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Music – A gift that keeps on giving this holiday season

18th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

The gift of music is a very personal one as the sounds continue to be a reminder of a time and the person who might have picked it out especially for you. “Oh yeah, my parents, sister, brother, friend (fill in the blank) gave this album to me for Christmas, my birthday, my graduation. Knowing someone’s musical tastes helps considerably in making choices of what to buy though it’s worth the effort to select something that says, this is from me to you. Gift cards are, of course, handy for, say, that nephew whose musical preferences are either unknown, keep changing or are beyond your own expertise.

While there’s a whole, wide world of fine, and otherwise, music out there, this column represents strictly local — New Orleans, Louisiana — albums that were released in 2017. Purchasing music created by our own great artists and that is often released on local or independent labels, keeps the money circulating within the community.

This list is assembled, with some wiggle room, with a focus on particular instruments and styles. For instance, a selection from the first group of CDs might work for the trumpet or trombone lover/player on your list. Another grouping might appeal to a jazz or R&B fan in your family of friends. Plus, there’s always the wonderfully stray miscellaneous, music-loving group. Here goes:

Brassy Horns Lovers’ Delights

Nicholas Payton, Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (Paytone Records). This impressive album offers a centuries-long musical journey through the African diaspora and much of the full spectrum of Black music from the beginning to the continuity of forever, trumpeter Payton takes on this obviously joyful task by bringing together acoustic instruments, electronic samplings, a string section and elements of spoken word in a stylistic mix that allows the music to stand side-by-side so one can realize their roots and resemblances.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Parking Lot Symphony (Blue Note). Here, the trombonist, trumpeter and vocalist is also the guy manning keyboards – B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer electric — and he’s even playing some drums, a vibraphone and a glockenspiel. Particularly striking is the refinement and sense of confidence heard in Shorty’s vocals. It’s just plain good fun.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Centennial Trilogy. Trumpeter/composer/producer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s released a remarkable three albums this year — Diaspora, Rebel Ruler and Emancipation Procrastination — in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first jazz recording. Talk about prolific and brilliant.

Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield, A Beautiful World (Basin Street Records). Naturally, these two trumpet players and mock adversaries start swinging on the opener “Well, Alright.” There’s a ton more with some 60 well-known New Orleans musicians on the discs that boasts 26 cuts. A highlight is Ruffins’, Mayfield’s and Cyril Neville’s cleverly written “Allen Toussaint,” one of the best tributes ever to Toussaint’s legacy.

Hot 8 Brass Band, On the Spot (TruThoughts). Many of the tunes here sound like they could be or already are anthems on the street including the opening number, “Kickin’ It Live,” that includes whoopin’ and hollerin’ that’s designed to get a crowd goin’. In its selection of covers, the Hot 8 wisely went to Stevie Wonder’s hit “That Girl,” That’s how the Hot 8 rolls… with solid arrangements executed with an ear to tonal qualities.

Rhythm and Blues Believers

Jon Cleary, Live at Chickie Wah Wah (FHQ Records). This album represents the Grammy-winning pianist and vocalist’s first solo release and it’s a beaut. Performed on a 100-year-old piano, the material includes hit original hits like “Unnecessarily Mercenary,” as well-known authentically performed New Orleans classics.

PJ Morton, Gumbo (Morton Records). Keyboardist/voca-list/composer PJ Morton is up for a Grammy for this solid album in the Best R&B Album category as well for the tune, “First Began,” in the songwriting division. Whatever the genre, Morton brings some of his upbringing in the church to his sound. He’s universal.

Modern Jazz Movers

Stanton Moore, With You in Mind — The Songs of Allen Toussaint (Cool Green Recordings). The aim for drummer Stanton Moore, pianist David Torkanowsky and bassist James Singleton was to pay tribute to Toussaint by revisiting and reinterpreting his compositions. It kicks off with a goodie, “Here Come the Girls” that was first recorded by Ernie K-Doe. The highlight of the disc is David Torkanowsky’s moving rendition of the title cut, “With You in Mind.”

Ellis Marsalis Quintet, The Ellis Marsalis Quintet Plays the Music of Ellis Marsalis (ELM). Under the direction of the album’s producer, Marsalis’ son, Jason Marsalis, a fine selection of tunes from Ellis’ impression compositions are refreshingly revisited here by a next-generation of talented New Orleans artists.

Irvin Mayfield + The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Live at Newport (Basin Street Records). Recorded at the 2015 edition of the highly-prestigious Newport Jazz Festival, NOJO offers a varied program with an emphasis on its hometown. It demonstrates the breadth of talent and diversity that thrives in this city.

Roderick Paulin, Slow But Steady (Independent). On this two-disc release, saxophonist Roderick Paulin displays the full depth of his vast musical experience from his early years playin’ in his father’s brass band, to honkin’ on some rhythm and blues to more sophisticated sounds.

Extended (Independent) Here’s a trio that you might not yet be hip to. It includes Honduran born pianist Oscar Rossignoli, bassist Matt Booth and drummer Brad Webb. These guys, based in New Orleans, collectively and individually present some startling fresh material and directions on the group’s self-titled debut that exemplifies its verve for creativity.

Cultural Mash-Up —Everything Goes Division

Dwayne Dopsie, Top of the Mountain (Crew Records/Angel Dove Music). As we know and applaud, accordionist/voca-list/composer Dwayne Dopsie has been nominated for a Grammy for this high-energy album. Fans of zydeco will dig how he manages to at once hold on to the traditions while also moving the music forward with gusto.

Alexey Marti, Travesia (Independent). On Travesia, listeners not only get to hear percussionist Marti leading his own band but also further discover his skills as a composer and arranger. He often blends his native Cuban roots with the music of his adoptive home of New Orleans. Pianist Oscar Rossignoli shines throughout on this album of many soft breezes and powerful gales.

This article originally published in the December 18, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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