“King” Richard Matthews R.I.P.

When a man of Matthews’ stature in the tight knit brass band community of New Orleans dies, dozens of musicians turn out to play their respects and send him off with a jazz funeral.  Members of the Tremé, Storyville Stompers and the Original Royal Players turned out in large numbers.  The group of over twenty musicians also included numerous alumni of the Olympia Brass Band, which Matthews led for four decades.

The ensemble arrived with instruments blaring from around the corner and proceeded to parade through the Charbonnet-Labat Funeral Home in the Tremé neighborhood.  They played a gentle dirge as the body was brought out and Matthews’ trademark top hat and cape were delicately placed on the rear of the horse-drawn hearse.

James Andrews and William Smith  anchored the trumpet section along with Matthews’ family member, Mervin Campbell, and Kenneth Terry, Ken Ferdinand and others.

The trombone section included Craig Klein and Bryon Bernard was on saxophone.  The rhythm section featured several snare drummers including Kerry Brown and Benny Jones, the leader of the Tremé Brass Band.  “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, also of the Tremé, was at times stoic and then ribald fitting his irrepressible personality.


There were five Grand Marshals including “Bo Monkey” Jones- a veteran of numerous jazz funerals and second line parades.  He led the band into the Candlelight Lounge at the conclusion of the ritual send off. (photos by Dylan Stansbury)

“King” Richard Matthews to Be Buried Today

It should come as no surprise to fans of traditional New Orleans jazz that the city’s mainstream media has no sense of history or gravity.  When a New Orleans musical icon like Marva Wright or Snooks Eaglin passes, every effort is made to publicize the life and the jazz funeral.  But when someone who’s most prominent work in the public eye occurred decades ago, but who remained relevant, albeit to a smaller segment of the city, until months before his death, the city’s media either turn a blind eye or are just plain ignorant.  I, for one, hope it’s ignorance.  Richard Matthews, who passed away last week at the age of 60, was the face of New Orleans culture throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  His image adorned billboards for Popeye’s Fried Chicken, Coca-Cola and other commercial advertisements.  He traveled the world as the Grand Marshall of the mighty Olympia Brass Band.  He was photographed countless times in dozens of countries.  Yet, his passing has not been noted anywhere except a loving obituary penned by Geraldine Wyckoff, which appeared in the Louisiana Weekly and was available on the streets of New Orleans on Monday.  It is a travesty and a shame that no one at the Times-Picayune, Gambit Weekly, Offbeat Magazine or any of the other publications that “celebrate” New Orleans culture has written a word about his passing and the significance of his life’s accomplishments.  It is also a sad commentary on the state of the media in New Orleans that the editors of those same publications are not astute enough to even glance at the Weekly to see what Wyckoff, who is arguably the grand dame of music journalists in the city, has written each week.  Ironically, that smaller segment of New Orleans culture that I mentioned above will be gathered in huge numbers this morning to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a true New Orleans icon. (photo credit- Dylan Stansbury)

Singer-songwriter Ruby James at Mimi’s Tonight

If you haven’t heard of her yet, you will very soon.  Based out of Austin, Texas, James has been a rising star since she moved to Austin from Los Angeles.  Her new CD, Happy Now, which was just released was produced by Charlie Sexton and features Will Sexton and Mike Thompson- a touring member of the Eagles.  Ruby will play Mimi’s in the Marigny from 8-10 PM and an then she has an afternoon in-store performance at the Barnes & Noble in Metairie at 3:30 PM on Saturday.

Royal Street Stroll to Feature the Cork Poppas Brass Band

One of the best things about New Orleans is the fact that there is rarely an event in town that doesn’t feature a live band.  Tonight, Royal Street in the French Quarter will be closed to vehicles while the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience stages one of its signature events.  For a rather large fee, attendees walk the length of the street stopping at art galleries and shops, which offer wine and food for tasting.  However, you don’t have to pay the fee to enjoy the experience- just bring your own libations or pop into one of the bars along the route.  Look for the Krewe of Cork- a wine-based parading organization. Some of their members will be in costume and they will march up and down the street with the Cork Poppas Brass Band providing the musical accompaniment.  This is an A-list band led by trombonist Freddie Lonzo (pictured).  Leroy Jones will play trumpet and his Finnish wife Katja Toivola will also be on trombone.  The rhythm section has included Kerry Brown and Herlin Riley in the past.  It’s a great time and only in New Orleans!

Whole Foods To Donate 5% to New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic

For numerous local musicians and music industry types (you don’t actually have to be a musician to take advantage of the services), the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic has literally been a lifesaver.  With Charity Hospital, the resource of choice (irony intended) for local artists before Katrina, still out of action, the clinic has helped thousands deal with day-to-day health issues and more serious concerns.  They have always operated on a slim budget and with the loss of a key grant pending, their very existence is threatened.  All day today the Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of their net proceeds to the clinic.  Since this is New Orleans, there will also be live music all afternoon.  Here’s the schedule- 12 PM- the Pfister Sisters, 1 PM- Armand St. Martin’s C’est Bon Jazz Trio, 2 PM- Charles Moore, 3 PM- the Tremé Brass Band and 5 PM- Ready Teddy and the Swampdaddys.

