The city of New Orleans counts many styles among its diverse musical offspring, including jazz, the focus of this compilation of old and young players alike. It's a timely entry by Putumayo, a world music label whose every release comes with the proclamation that it's "guaranteed to make you feel good!" No false claim in this case, lest you suspect otherwise. After visiting the area for three previous releases devoted to cajun, zydeco, and a self-described gumbo stew of styles, Putumayo settles down into a familiar groove for eleven mostly vocal jazz selections. Roughly half actually mention the city in their lyrics.
Old-timers will likely celebrate the appearances of trumpeter/vocalists Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima, both featured here with bluesy overtones. Armstrong's brief 1966 recording of "Tin Roof Blues" has scratchy sonicsunlike the rest of the set, which is quite cleanbut it is essential to complete the big picture of New Orleans jazz, especially in the light of younger players like Kermit Ruffins, who openly claim inspiration from his music.
Ruffins gets the whole thing started, in fact, with "Drop Me Off in New Orleans," a second-line funk workout with syncopated horns and a suitably rough-edged vocal delivery. (An entire Ruffins sampler has been timed for release in conjunction with New Orleans, appropriately enough.) He's joined in the up-and-coming department by Nicholas Payton, who teams up with Doc Cheatam for "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues."
Two versions of the ever-popular "Basin Street Blues" appear, but Dr. John's take wins hands down for color, deliberate drama, and undulating swing. Those three qualities, along with a certain romantic flair and underlying festivity, tend to characterize most of this music, accounting for its palliative nature. That and the fact that it never over-intellectualizes or challenges the listener along the way.
As is essential for any collection like this, liner notes (by Baty Landis, accompanied by translations into Spanish and French) provide informative background on each artist in the set. Original source material is cited for further pursuit, along with relevant web sites, two pages of New Orleans resources, and a very detailed gumbo recipe by Chef Paul Prudhomme.
All in all, New Orleans is affable, warm and welcoming, not unlike the city itself.
For sound samples and more, visit Putumayo on the web.
Personnel: Kermit Ruffins, Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong, Gregg Stafford, Doc Cheatham: trumpet, vocal; Nicholas
Payton, Wendell Brunious, Duke Heitger, Kevin Clark: trumpet; Duke Dejan, Deacon John Moore, Topsy
Chapman: vocals; Dr. John: piano, vocal; Thaddeus Richard: piano; Dr. Michael White, Pete Fountain,
Donald Suhor: clarinet; Sam Butera: tenor saxophone; Lucien Barbarin: trombone; Kerry Lewis: tuba;
Don Vappie: guitar; Benjamin Jaffe, Mark Brooks: bass; Herman Lebeaux: drums; others.