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January 15, 2009

A Missing Link

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 7:03 am

 

For those like me who were a little surprised that no one thought to match funk and Mardi Gras Indian music before  The Wild Magnolias, Dan Phillips at Home of the Groove reminds us of a precursor: “Boogaloo Mardi Gras” by the Bobby Williams Group. The Eddie Bo-produced single has New Orleans’ signature eccentricity/incompetence guaranteeing the single from 1968 would never be bigger than it was – the sides were mislabeled, so the obvious start of the song is “Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pt. 2,” and the instrumental, stripped down jam is labeled “Pt. 1.” But the rhythmic churn by Williams band is pretty powerful, with groovy chicken scratch guitar and Wiliams’ percolating drums supporting Indian call-and-response vocals. It doesn’t sound like everybody was certain about the horn arrangement, which opens and closes with a B-movie Indian music motif. Still, that uncertainty keeps you on your toes for all of the track’s 2:39 running time.

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January 14, 2009

Going Three for Four with a Walk

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 1:16 pm

 

When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced, I made my predictions for the inductees. Today they were announced and I went three for four. Jeff Beck, Metallica and Run-DMC I predicted; Little Anthony and the Imperials I didn’t. I said if anyone else got in, it would be an older artist and not Chic or the Stooges, two of the three most important bands in the list this year. It was Wanda Jackson. The good thing about her selection? We get to see a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer at the Ponderosa Stomp this year, where Jackson will perform.

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January 11, 2009

More on Marketing

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 6:19 am

 

Last week’s post on the jazz museum and jazz as the city’s marketing identity prompted some comments that merit response. After I wrote, “Centering the marketing of a city on music that people associate with sitting studiously seems guaranteed to produce unspectacular results,” CB responded:

Festivals are fun but jazz is about sitting down and paying attention?? Come on Alex you know better. While that may be the uninformed public opinion it’s certainly not correct.

True, but where marketing is concerned, what the public thinks counts. When people are making decisions about where to spend their tourist dollars, the associations they have with jazz matter. And as the yearly carping in New Orleans and on message boards that there’s no jazz at Jazz Fest tells us, a lot of people don’t think of trad jazz or brass bands when they think of jazz.

CB continues:

The jazz museum may be an opportunity to entertain and educate the public about what jazz is really about.

Again, true, but is the purpose of marketing a city to educate, or is it to get people here? “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” doesn’t promise anything morally, spiritually or intellectually edifying, but it has worked as a slogan that convinces people to come to Las Vegas and step out of their day-to-day life.

One last thought on this marketing point: I suspect that museums and educational experiences figure more prominently the travel considerations of parents vacationing with children. In a city where so much of its music takes place in clubs late at night, I also wonder if a jazz museum and performance space is really enough to convince families that this is where they want to go anyway.

In another comment, Belyin writes, “ New Orleans’ always finds away to keep it funky, even when it tries to high-minded.”

Rahsaan Roland Kirk referred to jazz as Black Classical Music, which I took to mean the height of African-American musical accomplishment. Today, jazz is often treated as Black Classical Music by those who’d put it in museums and spaces that separate it by the signifiers of class from its roots. As I said in the previous post, jazz and classical music are for many the music mature, intelligent people are supposed to like, though ironically, they’re often the musics that are played as background music in coffee shops.

History shows that New Orleans isn’t that good at formalizing and moving jazz into more rarified, class-separating contexts. It doesn’t speak well for civic leaders, but sooner or later, a lack of unity, a lack of vision, a lack of funding, a lack of vision or some similar impediment rises up to keep leaders from commodifying jazz or roots expressions more than they have.

Or, it’s a resistance from the culture producers. As Belyin’s post suggests, there’s too much vital jazz being made today that doesn’t fit in a Ken Burns narrative, or that doesn’t follow such outmoded notions as the principle that jazz must swing and that it must be on blues changes.

Related to that, a question I’ve been considering since Katrina is what the role of government is in the recovery of an arts community, and if government assistance could be detrimental. After all, semi-popular music  - jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, country – has generally been a response to power, and certainly most New Orleans music has been resistance music. Can it maintain that status and danger if the city and state government help support it? I don’t worry about some form of censorship, but I wonder what happens when the power and money dynamics that lead to creativity change.

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January 8, 2009

New Orleans: It’s Good for You

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 5:19 pm

 

The announcement of the jazz museum and jazz performance space earlier today brought up something that continues to puzzle me. I understand New Orleans’ importance in the development of jazz and music in America, but I don’t understand making a musical form that has become the Black classical music that Rahsaan Roland Kirk thought it was, but like classical music it engenders more respect than love. It’s the officially respectable, mature music, but sales continue to show that it’s a commercially marginal form. Centering the marketing of a city on music that people associate with sitting studiously seems guaranteed to produce unspectacular results. Their associations might not line up with the reality of jazz in New Orleans, but you don’t know that when you’re buying plane tickets.

Jan Ramsey argued last year for a marketing plan based on the city’s festivals, which sounds saner and more inclusive toward the New Orleans music community. Festivals evoke fun; jazz evokes lots of paying attention. There’s a reason why Disneyworld doesn’t have much of an offseason.

