Mia Borders at the Maple Leaf

This evening, Mia Borders finishes her month long, Wednesday night residency at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street.  New Orleans has always produced new talent, but this young woman deserves a listen by anyone who is fascinated by the link between soul and pop.  She fronts a standard rock band- bass, lead guitar and drums- but their sound is anything but standard.  With compelling songs that come with a sense of immediacy, Borders is a dynamo on stage.  I saw her open for Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews at the Wednesdays at the Square series last week and was struck by her poise in front of an overflow crowd that was clearly waiting for Troy.

Bunchy Johnson- 1952-2010

Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson, an acclaimed New Orleans drummer, businessman and actor was laid to rest on Saturday, March 27, 2010.  His funeral was held at Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue in the heart of the Garden District.  The Tremé Brass Band was hired to perform and numerous other musicians joined in tribute.

Several drummers joined the venerable “Uncle” Lionel Batiste (pictured) and Benny Jones of the  Tremé Brass Band in paying their respects to the deceased drummer including Kerry Brown, Frank Oxley, Gerald French and Anthony Bennett along with assorted hand drummers and percussionists.


Other musicians including the banjoist Carl LeBlanc and the trumpeter Wendell Brunious also  joined in the jazz funeral.



After parading up Jackson Avenue, the ensemble paused at the corner of Prytania Street for the ritual of cutting loose the body.  They proceed to make a U-turn and returned to the church.  The jazz funeral concluded with a fitting raucous percussion jam in the church’s circular driveway.


Photo credits- Kim Welsh

Super Sunday!

Yesterday the Mardi Gras Indian Council and R.E.A.L. put on one of the better Super Sunday parades in recent history.  Dozens of tribes were out including at least two gangs from C.T.C. (cross the canal- as in the lower 9th Ward), including the Red Hawk Hunters, and one, the Mohawk Hunters, from the West Bank.  The Hard Head Hunters, a relatively new tribe had the most members in suits, although the Cheyenne and the Blackfoot Hunters represented strongly as well.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Mardi Gras Indians is how some tribes choose to repeat similar motiffs, such as the Wild Man from the Mohawk Hunters, shown above (photo credits- Dylan Stansbury), who always wears moss and a full face mask, and others choose to reflect current events in their beading- see the close up of the patch shown below referencing Barack Obama’s historic presidential campaign slogan.  Incidentally, other patches on this particular Indian’s suit actually had beaded images of the Commander in Chief.


Honey Island Swamp Band on a Roll

All the new bands out there could take a cue from the Honey Island Swamp Band on how to take care of business. Their attention to the details of getting publicity has been paying off.  They won a Best of the Beat award for emerging artist and have been nominated for best “roots rock” band for the Big Easy awards.

In case you were wondering, Best of the Beat is a popularity contest with the winners chosen by readers of Offbeat magazine.  The Big Easy awards are sponsored by Gambit and the winners are chosen by a committee of music business professionals (full disclose-I sit on the Big Easy Committee).  So the band has both the people and the industry covered- commercial and critical success are two key ingredients needed to make it in the music biz.

They are playing tonight at One Eyed Jack’s.  It is the first in a series of “return home shows.”  The band was wildly received on a month long tour of the East Coast.  Their new album, “Good For You” is due to out in early April and will be available at their set at the French Quarter Festival.

Eric Traub at Dos Jeffes

This evening there’s a lot going on in New Orleans as festival season gets into full swing.  Head down to Chalmette for the Crawfish festival and when you get back up to the city, consider Eric Traub with his trio at Dos Jeffes.  Traub is one of the most underrated saxophonists in the city.  Perhaps it’s because he just keeps a low profile and is a humble musician.  He did a long stint with Dr. John and is a founding member of the Forgotten Souls Brass Band.  He also can play louder than any tenor player I have ever heard.  A few weeks ago, he sat in with Loren Pickford at Dos Jeffes.  He filled the room with mellifluous sound without a microphone.  I expect the same tonight.

Vaso Opens on Frenchmen Street

This evening, March 25, 2010, the club formerly known as the Hookah Café opens its doors once again.  The grand opening party, featuring Javier Gutierrez and Acoustic Swiftness, begins at 10 PM.  The doors open at 9.  The spot has had a fraught relationship with its neighbors due to concerns about noise.  Let’s hope they can work it out because Frenchmen Street doesn’t need any more blight.

Marva Wright Passes at 62


Since finding out yesterday morning about the death of the blues singer Marva Wright, the interwebs have been overflowing with condolences from her many friends, supporters and fellow musicians.  What is apparent is how much her talent was appreciated and how much she was loved by the New Orleans music community.  Reading between the lines I noticed an interesting subtext.  Marva Wright came to the secular music world late in life.  She spent years working as a secretary at McMain High School and only sang in her church and at home.  But when she began singing in clubs in the early 1990s, she quickly rocketed to fame, traveled the world and earned the sobriquet, The Blues Queen of New Orleans.  What I find so interesting is that Wright inspired others to try to make it and she encouraged them all the way.  As if to say, if I can do it, so can you.  Wright had a singular talent and a gift, but she remained humble and giving to her dying day.




Jazz Fest “Cubes” Out at Noon


Today marks one month until the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell gets under way.  But more importantly, it is also the day that the much-sought-after stage and time schedules are released.

Drummer and Actor Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson Passes

For the past several years, Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson has held the drum chair in Jeremy Davenport’s fine band.  But over the course of his long career he  performed with a who’s who of New Orleans musicians.  He recorded with Allen Toussaint, Aaron Neville, Chuck Carbo, Marva Wright, John Mooney, Leroy Jones, James Andrews, Wardell Quezergue and numerous others.

Earlier in his career, he was part of the R&B scene in New Orleans.  He played with Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Dave Bartholomew and Clarence “Frogman” Henry among many others.  His ever-present smile radiated the joy he experienced on the bandstand.

More recently, he began dabbling in film and television.  He has a part in the upcoming HBO series, “Tremé” and appeared in the Nicholas Cage film, The Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call New Orleans.”

French “Ben Harper” Headlines Fête Française


This afterrnoon head over to 821 General Pershing St. for the annual benefit festival for le Ecole Bilingue.  There’s music, food and fun and games for kids of all ages.  Wazozo performs at 1 PM.  Feufollet follows at 3 PM and the headliner performs at 5 PM.

Tété is a platinum-selling star who plays contemporary French soul and has been called the “French Ben Harper.” Heralded as a brilliant guitarist and extraordinary poet, Tété signed a music which combines pop-folk-bluesy rhythms, acoustic moods and nicely subversive texts. His songs are about universal subjects such as love, modesty, ego, and solitude.