Port of New Orleans
While crews worked tirelessly to prepare our riverboat for sailing (and river pirating) our band had some time to write songs and create our first album, “Port of New Orleans”. Audio experts Danny Kadar and Joe Stolarick invited us to the studio at the Old US Mint. They insisted that we record altogether on the stage, like a performance. Most modern recordings are not done this way, but since we are accustomed to live shows, it suited us better. There are a few songs on which we added some organ tracks and some background vocals, but most of it was recorded all at once on a single room.
Our band is all about the river, so “Up on the River” was a good song to open the album with. New Orleans is well-known for its Jazz history, but there is also a buried treasure of vintage rhythm and blues grooves, and this song is inspired by that. The musicians playing on this track are Gerald French, Joshua Gouzy and Ryan Burrage. They are all from New Orleans and had no problem creating this groove. Matt Hampsey is a fantastic blues guitarist and he added a touch of soul to this track.
The song is about finding love on the river, and falling in love withthe river at the same time. I fell in love with the river in 2001 and met the love of my life, Anita, aboard the Steamer Natchez in 2005, while I was playing there.
After we recorded the song, we had some fun adding background vocal tracks. I brought the family in to help. Click here for some behind the scenes footage!
“Right Quick” features clarinet superstar Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet, bringing the song in. I got the idea for this song while driving through Tennessee to visit my Uncle David in the hospital. There was a sign on the road by Morristown advertising a convenient store called “Rite Quick”. I didn’t actually stop so I can’t vouch for the the place other than the cleverness of its name. I told Anita about it and suggested I write a song about it. The song is actually about when you fall in love and discover that your future has been suddenly changed, by this incredible feeling.
“Sazerac Song” is a silly number about a classy bar and time travel. I do enjoy a Sazerac now and then, and sometimes play in the historic venue in the Roosevelt Hotel. I approached this as a James Booker-style boogie, but in the studio we went in a more Latin-based direction, which I found to be fun and refreshing. Gerald French shines on the drums, and Ryan Burrage cuts loose on soprano sax.
There is an actual “Uncle Sammy” as a source of “Uncle Sammy’s Alligator Farm”. My wife’s great uncle, Sammy Abshire was funny, mischievous, and a great storyteller. He may not have actually had an alligator farm, but then again, maybe he did. He just passed away in 2015 and I hope to capture some of his wonderful spirit in this silly number. I must mention that my four-year-old daughter helped me create animal sounds in the studio. Oh, and there is actually a cat famous for swatting at gators. Click here to hear that story!
I wrote “Isabel’s Dream” in an attempt to create the feeling of a Sidney Bechet song. I love Bechet’s music and feel that it represents a beautiful side of New Orleans music many people don’t know about. Whenever you ask Isabel what she dreamed about last night she always has an interesting answer. She smiles and tells some kind of elaborate and amazing story. There is no way to know if she actually dreamed it…
“Birthday in New Orleans” is my attempt to come up with a birthday song. Why not do a new one with a New Orleans spin? I unveiled this number one day while playing banjo with a jazz trio at the Palace Café on Canal Street. It was a busy day and many customers were celebrating birthdays, and so by the end of the day the band had learned it completely. I love coming up with lyrics with punchlines, and watching how people react. Mark Braud plays trumpet on this one and we presented it as a second line. At the end, we got anyone and everyone to come in and sing. The engineers even got people from the office downstairs to come join in! I love it!
“Maybe You Should Dance” is a traditional song, set in a good swing dancing tempo. While it is not meant to be taken too seriously, I would honestly recommend swing dancing to anyone. I used to play for some swing dance classes and it looked so fun that I went back when other bands were playing and took the classes myself. I didn’t get very good at it but I made some great friends and became aware of a huge dance culture that thrives in New Orleans and around the world. They love New Orleans music and if anyone wants to dance to this song I would be honored. Just watch out the end gets a little squirrely.
I wrote “Awful Nice People” after reading a story by the great Danny Barker. He was a wonderful musician, historian, and storyteller and in the book A Life in Jazzhe colorfully describes a seedy neighborhood bar near Elysian Fields and Galvez Streets a hundred years ago. He says, “They would be real tame on the outside, but once they entered and began to drink the bad, cheap booze sold there, they became very antagonistic”. I heard music and came up with this piece, which I think would not have sounded out of place a hundred years ago.
I love gospel music and believe that every traditional Jazz album needs a good gospel song. This one goes out to my Uncle Dave, who passed away while I was doing this project. He was a very faithful believer and well-loved by everyone he met. He is missed dearly, and “Going Home to Glory” is a perfect way to think of his passing. I am horrified by the piano solo and begged the engineers to use one from a different take. They love it though and insisted on keeping it in. I still cringe when I hear it but if there is one thing I have learned as a musician, it is that I am not always the best person to make these decisions!!
“My Baby Can Cook” is a cheerful melody set on a traditional set of changes, with a very funky groove, courtesy of Gerald French and Ryan Burrage. Yes, my sweetie is a terrific cook. She is also a great dancer and she requested a song with this groove. When we are together listening to the radio, I hear music and she imagines choreography. She loves the music of James Brown, and even had the opportunity to dance with his show twenty years ago.
I hope you enjoy our recording. There are many other songs in the works and we are looking forward to our next project.