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Music to be most thankful for…

25th November 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Bo Dollis Jr. & the Wild Magnolias
A New Kind of Funk
(One More Time)

Bo Dollis Jr., the son of Big Chief Bo Dollis who is often referred to as Lil Bo, steps out for his debut recording by wisely carrying on the torch lit by his elders. Bo Jr. brings in renowned Big Chiefs – Bo Dollis and Monk Boudreaux – in order to bow down to their accomplishments and solidify his sound and his own position in the Mardi Gras Indian Nation. He’s not trying to fill his father’s big, beautiful boots but to follow in their significant footsteps. And, it’s important to note, that yes and oh yeah, Lil Bo can sing.

On the opening cut, “We Came to Rumble,” Bo Jr. calls out the traditional chant, “Mardi Gras morning and it won’t be long,” on an original variation of the classic “Big Chief Got a Golden Crown” that also references Boudreaux’s and Anders Osborne’s noted “Dive in that Gumbo.” It’s not unusual for new songs to come out of old songs in the Black Indian tradition and this, like its predecessors, rocks and grooves. It does however, add new harmonics with the inclusion of violin and guitar that have become common in Mardi Gras Indian “bands” differentiating them from Mardi Gras Indian gangs that roam the streets on Carnival Day.

Original material such as a “New Kinda Funk” from Bo Jr.’s pen (with some help from some friends) moves away from the Black Indian sound and finds Joseph Hills adding some rap. The relationship between the styles – Indians, brass bands, rap — allows it to fit comfortably next to the classic “Liza Jane.” “We have something gonna be good for the next thousand years,” proclaims Bo Jr. in the song.

The album, which is loaded with guest artists, also taps into legendary New Orleans composers including Allen Toussaint in offering a strong, driving rendition of his “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” with Cyril Neville adding background vocals. Professor Longhair’s “Hey Now Baby” takes this New Orleans party out with the distinctive voices of Big Chiefs Bo Dollis and Boudreaux and the rollicking piano of Tom Worrell. “We hate to leave you, but we’ve got to say goodbye,” sings the group. It’s a bittersweet moment as, in many ways, it represents the passing of the torch from father to son. “One more, one more time,” they sing at the conclusion of an album that rumbles with the rhythms of New Orleans.

Dr. Lonnie Smith
In the Beginning and Right Now

On his brilliant new album, In the Beginning Volumes 1 & 2, B3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith takes a look back to some stellar material he composed and recorded in the mid- and late 1960s. Naturally, the always innovative musician, revamps, reinvents and revitalizes his classics. On Friday, November 29 and Saturday, November 30, Smith makes a return trip to New Orleans to perform at Snug Harbor.

“Actually, I think I’ve got a house down there somewhere,” Smith once quipped about his frequent appearances in the city. “There’s something about it that makes you feel like you’re home.”

At Snug, the incomparable and often highly unpredictable Smith will work with a homegrown trio with guitarist Detroit Brooks and drummer Joe Dyson. It’s a format – organ, guitar, bass – that won great favor in the jazz world of the 1960s and 1970s. On Saturday, saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., who has frequently performed and recorded with Smith, comes in to pump the session in new directions.

As wonderful as it is to hear Smith grooving with a small combo, it’s truly exciting to experience how he maneuvers when fronting an octet – a rare treat – as he does on In the Beginning. A free-wheeling musician, the organist presents a varied program that melodically and rhythmically moves from this country’s big cities, the birthplace and incubators of jazz, to Africa and Latin America. Several standouts on the journey include guitarist Ed Cherry, whose resume includes time spent with another forward-thinking musician, the great trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Drummer Jonathan Blake shares Smith’s passion for flow and gets to mix it up with conga player Little Johnny Rivera. Of local interest, saxophonist John Ellis, who studied at the University of New Orleans, was heavily on the jazz scene here and taught at Loyola University, joins the stellar horn section on the disc.

Smith, 71, is definitely in the driver’s seat creating and then changing the groove and direction of a tune as he does on “Aw Shucks.” It begins oh, so slowly and then he powers it up. Just as he does when he performs at a show, on this cut one can clearly him vocalize along with his playing.

“I hum when I play,” he once explained with a laugh. “I don’t even know it’s going on. I hear this guy singing and it’s me. I don’t even invite him. He don’t even ask; he just comes right in. That comes from deep down in the soul.”

In the Beginning, which was recorded live and is the second release on Smith’s Pilgrimage Records, reveals a true portrait of the soulful organist. He’s at once a gentle and powerful leader whose fellow musicians aboard the octet are eager to follow wherever his vivid imagination and talent will take him.

In the Beginning is a masterpiece of groove, rapid fire single notes, funky, danceable jazz from a legendary artist who attacks and embraces the big B3 with his entire being.

“The organ is like the sunlight, rain and thunder,” Smith once said. “It’s all the worldly sounds to me.”

This article originally published in the November 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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