the fact that we can trace many New Orleanians’ knowledge of D.C. go-go directly to him is one of the reasons why.

Teena Marie — “Lady T” is my favorite female vocalist of all time, hands down. I’ve just loved her my whole life, since I was very young. It’s hilarious that I had no idea she was white until I was approaching high school. She’s one of the most soulful vocalists of all time. I opened for her a few times, but was scared to death to meet her. I don’t get very star-struck, but she’s someone I just viewed as untouchable. But, funny enough, in the months prior to her passing, we became Twitter friends — out of the blue! Like, she started following me, and we’d chat back and forth about music. And sometimes she’d DM (direct message) me, too. It was all about our appreciation of music — Linda Lewis, Linda Jones, New Birth, you name it. She loved and knew her music. After all of this communication transpired, I always thought we’d have a great time meeting in person. I do think she’d love D.C. go-go music, especially since she also played congas, which is a key instrument in the go-go sound. Plus, she loved New Orleans so much.

Read more: Check out Keith Spera’s article on the event in the New Orleans Advocate.

Los Lobos performs “La Pistola y El Corazon” at New Orleans Jazz Fest

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One of the many beautiful things about Los Lobos is how, after so many decades, they can still turn on different audiences in different ways. One of America’s greatest roots-rock bands, “just another band from East L.A.” can take fans old and new through a tour of genres — Mexican or American folk, roadhouse blues, Louisiana swamp pop, or straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, you name it, they can play it, and leave ’em wanting more. Having seen them play in different venues over the past 20-plus years, I’ve marveled at how they can tailor their set to a given show, from an all-encompassing set that spans their four decades, a tight compilation that includes their few hits (“La Bamba,” anyone?), or something more precise.

That latter approach is what Los Lobos provided fans at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell on Friday (April 29) at the Sheraton Fais Do Do State. Playing off a 2014 tour that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Grammy Award-winning “La Pistola y El Corazon,” Los Lobos easily tore through that landmark work (an EP that clocks in at 25 minutes) while also delighting the audience with a range of other Mexican and Latin works — often introducing each one for a cultural context befitting a festival with the word “heritage” in the title. So instead of looking forward by showcasing their excellent new album, “Gates of Gold,” Los Lobos took a look back — way back.

There in a row stood the original members: Cesar Rosas (sporting his ubiquitous black shades), bassist Conrad Lozano on guitarron, Louie Perez, and David Hidalgo working his way through the guitar, the accordion and fiddle depending on his mood. Steve Berlin, a longtime member, remained frequently on the sidelines, occasionally popping out to add some beef with his massive, silver baritone saxophone.

For a 25-minute work of Latin folk, “La Pistola y El Corazon” covers a lot of ground, dipping at various times into conjunto, mariachi, Tex-Mex and Chicano rock at any given moment — every song feeling distinct and fresh from the other. Part of that is due to the dual threat of Rosas and Hidalgo trading lead on both guitar and vocals. This is where they have to each trim down their repertoire, Rosas shelving his passion for roadhouse blues and Hidalgo refraining from some of his more ruminative folk colorings. And yet they still breathe new life into vocal moment.

This is where their instruments serve them well, for if nothing else, Los Lobos could possibly be America’s greatest acoustic act — Hidalgo strumming his sturdy requinto jarocho when not on fiddle or accordion, Rosas plucking his huapanguera, and Perez sometimes furiously attacking “Howard,” his trusty six-string jarana. When they were all in full strum, the crowd practically swooned, especially on such memorable versions of “El Gusto,” “El Canelo” and the title track.

It became so blissful, the band holding the audience so easily in their hands, that when they broke into a more traditional version of “La Bamba” — which Richie Valens had compressed more accessibly into his 1958 hit — and the Cuban folk classic Guantamera (with Lozano taking his lone lead turn on vocals), it felt like Los Lobos were running up the score.

