by Bob Putignano
"Mardi Gras Around The World"
Mexicali Blues NJ- New York Report
It's February 28th Fat Tuesday everywhere for everyone, and at Mexicali Blues in Teaneck NJ there definitely was that NOLA Fat Tuesday groove. Mardi Gras New Jersey started out with a viewing of the critically acclaimed documentary "Make It Funky" directed and produced by Michael Murphy, which if you have not had the opportunity to see this DVD on PBS, you should go out and get yourself a copy (portions of the proceeds go towards Katrina efforts.) The crowd really enjoyed this wonderful tribute to the musical heritage of the great city of New Orleans. Highlights included are live performances and interviews with the amazing musicians who helped establish the NOLA scene-including the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, Irma Thomas, Lloyd Price, and narration by Art Neville. Also included are segments about the Mardi Gras Indians and street brass bands performing on the streets, jams at blues and jazz clubs, great shots of jazz funerals, and stories from city residents about the constant music they heard throughout the city. The musical tour also takes you to landmark sites, such as Cosimo Matassa's J&M Music Shop which was where the first recording studio opened in New Orleans, and how it became showcase for musicians of every classic recording waxed at Cosimo's Factory- from the early 50's through the 70's. All the performances are infectious. For more info about this outstanding documentary go to: http://www.mmptv.com/
Next up was piano great David Maxwell who paid tribute to all of his favorite Big Easy pianists- Maxwell produced a chilling & dynamic performance. Bruce Katz best known for his solo recordings and his stint with Ronnie Earl's Broadcasters followed Maxwell and also dug down deep brilliantly paying homage to the great piano heritage of New Orleans. International Blues Competition winner- pianist Dave Keyes was next and he played & sang terrifically with his tantalizing keyboard work also acknowledging his Louisiana heroes. The piano segment wrapped up with triple keyboard blowout with Maxwell, Katz and Keyes tearing down the house, which had the crowd screaming for more!
The final Mardi Gras segment concluded with a all star band assembled for Blues Louisiana Hall of Fame great: Big Luther Kent. The band under the directorship of Jazz/Soul/Funk/Blues legend- guitarist Melvin Sparks, also included all three keyboard players from the previous set: Maxwell, Katz, and Keyes (sounds like a law firm), Jack Calmes also on guitar from Luther's Chickenhawks band, Sue Williams on bass, Terry Silverlight on drums, and a outstanding horn section which consisted of Blue Lou Marini and Lew Soloff. The band kicked off instrumentally (sans Kent) with Sparks calling for a honking version of Lou Donaldson's "Alligator Boogaloo" (Sparks spent many a year in Donaldson's band and played on several of his recordings) where everyone in the band got the opportunity to solo, thus setting the groove for what was to follow. Luther Kent was then called to the stage and quarterbacked an incredible performance- highlights included scorching versions of "Let the Good Times Roll" "Flip, Flop & Fly" "Hey Pocky Way/Go to the Mardi Gras" "Teeny Weenie Bit""99 Women/ Sweet Little Angel/Little Red Rooster," "Hootchie Coochie Man," and much more
It was a night to be remembered, and hopefully the NY Blues and Jazz Society will start its own annual of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday in 2007.
Elsewhere around the Big Apple- BB King's highlight was its third annual Howlin' for Hubert Sumlin night, which featured Levon Helm, Jimmy Vivino, David Johansen, and very special guest Elvis Costello. Terra Blues continues to carry on with its six nights of blues programming and still remains the only full time blues club in the NYC area. Just outside the city limits The Turning Point Café in Piermont NY books blues several nights a week and recently had Duke Robillard- who debuted his new recording on Stony Plain Records. The aforementioned Mexicali Blues in Teaneck also imported New Orleans legend Walter "Wolfman" Washington who is looking at least a decade less than his age, and performed brilliantly at the venue.
In the next edition of this column look forward to a summary of the birthday bash thrown for Jerry Jemmott & Melvin Sparks. Rumor has it many guest will be stopping by including Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and Cornell Dupree.
Until next time.......
Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society