Posts in the ARTISTS category
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).
“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
Belletto 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.
Blues-rockers the Bluebirds consisted primarily of brothers Buddy and Bruce Flett, Louisiana natives who formed the group in their hometown of Shreveport in 1987. The siblings — Buddy on guitar, Bruce on bass, and both on vocals — cut their teeth in A-Train, an outfit popular among Louisiana and Texas club patrons throughout its ten-year existence; immediately after the group’s dissolution, the Fletts reunited as the Bluebirds, originally a Tuesday night jam band which became a far more serious concern with the 1995 release of their debut LP Swamp Stomp. South from Memphis followed a year later.
The Bluebirds is a band that plays: high energy, fun-filled fusion of Louisiana rock ´n roll, good old fashioned blues and rockabilly, sprinkled with a bit of tex – mex and garnished with soul. The Bluebirds genuine musical mix has taken the band all over the world: Australia, USA, Europe and the Nordic countries.
The band is now almost back to the original setting, since the start in 1989. Or as Michelle for the Live Magazine (U.S.A) has written:“The irony of having a band from Sweden play American blues music better than nearly any group I had ever heard before was not lost on me”. Blues association of Queensland, Australia says:“Have you been waiting ´round for another band like The Fabulous Thunderbirds to come along? Well, your wait is over, the Bluebirds have arrived”, and they are ready to rock the house!
In 1991 The Bluerunners leapt from Lafayette, Louisiana into the white-hot glare of the national limelight. Propelled by a seamless (if seemingly unlikely) blend of frenetic cow-punk originals and traditional Cajun music, The Bluerunners’ self-titled major label album earned the group rave reviews in rock circles and an important niche in the rich musical history of South Louisiana. Discerning critics praised The Bluerunners’ eclectic yet organic approach and the distinctive songwriting of Mark Meaux, making favorable comparisons to the likes of The Band, and Los Lobos.
Fourteen years, three subsequent albums and many career cycles later, The Bluerunners shine radiant and luminescent once again, thanks to their glowing new album, Honey Slides, released on their newly-formed label, Bayou Vista. As always, The Bluerunners remain rooted in the Cajun music and Creole zydeco of their home turf, as well as the gutbucket blues and country that form musical lingua franca of the South. The edgy punk sensibility of their early years is still evident as well.
But Honey Slides also reflects The Bluerunners’ maturing, burnished skills. Their effortless groove grinds and lilts in tandem, as befits a band based in a city where everybody dances. Their deft instrumental chops and heartfelt vocals reveal years of doctoral studies at Bandstand University, Meaux plays guitars (lead and rhythm), mandolin, and fiddle on “Mardi Gras Jig”. Ade Huval’s agile accordion work underscores the band’s South Louisiana identity, while lap-steel guitarist Willy Golden makes the blues and country connection. The impeccable pocket provided by bassist Cal Stevenson and drummer Frank Kincel prove that bass and drums are indeed “one instrument played by two people.” Special guest Mike Chiasson adds rhythmic texture on washboard throughout the album, while Mitch Reed plays some fine fiddle on “Coulee Rodair” and Valse De Grand Pere”. Susan Cowsill – whose lengthy resumé includes the late, lamented Continental Drifters as well as The Cowsills – adds haunting vocal harmonies to the poignant “Ghost of a Girl.”
Among Honey Slides’ many revelations is Mark Meaux’s growth as a wise, eloquent lyricist who speaks volumes with deceptively simple lyrics. Sophisticated but disarmingly down-home, Meaux’s songs – and his wry delivery, as the band’s signature vocalist – embody the Bluerunners’ urbane/rural balance. So do the full-throttle vocals of Ade Huval, who sings lead on “Coulee Rodair” and “Lune de Minuit.”
Mark Meaux formed The Bluerunners in 1987. This was an especially inventive musical era, even by South Louisiana’s high standards. Lafayette and environs were cresting a heady wave of cultural resurgence that began swelling in the late 1970s. The region’s French music and dialects, scorned and suppressed for decades, came to be revered, celebrated, and documented. A collective weight lifted from Cajun and Creole shoulders as conformist assimilation into America’s mainstream was replaced by ethnic pride. Elderly musicians – such as Dennis McGee, and Canray Fontenot – enjoyed unexpected late-life career revivals. Young musicians – such as Michael Doucet and Zachary Richard – embraced the rich local repertoire of Cajun music and zydeco. They honored this legacy, once dismissed as passé, with verbatim performances of obscure archaic classics that became favorites once again. But they also blended Cajun music and zydeco with a wealth of far-flung contemporary styles to invent a vital new sound that evolved constantly. All genres were fair play for this creative process, and Mark Meaux chose to meld his Cajun roots with punk rock.