(Trivia: It should be noted that “La Pistola y El Corazon” was the band’s follow-up their amazing success performing “La Bamba,” and other Richie Valens tunes, for the movie soundtrack. While most fans and observers suggested they build on this rare moment of mainstream success, Los Lobos went in the completely opposite direction. Maybe this is why they failed this year to get voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

With barely an appreciation of the lyrics, it was easy to weep out of joy.

I watched as my wife swooned from song to song, caught up in an EP she had discovered years ago, in a department store of all places, and had spent the past couple weeks playing on a loop in anticipation of the show. I had proudly boasted of being the big Los Lobos fan in the household, but it was fun to sit back and watch her fall madly in love with this band on this, her second time seeing them live. The first time was more at a distance, on a double bill with Los Lonely Boys at an amphitheater outside Atlanta. This time was up close, practically at the barrier, behind other hardcore fans who’d camped out during the preceding set by the Honey Island Swamp Band to get into position. When her eyes weren’t closed, her face was beaming as Los Lobos strummed their way permanently into her heart.

Or corazon, if you will. As the opening of the song says (in English, anyway), “I don’t know how to tell you, don’t know how to explain that there is no remedy for what I feel inside.”

With Los Lobos, the only remedy is to keep rediscovering them, over and over again, in whatever way possible.

Listen: Elvis Costello remembers Allen Toussaint (podcast)

Elvis Costello on Allen Toussaint

There almost too many highlights to recall during the memorial service for New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint on Nov. 20, 2015, at the Orpheum Theater — not the least of which being the memories shared by other music legends. One after another, greats such as Jimmy Buffett, Boz Scaggs and New Orleans’ own Irma Thomas remembered the musician and the man.

And then there was Elvis Costello, whose post-Katrina collaboration with Toussaint, Grammy nominee “The River in Reverse,” is a cherished piece of audio healing around these parts. Costello, wearing one of his trademark fedoras, read simply from his script in recalling how he joined a cavalcade of other musicians seeking out wisdom from Toussaint like pilgrims.

“To me he seemed like an elegant prince out of history, gracious, generous, ever curious about what came next, but so modest,” Costello said. It should come as no surprise that Costello, a brilliant songwriter in his own right, should pen such a lovely tribute, so I’ll just post the audio and let you enjoy his seven-minute soliloquy.

His story about Toussaint’s natty attire is worth the listen alone, filled with vivid detail and knowing humor that had the audience laughing through the tears. I won’t spoil the moment. Enjoy for yourself.

Costello returns to New Orleans on Thursday (April 28) for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, performing from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gentilly Stage. It also should be noted that on Friday, you might consider checking out “The Life and Music of Allen Toussaint,” with Irma Thomas, Cyril Neville, Renard Poche, Herman LeBeaux, and C. Reginald Toussaint, interviewed by Ben Sandmel. It’s at 1 p.m. at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage.

“Let Them Talk” at French Quarter Festival: Freedom of speech, with a little action

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Roddie Romero with Michael Tisserand. (Screen shot from NOLA.com)

Too often moments like the “Let Them Talk” series at French Quarter Festival are pitched as a “break from the heat” to “get away from the madness” and relax while cooling off in air-conditioned rooms and relaxing to the jib-jab of Louisiana musicians. On the surface, it’s true, but as music festivals like FQF and Jazz Fest become increasingly crowded and often jammed with people who seem there more for the scene than the music, it’s also great to find a safe space for authentic music appreciation.

And yes, it’s a great place to be an egghead. Because in conversations hosted by WWNO’s Fred Kasten and others Saturday and Sunday (April 9-10) inside the Old U.S. Mint, musicians get a chance to offer the context behind their music, while giving these sweet little unplugged performances to keep the music flowing.

