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Have yourself a very merry musical holiday!

17th December 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Hanging around musicians and music lovers as the holidays grow closer, the topic of what presents would ring the bell is apt to come up. Of course, gift certificates from local music stores fill the bill for those whose tastes aren’t particularly well known. Spots like the Louisiana Music Factory also offer a great line of books and T-shirts with images of New Orleans icons such as pianists Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, James Booker and more.

For modern jazz fans, the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s 2012 release, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, stands as one of last year’s outstanding albums. Its title reveals the music’s purpose with the saxophonist Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and, new to the ensemble, drummer Justin Faulker, finding and sharing the joy of simply and excitingly performing jazz.

One can’t go wrong with Dr. John’s Grammy-nominated 2012 disc, Locked Down. It’s as swampy and funky as you can get with the pianist and vocalist wielding his always-super imaginative pen.

Polling several folks in the New Orleans music community on the best gifts to give and receive resulted in practical, high-flying and spiritual responses.

Bassist Mark Brooks says that giving listening material to a musician is always good. “Maybe some Ray Brown or Richard Bona,” he suggests for fellow bass players and those with a particular affection for the instrument. On his personal wish list, Brooks, who is presently playing Tuesday nights at Snug Harbor with vocalist/keyboardist Davell Crawford, would like to see a Taylor acoustic bass under the tree.

“What this horn player would like is a new baritone,” offers Roger Lewis who is off the road with the Dirty Dozen for the holidays and thus often heard sitting in with the Treme Brass Band. “As a matter of fact a brand new Selmer would be great.” Lewis thinks those blowing the low-end sax should give a listen to bari player Hamiet Bluiett and multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson. Lewis’ recommendation for the best album to buy is the Dirty Dozen’s hot 2012 release, Twenty Dozen. Well, natch…

The soulful saxophonist Clarence Johnson III, who is finishing up a new album – his first as leader in 10 years – reflects on the spirituality of the season. “The gift of music comes to me from God,” he offers. “We are in the season of celebrating him. I look at it as trying to make every day Christmas because you’re giving homage for the abilities that he gives you whether it’s music, science, writing.” Johnson’s favorite holiday songs are “Oh Holy Night,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Photographer Joseph Crachiola built his impressive reputation as a resident of Detroit. Now, as a New Orleans resident, he’s been capturing this city’s music and street culture scenes. Oh, yeah, he also plays guitar with harmonica man J.D. Hill and blows sax. “If you make your own prints, ink and paper are good presents for photographers,” he suggests adding that camera memory cards are handy too. “One thing I’ve found about musicians is that they love to get pictures. A nice print from a photographer to a musician is always appreciated.”

Speaking of which, framing is a luxury for many folks so a gift certificate at a frame shop could help to get that great shot of a favorite musician or a special poster on the wall. Even a bunch of less expensive small frames could help facilitate displaying some classic photos.

With one foot on the bandstand and the other in the kitchen, trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins was quick to mention pots, pans and barbecue utensils as great gifts. “Every musician would like a super record deal or a big tour,” says Ruffins as the ultimate item on any artist’s wish list. Ruffins doesn’t think small when he suggests that hiring a band of their choice for a friend’s Christmas party or picnic would be a great idea. Ruffins will be doing some serious partying of his own this week, celebrating his 48th birthday from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. at his club, Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy, on Monday and again on his actual date of birth, December 19, at the House of Blues. “We’re lighting up the grill – I have a 60 pound roast,” says Ruffins of the Monday night party. (The club’s regular cover charge kicks in at 5:30 p.m. with all-day partiers welcome to stay.)

Cuban native, New Orleans resident Alexey Marti has made his presence known since arriving in the city to study at the University of New Orleans. The percussionist has been on the bandstand with any number of New Orleans top musicians and leading his own band he impressed when the ensemble opened up the recent concert by the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdez. “The goal is everybody together,” says Marti of his Christmas wish. “We have to know what is happening in Cuba and Cuba has to know what’s happening in New Orleans.”

Live music makes a wonderful present so purchasing a gift certificate at a club or tickets for a show makes for a wonderful night out. If a pre-Christmas gift isn’t a problem, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews leads his pumped up Orleans Avenue band at the House of Blues on Saturday, December 22. The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club presents the soulful vocalist/keyboardist Kem on Sunday, December 30, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

This is the time of year for sharing and many organizations that work for the betterment of the music community year-round such as the Musicians Clinic and the Roots of Music and many more can always use support.

Make yours a merry musical holiday.

This article was originally published in the December 17, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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