Monday, May 16, 2011

Collectin' Dust

"Hello, my name's Howard and I'm a record collector."

As absurd as acquiring material possessions ultimately still can bring much cheesey pleasure. I still derive much pleasure and shallow satisfaction from acquiring musical recordings via the most convenient and practical formats possible. Having piled up a buncha CDs -- I'm stickin' with that format as much as possible. I've allotted "X" amount of living space to my "working collection" which boxes stack up in the basement (up on bricks to clear the annual basement flooding). I periodically purge, but carefully as I always feel the fool when rebuying CDs for whatever reason -- when I realize that I actually WANT that music after all having discarded the disc previously -- or because (shamefully) I forgot I already had it.

All those disclaimers being stated -- one of the major impetuses to acquiring music I've come across lately is the HBO series "Treme" which I do enjoy immensely as previously stated. Their use of music is adroit, their taste and knowledge of the singular current state and DEEP history of it is intoxicating and, to me, addictive.

I've had a lotta fun hunting up the music I've been exposed to thru the show and spent TOO MUCH time recently in such searching. So, I'm sharing my homework with you based on the latest "Treme Explained" column from the New Orleans Times Picayune - you can read the column here:

I will state that, to date, you can often find great bargains buying things used or new from the discounters trading at Amazon Marketplace. If you've got the time I'm sure you can find other outlets to get this stuff from. And let us not forget the mighty Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street in NOLA. Who also sell online via

So here's some relevant passages and then links to the shizz:

"Delmond drops the needle on "Tom Cat Blues," a Jelly Roll Morton and Joe "King" Oliver duet recorded in 1924. Bach. Stravinsky. Brothers totin' barges and liftin' bales. Pops. "
(He's playing the Milestone, 2 LP vinyl release which is currently available on CD)

"Raymond Weber has a steady gig with Dumpstaphunk, which conflicted with his shooting schedule on "Treme." "
(this is an AMAZING band led by Ivan Neville - Aaron's son; this link is to their first EP which is 100% guaranteed great from start to finish - This coulda been the follow up to Fishbone's "The Reality of My Surroundings.")

""Les Ognons" by the Baby Dodds Trio, a cut on the "Jazz a la Creole" album Antoine attempted to save before evacuating in season's one's finale flashback, plays as the filmmaker (played by Yolonda Ross) tours the Backstreet Cultural Museum with Albert and Sylvester Francis"
(originally I bought this for the version of "Indian Red" - allegedly one of the first adaptations of Mardi Gras Indian chants to pop format but DAMN this whole thing is so utterly seductive, from the Hot Jazz [I actually prefer their version of Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues" to any of his I've heard] that opens it to the rollicking vocal Jazz tunes sung in French to the 4 high-stepping Indian numbers that finish the set -- the best make-out music since Edith Piaf)

"While he sews, Delmond listens to a 1938 recording by (Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress) of Jelly Roll Morton describing Mardi Gras Indians traditions."
(since Delmond is spinning vinyl I'd imagine this is from the 12 LP series released decades ago; but all that material and more remastered for this CD box that also includes Lomax's oral history on Morton, much material taken from Jelly Roll's remembrances recorded here -- If there ever was a "mind movie" worth experiencing this box is THAT. To hear Morton's living testimony to life in the 19th century is an extraordinary experience; his story-telling is incredibly vivid and rich in small details, depicting a way of life that is long departed and wonderfully exotic. AND YET, many elements have survived to this day in popular culture -- just not recognized as stemming from sources over a century old. I can think of no more lovely experience than sitting on the back porch on a hot day, listening to this from start to finish sipping cold wine or beer).

In the studio, Aunt Mimi does that bounce dance while Katey Red prepares to record. Katey and "the rappers you see in episode two (Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby) are the three most prominent 'sissy bounce,' or openly gay, MCs on the scene,"
(it's shocking how expensive CDs of this are! $30, $60! AND MORE. As much as I love physical product the price differential between this download-only compilation and buying CDs is just TOO huge. This "Bounce Essentials" is pretty prime stuff. Immediately appealing, highly distinctive. Unique to New Orleans. It's fast paced, relentless and the rhythmic invention in the rapping (often with multiple rappers creating nicely complex cross rhythms) makes this -- to my ears -- some of the most refreshing music coming out of the hip hop tradition in a long time.)

