The disciple King Britt and the gospel of Sister Gertrude Morgan



King Britt (left) with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • King Britt (left) with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Tonight, music production whiz King Britt hosts the first of three evenings at the Contemporary Arts Center as sort of an artist-in-residence and guest lecturer. His subject: the late Sister Gertrude Morgan, the New Orleans folk artist, gospel singer and "evangelist and prophet," Britt says. His 2005 album King Britt Presents Sister Gertrude Morgan fuses her original gospel recordings with his beat production and a live band.

(Read an interview with King Britt about the show and the album in this week's Gambit.)

Britt's free lecture is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the CAC. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan,. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 29. Tickets $20. (Find them here.) Britt also screens the short film Searching for ... Sister Gertrude Morgan, filmed in 2005 before the levee failures. "There are so many things to see," Britt says of the film, "that people may miss."

Below the jump: More from the Gambit interview with King Britt and music from King Britt Presents.

Morgan's mythic recordings were compiled and remastered by Preservation Hall in 2004. Let's Make a Record is pure street gospel, in brief, but her consistent tambourine (the only instrument on the songs other than her voice and handclaps) and rhythmic, mantra-like preach singing are proto-psychedelic, maximum rhythm-and-blues — New Orleans music.

Britt took those recordings and added his signature beats and a full band to "enhance" Morgan's songs, resulting in 2005's King Britt Presents Sister Gertrude Morgan.

Britt's production resume includes collabs with Beyonce, Macy Gray, everything under the "world music" umbrella, and, as a pioneer of the form, house music.

"I can’t stick to one genre, just because I love the music too much," he says. "Just the way I was brought up with so much music in my household, my parents collected everything. I get bored doing one thing, one production style. You get caught up in the formula and it all starts to sound the same. It’s good for some people, but for me, I need to constantly change. I’m doing so much experimental music right now. (I'm) constantly looking for some new sound to incorporate. Sometimes that’s bad: people are like, 'Your last album was hip-hop, now you’re doing techno.' I’m like 'Well, you know, keep an open mind or enjoy that hip-hop album.' I do the music for me first, for what comes out of my heart. If people like it they like it, if they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it."

Britt's favorite Morgan track? “I Was Healed By the Wound in His Side."

"For me it’s a party song and a song of rejoice, without anything, just her tambourine," he says. 'When it came down to remix or 'enhance' it, that one was like, I just wanted to take that to African rhythm, which when you listen to New Orleans music you hear all that. That’s what I felt when I heard her, heard her channeling that, wanted to bring that forward on our version."

Listen to Morgan's version here, and check out King Britt's reimagining here.

Before the album went to print, Philadelphia-based Britt flew to New Orleans to get the album's blessing from Ben Jaffe and the other members of Pres Hall. Their thoughts?

"They love it," Britt says. "We kept it real. We didn’t go all techno with it. We kept the vibe of it."

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