It's a bold move aligning yourself with the great Louis Armstrong. But it seems if anyone could pull it off its 28-year old trumpeter James Andrews. The New Orleans native actually earned the moniker "Satchmo of the Ghetto" back in his Treme neighborhood. He's come up through a variety of brass bands and has played with Michelle Shocked, Quincy Jones and Dizzy Gillespie.
Now a protégé of soul man Allen Toussaint (and star of Toussaint's new NYNO label), Andrews is taking his place along side of contemporaries Nicholas Payton, Kermit Ruffins and Derrick Shezbie swinging the New Orleans tradition in contemporary ways. But there's nothing phony about Satchmo of the Ghetto. Andrews is the real thing and there's no novelty in his chops, or the way he performs his heart out on this fun, swinging collection of New Orleans style party music.
Andrews sings and swings in the funky French quarter shuffle of "Poop Ain't Gotta Scuffle No More" and does the "St. Louis Blues" style Delta stomp for "Last Night on the Back Porch" and the traditional "Old Rugged Cross." The instrumentals are the disc's best moments, though. "Latin Cats," "Going For The Money" and Andrews' own "Banana Boogie" (the disc's high point) even recall Hugh Masekela and his all-too-brief strolls through the bayou. Andrews injects and projects total joy throughout, especially in his swamp-reggae take on the lively "It's Only A Paper Moon" and the drunk-on-life French Quarter makeover of Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance." Allen Toussaint and Dr. John trade seats on piano and organ and keep things dancing throughout.
Andrews certainly has plenty to say (though I wish he'd sing less and play more). Witness the even better New Birth Brass Band disc, D-Boy (NYNO,1997): Andrews takes the brass band thing to the mean streets of hip hop and keeps it all credible in a way that Louis Armstrong would sure be proud. Andrews could make a sterling straight jazz record if he wanted to too. He probably will. He's got the imagination and flair to make it work. Watch out for James Andrews.
Tracks:Poop Ain't Gotta Scuffle No More; Last Night On The Back Porch; Latin Cats; Sweet Emma; Going For the Money; Got Me A New Love Thing; Banana Boogie; Catch The Willie; It's Only A Paper Moon; Your Mama Don't Dance; The Old Rugged Cross.
James Andrews: trumpet, vocals; Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack: piano, organ, backing vocals; Allen Toussaint: piano, synthesizer, backing vocals, percussion; Scott Goudeau: guitar; Charles Moore: bass; Bernard "Bunchy" Johnson: drums, backing vocals; Henry Love Vaughn: congas; Austin Davis, Flynn Forte, Kwame Johnson, Rodrick Price: backing vocals.