The Night I Said No to Little Richard

Posted: May 9th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 2 Comments »

Of the Founding Fathers of Rock & Roll, the quintet whose mugs would be on Mount Rushmore, two were frankly more incendiary than the rest.

It’s not that Elvis, Fats Domino, and Bo Diddley weren’t rockin’ and rollin’ in a totally new fashion in the mid 50s.

It’s just that the music of the other two blasted from the tinny speaker of the 7 transistor portable radio I got for my Bar Mitzvah, the device I could put in my bike basket, and thereby take my life’s preferred soundtrack with me wherever I roamed.

One was Jerry Lee Lewis.

When you’re 12 years old and you hear “Great Balls of Fire,” you turn to your pal and scream, “Holy shit, did you hear what he just sang?”

To get a sense of how raucous Jerry Lee could be, youtube his ’64 concert at the Star Club in Hamburg.

(Aside: That Jerry Lee Lewis is the last of those Founding Fathers standing is one of the wonders of the universe.)

The other who pushed the boundaries of the new teen culture to other dimensions was Little Richard. RIP.

His songs propelled. They were insistent. They were outrageous. Read the rest of this entry »


More JazzFest Musical Memories

Posted: May 2nd, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, JazzFest, Music, New Orleans | No Comments »

Realizing it’s truly an impossible task — sharing my “favorite” JazzFest musical moments that is — I’ve decided to take a different tack for this last take on JazzFest for this year.

Because, I love it all. Even the days when I can hear umpteen different performers and none really grab on and don’t let go.

As I always say, that’s why I keep coming back. From day to day. From year to year. Even now in 2020, when I can only experience the event via WWOZ’s JazzFesting in Place.

So, here’s some quick mentions of some regulars, and I’ll give it up for this time around.

 * * * * *

Have I mentioned how much I cherish Allen Toussaint?

Duh, like only a gazillion times.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with He Who Is My Favorite New Orleans Musical Icon, my favorite musical icon period.

When still alive, Toussaint, except maybe way back in the day, never had a regular band that gigged together all the time, that toured. He was, until Katrina for sure, mostly a writer, producer, arranger. But a sometimes performer.

So, at his annual JazzFest sets, his ensemble was always a put together outfit. The upper echelon of NO players, of course, Men and women who have played with him through the decades. But, not playing regularly, the groups were often not as tight as one might hope.

Plus, his singing voice, never anything truly special, diminished over time.

But ya know, it was always Allen Toussaint with his incredible presence that bridged the gap between dapper and dazzle, and his sweet persona, and his amazing songs and charts. Read the rest of this entry »


Favorite JazzFest Musical Memories, Part Trois

Posted: April 30th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, JazzFest, Music | No Comments »

There’s a chat room where JazzFest obsessives like myself hang out.

For the acolytes, the Jazz Fest Forum  is a year round thing.

The denizens are called Threadheads, and most seem to know each other from hookups during Fest. Or otherwise. Liuzza’s seems to be the official unofficial meeting place. They also have a party every year during Fest called the Patry. With boffo lineups.

I’m sort of an outlier, an auxiliary Threadhead if you will, having come to the dialog later than most of the regulars. On the way to the Fest a few years back, in the Charlotte airport, I did meet a couple that helped start the Forum. And there’s the NRBQ-loving regular I chatted up a couple years ago between acts at the Gentilly Stage.

It’s a year round deal, but, as you can imagine, conversations ratchet up with the lineup announcement in January, and the posting of the Cubes a month out.

One of the regular threads will deal with lesser known, obscure acts that somebody’s heard in concert with a hearty “You gotta hear this group.”

I check them all out on youtube before making my daily plans. Weeks in advance, I must admit. Plus, disciple that I am, I also check out the ones I don’t know that might not have been recommended.

Which brings to my favorite tip of recent years . . .

. . . Bombino. Read the rest of this entry »


My Favorite JazzFest Musical Memories, Part Deux

Posted: April 26th, 2020 | Filed under: JazzFest, Music, New Orleans, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

Oh my, the power of suggestion.

