New Orleans Nightcrawlers
Finally, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers have a new record out, and Slither Slice is a winner from beginning to end. The album starts off with the in-your-face ratty riffs of "8th Ward Strut" and continues with a mix of both in-tune second-line jazz and streetwise sass. Tunes such as "Hold 'Em Joe" blast with squealing trumpets and at times sound like multiband parade jams. Other songs have a more sophisticated funk. When the band adds 1970s-style keyboards, it creates a sound like a lost Tower of Power instrumental. The group takes the theme from Verdi's Aida and gives it a Caribbean lilt that almost becomes a fast Carmen-esque bolero. The Caribbean influence also factors into the final track, "Okinawa," a rhythmically rock-steady tribute to Japan. There are traditional sounds, including the straight-up beat of "Pontchartrain Beach," the relentless horns-versus-rhythm-section of "Krewe Kut," and the chants, buck-jumping sousaphone lines and exuberant lyrics on "Alright Alright." Between the parade enthusiasm, the island tinge and the tight musicianship, Slither Slice rewards listeners with a record to liven a party and to delve into with scrutiny.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre
St. Valentine's Day Massacre shows Ingrid Lucia reflecting on various moods of love, desire and regret. Throughout the recording, Lucia's singing exudes her unique charm. Her voice's languid and relaxed air sounds as if she has all the time in the world to get the songs across. She covers many sentiments on this disc, from the hope of "We'll Meet Again" and comfort of "That Old Feeling" to the wistfulness of "I Cover the Waterfront" and sheer joy of "La Vie En Rose." The backing band is simpatico with Lucia's turns and moods. Jason Mingledorff's saxophone lines mix the playfulness of 1950s rhythm and blues with the warm, full sound of swing-era phrases. Pianist Victor Atkins and bassist Jesse Boyd, two talented but under-recorded New Orleans musicians, play with a balance of assured confidence and subtle accompaniment. Drummer Gerald French is a model of steadfastness at all the tempos, from the Latin pulses of "That Old Black Magic" to the slower brush work of "You Go to My Head." Between the band and the songs, Lucia has assembled another seductive set of music.
New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
The first thing that hits you about the first New Orleans Jazz Orchestra recording, Book One, is the excitement of the band. From the slow opening of "7th Ward Blues" through epic solo showcases for saxophonist Ed Petersen and clarinetist Evan Christopher, this record is live both in attitude and recording. It's partly a live document of bandleader Irvin Mayfield's All The Saints commission at Christ Church Cathedral. The writing and arrangements reflect the influence Wynton Marsalis and Duke Ellington have had on Mayfield in the coloring of the horn sections and the themes the band plays behind the solos. Another aspect that gives the recording energy is the rapport between the band and the audience. The palpable exchange adds a crackle to the mad, circular riffing of "Somebody Forgot to Turn the Faucet Off (Probably Steve)" and Leon Brown's sly singing on "Richie Can Count." The recording doesn't break new ground, but it makes its classic, blues-based New Orleans swing into art — fun art at that.