(and here's a best of from Big Freedia -- if you think you can predict what one of the top "Sissy" MCs is gonna sound like and what he'll rap about, prepare to be shocked)

(And there's nothing in this episode that comes from this set but alot of the vintage [50's, early 60's] R&B and rock 'n' roll [the kinda stuff that would one day inspire Elvis Presley and a generation of white rock 'n' roll tributists] and music of that ilk is contained on this 4 CD box set that you can still find NEW for $13 + shipping - "Cosimo Matassa Story")

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Under Heavy Southern Manners

Besides deriving a great deal of entertainment and musicological information from the HBO series "Treme," I find myself learning manners and unlearning various cultural prejudices.

On a trip to New Orleans that happened immediately before we started watching the series, we walked into Louisiana Music Factory -- a brick and mortar record retail store on the notorious tourist strip, Decatur Street, that prides itself on a very extensive collection of music by New Orleans and Louisana related artists. I was a little buzzed and feeling a bit on the arrogant side as a long time student of non mainstream musics. I walk up the counter asking for a recommendation for local funk. The man pulls out the latest Galactic CD and I turn up my nose, saying: "Ya got anything that I wouldn't find Amazon that I wouldn't have heard of?" To which he testily replied: "There hasn't been a good local funk band since the Meters broke up!" And then pulled out the first Dumpstaphunk CD. This in fact wound up be a major find in my mind -- a rip snortin', butt shakin', hard edged EP - very funky, very hooky. Great stuff.

Eventually we see the episode where Elvis Costello is recording with Allen Toussaint and as the session breaks up, the horn section invites Elvis to the Spotted Cat (I thinks) to see Galactic and the latter responds "That's white guys playing funk?" Everyone in the room including Touissant -- all African-American -- immediately starts heaping the kudos on Galactic and Costello half heartedly agrees to make the scene; which he never does. The scene shifts to the gig and Galactic in fact sound amazing, playing to a very racially mixed crowd all getting down. And it hits me -- I had been just as much a biased twerp as Elvis friggin' Costello - OUCH!

Another case in point -- we've been visiting New Orleans about yearly since about 1996. Clearly we love the place. But had pointedly been dreading and avoiding the "Dixieland Band" scene -- live gigs, recordings etc. IF we went to shows it was more the Alt Rock outfits like James Hall's Pleasure Club. The brass band and "Hot Jazz" just seemed too hambone and contrived to pander to corny tourists' expectations. But when the first "Treme" opened with Rebirth Brass Band leading a second head nearly exploded! What an incredible and, to my virgin ears, unique rhythm! The rowdy but expert interplay between the brass instruments was utterly intoxicating. A couple weeks after watching that episode, I'd forgotten exactly what music had appeared but just recalled there was something unusual and insanely insinuating...which led me to a bit of exploring into the brass band tradition, current and going as far back as I readily could. I dug thru my collection and found a collection of country brass bands recorded for the Smithsonian Institute, a Dirty Dozen Brass Band collection and made various strategic purchases online and on a return trip to New Orleans. Last trip thru I couldn't believe our luck when we stopped at Cafe Du Monde and one day found the Tornado Brass band playing for tips out front and another day discovering an outfit of adolescents taking their first tentative stab at this.

In the opening episode of the second season of "Treme" the character Delmond Lambreaux is hanging with a buncha New York jazz hepsters after performing at some snazzy club high in a NYC skyscraper. Talk turns to New Orleans and they wind up congratulating him on NOT sounding like he's from New Orleans and avoiding the "minstrel show" influence of a music scene that consciously panders to the tourist trade (as if NYC and its jazz clubs could survive two weeks without its tourist trade!) Up to now, Delmond has pointedly been trying to, at least outwardly, deny his roots, but suddenly he comes out swinging, talking about Hot Jazz being, in fact a living tradition. And quickly the scene cuts to Bonearama performing at Tipitina's to a packed crowd, playing music that sounds nothing like post-bop jazz abstraction or like anyone's idea of "Dixieland." The music is funky, swinging, original and PEOPLE ARE DANCING TO IT. When is the last time anyone danced to jazz in NYC outside of a big band revival show at Roseland (can't say if those even happen anymore)? And yet jazz WAS dance music! In fact it was sexing music created to accompany the shennanigans in the brothels of Storyville, the otherside of Rampart Street from the French Quarter. SO -- again I realize, in these Northern hepsters, what a tool I'VE been for many a year.

And no doubt i'm still a tool. But I'm being learned.