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Super-Size Your Combo


There's a basketball game on TV in the bar, but Joe Krown is wedging in a few quick phone calls confirming a couple of dates. Between solo piano nights, gigs with Joe Krown's Organ Combo and dates as a sideman with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Krown is always working. "I get three or four nights off a month," he explains. "Last week I was off Monday and Tuesday, but I did doubles so I did six gigs in a week."

When he's playing solo piano gigs Monday nights at Le Bon Temps Rouler, that much work is fairly easily handled. The material itself poses problems -- "Listen to (James) Booker," he says. "Where did that third hand come from?" -- but the instrument is usually at the venue waiting for him. For organ combo gigs, though, he has to schlep his Hammond B-3 to the stage and back. Because a classic B-3 is made of walnut and weigh approximately 400 pounds, that's some serious schlepping. It's the sort of trial that bonds organ players like Krown and John Gros, and it forces life changes. For most serious musicians, playing changes their lives, but it affected Krown's transportation. To move the organ, he explains, "I bought a handicap ramp. It's an aluminum bi-fold I bought on the Internet. I also bought a house with no steps. Everything I do is based around moving and storing heavy equipment." The weight of his instrument even affects his dreams. "I've got about five more years and I won't be able to physically move it anymore. I hope to make enough to hire someone to move it for me," he laughs.

Krown is working on material for a new Joe Krown Organ Combo album, though he has unofficial Organ Combo live albums available for free at his shows to those who know to ask. The combo typically includes guitarist John Fohl, saxophonist Brent Rose, bassist Bob Sunda and drummer Mike Barras, but like Krown, they stay busy. "Everybody works, and I can't tell them to cancel," he says, so while the group has played as a trio, he prefers a quartet or quintet. "With four (players), the organ becomes the sound of it," he says, "and with five, the horn doubles the organ." For the new album, he's writing material for two horns. "I want this one to be more Œorgan-centric' than the last one (2002's Funk Yard), and with two horns I can work melodies behind the organ."

The Shim Sham Club has reopened after nine months, this time as One-Eyed Jacks, a reference not to Twin Peaks but to the Marlon Brando movie of the same name. Now owned by Ryan Hesseling and Rio Hackford, the front room and showroom have been completely remodeled, with the horseshoe bar top from Hackford's El Matador moved into the new club.

The pair's connections to the old club are many: Hackford knew Shim Sham owner Morgan Higby from Los Angeles, their hometown. Hesseling co-owns Fifi Mahoney's with his wife, Marcy (a former Shim Shamette dancer), and Ryan helped design parts of both El Matador and the Shim Sham. Although the showroom will be a music venue, "it's going to more of a place where you can hang out and party all night," says Ryan Hesseling, who wants the new club to have its own identity. "We're going to do music, theater, burlesque and try to keep it open as much as possible." Christening the rock 'n' roll stage will be Rock City Morgue on Friday, April 23, and upcoming highlights include Greg Dulli's Twilight Singers (April 29), the Dirt Bombs (May 15), and Neko Case (May 20).

The club's official opening Friday and Saturday will feature two nights of burlesque. Friday offers the World Famous Pontani Sisters, Candy Whiplash: the Texas Tease, Lina Chaste and more, with music by the Sophisticats featuring the Sophistikittens. The Pontani Sisters headline Saturday's show as well, which also includes a burlesque history slide show and sexploitation B-movies.

Any art show that features dinosaurs rampaging through Jackson Square is a winner. In the case of Not Your Mama's Jazz Fest Poster at Barrister's Gallery, Mike Willmon's painting is visually stunning and darkly funny. Some of the mock-posters take swipes at Jazz Fest, while others turn the beatific posters on their heads. Roy Ferdinand's contribution is a painting of a bar on Harmony Street where musicians are trading their instruments for crack. In a perfect world, some of these artists could end up making Jazz Fest posters. Aside from the subject matter -- "Live Sex Acts" -- Sean Starwars' woodcut graphic style would be appropriate and attractive, and Julie Crozat's "Jazz and Hemp Fest" could really be a poster if the posters weren't typically devoid of content. Done in circus sideshow style, the painting is handsome, with Louis Armstrong central, as well as evocations of the jazz life around him: a promo photo, him as Zulu, along with dancing girls and dope smokers. The show will be up through the first weekend of Jazz Fest.

To help lug around his 400-pound Hammond B-3 organ, Joe Krown bought an aluminum bi-fold ramp off the Internet and purchased a house with no steps.
  • To help lug around his 400-pound Hammond B-3 organ, Joe Krown bought an aluminum bi-fold ramp off the Internet and purchased a house with no steps.

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