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Rumor Confirmed

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 1:13 pm

 

We’d heard rumor that trumpeter Shamarr Allen would be going on tour with Willie Nelson. Allen confirmed it. In early February, he’ll go into rehearsal with Nelson and his band, then he’ll tour with him for two weeks as part of a “Willie and the Wheel” tour – a pairing of Nelson with Austin Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel.

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U.S. Mint to Become Jazz Museum

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 1:09 pm

 

Those who’ve been clamoring for a New Orleans jazz museum will finally find out how valuable such an entity is. This afternoon, Lt.-Governor Mitch Landrieu announced that the Old U.S. Mint will be transformed into a jazz museum that will be part of the National Parks Service. The centerpiece of the renovation will be the creation of a state of the art performance theater that will have recording-quality sound. 

The work is scheduled to begin in the next few months, and if all goes according to schedule, it will open in early June, 2010.

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January 7, 2009

Zagat’s New Orleans Guide

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 9:41 am

 

This morning, Tim and Nina Zagat were in New Orleans to announce the results of their 20th poll of New Orleans restaurants and nightlife. At a breakfast press conference at Galatoire’s, Tim Zagat announced that 80 percent of New Orleans diners are eating out as often as they did before Katrina, if not more. He also announced that across the board, New Orleans’ restaurants scored higher than restaurants in other cities. “This is not only one of the best places to eat,” he said. “It’s also one of the best values,” pointing out an average pre-tax dinner price of $28.52 versus $34.34 in other cities.

His comments took on a political tone when he noted that if one-tenth of the money spent on the Citibank bailout were spent on New Orleans, the city’s recovery would be a lot farther along, and that the governmental neglect was shameful. “New Orleans and everyone deserves better than that.”

The winners?

Top Food: Brigtsen’s

Top Decor: Commander’s Palace

Top Service: Brigtsen’s

Most Popular: Commander’s Palace

and in the Nightlife category, Preservation Hall won for  Top Appeal, the Polo Lounge won for Top Decor and Top Service, and Pat O’Brien’s won for Most Popular.

This year’s guide is out now, edited by Sharon Litwin, Mimi Read and former OffBeat food editor Todd A. Price.

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Yow

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 5:57 am

 

I’ve been digesting the new look of The Gambit trying to think of what to say because I like everybody I know over there … but I’m stuck. I’d like to be kind, but that’s a busy, busy look at a time when people are simplifying. Even CNN has cleaned up its screen. All that texture (often on texture) and all those little black boxes – yikes. 

In terms of content, it’s nice to see Alison Fensterstock’s space become her own, and I’m sorrier to see movie, art and theater reviews become smaller, boxed items than I am to see those art columnists lose their columns. It’s not a comment on Rick Barton, Dalt Wonk or Eric Bookhardt (who edited the first OffBeat and wrote much of the early issues), but when the alt-weekly’s film and art critics have held their posts longer than The Times-Picayune’s have, it’s hard to be very alternative. Still, I see Eric and Dalt contributed to the new issue. But it’s sad when arts reviews are shortened to a need-to-know basis.

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January 6, 2009

Carnival Time Indeed

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 2:48 pm

 

Good news for Al “Carnival Time” Johnson here. He’s home again.

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January 5, 2009

Clearing the Desk

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , , — Alex Rawls @ 1:33 pm

After a week off, the CD stack is getting intimidating. Time to clear off a few.

Tom Jones: 24 Hours (S-Curve): He made ersatz bachelor pad soul for years, and it’s what he makes here. And the results are just as much fun, if just as secondhand. Only the modern-sounding “Sugar Daddy” (written by Bono and the Edge) sounds out of place because a) nothing else here sounds contemporary, and b) faux really only works if you keep the mask up. If you reveal that you know better, the question arises why you didn’t go for better. 

Hear “If He Should Ever Leave You” and the bossa nova “In Style and Rhythm.”

Quadro Nuevo: CinePassion (Justin Time/GLM): A beautiful album of interpretations of soundtrack music by Nino Rota and Morricone among others. If I knew the originals better, I’d know what liberties the band has taken with the material. As such, all I can say is how lovely I find it, and how nicely it fits in behind other things that I’m doing. Of course, that’s not entirely a compliment.

Hear any track. I don’t find anything more enthralling than anything else.

Ben Weaver: The Ax in the Oak (Bloodshot): Weaver’s Stories Under Nails made an impression on me as the grimmest, most darkly comforting album I’ve heard in years. He sounded like a caveman with a banjo who’d learned a few hard truths from nature and shared them because, as painful as they were, they were his only way to share and help. The Ax in the Oak is more sonically developed, and now his vision is dispassionate. I’m glad to hear someone doing something modern with roots rock/Americana, but I also wish this made the sort of impact on me that Stories Under Nails did.

Hear “Soldier’s War”

Herman Dune: Next Year in Zion (EverLoving): EverLoving seems to have thing for artists you have to excuse or approach charitably, and that’s certainly the case with Herman Dune. The French duo (with friends) can be heard as naive or as immature – you make the call. Me – I believe they know better, but periodically songs are simply optimistic and open to the world, and I’ll take those.

Hear “On a Saturday”

Inara George with Van Dyke Parks: An Invitation (EverLoving): As Van Dyke Parks’ strings and clarinets circle and play around George’s delicate melodies, she sounds dizzy trying to sort herself out. The stronger, simpler melodies suggest she’s getting her relationships straight in her head; the feathery ones make me feel lost as well.

Hear “Right as Wrong”

Hear “

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