In keeping with the Mardi Gras spirit I thought I would share some of the highlights from my play list so you can get your own Mardi Gras parade going. For the uninitiated this will be a good (and far from complete) primer and for those who are Jazzfest veterans hopefully you will discover a few new gems. These are all available on CD, iTunes and youtube. And remember, you can always stream the great NOLA public radio station WWOZ on line at WWOZ.org.
Professor Longhair - "Fess" is the Godfather of New Orleans music and the Patron Saint of JazzFest and Tipitina's. "Mardi Gras New Orleans" is his signature tune and his recordings of "Tipitina", "Big Chief" and "Go to the Mardi Gras" are as essential as it gets. He was one of a kind.
The Meters - Founded by two of the legendary Neville Brothers, Art and Cyril, The Meters defined New Orleans funk, soul and R&B. George Porter Jr., Zig Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli round out the group. They were some of the top session men in New Orleans, the bedrock of the New Orleans sound. Their records are some of the most sampled in hip hop and their influence is far reaching. A few seconds of "Cissy Strut" will have you head bobbing and smiling in recognition ("Oh, that song"). "Hey Pocky A-way" and "Fire On The Bayou" are classics and some of the most covered songs in the New Orleans canon. Check "Look-Ka Py Py", "Soul Island" and "Cabbage Alley"
The Neville Brothers - Along with Art and Cyril, Ivan Neville and the legendary Aaron Neville make up The Neville Brothers, the first family of New Orleans music. Check their albums Fiyo on the Bayou, Yellow Moon and Brothers Keeper.
Dr. John - Dr John is one of the most recognizable voices in music, not just New Orleans music. He has done funk, soul, traditional New Orleans Jazz and standards. His catalog is vast but to get in the Mardi Gras spirit check the albums Gumbo and In The Right Place.
Zydeco - It isn't Mardi Gras with out some Zydeco. Here are some of the best:
Clifton Chenier - The godfather of Zydeco. Listen to pretty much anything by him.
Boozoo Chavis - Boozoo, that's who. One of the great characters of Zydeco. Check Live! at the Habib Temple
Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers - Coming out of Rock N Bowl, Beau Jocque was one the shining lights of the new wave of Zydeco musicians. His death at a young age dealt a big blow to the Zydeco community but his music lives on. Check Beau Jocque Boogie, especially the song "Give Him Cornbread".
Cajun - BeauSoleil brought Cajun music to the masses and their catalog is a good place to start. To check out some of the young stars in Cajun music currently carrying the torch check out Pine Leaf Boys. Their debut La Musique is a wonderful album but the whole catalog is strong.
Brass Band - Dirty Dozen was the standard bearer for a long time. Rebirth Brass Band (co-founded by Kermit Ruffins) are probably the current kings. Soul Rebels Brass Band is a great young band bringing some hip hop and R&B flavor to the tradition. Check Rebirth Take It To The Street, Rebirth with Kermit Ruffins Throwback, Soul Rebels Rebelution.
One the blues front, Look for Sonny Landreth (one of the great slide players) and Tab Benoit and his Cajun Blues. Preservation Hall Jazz Band are the are the ambassadors of traditional New Orleans Jazz. The Radiators were the New Orleans rock band and their debut Law of the Fish defined their unique mix of rock, swamp, R&B and funk.
Clearly I am just scratching the surface here. I haven't touched on Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, The Wild Magnolias. For a deep and vast introduction check out the great compilation Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans from Shout Factory. I will throw more music ideas over the next few days. Take a listen, enjoy and let the good times roll!
Where to begin....