This experience is no better illustrated than when Roddie Romero of the Hub City All-Stars gave an interview to author Michael Tisserand (my former editor at Gambit Weekly) at the 2014 FQF — particularly when he explained his love of the Bobby Charles swamp-pop classic “I Hope.” Romero has an interesting life story, which includes a deep love of Charles’ music, and here performs and discusses an achingly beautiful song.

(Watch: Roddie Romero performs and discusses “I Hope”)

I had to rush away after the interview and was so mad I missed Romero’s subsequent performance with the Hub City All-Stars that I counted the days till their 2015 set, which was brilliant.

The same experience could be said for Kasten’s 2014 interview with cellist Helen Gillet, one of the best imports to the Crescent City over the past decade because of her unique blending of the cello into local music while exploring her Belgian roots, as she did in her interview:

Other important things learned in the talk: She’s a “huge” Prince fan and is looking forward to his Essence Music Festival set; her brother (a drummer) got her hooked on harder rock musicians, such as Faith No More, and she wound up digging everything from Poison and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Whitney Houston, Madonna and of course the Beatles. On the classical music side, she loves Shostakovich and Baroque music in general. “Old, old-school, classical roll of the cello, which is just no vibrato,” she said. “Nothing fancy, just holding down the bass lines.”

(Watch: Helen Gillet performs and discusses “Le Petit Royaume”)

Check out this year’s “Let Them Talk” lineup below. My must-attend interviews: Mason Ruffner, Ellis Marsalis, Eric Falls and of course “From Southern Nights to Hall-of-Fame Heights: Remembering Allen Toussaint.”


 Saturday, April 9, 2016

11:30 am – Ronnie Kole: Reflections on a Vintage Life – Piano-man extraordinaire, bandleader, and wine connoisseur Ronnie Kole has – in his nearly 70 years as a professional musician – performed for the Pope, six U.S. Presidents, at major festivals around the world, and for select audiences of oenophiles at some of the most elegant chateaux in France. Ronnie Kole also helped get Jazz Fest and French Quarter Festival started – and has worked tirelessly for numerous civic and charitable organizations throughout his career. For Let Them Talk he’ll discuss this storied life with interviewer Fred Kasten.

12:30 pm – Bourbon Street Blues: Mason Ruffner and the Blues Rockers – Guitar-slinger Mason Ruffner rolled into New Orleans from his native Fort Worth in the late 70s. He set up shop on Bourbon Street at Club 544 where his band the Blues Rockers did hundreds of shows, backing such blues legends as John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Memphis Slim and winning praise from visiting musical superstars like Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Carlos Santana. Today Mason Ruffner talks about a life of rockin’ the blues with interviewer Fred Kasten.

1:30 pm – The New Orleans Helsinki Connection: Katja Toivola – Trombonist Katja Toivola – a native of Helsinki, Finland – first visited New Orleans in 1995 and now splits time between her two “hometowns”. She leads bands in both cities, The Spirit of New Orleans in Helsinki, and the New Orleans Helsinki Connection in the Crescent City. Toivola also plays in husband Leroy Jones’ New Orleans’ Finest band, handles bass drum duties for the Hurricane Brass Band, and does acclaimed work as a graphic designer and photographer. She’ll talk about her multi-faceted career with interviewer Fred Kasten.

2:30 pm – NEA Jazz Master Ellis Marsalis – When the Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band played New Orleans back in the late 1940s Ellis Marsalis, then a fledgling tenor saxophonist, was there and decided, “that’s what I want to do.” He went on to put the tenor sax away and concentrate on piano. He became one of the cornerstones of modern jazz in New Orleans as a pianist, composer, bandleader, and educator. Four of his and wife Delores’ six sons: Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, also became innovative and accomplished contributors to modern music. For Let Them Talk, Ellis Marsalis will look back on his life in music and education – and ahead to his remaining musical ambitions – with interviewer Fred Kasten.