As I write this Saturday afternoon, I’m listening to old JazzFest classic sets at WWOZ.org, which the station will be streaming again Sunday the 26th, and next Thursday through Sunday, noon to 8:00 EDT.

Today’s sumptuous slate opened with Bonerama, which as I write I am confirming to myself might be my favorite of the current New Orleans fusion maestros. (I’d like to more definitive, but, my ears are easily turned, faves change on a whim.)

You know Bonerama’s like funk and rock and some second line Longhairish rumba, all fronted by — Ready for it? — a trio of trombones. Which they play straight up or synthesized.

I mean, ya know, it’s New Orleans. Where else?

And, listening to them open today with “Big Chief,” reminded me of a favorite JF musical moment I’d forgotten. Read the rest of this entry »


My JazzFest Musical Memories: Podcast, Part I

Posted: April 23rd, 2020 | Filed under: Music, New Orleans | No Comments »

I have made it through the first day of what should have been JazzFest without JazzFest, my first time not being there since . . . 1991.

Thanks to WWOZ, New Orleans’ amazing public radio music channel, I spent the day listening to streaming of sets from past decades.

Like from 1973, Ella Fitzgerald dueting with Stevie Wonder on “You Are The Sunshine of My Life.”

Or Tab Benoit’s sweet cover of Toussaint McCall’s “Nothing Takes The Place of You.”

So, I’m a bit calmer now than I was previously this week, while suffering severe withdrawal symptoms.

Anyway, here’s the first podcast of several (I hope) sharing my favorite JazzFest musical moments through the decades.

Audio MP3

Knowing What It Means To Miss New Orleans

Posted: April 19th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, JazzFest, Music, New Orleans | 3 Comments »

Already consumed with the stark reality that my upcoming week was going to be considerably different than planned, I did not need a reminder.

There it was nonetheless when I sat down at my computer Sunday morning.

The Reminder: JazzFest tomorrow.

Sigh.

Not that my favorite thing to do in life, the gravitational pull of my year, started Monday. The festival wouldn’t have begun until 11:00 in the morning Thursday.

Just sayin’. Hearing some hot New Orleans outfit, like, say, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, or Flow Tribe, before noon on a workday, while savoring a frozen latte, is among life’s most endearing pleasures.

But Monday’s the day I start the trek down. At least since I’ve been driving instead of flying. No matter to explain, but I’ve got my reasons, and it works for me.

Stay overnight along the way in Mississippi. Get to the Crescent City around noon Tuesday. Check in and let the burg’s quintessential vibe wash over me. Take a jog through the Quarter. Dine with long time pals that night at, say, Clancy’s or GW Fins. Read the rest of this entry »


“A Black and White Night”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: March 27th, 2020 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | No Comments »

So, among the blessings in these strange and perilous times are the many musical events that can be watched on the interweb.

Just last night, I watched an entire concert of my favorite group, Tedeschi Trucks Band, from last fall at the Beacon Theater. They were smokin’ hot, and I actually was up and dancing during some of the tunes.

(Feel free to close your eyes at that the virtual visual, but it’s a moment to savor these days when we can be carefree.)

So, I thought of a concert film you might not know about.

“A Black and White Night” is a Roy Orbison made for TV gig, filmed in late ’87, and first shown the following January.

It is evocatively shot in, duh, high contrast black and white, adding to the panache.

His back up band is arguably as star studded a contingent as there’s ever been. I name names in the podcast below.

Orbison’s an icon from the first wave of rock & roll, but his voice was still in fine fettle decades later.

It’s available online, but you’re going to have to listen to the podcast to find out where. (See what I’m doing here, nodding like the woman in the H&R Block advert to my podcast link below.)

For more details, listen, you know, down below. It’s a great set of live music from one of the greats.

