Ensemble Fatien CD Release Party

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Tonight the music starts very early (8 PM) at the Maple Leaf.  Seguenon Kone’s super group will be celebrating the release of their new CD.  I saw the group again at the French Quarter Festival and they have really grown with respect to the arrangements of the music and the interplay between the musicians.  They are developing and their fascinating blend of sounds from across the African diaspora is mesmerizing.  I have on good authority that Seguenon is also going to be cooking food for the crowd.  That will likely be as enlightening as the music.

Celebrate 4/20 by Cruising with Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes

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This evening, the annual riverboat party leaves from Spanish Plaza at the foot of Poydras Street at 6:30 PM.  There is truly something special about a river boat ride down the Mississippi River as the sun sets in the distance.  The band always brings it and they usually play something special.  Last year’s treat was a ripping version of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”  Or was that the year before…?

Papa Grows Funk Celebrates 10 Years

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What started as an all-star jam session ten years ago on a Monday night at the Old Point Bar on Algiers Point has blossomed into one of New Orleans’ most successful funk bands. In 2001, Papa Grows Funk’s Monday night residency moved Uptown to the Maple Leaf Bar, where it has continued to this day.

The band’s breakthrough gig was November 11th, 2000 when they performed at the original Meters reunion after party in San Francisco.  From then on, the band has accumulated a huge fan base through extensive touring, from Tokyo, Japan to San Francisco, CA and everywhere in between, averaging about 100 shows per year and producing four albums of fresh, original music.

Old Algiers River Fest

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This weekend head across the mighty Mississippi, unless you live on the “best bank” and check out the great music and great setting in Algiers Point.  Here’s the schedule-

Saturday, April 17

12 noon    Mohawk Hunters Mardi Gras Indians
12:45 p.m. Algiers Brass Band
2 p.m.     Tim Laughlin
3 p.m.     Shades of Praise
4:15 p.m.  Banu Gibson
5:30 p.m.  Irvin Mayfield Quartet

Sunday, April 18

12 noon    Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble
1 p.m.     Lionel Ferbos
2 p.m.     Leah Chase
3:15 p.m. the Rebirth Brass Band
4:30 p.m.  John Boutte
5:45 p.m.  Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Jazz Band

Russell Batiste Band at the Maple Leaf

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I have seen Russell Batiste perform in innumerable bands over the past twenty years.  He was a precocious teenager when he played with Charmaine Neville.  He ably took on the legacy of Zigaboo Modeliste when Art Neville and George Porter, Jr. formed the Funky Meters.  He kick started Papa Grows Funk, PBS and numerous other bands.  He also leads his own group, which is playing tonight at the Maple Leaf.  I had a chance to see the latest incarnation of the band at the Freret Street Festival.  The most interesting thing about this ensemble besides Russell’s impeccable drum chops is the fact that he has two keyboard players.  The saying goes (and the movie title), “Piano players rarely play together.”  Well these two had it going on.  An added bonus with the Russell Batiste Band is the vocalist Jason Neville.  He performed two songs associated with the Beatles- Paul McCartney’s, “Blackbird,” and John Lennon’s, “Jealous Guy.”

Betty Harris at the Old Point

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She was a teenage singing sensation whose mentor was the blues shouter Big Maybelle.  Her work with Solomon Burke’s producer on “Cry To Me” yielded a big hit in 1963.  She toured with Otis Redding and recorded with Allen Toussaint.  The Meters backed her up.  Then she disappeared.  After a decades-long absence from the music business, Harris returned to the stage in 2004.  She has been called the Lost Soul Queen and she is appearing this evening at the Old Point Bar in Algiers.  Marc Stone and his band will provide the musical accompaniment.  Show time is 8 PM.

Jon Cleary Brings New Band to Lafayette Square

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For almost as long as music lovers in New Orleans can recall, pianist Jon Cleary has performed with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.  That group, which features sterling electric guitar work and backing vocals, is practically an institution of New Orleans funk.  Cleary has recently moved in a different direction.  His new band is called simply Piano, Bass and Drums.  The bassist is James Singleton (Matt Perrine subs occasionally) and the drummer is Doug Belote.  These two musicians inhabit an alternative musical universe relative to the gospel roots of the players in the AMG.  I have not heard the project and I am looking forward to seeing exactly how jazzy Cleary gets with the preeminent jazz bassist in town playing upright behind him.  The afternoon starts with the Lost Bayou Ramblers at 5 PM.

Buck Jump: The Culture of Second Line at Xavier

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This evening, Xavier University presents a forum discussing the dancing and music associated with the second line culture of New Orleans.  The event is in the University Center Ball Room.  It begins at 7 PM and is free and open to public. Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Brass Band will perform and dancers will demonstrate the traditional style that dates back to the turn of the last century.  Then the Rebirth Brass Band will perform and show how they updated the tradition for the modern era.

French Quarter Fest- Sunday Picks

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It’s nice to see one of our homegrown bands opening the day on the main stage in Jackson Square.  Clarinetist Ben Schenck leads the Panorama Jazz Band and he surrounds himself with some of the most versatile and talented musicians in New Orleans.  While this band mines traditional territory, not just New Orleans music, but music from around the globe, nearly everyone else in the band can and does play in a variety of styles.

The pianist Tom Worrell has an uncanny ability to channel the great Professor Longhair.  His talents have been legendary for decades now, so it’s nice to see him in a prime spot in the 300 block of Bourbon Street at 5 PM.  He will be presenting a tribute the Fess himself.  Worrell also plays in the Mardi Gras Indian funk band, 101 Runners.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes (pictured) are one of the hottest bands in town despite the fact that they are basically a genre-busting outfit.  With classical chops, they play rock.  But they’re also funky as hell and with a stop-on-dime horn section they can give R&B and soul bands a run for the money.  They close out the Harrah’s Louis Louis Pavilion.  The Radiators close out the main stage.

French Quarter Fest- Saturday Picks

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One of my favorite groups in town is the Hot Club of New Orleans (pictured).  These guys tear it up every other Friday evening at D.B.A.  Their French Quarter Festival gig is in a great spot- right in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court Building on Royal Street.  Catching them in an outdoor setting is just perfect.

Another group that is always wonderful to catch is the Latin/NOLA band, Otra!.  The bassist Sam Price, also known for his work with the Honey Island Swamp Band, leads the group.  The front line horns feature two of the hottest players in town, the saxophonist Brent Rose and the trumpeter, Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown. Michael Skinkus plays percussion.

As my colleague Geraldine Wyckoff notes in her column in the Louisiana Weekly, there is more modern jazz being presented at the French Quarter Fest than ever.  For one of the brightest new faces on the scene, check out the alto saxophonist Kris Royal.  I caught a gig he played at the Blue Nile and his band positively burned.