3:30 pm – From Radiators to Living Rumors: Camile Baudoin – For over 33 years powerhouse guitarist Camile Baudoin teamed with fellow guitar-slinger Dave Malone to deliver the legendary Radiators band’s trademark twin-guitar excursions. Since the Radiators essentially disbanded in 2011 (they still do a few reunion performances each year) Camile Baudoin has continued to work with Malone in Raw Oyster Cult and lead his own band, The Living Rumors. For Let Them Talk, Camile Baudoin looks back on nearly four decades on the New Orleans music scene with New Orleans Advocate music writer Keith Spera.

4:30 pm – Song for My Fathers and Beyond: Tommy Sancton – Novelist, journalist, memoirist, and clarinetist Tommy Sancton’s acclaimed 2006 memoir Song for My Fathers documented his apprenticeship with clarinet great George Lewis and other New Orleans jazz pioneers. Sancton returned to New Orleans in 2007 after many years abroad – mostly in Paris – and reestablished himself as a top-notch clarinetist and bandleader on the New Orleans scene. For Let Them Talk, Tommy Sancton discusses his parallel careers in writing and music with interviewer Fred Kasten.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

11:30 am – Miss River: Sarah Quintana – New Orleans singer, songwriter, and guitarist Sarah Quintana – has a background rich in jazz, folk, and popular music. She studied jazz at NOCCA with Kidd Jordan, Davey Mooney and Hank Mackie. In 2008 she began making trips to France (she also studied French at NOCCA) where she now spends considerable time working with saxophonist Raphael Imbert and his band. Quintana’s widely acclaimed 2015 release Miss River pays homage to the strength – and fragility – of Louisiana’s traditions and environment. For Let Them Talk she’ll discuss her twin careers in New Orleans and France with interviewer Fred Kasten.

12:30 pm – The Long and Winding Road: Bennie Pete and the Hot 8 Brass Band – In 1996 sousaphonist Bennie Pete brought together players from two former Fortier High School student bands – the High Steppers and Looney Tunes Brass Bands – to form the Hot 8 Brass Band. Over their 20 years together the Hot 8 has been hammered by tragedy, blessed by triumphs, and sustained by talent, resilience, and hard work. For Let Them Talk, Bennie Pete discusses the difficulties and rewards of leading a 21st Century brass band in New Orleans with author and Tulane University Associate Professor of Music Matt Sakakeeny.

1:30 pm – Saxophones of Ascension – Louisiana’s Ascension Parish has provided the world with at least two outstanding jazz saxophonists: Donaldsonville’s Plas Johnson (who created that irresistible tenor solo on Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme) and Gonzales’ Grammy-winning Derek Douget. Douget is a long-standing member of the Ellis Marsalis Quartet, leader of his own bands, and current program coordinator for the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music programs operated by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. For Let Them Talk he’ll discuss growing up in the “Jambalaya Capital of the World” (Gonzales) and his two decades plus on the jazz scene in New Orleans with interviewer Fred Kasten.

2:30 – From Southern Nights to Hall-of-Fame Heights: Remembering Allen Toussaint – When Allen Toussaint passed away in November 2015 while on tour in Spain, he left behind a Hall-of-Fame (Rock and Roll and Songwriters among others) legacy as a songwriter, producer, arranger, performer – and especially since Katrina – stalwart and effective advocate for New Orleans – as well as a man of infinite grace and style. For Let Them Talk, Grammy-winning record producer Scott Billington and an all-star panel – including another Grammy-winner – the great Irma Thomas; award-winning music journalist and biographer Ben Sandmel; bassist Roland Guerin – a long-time member of Allen Toussaint’s band; and Reginald Toussaint, who managed and performed with his father for over 25 yrs, will share Allen Toussaint stories and memories.

3:30 pm – Tighten Up: From Archie Bell to Astral Project – New Orleans Sax Ace Tony Dagradi – Saxophonist, composer and educator Tony Dagradi grew up in New Jersey, studied music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, then hit the road with Archie Bell and the Drells. That tour came through New Orleans and ended in Houston. Dagradi doubled back to New Orleans and has been here ever since. He founded Astral Project in 1978, and 38 years later they are still performing at a very high level. For Let Them Talk Tony Dagradi talks about a wide range of his musical interests and pursuits with interviewer Fred Kasten.