As Told By Themselves- the Young Fellaz Brass Band

Tonight, the Louisiana Humanities Center presents the final installment of  their series of lecture/performances about the brass bands of New Orleans.  This week’s subject is a brass band that has only been on the scene for a short while.  They should provide an interesting perspective and a contrast to previous participants, which have included heavyweights such as the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth Brass Bands.  The center’s director Brian Boyles moderates the discussion and the band will perform following an audience Q and A.  The Louisiana Humanities Center is located at 938 Lafayette Street at the corner of O’Keefe in the CBD.  The doors open at 6:45 PM.

Bayou Boogaloo Picks- Sunday

The Brian Coogan Band is one of hottest acts on the scene today.  They start things off on the Orleans stage at 11:45 AM followed by Ernie Vincent and the Top Notes.  Then Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes take the stage with their take-no-prisoners approach to rock and funk.  The day finishes with bluesman Tab Benoit joining Cajun pioneers Beausoleil.  Elsewhere on the grounds, Walter “Wolfman” Washington (pictured- photo credit- Kim Welsh) performs with his band, the Roadmasters, at 2:30 PM followed by the Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra.  Word is that George Porter, Jr. is going to appear with Johnny Vidacovich to close the day on the Lafitte Stage.  However, I would seriously recommend skipping their performance in favor the TBC Brass Band.  They just buried their saxophonist Brandon Franklin on Friday so emotions will still be running high.

Bayou Boogaloo Picks

The annual festival on Bayou St. John is starting to resemble it’s big brother at the Fairgrounds.  With three stages, conflicts between which bands to see are inevitable just like at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  The Stooges Brass Band has been tearing it up weekly at the Hi Ho Lounge, so I expect their set today to be epic.  101 Runners are also hitting on all cylinders and when they are joined by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (pictured- photo credit Kim Welsh) the level of intensity goes through the roof.  But my money is on the All That reunion as the set everyone will be talking about after the fact.  Formed 15 years ago and reuniting for the first time in five years, the band led by Tremé consultant and writer Davis Rogan features Kevin O’Day on drums and a killer front line horn section.  Their amalgamation of funk, brass and rap was ahead of its time back in the day, and is still relevant in today’s mix tape world.

Mid City Bayou Boogaloo Kicks Off This Evening

Since its beginnings in 2006 as a statement about the future of the Mid City neighborhood following the devastating federal flood, the event has grown considerably.  They now have three stages and the festival’s footprint has expanded lake bound to Dumaine Street.  This evening only one stage will be up and running.  The Orleans Avenue stage will feature the Hot Club of New Orleans at 5 PM, followed by Brother Tyrone and the Gospel Stars (check out Geraldine Wyckoff’s story on Brother Tyrone here (news.php?viewStory=2790), and concluding with Bill Summers & Jazsalsa.  Summers (pictured) is a legendary percussionist who has appeared on countless recordings including his groundbreaking work with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.  His first major project in New Orleans was Los Hombres Calientes, a group that he formed with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and drummer Jason Marsalis when those two formidable talents were both still musical youngsters.  Summers has taken the same mentor-forms-a-band approach with his new group, Jazsalsa.  I saw their set at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and was very impressed with the young talent he has gathered together.

Two Benefits Tonight

New Orleans is a city of dichotomy and irony.  One needs to look no further for proof than the two benefits that are scheduled for this evening.  The first, from 8-11 PM at the Howlin’ Wolf, is to raise money for the family of the 22-year old saxophonist and assistant bandleader Brandon Franklin who was tragically shot in a domestic dispute.  Several brass bands including the Dirty Dozen and Franklin’s group, the To Be Continued (TBC) Brass Band, will perform to raise money to pay for his funeral and to support his two young children.  Franklin was a promising young musician cut down because of a misunderstanding about a woman.  He was the assistant band director at O. Perry Walker High School and was being groomed by the legendary Wilbert Rawlins to eventually lead the band himself.

The second benefit is scheduled at D.B.A. to raise money to buy a new truck for Mr. Okra (pictured).  My Graveyard Jaw, King James, Guitar Lightnin’ Lee, the Happy Talk Band and the Morning 40 Federation will perform in that order beginning at 6 PM.  Mr. Okra is the last of the roving produce vendors who used to dot the city of New Orleans.  His truck broke down some months ago and most of the musicians used to purchase fruit and vegetables from him as he roamed the downtown neighborhoods calling out his selections on a loudspeaker.  In an unwitting homage to the vestiges of the old time ethnic boundaries in the city, Mr. Okra famously declared that he never crossed Canal Street.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering where the irony comes in.  Mr. Okra was featured at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since he is part of the folkways of New Orleans culture.  His truck, which was painted by the illustrious Dr. Bob (of “Be Nice of Leave” fame), was parked near the Jazz and Heritage Stage all seven days and Mr. Okra was present, with produce on display, on the second Sunday.  His truck was towed there.