Audio MP3

“Once Were Brothers”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: March 3rd, 2020 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | No Comments »

Saugerties, NY: 1968. The Band behind Big Pink‚ Easter Sunday, West Saugerties. Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm. ©Elliott Landy / The Image Works

I was chatting up some guy I didn’t know in the hallway before the beginning of the reunion concert I saw with Dylan and The Band in Bloomington in ’74.

The guy was talking about how “Dylan was OK,” but he was really there to see The Band.

I, of course, ever wise, and full with my own opinionation, dismissed his utterance as foolishness.

Upon further contemplation through the decades, I, like many, have come to understand the transcendence of The Band’s music and place within the pantheon of rock & roll.

Of course, they’re not Dylan. Then again, they’re a cut above and more significant than just about everybody else in the rock era.

“Once Were Brothers” is a Robbie Robertson-centric documentary about the group’s origins and demise. Lots of great footage. Some interesting interviews, especially with Ronnie Hawkins.

If you care about rock & roll, it is to be seen.

For more, listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”: Review & Podcast

Posted: October 10th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | 1 Comment »

Upon full contemplation, there really has never been anybody quite like Linda Ronstadt in the rock & roll era.

Her truly transcendent voice.

Her personality.

Her intelligence.

Her many worthy collaborations.

And, yes, her looks. (So sue me if it bothers you that I’ve mentioned that.)

She has been plagued with Parkinson’s which cut her career short, but which disease she confronts with admirable perspective.

It’s all set out in this entertaining documentary.

For more details about Ms. Ronstadt and this film, listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

PBS’s “Country Music”: Review & Podcast

Posted: September 20th, 2019 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, Music, TV | 1 Comment »

It would seem to me that to call Ken Burns an American treasure would be understatement.

The fellow has provided history and cultural perspective on any number of topics through the decades with his excellently crafted PBS documentaries.

The Vietnam War.

Jazz.

The Civil War.

To name but three.

He, along with c0-producer Dayton Duncan, have done it again.

This time the subject matter is the history and evolution and importance of Country Music.

It is 16 hours long, divided into 8 two-hour episodes. The first four aired last Sunday through Wednesday. The final four shall commence for four straight nights, starting this Sunday evening. The series can also be streamed through the middle of October at pbs.org.

It’s a brilliant piece of documentary filmmaking, and a must see for all music fans.

For more insight on the series, listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

“Yesterday”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: July 1st, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Music | No Comments »

Of course, the premise of the movie “Yesterday” is absurd.

There’s a momentary global electrical blackout, the main after effect of which appears to be that the entire history of The Beatles is erased.

Including the presence of their albums in the collection of Himesh Patel, a run of the mill singer/ songwriter, whose career has gone nowhere singing his own songs. He’s apparently the only person left on the planet who remembers the Fab Four.

So, he starts singing there tunes.

Odd? Why, yes, it is a unique premise.

But, by golly, despite a couple of moments I could have done without, I fell prey to the movie’s inherent charm. Patel is an endearing character. So too that of his long time bestie and manage, Lily James.

There are a couple of scenes that play with the underlying mythos of the Beatles and this situation that pulled me in.

For more insight on this most entertaining film listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

“Amazing Grace”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: May 10th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | 1 Comment »

Concert footage of the iconic 1972 Gospel Concert by Lady Soul Aretha Franklin has finally been released, under the title, “Amazing Grace.”

It languished in the vaults for decades, essentially because director Sydney Pollack didn’t know how to film a concert. Only when digital editing allowed the visuals and sound to be synchronized was the raw concert footage able to be turned into a film.

And, then, for reasons which remain somewhat mysterious — though I offer a possible explanation in my podcast — Ms. Franklin herself forbade its release before her passing.

It is a blessing that it is finally in release, and will be showing dozens of times in my town at the Speed Museum Cinema between now and the end of May.

Though the film is to be seen and savored by anyone who cares about music, in my podcast below, I discuss some oddities about the filming of this concert that temper my enthusiasm somewhat.

Please listen:

Audio MP3