Blues Bytes


April 2008

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James Andrews
Satchmo of the Ghetto

James Andrews

April means that the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is just around the corner. For the uninitiated, this means two solid weekends of great music, great food, great culture, and great times. My first Jazzfest was in 1987 as a wide-eyed greenhorn, and it was indeed an eye-opening experience. My taste buds were exposed to new delicacies, my eyes were opened to never-before-seen sights (some good, some not so good), and my ears were opened to the world of New Orleans R&B, jazz, blues, and gospel. With New Orleans music, like the food, once you’ve had a taste you’re hooked.

While New Orleans jazz has remained a vital force, not just the Dixieland variety, but the modern variety with its incessant Caribbean rhythms, the R&B genre has, for all practical purposes, been on life support since the mid ’70s. That’s a shame because though most of the music is over 40 years old, it sounds as vital and energetic now as it did then. That’s how far ahead of its time the music was then, with its mixture of soul, Calypso, funk, and even jazz. Jazzfest is a great place to hear this music, usually from the original artists who appear there each year, and it surely doesn’t sound like it’s on life support there.

About ten years ago, James Andrews, the front man for the New Birth Brass Band, teamed up with two New Orleans legends, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, for the wonderful Satchmo of the Ghetto, which was released on Toussaint’s NYNO label. This disc is a dazzling blend of R&B, funk, blues, Calypso, and jazz. Andrews, like most New Orleans musicians, has roots to the music’s past. His grandfather was the late Jessie Hill, whose “Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo” was considered by many to be the purveyor for most of the later New Orleans funk and R&B. Hill, who passed away in 1997, left a lasting legacy in the music, especially on Dr. John, who employed Hill in his Night Tripper band of the ’70s and Toussaint, who played piano on the original “Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo.”

The opening cut, “Poop Ain’t Gonna Shuffle No More,” is a funky R&B tribute to Hill, written by Dr. John and Toussaint (who also plays organ on the track). Other R&B nuggets include “Got Me a New Love Thing,” also written by Toussaint that would have been a hit had it been released in the ’60s, “Last Night On the Back Porch,” which has that irresistible second-line beat, and “Sweet Emma,” an easy-going number Andrews wrote in honor of a piano player at Preservation Hall. “It’s Only A Paper Moon” also gets a Crescent City facelift. Those who enjoy more jazzy fare will get a kick out of “Latin Cats,” “Banana Boogie,” and the closing instrumental version of “The Old Rugged Cross.”

As the title might indicate, Andrews’ gravelly vocals and trumpet owe a strong debt to Louis Armstrong. His band also includes Scott Goudeau (guitar), Charles Moore (bass), Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson (drums), and Henry Love Vaughn (congas).

Satchmo of the Ghetto is a fun disc that you might have missed the first time around. Those who love New Orleans music of any kind will want to have this in their collection. It’s guaranteed to get your feet moving.

--- Graham Clarke


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