Friday, February 17, 2012

Bourbon blues on the street

It's Carnaval time, as Facebook is kindly reminding me with events I can't attend. This means that Tuesday, the 21st, is Mardi Gras, and to celebrate it, I'm organizing a Mardi Gras party with the Kalmunity Vibe Collective at Les Bobards. We're taking classic New Orleans funk and soul tunes from the Meters, Lee Dorsey, and the Wild Magnolias, among others, and running it through the Kalmunity filter of improvisation with poets, MCs, vocalists and fantastic musicians.

This isn't just a way to tie into the festivities (although it helps) - New Orleans music has been a highly important part of my life. My parents would tune into the "oldies" stations that fed me a steady diet of Fats Domino and Little Richard, recordings I loved long before I was aware of their New Orleans connections. My first exposure to jazz was Louis Armstrong, and a compilation that included some more overt New Orleans references ("Skokiaan" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?") as well as "Hello Dolly." It was in high school when a classmate turned me onto the Meters that I became more explicitly aware of the phenomenal New Orleans R&B tradition. The "jamband" scene of the late '90s and early '00s paid frequent homage to New Orleans funk, with Galactic leading the charge of reviving that music in the younger generations' consciousness, and various other bands inviting the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth horns as guests.

The real lynchpin was the web-radio station Radio Free New Orleans; that was where I discovered a whole swath of the rich musical heritage of the Crescent City. Every day of the week was a different theme: Wednesdays were New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll, Saturdays were Piano Day, and Sundays were devoted to gospel. The unnamed programmers were responsible for exposing me to Professor Longhair, James Booker, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and Earl Palmer's phenomenal "in-the-cracks" drumming.

It's been a real privilege to dive into this music, which I've rarely heard played in Montreal (outside of "Cissy Strut"). For me, it's paying respect to truly formative music in my life. On a purely technical level, Stanton Moore's clinics and books have redefined my rhythmic sensibilities. Getting to witness Allen Toussaint work his magic in the intimacy of Gesù is a concert experience I won't soon forget. The goal is not just to throw a hell of a party, but to pay the influence of this music forward.

The line-up for Tuesday's Kalmunity Mardi Gras party:
Fredy V, Odessa "Queen" Thornhill, Jjanice - vocals
Jason "Blackbird" Selman - trumpet/poetry
Vincent Stephen-Ong - alto sax
Alexandre Dion - tenor sax
Christopher Cargnello - guitar
David Ryshpan - keyboards
Mark Haynes - bass
Jahsun - drums

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