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New Orleans: New Orleans Mardi Gras

Jim Santella By

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Ravaged by storms and sharing a tragic fate with neighboring communities last year, New Orleans doesn't have much to celebrate as Mardi Gras approaches. It hurts to think about the lives lost and the traditions that have been broken. Keepsake treasures have disappeared; a huge void has been left behind.

However, we all know that the city will rebuild. This year's Mardi Gras will usher in a long celebration in the streets, just as it has for many years. Hurricanes have ravaged the Gulf Coast before. New Orleans will come back, and we know that the changes will not diminish its music.

Memories of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence "Gatemouth Brown and Al Hirt do not fade. Their music lives on forever. Dr. John continues to remind us of today's vibrant music that's alive and well. Organizations such as Preservation Hall, the Neville Brothers, the Wild Magnolias and the Dukes of Dixieland offer us different variations on the same theme: New Orleans is a city that will rebuild and continue to give us great music.

That's what makes New Orleans Mardi Gras so special. It was recorded between October 2003 and August 2005 in New Orleans. The band finished just before Hurricane Katrina hit. New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland gives each of these traditional songs a hearty interpretation. Blues belter Luther Kent captures the spirit exceptionally well, and the band surrounds him with cohesive counterpoint and creative soloing. Musically accurate and delivered direct from the heart, their highly recommended session swings with the passion of blues and the kind of groove that we expect to find in good jazz.

Not to be confused with the original Dukes of Dixieland, New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland carry on the tradition with a hint of Dr. John, a taste of the Neville Brothers, and the flavor of Preservation Hall. Richard Taylor, Everett Link, Scott Obenschain, Mike Fulton, Ben Smith and Earl Bonie deliver a well-constructed program that preserves tradition while swinging unmercifully.

The original Dukes of Dixieland grew out of the Junior Dixieland Band in 1949, which was formed by the Assunto brothers in New Orleans to compete in a talent hunt contest. Featuring teenagers Frank Assunto on trumpet, Fred Assunto on trombone, Pete Fountain on clarinet, Tommy Balderas on guitar, Willie Perkins on drums, Artie Seelig on piano and Hank Bartels on bass, they changed their name later that year to The Dukes of Dixieland. Throughout their long and rewarding performing career, the original Dukes of Dixieland performed all over the world. Their guest list included such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Jim Hall and Rich Matteson. Fred Assunto passed away in 1966, and his brother passed in '74 to spell the end of The Dukes of Dixieland. Their legacy lives on through both their recordings and through bands similar to the one heard here.

We're all looking forward to the rebuilding of New Orleans. It'll take time. Everybody who pitches in knows that this music outlasts even the most unmerciful acts of Nature. Thankfully, the world is full of music-loving people who are determined to make this work.


Track Listing: Carnival Time; All On a Mardi Gras Day; Go to the Mardi Gras; Mardi Gras Mambo (Iko Iko); Bourbon Street Parade; While We Danced at the Mardi Gras; Big Chief; Second Line; Sick and Tired; Hey Pocky Way; New Suit; Oh When the Saints Go Marching In.

Personnel: Richard Taylor: drums, leader; Everett Link: acoustic bass; Scott Obenschain: drums; Mike Fulton: trumpet; Ben Smith: trombone; Earl Bonie: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Guests: Charles Brent: tenor saxophone, guitar; Barney Floyd: trumpet; Brian O

Title: New Orleans Mardi Gras | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Leisure Jazz

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