“I loved bands like X and The Blasters. We heard all that, growing up here, we picked up on everything that was popular nationally. Cajun music wasn’t considered important in our house when I was a kid,” Meaux reflects. “But at that time, nobody really gave much credence to Cajun culture, it just was there. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was a teenager going out to hear live music, people like the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, and bands like The Red Beans and Rice Revue, that it started to sink in how unique this area really is. And later, when I formed the Bluerunners, we did the ‘harder, faster, louder punk rock thing’ but we could also hear the local musical and cultural elements that kept popping up in our music. Seventeen years later I can see that it’s been a long trip of learning about ourselves, and where we come from. The greatest gift we’ve had is the long line of musical “teachers” that live or have lived among us.”
This stylistic synthesis is evident on Honey Slides. The Cajun/zydeco dance-hall tradition, with its blues and country components, is amply evident on “Working Man’s Zydeco,” “Coulee Rodair,” “Walking and Sighing,” the hypnotic, one-chord “Mardi Gras Jig,” the sweet twin fiddles of “Valse de Grand Pere,” the self-explanatory “King Snake Crawl,” and “Lune de Minuit,” with its waltzing homage to Clifton Chenier. Just try not dance to these songs! The full-tilt romp of “Black Cat Bone” recaptures The Bluerunners’ pioneer punk-Cajun synthesis, with Willy Golden’s howl-at-the-moon, blues-drenched vocals. Meaux’s sly vocal phrasing and succinct story-telling highlight “Ghost of a Girl,” the soul-baring, funky “The Grave Digger,” and the album’s tender closing number, “Big Head.”
Expertly produced by Mark Meaux and recording engineer Ivan Klisanin, Honey Slides was recorded in Lafayette. This decision underscores The Bluerunners’ strong sense of regional identity and musical community. “We’re indebted to so many musicians,” Meaux observes. “Clifton Chenier, Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, Boozoo Chavis. And maybe even more importantly, the folks that directly proceeded us, like Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, Zachary Richard, and Sonny Lnadreth, who showed us the importance of the culture through their work. They could have chosen any genre of music to work in, but they always played from a Louisiana perspective first. That showed us how important they felt the Cajun/Creole culture was, and how important it was to include French lyrics in their music. That had a far greater impact on us than any sociological lecture ever could have – and all three of those artists are making the best music of their careers right now. ‘Many other folks influence us,” Meaux continues, “both from here and elsewhere – Los Lobos, Bob Dylan, the icons. But something that really helped us create Honey Slides is the wealth of great new young bands and players from this area – The Lost Bayou Ramblers, Feu Follet, Courtney Granger, Joel Savoy. And our contemporaries- Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Mitch Reed, Kevin Wimmer, and Dirk Powel. All these great musicians live in and around Lafayette and are doing some of their best work right now. It’s exciting. It inspires us Bluerunners. We felt like we’d better bring something good to the table just to keep up with the pack”.
“Never mind that Lafayette’s Bluerunners have stuck it out longer than the majority of bands working the Hub City scene. Regrets, there’ve been a few, but hands down, the Bluerunners outdid themselves this time with their fifth effort in a storied 17-year-run. Gone are the alt-country influences and much of the Cajun traditionalism found on the previous couple of outings. Rather this time they’re more akin to the Latin Playboys interpreting artsy blues-based zydeco while howling on the Atchafalaya levee under a glowing full moon. Scrumptious tunes like “Voodoomens and Voodoo Dolls” and Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Black Cat Bone” featuring Will Golden’s toasty slide run ahead of the curve while another hipster, “I Got You,” resembles Bob Dylan trapped in an insufferable South Louisiana summer without an air conditioner. A well-concocted brew of sorts, there’s garage band old school zydeco (“Working Man’s Zydeco”), a nod to Creole fiddler Canray Fontenot (“Coulee Rodair”) and cerebrally crafted songs (“The Gravedigger”) textured with layers of meanings and sonic coolness. Cal Stevenson’s beautiful “Valse de Grand Pere” is built upon subtly swirling undertones. “Lune du Minuit” with accordionist Adrian Huval’s gliding five-row stylings is a good ole fashion clanky waltz. Killer stuff.” – Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine
“The last time singer-guitarist Mark Meaux and his band were noticed outside their Lafayette swampland was in the early ’90’s when a thrilling if uneasy sonic alliance of zydeco and X inspired punk rock fired up their debut album on Island. Here again the ‘Runners make a belated bid for wider recognition by going beyond dance-hall research to find a fresh, edgy sound that simultaneously reveals their full understanding of Cajun/Creole culture and their affinity for blues-rock recklessness. Accordian player Ade Huval works wonders focusing the intensity in “Coulee Rodaire,” “Kingsnake Crawl,” and 11 other selections” – Frank-John Hadley, Down Beat Magazine
“Somewhere between BeauSoleil and Los Lobos, two great American roots music bands, there’s the Bluerunners. The Lafayette band’s roots-dipped Honey Slides manages to be rocking, waltzing, two-stepping and laid-back and contemplative, all in a mere 13 tracks.” – John Wirt, The Advocate