Visions of New Orleans

Various artists -  City of Dreams (Rounder, 2007)
Various artists – City of Dreams (Rounder, 2007)

Two recent compilations are dedicated to the rich and influential musical traditions of New Orleans. Rounder Records has released a boxed set, City of Dreams, divided into four discs. The reputable American roots music label has recorded over 100 albums of New Orleans music. The first disc, Big Easy Blues, is not a blues set, but rather a collection of the great R&B tradition in New Orleans, spanning several decades, tracing a fascinating evolution in the use of arrangements and musical instrumentation.

The artists featured are: Al Johnson  – “Carnival Time”; Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, and Tracy Nelson – “Sing It”; Chuck Carbo – “Drawers Trouble” featuring the legendary Dr. John; Johnny Adams – “Just Because”; Irma Thomas – “Don’t Mess With My Man”; Eddie Bo – “Check Mr. Popeye”; Joe Jones – “You Talk Too Much”; Marcia Ball – “Big Shot”; Davell Crawford – “I Bowed on My Knees”; Ramsey McLean & the Survivors with Charmaine Neville – “Drink Jax Beer”; Ruth Brown – “Go On Fool”; Clarence Gatemouth Brown – “Dollar Got the Blues.”

Disc 2, Street Beat, explores the wonderful and festive tradition of brass bands and other acts that perform in New Orleans’ streets during Mardi Gras, parades, funerals and other occasions. The artists featured include well known names such as ReBirth Brass Band, Professor Longhair and the Wild Magnolias.

The complete list is: ReBirth Brass Band – “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up”; Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles – “Sew, Sew, Sew”; Professor Longhair – “Cuttin’ Out”; Bo Dollis and Monk Boudreaux with ReBirth Brass Band – “Shoo-Fly”; New Orleans Nightcrawlers – “Royal Flush”; Dirty Dozen Brass Band – “It Ain’t What You Think”; All That – “T. Chapman”;  Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band – “No It Ain’t My Fault”; Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias – “Golden Crown”; Chosen Few Brass Band – “St. Louis Blues”; Alvin – “Red”;  Tyler – “If My Shoes Hold Out”;
ReBirth Brass Band – “Just a Little While to Stay Here”.

Funky New Orleans is the title of Disc 3, which is a "showcase for the heavily syncopated, bass and drum driven music that remains at the heart of New Orleans music today," says Rounder producer Scott Willingham.

The collection of powerful urban beats includes: Walter “Wolfman” Washington – “You Can Stay But The Noise Must Go”; Theryl Houseman de’Clouet – “Ain’t No Yachts in the Ghetto”; George Porter, Jr. of the Meters – “Rough Spots”; All That – “Flow On”; Ed Frank Quintet – “A Corn for Crip”; Bo Dollis & Willie Tee with Dr. John – “Keeper Of The Crown”; Johnny Adams – “Body and Fender Man”; New Orleans Saxophone Ensemble – “Gemini Rising”; Irma Thomas – “Sweet Touch of Love”; Solomon Burke – “Here We Go Again”; Walter – “Wolfman”; Washington – “Funk Yard”; and Davell Crawford – “House That Jack Built”.

The fourth and final disc is titled Ivory Emperors. It is dedicated to the piano, which is one of the traditional foundations of New Orleans music, "…for the piano has always been the most important non-rhythm instrument in New Orleans R&B and jazz ensembles," continues Scott Willingham.

The remarkable piano performers featured are: Eddie Bo – “Hard Times”;  2. James Booker – “Classified”; Professor Longhair – “Every Day, Every Night”; David Torkanowksy – “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”; Tuts Washington – “Tee Nah Nah”; Willie Tee – “On the Q-Tee”; Davell Crawford – “Gumbo Piano”; James Booker – “All By Myself”; Art Neville – “My Children”; Champion Jack Dupree – “I Don’t Know”; Professor Longhair – “Go to the Mardi Gras”; and Tuts Washington – “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.”

 New Orleans Brass
New Orleans Brass

Putumayo’s New Orleans Brass focuses exclusively on the brass band tradition. While Gypsy and Rajasthani brass bands have been getting most of the attention lately, New Orleans has some of the world’s finest, bringing trumpets, tubas and trombones center stage.

According to the producer of the compilation: "The New Orleans brass tradition experienced a dramatic renaissance in the 1950s and 60s, as traditional jazz bands proliferated, and a new breed of brass band — one that added R&B sounds — began to tour the world."

The CD includes well-known acts such as e the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of the city’s most celebrated musical ambassadors, with Dr. John on “It’s All Over Now.” There is also the now renowned Rebirth Brass Band, as well as many other excellent acts.

The enhanced CD includes a video for “Do They Play Jazz in Heaven?” featuring Ingrid Lucia, Irvin Mayfield and other New Orleans stars, and joins Putumayo’s New Orleans series alongside New Orleans, New Orleans Christmas and New Orleans Playground.

Putumayo wants to be a part of the on-going revitalization of New Orleans music and culture. The label, which recently opened an office on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District, will be donating a portion of its proceeds from the sale of New Orleans Brass to Preservation Hall’s non-profit Renew Our Music Fund, which provides financial assistance to New Orleans musicians and helps perpetuate New Orleans’ unique musical culture. Since Hurricane Katrina, Putumayo has contributed more than $250,000 from the sale of its New Orleans CDs to New Orleans non-profits and musicians.

Putumayo and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation will present a New Orleans Brass concert featuring many of the artists on Saturday, November 17th. It will be broadcast worldwide on the Internet by the renowned local radio station WWOZ. Putumayo founder and CD compiler, Dan Storper, has been a resident of New Orleans since 2005.

Buy City of Dreams and New Orleans Brass.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for TelevisiĆ³n EspaƱola (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.