4:30 – Big Time Talent, Big Time Voice: The Steady Rise of Erica Falls – New Orleans vocalist Erica Falls is comfortable performing a wide range of genres – including rhythm and blues, soul, funk and jazz. She’s invested the last 20 years in demonstrating that talent by performing with such great artists as Joe Sample, Dr. John, Sting, Irma Thomas, Joss Stone and Gatemouth Brown – and increasingly in recent years fronting her own band – as she’ll do on the Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage at FQF. For Let Them Talk Erica Falls discusses her life in music with interviewer Fred Kasten.





With “Piety,” Michael Cerveris finds his way home to New Orleans

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Michael Cerveris and friends perform “Piety”
Friday, April 29, 8 p.m.
The Theatre at St. Claude
Tickets: $20

When Michael Cerveris went into the studio to create the 2004 album, “Dog Eared,” he did so with what felt like a who’s who of ’90s rockers, including members of Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices and Teenage Fanclub along for the ride. Twelve years on, Cerveris — once again taking a break from what has become a stellar Broadway career — is back with another moving collaborative effort.

But this time, the all-stars are from New Orleans, which Cerveris increasingly has embraced as his home even while continuing his Tony Award-winning work in “Fun Home.” The result is “Piety,” which features contributions from several of the New Orleans musicians who helped collaborate on the Katrina musical-in-progress “Nine Lives.”

When he made “Dog Eared,” he recalled, songs were recorded as musicians were available, “making this sonic house where all these people came to hang out.

“This is the New Orleans version of the same thing,” Cerveris said of the album, which includes such “Nine Lives” collaborators as Shamarr Allen, Paul Sanchez and Alex McMurray. “It’s true of how I like to work in theater, too. I sit and write songs in my apartment or house, and then record something, and my ideas only get me so far. I like handing it over to people and say, ‘Here’s the core, and respond to it in terms of what you hear. Play me what you hear when I play this for you.’

“I’m always excited to hear that (result), and that might spark an idea with me.”

Cerveris recently announced that he will reunite with many of the musicians for a live performance April 29 at The Theatre at St. Claude, co-owned by another “Nine Lives” collaborator, playwright Jim Fitzmorris. Expected to re-join Cerveris: Anders Osborne, Mia Borders, Paul Sanchez, Shamarr Allen, Alex McMurray, Rod Hodges (the Iguanas), Linzay Young (Red Stick Ramblers) and old friend Kimberly Kaye, who also performs with Cerveris in their Americana band Loose Cattle. (She also worked on the latest script for “Nine Lives.”)

(Read more: Michael Cerveris at the Broadway @ NOCCA series)

“Piety” is an evocative, ruminative work that, not unlike “Dog Eared,” feels like a departure from the rock ’n’ roll creations that helped make Cerveris a rising musical-theater, whether in “Tommy” or “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Instead, we hear echoes of Louisiana folklore in “Evangeline,” an eight-minute, acoustic opus flush with fiddle, banjo and even accordion that seem to float on air as Cerveris recalls Longfellow’s famed poem:

Knew so little when she learned of heartache /
Looking for him by another name /
All the ones that never were her Gabriel /
Making sure she never was the same

There’s also the restless spirit in “Crescent” and the closing “Phoenix,” a song of rebirth that can’t help but make one think of Hurricane Katrina even when it’s never explicitly mentioned, with former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason underscoring the closing words, “Wise up / Rise up / Rise and shine.”

The subtle stars of “Piety” might be the backing female vocals. With Cerveris content to underplay his own vocals, practically breathing his lines at times, a chorus rises underneath him, led by Kimberly Kaye and Kendall Meade and including “The Gospel Queens”: Edna M. Johnson, Bobbie Grant and Judy Gibbs.

