Some nice and unsuspecting soul recently asked who my favorite New Orleans musicians are. This is a really hard question to nail down because there are so many. However below are a few who make my personal top-list. They aren’t in any particular hierarchal order.
I would classify the Zydepunks as a cross-cultural experience between Irish folk punk-rock, Cajun, Zydeco, and Balkan. Hailing from New Orleans, the instrumentation for the group includes a mixture of vocals, violin, accordion, bass, guitar, and set. They throw in other interesting axes once in a while, too. Check out their website.
Disclaimer: I did my undergrad with the original violinist, Joe (who’s now living in Amsterdam).
2. The Radiators
This swamp-rock-meets-mainstream-rock-and-funk band has been a New Orleans fixture for many, many years. Sadly, they just announced their impending split this coming spring. They perform a huge repertoire of both original and cover songs, and it’s safe to say they have a cult following. Their name is on the House of Blues (my ex-employer) sold-out-show-wall along with every great famous band on the planet. Check them out.
Disclaimer: Camile Baudoin, the guitarist, is a friend and I worked for his wife for eight years doing audio recording/stage managing.
3. DJ Soul Sister
Rightly self-titled the “Queen of Rare Grooves”, this woman is amazing. If there’s a good party somewhere, she’s there either DJ’ing or dancing. She LOVES funk. Another New Orleans fixture, she has been working at WWOZ for 15 years, and if you’re hanging in the Marigny on the weekend, stop by and see her spin at Mimi’s.
Check out her interview with George Clinton a few months ago:
4. New Orleans Moonshiners
This is a diverse group of young musicians who are passionate about tradition. They play at festivals, clubs, dance halls, and streets throughout the city. They are known to play classics by Armstrong, Bichet, and Reinhardt. Every time I’ve seen them, they have a following of eager swing dancers.
Disclaimer: The clarinetist & ex-drummer are good friends of mine. Teppei (the clarinetist) is an amazing player – check him out.
5. Stooges Brass Band
This is one of the brass bands of the young generation and they are fi’ya. This group of boys just won the most recent NOLA brass band competition – you can probably find those links on YouTube. I love this group because they represent tradition by moving forward. Their repertoire includes both the traditional tunes and hybrid Bounce & hip-hop songs.
6. Tanya & Dorise
My favorite street musicians. These girls have turned down offers left and right. They play mostly covers in front of Cafe du Monde, however I’ve seen them on Royal street once in a while. Sometimes they have a third player, also.
7. The Masakowski Family
A lot of folks are aware of musical families in New Orleans: the Marsalis’, the Neville’s, the Mayfield’s, the Batiste’s – etc. Here’s one more that’s amazing. Dad (guitar), mom (piano), son (bass), and daughter (vocals) are all excellent musicians. Steve (dad) was one of my main professors as an undergrad, and I went to school with both of his kids, Martin & Sasha. This one warrants a few videos. First, Steve with his band Astral Project (also check out my favorite New Orleans bassist, James Singleton, in this clip). Second, Sasha with a tune from her last album, and third, a clip of Nola Nova – the family band. Last I checked, Martin was living and studying in Rotterdam but he might be home by now.
8. Kyle Cripps
Kyle and I worked together at the Jazz Institute a few years ago. He also happens to be in a super-fabulous relationship with one of my best friends (also an amazing bassist). Kyle’s on this list because I have seen him arrange Rite of Spring for saxes, play rock, funk, jazz , blues, covers, and everything in between. He plays an array of saxes and organ (among other things). Originally from Philly, he performs regularly with various ensembles throughout the city. His musical versatility is exactly what New Orleans needs.
Check out Kyle with the Low Stress Quintet (tenor sax):
9. Cindy Scott
Cindy is one of my favorite New Orleans musicians because she exudes exactly what a jazz vocalist should and she’s got enough talent to push Diana Krall (whom I adore) out of the way. Cindy gigs frequently around the country and has performed with some amazing names in the scene. She also puts on a kick-ass holiday party 🙂
Here are two videos. The first is a Cindy at Snug (check out Brian Seeger on guitar – another awesome guy), and the second is Cindy, Sasha Masakowski (above), and Helen Gillet (an amazing New Orleans cellist) at a gig.
10. Glen David Andrews
Glen is the up-and-coming star. I love this guy. A trombonist from New Orleans, he has done it all – brass bands, blues, funk, and many jazz genres. He’s also one of the leading hip-hop hybridity musicians in the city. He’s got a typical New Orleans sound, a great personality, and an intense stage presence. If Andrews is on the WWOZ livewire (music calendar), I’d likely choose him over anyone on this list. Don’t confuse him with Troy Andrews (i.e. Trombone Shorty).. though he’s a’aight, too! 🙂
I was at this show: