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Solid As A Rock: Roland Guerin Is Not Waiting For A Stamp Of Approval
SEPTEMBER 26, 2019
by: JOHN WIRT

Roland Guerin keeps good company.

A master of six-string bass, he put the bottom in Allen Toussaint’s band during the composer-pianist-producer’s second act as a world-traveling concert artist. Guerin spent 2017, Dr. John’s final year of performing, as the singer-pianist’s bandleader. This fall, Guerin is touring Europe with the virtuoso hard-rock guitarist Paul Gilbert. His prestigious sideman work further includes Marcus Roberts, John Scofield, Mark Whitfield, George Benson, Ellis Marsalis, Gerry Mulligan and Jimmy Scott.

Moreover, in addition to being an in-demand bassist, Guerin writes, sings, plays and produces his own music. On October 18, Louisiana Red Hot Records will release his latest solo album, Grass Roots. The album mirrors Guerin’s broad and surprising influences. He sings lead for the project as well as multi-tracked clouds of backing vocals. The other Grass Roots players include Mike Esneault, piano; Chris Atkins, guitar; and drummers Herman LeBeaux Jr. and John Jones.

Grass Roots’ tracks include two Prince-like pop-rhythm-and-blues songs, “Running on Nightfumes” and “Inside Outside Upside Down;” the Peter Gabriel-inspired “Summer Moon”; the adventurous, almost rock of “Stick to the Basics” (with lyrics by Allen Toussaint); and the jazz-rock hybrid piece “To the Edge of Something.”

Lilli Lewis, head of the artist-and-repertoire department at Louisiana Red Hot Records—and an accomplished musician in her own right—said the subtlety and cinematic beauty in Guerin’s music persuaded her to sign him. “It’s as universal as anything any other New Orleans master might produce, but also wholly unto its own,” Lewis said. “Roland considers himself a New Orleans roots musician, but what he’s produced here is timeless and 100 percent unexpected.”

Read More at OffBeat.com

“He has no competition in his genres, he’s the Jimmy Hendrix of the accordion.” – Rolling Stone magazine

Born March 3, 1979 in Lafayette, Louisiana, was the last of eight children of Rockin’ Dopsie, Sr., a pioneer of Zydeco music. To this day, Dwayne attributes his passion and prodigious abilities to his father, but the truth is he was simply born to play this music. “This is my calling – Zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul.”

A virtuoso tradition holder with a high power style of his own, Dwayne Dopsie and his band, the genre defying Zydeco Hellraisers have thrilled audiences over 40 countries and hundreds of cities since his debut at age 19. Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers have enjoyed National exposure with outlets like Rolling Stone Magazine, Good morning America, CBS this morning, Food Network, and The Jamie Kennedy experiment, and his latest release was nominated for a Grammy in 2018. Louisiana Red Hot looks forward to releasing his national debut followup in early 2019.

CURRENT ARTIST ROSTER

GLEN DAVID ANDREWS

glen david andrews - promo01BIO

A warrior for cultural preservation in New Orleans at a time when indigenous traditions are being threatened, Andrews is standing up now for his own salvation. As the journalist Larry Blumenfeld, a Katrina Media Fellow with the Open Society Institute, has written: ”Long before he began trying to save himself in earnest, Andews’s music projected the promise of redemption…His remarkable singing voice and commanding trombone sound (both powerful, direct, resonant, and with just enough rasp) as well as his disarmingly honest manner have provided whatever the situation calls for: beauty, truth, compassion, anger, joy or all of the above.”

Andrews comes from a storied extended family of musicians. He was born in the historic Tremé neighborhood – which many consider to be the oldest black community in the United States – where the struggle to survive is older than the mighty oak trees in the Crescent City. According to family folklore, Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, a patriarch of modern New Orleans music, directed the bell of his horn toward Andrews’s mother’s belly as a way to induce labor. Andrews was born the following day. Transfixed by the magic and mystery of the city’s second-line parades, Andrews and his older brother, Derrick Tabb of the Rebirth Brass Band, along with their younger cousin Troy “Trombone Shorty,” soaked up life’s musical lessons by learning the history of the brass band tradition firsthand from iconic figures like Tuba Fats. They also learned the power of the city’s Mardi Gras Indian culture.

“The musicians I heard coming up literally brought me out of the womb,” Andrews says. “Jesus was born in a manger. I was born in a second line.”

Starting on the bass drum as a child, Andrews soon picked up the trombone; he was blowing a joyful noise by the time he was 12. He practiced his musicianship and showmanship with the city’s most energetic brass bands, from New Birth and L’il Rascals to ReBirth and Treme. “He’s always had a massive presence and a massive sweetness,” says Paul Sanchez, the New Orleans singer-songwriter who has collaborated with Andrews.

That presence and sweetness have long endeared Andrews to audiences at his regular gigs at such New Orleans clubs as dba and Three Muses. In recent years he began making waves as a headliner at the world’s biggest block party – the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where he has ripped it up in the gospel tent, the blues tent and the jazz tent. “ “Glen is one of the giant talents of New Orleans music,” says the festival’s producer Quint Davis.

Andrews says he’s determined to make new fans with Redemption. Leo Sacks, who produced the project, says that ”Glen surprised everyone with the emotional range and maturity of his voice. It was astonishing to hear him slide from a whisper to a scream.” A dear friend of New Orleans music who produced the New Orleans Social Club’s Sing Me Back Home after Katrina and won a 2014 Grammy Award for documenting the life’s work of Bill Withers, Sacks says that Andrews conjured “the soul fire of Wilson Pickett, the preacher power of Solomon Burke and the world-weariness of Louis Armstrong’s voice. He took artistic risks that were tremendously courageous.”

The centerpiece of the new album is “Surrender,” a deeply personal song about acceptance which Andrews wrote in rehab. “I woke up from a nightmare, in a cold sweat,” he recalls in chilling detail. “That nightmare was my life. I realized I had been given an opportunity to change my attitudes, my actions, my whole outlook on living. I knew it was okay to forgive myself. That was my moment of grace.”

With the release of Redemption, Louisiana Red Hot Records is also making available four of Andrews’s previous projects: the gospel-driven Walking Through Heaven’s Gate (recorded live in 2009 at Zion Hill Baptist Church in New Orleans where Andrews was baptized); Live at Three Muses, a sweaty club date from 2012; and two trad jazz releases, French Quarter Jazz from Jackson Square (his first recording, from 1997) and Dumaine Street Blues (2002).


PRESS

“Andrews and his band are a force. Their music is an electrifying combination of Funk, R&B, Jazz, Gospel and Zydeco, a joyful, communal noise that prompts, even the most casual listeners to lose their inhibitions, whoop, holler and shake the booty. (San Jose Jazz Festival, Aug 8, 2015)” – Latin Jazz Net

“Redemption, New Orleans trombonist/vocalist Glen David Andrews’s electrifying, career (re-)defining opus, is all about metaphoric rebirth, linking his own spiritual and physical rehab with the Crescent City’s post-Katrina recovery. The music is a fiery amalgam of brass band roots, gospel, funk, soul, and R&B. And it rocks with all the gritty, soulful, ass-shakin’ intensity Andrews can muster, which pretty much sets the standard these days.” – Rick Mason, Minneapolis City Pages

“A mix of preacher, R&B singer, jazz vocalist, trombonist and New Orleans musical history lesson, Glen David Andrews is a sweaty showman, entertainer and improviser. He has a Louis Armstrong rasp, an Al Green falsetto, a Thomas Dorsey sense of spirituals, James Brown moves with the microphone stand, trombone licks a la Trombone Shorty (his cousin) and Robin Williams-like manic energy. Look for Andrews to showcase material from this year’s commendable ‘Redemption’, whose highlights include the funky ‘Bad by Myself’ and the breezy, gospelly ‘Movin’ Up’.” – Minneapolis Star

“Andrews has talent to spare. He is an amazing player and singer. The trombonist/vocalist’s legendary performances (melding rock, pop, soul, gospel, jazz, funk and brass) are nothing less than electrifying…. On what was the warmest day of the year (to that point) in New York City, Andrews and his band burned through a blistering set at the Rockwood Music Hall. If it was hot outside the venue, it was even hotter inside. The walls were sweating, the floor was bouncing. The audience members were singing along and jumping up and down while Andrews, their leader, functioned as master of ceremonies at what was part rock ‘n’ funk concert, part gospel revival service, part Mardi Gras party and one helluva good time.” – Mike Perciaccante, All About Jazz

“True redemption is earned: a celebration of today, anchored by lessons learned through the work it took to get here and sweetened with gratitude for our good fortune. This record is steeped in all that, soaked in tears and night sweats that have been dried but not forgotten. It’s revealed by degrees — first in the thunderclap opening of “NY to Nola,” then with cuts like the funky, rueful “Bad by Myself,” Andrews’ Mahalia Jackson-assisted cover of “Didn’t It Rain,” and the downright lovely “Surrender,” as well as a trio of post-rehab anthems (‘Movin’ Up’, ‘Lower Power’, and ‘You Don’t Know’), the latter two of which feature appearances from fellow survivor Anders Osborne. The whole journey culminates with a beautiful rendition of the Curtis Mayfield classic ‘Something to Believe In’ that sends the record sailing out on a note of well-deserved rest and release.” – Jeff Giles, popdose

