New Birth Brass Band leader James Andrews makes his solo debut on Satchmo of the Ghetto, an upbeat release that mixes second-line jazz with New Orleans Ninth Ward R&B. Singer-trumpeter Andrews lifts expectations with the evocative nickname he's chosen for himself, but he truly merits comparisons to the original Satchmo. Andrews has a similar gravelly voice and his various trumpet solos are soulfully raunchy in the finest New Orleans trumpet tradition, which, as every jazzer knows, was singlehandedly established by the great Mr. Armstrong. Many of the songs here also invoke the spirit of Jesse Hill, Andrews' late grandfather, who is best remembered for his wonderfully goofy hit "Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo."
This release is also notable because it marks only the second time Dr. John and Allen Toussaint have appeared on an album together. The first was on Crescent City Gold, a funky 1994 all-star session that saw Dr. John on guitar and Allen Toussaint on keys. Satchmo of the Ghetto is a similar recording, though the good doctor and Toussaint gravitate between organ and piano on this session.
Andrews and friends perform eight frisky originals and three infectious covers on Satchmo. The effect is like a Hurricane cocktail: it's smooth going down, packs a punch, and makes you feel fine.
My favorite track is the Toussaint composition "Got Me a New Love Thing," which has Andrews reciting a list of calamities joblessness, a wrecked car, a house that burns down then claiming that none of it matters because he's acquired a "new love thing." "Poop Ain't Gotta Scuffle No More" is a funky tribute to Jesse Hill co-written by Dr. John and Toussaint. It features a wacky scattin' chorus that will not dislodge itself from my brain. Andrews plays three of his own songs here, the best of which is the rollicking instrumental "Banana Boogie." Also great is his reworking of the Loggins and Messina hit "Your Mama Don't Dance," which is transformed into a second-line tribute to the Crescent City. The calypso version of "Paper Moon" is terrific, as is "The Old Rugged Cross," an old hymn that's given a groovin' Dixieland treatment.
Satchmo of the Ghetto is good-time jazz played by a talented young trumpeter who is ably assisted by two Crescent City legends. Bottom line: This is a must-have for any fan of New Orleans jazz or R&B. As a N'Awlins native might say, this album has plenty of "poisenality."