Cerveris says he struggled at first to put a label on the musical style he was going for here, starting with the term chamber folk, “but that didn’t work.” Instead, he said, imagine “If Nick Drake and Elliott Smith made a record down South, this is what it would be.”

(Read more: John Swenson’s review of “Piety” for OffBeat)

If anything, as the title might suggest, “Piety” feels like an elegy to Piety Street Recording and its owner, Mark Bingham — the album’s legendary producer.

It’s also where they recorded the music for “Nine Lives,” and where Bingham prodded him for original material that he might have for a solo record. From there, the collaboration, years in the making, progressed. At that point, Cerveris noted, there was no inkling that Piety might close, which it since has — leaving behind a legacy of great recordings.

“I’ve been in some other great studios, but there are very few studios that had the soul that Piety Street did,” Cerveris said. “It seemed like a magical place from the time I got there. Mark spent equal time making sure the food was proceeding well on the stove at the same time that stuff was going down on tape. I found that significant and meaningful.

“I just love the place so much and wanted the album to be a footnote in the history of the place.”

He expressed the same love for Bingham behind the sound board: “He’s pretty ego-less as a producer. He’s more interested in the music than putting his own stamp on it. He really listens. He’ll offer his opinion, but also will listen to yours.”

While it was years in the making, “Piety” in Cerveris’ mind seems to have arrived at the right time. When he started making the record, he noted, he wasn’t as invested in his new home like he is these days. Now he owns a home in Treme and practically commutes from New York City whenever he can find a break from “Fun Home.

“My commit to the place is more solid and evident to people,” he said. “It’s being received as the New Orleans record that it is even though it’s not a traditional New Orleans record, but it’s representative of a broad vision of the city and the music scene, and certainly includes so many people from the music scene.”

LPO’s “Louie the Buoy” family concert lifts all spirits

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If you’ve got kids and haven’t yet attended one of the Louisiana Philharmonic’s Family Concerts, you owe to your family and yourself to go. Aimed at children but really a delight for everyone, the occasional series, held inside Loyola’s Roussel Hall, delivers themed concert programming under the vibrant direction of Carlos Miguel Prieto. He’s a performer unto himself, but more on that later.

This month’s concert (Sunday, Feb. 21) featured several familiar works wrapped around the world premiere of composer Tucker Fuller’s musical score set to children’s author Allain Andry’s popular book “Louie the Buoy: A Hurricane Story.” The score, vivid and inventive, worked over, under and around the words of the story, as read here by legendary New Orleans actress Carol Sutton.

There was a risk here: How can one narrate a children’s story set to music without one getting in the way of the other. Well, thanks to Fuller’s score, which captured the moods and rhythms of the story, and Prieto conducting Sutton like a seamstress threading a needle.

Fuller and Andry were in attendance, and all joined Sutton, Prieto and the LPO onstage for acknowledgments. This is where Prieto, who always takes breaks in the action to interact with the audience, really kicked into high gear. He missed his calling as a stand-up comic, and often keeps the crowd fully engaged with his explanations of the program. On an afternoon where kids are constantly brought into the mix — musicians (including LPO Associate Concertmaster Ben Hart) perform out in the halls before the show — Prieto loves to work the audience. He peppers kids in the audience with questions about the programming and the composers, and loves to keep it light and fun and funny.

But here he especially excited, as he recruited Andry’s two great-grandchildren to take turns conducting the orchestra for the final two pieces: Richard Strauss’ “Thunder and Lightning Polka” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The latter came with a command by Prieto for the audience to stand on their feet, clap to the beat, and belt out a round of “Who Dat?!”

The program opened with a rousing rendition of Rossini’s “Overture to William Tell” and Beethoven’s “Overture to Egmont.”

In the spirit of not missing this series, the next performance is “Adventures in Space!” on April 3.