“A stunning achievement… a career-best triumph for both artist and producer, an album that joins recent work by Trombone Shorty and Rebirth Brass Band in a new era of New Orleans jazz and R&B excellence.” – John Swenson, Offbeat Magazine

www.glendavidandresband.com

AL BELLETTO

Al BellettoBelletto was born January 3, 1928 in New Orleans. He attended Warren Easton High School, and studied music at Loyola University as an undergraduate before getting his masters in music at Louisiana State University. As a teenager, he was already working as a professional musician, playing on Bourbon Street and often backing up the burlesque dancers. He played with Louis Prima, Sharkey Bonano, Wingy Manone and the Dukes of Dixieland. Although he liked traditional jazz, he was attracted to the new modern sounds of bebop, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. There was not much of a scene for this in New Orleans, so he moved to New York.

In New York, Belletto became friends with Mel Torme. Torme, who had first heard him while passing through Biloxi, got him signed to a booking agent, and introduced Belletto to Stan Kenton. Kenton got Belletto signed to Capitol Records, where he recorded The Al Belletto Sextette in 1955, Half and Half in 1956, and Whisper Not in 1957. These recordings were a swinging mix of the instrumental colors and cool sounds of West Coast jazz and the hard bebop of the East Coast. He had a minor hit with the song “Relaxin’” which became the theme to Dick Martin’s jazz program “Moonglow With Martin” on WWL 870-AM radio. Despite good reviews, the band was scuffling by until they met Woody Herman, who absorbed the sextet into his own Thundering Herd and then took them on a U.S. State Department tour of Central and South America in 1957.

By 1961, Belletto was back in New Orleans working as the musical and entertainment director of the Playboy Club. He broke the color line by hiring bassist Richard Payne, an African American, to play the club. When this displeased the local and state authorities, who threatened to sue, Belletto called Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who apparently said, “Let ’em sue us. I’ve got better lawyers than the state of Louisiana.” Belletto continued hiring African-American musicians such as James Black, Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste, Nat Perilliat and Earl Turbinton to play at the club. This was not the first time that Belletto had defied the racial barriers of the day. In the ’50s, he had been arrested for playing onstage at the Texas Lounge on Canal Street with Earl Palmer. Johnny Vidacovich, who played with Belletto starting in the late 1960s, recalls, “He went straight up chest to chest with all that bullshit. He was way ahead when it came to the racial game. He stood up for equal rights in black cats getting paid the same amount as the white cats. And he did that by hiring black cats to play the Playboy Club. That was pretty brazen at the time.”

Also in 1968, he was a member of the original New Orleans Jazz Festival board, and he made sure that the policy of the festival was that black musicians would get the same compensation as the white musicians. Belletto was also a board member of the local Musicians Union 174-495, and he was a founding member of the French Quarter Festival. He was Al Hirt’s bandleader in the 1980s, and provided the band for Bob Hope’s 81st birthday TV special.

Belletto also was known for his attitude as well as his playing. Trombonist Rick Trolsen, who played with him for several decades, said, “Al was capital ‘C’ Cool. When he got on the horn, he was all there. He wasn’t fucking around. He put 100 percent into everything he played. And it was always fun. There wasn’t any bullshit onstage. If he felt that something needed to be said, then he would say it, but very diplomatically. He was a consummate professional.”

In addition, Belletto supported musicians off the bandstand. Pianist David Torkanowsky remembers him as being “extremely generous. He mentored me and got me into the Playboy Club when I was underage so I could hear some jazz. And when I went to Boston to go to Berklee, he arranged for me to get a Playboy Gold credit card so that when I was too broke to eat in Boston, I could go to the Playboy Club to get something to eat. He was elegant and soulful and he played a funky, swinging saxophone.” Vidacovich agrees: “The comedians and singers who would come through the Playboy Club traveled the circuit and stayed for two weeks. On our Sunday nights off, Al would have them over for dinner, and his momma, who was pure Italian, made this red gravy—boy! Everybody working the Playboy Clubs knew that when they came to New Orleans, Al Belletto would take care of you.”

Belletto’s final recording would be 1997’s Jazznocracy, recorded at New Orleans Christ Church Cathedral.

Taken from David Kunian’s obituary in Offbeat Magazine, here.

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