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The onset of Fall has the music blowing in the wind…

29th September 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

“You Can Get It if You Really Want” – The Legendary
Jimmy Cliff Arrives at the House of Blues

“When I get there, they will be getting the whole nine yards plus,” Jimmy Cliff declares of his show on Monday, October 6 at the House of Blues. “I’m going from ska right up to dancehall.”

The Jamaican legend can do it all as he was a pioneer in creating the style that was eventually called reggae and central to the music’s evolution through the decades. Cliff was only 14-years-old when he went into the renowned producer Leslie Kong’s studio in Kingston to record the ska-driven “Hurricane Hattie.” Some 50 years later, in 2014, the vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and actor won a Grammy for his album Rebirth. Last year he and much of the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the U.S. release of revolutionary film, “The Harder They Come” that he starred in and the subsequent soundtrack of the same name. Though Cliff garnered success with tunes like “Vietnam” and “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” prior to The Harder They Come, the movie stood as an awakening to reggae music to millions.

“It did open the door for reggae music to the world – that’s a fact,” agrees Cliff, who penned the remarkable title cut, the timeless, emotionally moving, “Many Rivers to Cross” and the positively inspirational “You Can Get It If You Really Want.”

At his 2013 Jazz Fest performance on the Congo Square Stage, Cliff revealed his old school roots and influences by artists such as soulman Jackie Wilson by utilizing the entire stage, prancing and dancing with great fervor and agility. For that show, as he will be at the House of Blues, he was also backed by horns, an instrumental element too often missing in reggae as well as other styles today.

“That’s a natural thing with me,” says Cliff of bringing in the entertainment factor and horn section. He, like other young Jamaican artists of the era, were influenced by jazz and particularly trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong. He also cites New Orleans musicians like Fats Domino and Professor Longhair as being inspirational. “I still love horns. Horns were an integral part of the reggae music from the ska to the rock steady period right up to what became known as reggae.”

“Don’t miss the legends” is a motto that screams truth with the arrival of the great Jimmy Cliff. “They say the world is spinning around, I say the world is upside down…”

Guitar Extravaganza – Double Time
The Guitar Extravaganza se­ries, established to raise funds for and awareness of the first annual Danny Barker’s Banjo and Guitar Festival, continues presenting two very unique shows this week. First up is Thursday, October 2, at Snug Harbor, a venue that has previously hosted an edition of the Extravaganza to much acclaim. Guitarist and banjoist Detroit Brooks, an organizer of the shows and festival, will be joined by guitar wizard Steve Masakowski and fellow guitar and banjo player Don Vappie. The way it typically goes down is that each of the fretmen performs in front of the band with pianist Mike Esnault, bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Walter Harris. For many, the fun part is when the guitarists/banjoists all take the stage together. These guys, often coming, to some degree, from different genres, rarely get to play together so the experience is obviously as enjoyable to them as it is to the audience.

The very good news is that the Danny Barker Festival now boasts a definite date, January 16 and 17, 2015 with hopes to also celebrate Barker’s birthday, January 13, 1909.

The Extravaganza moves over to the Old U. S. Mint the next evening, Friday, October 3, with a different format. The focus will switch to the festival’s namesake, the legendary, guitarist, banjoist, vocalist, composer, author and raconteur, Danny Barker.

It will begin with a panel discussion from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the participants talking about Barker’s great contributions to New Orleans that continue to be felt today.

Beyond Barker’s huge talents as a musician, having played with such noted bandleaders as Cab Calloway and Lucky Millinder, he established the youthful Fairview Baptist Church Band that helped create new interest in the dwindling brass band tradition among the next generation of musicians and their followers. It spun off groups such as the Dirty Dozen and Hurricane brass bands and led to a rejuvenated scene on the streets, world-wide recognition and even a Grammy for the Rebirth Brass Band. Barker was also a griot of sorts, constantly educating and checking in on young musicians particularly around the vibrant Tremé neighborhood. Most music-loving people would agree that a festival celebrating Danny Barker, who died on March 13, 1994 at the age of 85, has been a long time coming. A statue would also seem in order, located in either the French Quarter where he was born or at Armstrong Park in the Tremé where he regularly hung out.

“A lot of people don’t know Danny’s contribution to the music,” Brooks once lamented. “We hear about Louis (Armstrong), Sidney Bechet, George Lewis but you don’t hear about Danny. Danny had a lot of impact on the young kids. He showed them the value of the culture.”

A musical performance will follow the panel discussion that will be moderated by Fred Kasten and will include Black Men of Labor co-founder Fred Johnson and musicians who played and influenced by Barker. The band includes Brooks, trumpeter Gregg Stafford, bassist Mitchell Player, guitarist Harry Sterling and two of Barker’s kinfolk, trombonist Lucien Barbarin and drummer Jerry Anderson.

Two Ongoing Music Series Keep the Beat
If it’s Thursday evening, Jazz in the Park gets down at Armstrong Park. If it’s Sunday evening, the Nickel-A-Dance New Orleans Classic Jazz Soiree gets the audience on the dance floor at Frenchmen Street’s Maison. One could think of these events as the musical equivalents of New Orleans eating red beans and rice on Monday.

Conveniently for those in the work-a-day world, the performances at both of these series start at an early 4 p.m. This week, Jazz in the Park presents a strong double bill of the outstanding Joe Krown Trio featuring Krown on organ, guitarist/­vo­calist Walter “Wolfman” Wash­ing­ton and drummer Russell Batiste. They start at 5 p. m. following a kickoff second line. Cyril Neville’s Swamp Funk begins at 6:30 pm with the incredibly soulful and passionate Neville out front on the mic and behind the congas. His wife Gaynelle Neville, who recently released Woman Power, her debut release under her own name, is usually by his side providing vocal backup and there’s sure to be other Neville relatives on the stage.

Sunday, trombonist Lucien Barbarin returns to perform at the fall edition of the Nickel-A-Dance series that kicks off on October 5 and runs through October 26. Barbarin, a member of the illustrious New Orleans musical Barbarin family, can be counted on for bringing in the best players for his sets. Barbarin can be a humorous, entertaining guy though he’s definitely serious about the music. “I like to explore the music” he declares. “I love to have fun with the music.”

Besides these gigs’ appreciated early start and ending times, they have other very important elements in common. Jazz in the Park and Nickel-A-Dance are both free and welcome folks of all ages. They are family affairs.

This article originally published in the September 29, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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