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Music lights up the holidays

11th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

During the holidays in New Orleans, live music offerings don’t necessarily equate to classic Yuletide tunes and carols. While those can naturally be found, just getting together with music-loving friends and having a good time remain in the spirit of the season.

When Germaine Bazzle, the high priestess of New Orleans jazz, sings or releases a new album, people pay attention. That’s because to her and to us each note, each inflection, each scat no matter how many times she’s sung it within an familiar tune, is reborn. Bazzle who celebrates her latest CD, Swingin’ at Snug, is, as the title proclaims, caught live at a performance at the Frenchmen Street institution where jazz reigns royal. Backed by her longtime compatible cohort pianist Larry Sieberth along with drummer Simon Lott and bassist Peter Harris, all of whom were heard on Bazzle’s terrific 2015 album, It’s Magic, the vocalist indeed gets swinging on the classic “After You’ve Gone.” She’s joined on this outing with the outstanding guitarist Todd Duke. This crew will celebrate the release of this album at two gigs at venues that hold some significance in the music world.



On Wednesday, December 13, Bazzle will unveil the album at the historic Dew Drop Social & Benevolent Hall, 430 Lamarque St., in Mandeville. The vocalist returns to the site of the recording when she and the band perform at Snug Harbor on Saturday, December 23, to mark the release of this fine CD.

As mentioned, Bazzle changes up tunes like the improvisational jazz musician that she is. Even when she swings, she gives the rhythm an unexpected edge that sets it clearly apart from the standard original. On the album, as on her sets at Snug, Bazzle gives her musicians some time alone as heard here on “It Could Have Happened to You.” Sieberth, who begins the tune quietly is hip to dynamics on what turns out to be an uptempo tune on which he and the unpredictable drummer Lott trade some rousing bars.

And Duke’s lovely guitar opens and continues to enhance the ever so slow and sultry “When Your Lover Has Gone.” Bazzle vocally and intuitively adds the horn part, sounding closest to a muted trumpet. It’s so sincerely and intelligently delivered that there’s not a glimmer of gimmickry.

The Louisiana Music Factory, a business dedicated to, as its name reflects, this city and state’s musical heritage, genres and verve, presents a strong line-up of musicians at its free in-store shows on Saturday, December 16th. All of the participants – Jamaican Me Breakfast Club (2 p.m.), Alexey Marti (3 p.m.) and the Brass-A-Holics (4 p.m.) have released new albums in 2017 and are ready to strut their stuff.

The unusually named, Jamaican Me Breakfast Club, could be considered equally perplexing in its mixing reggae and rock steady rhythms and influences with new wave radio and MTV hits from the 1980s. Huh? The title of its debut album, Pop Rock Steady, gives the listener a hint of what’s in store. The band directs its appeal to two very diverse audiences – those who love the sway and energy of reggae and rock steady rhythms and those who know all of the words to these cover songs from their (apparently) overwhelming popularity some 30-plus years ago.

The band, full of capable musicians, makes, for the most part, the combination work as heard on the CD’s opening cut, “I Ran (So Far Away).” Reggae fans will dig the skanking rhythm and the vocals of Rueben Williams and the background vocals of the cleverly dubbed iTens. (Get it?) Those reggae followers would probably have no idea that the tune is a hit from the Flock of Seagulls (who?) and could care less. They might miss, however, the social conscious lyrics that are central to reggae music. Meanwhile, the other half of the equation, those pop lovers of ‘80s hits will be singing along.

One thing is pretty much sure, the Breakfast Club will be a lively way to start the day at the Factory, a friendly place that’s a part of the New Orleans community.

Alexey Marti, a hugely talented Cuban-born percussionist who has added to this city’s music scene since his arrival in 2008, put out his first album as leader, Travesia, this year. The release, which has been reviewed in this column and will be among next week’s Best Local Albums of 2017 list, shows off his talents as a composer and presents such up-and-comers as pianist Oscar Rossignoli.

The Brass-A-Holics close out the show at the Louisiana Music Factory making a joyful noise in presenting its new release, Word on the Street. The album, which was recorded live at the Blue Nile, rolls hard with strong horn arrangements and fine vocals by trumpeter Tannon Williams and saxophonist Robin Clabby. Leader Winston Turner’s trombone offers some notable tonal qualities to a band that, with the inclusion of guitar, keyboards and percussion, has taken the roll with it second line street tradition to evolve into a dance party in the clubs.

The concerts at St. Louis Cathedral continue this week with trumpeter Wendell Brunious on December 11, the gospel sounds of the Zion Harmonizers on December 12, the Panorama Brass Band on December 13 followed by classical music by Davide Mariano on December 14 and the St. Louis Basilica Annual Catholic Choir Concert on December 17.

This article originally published in the December 11, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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