April is the busiest time of year for New Orleans musicians, and three who'll play Jazz Fest have released first listens.
When the British department store Boots excavated Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls” for its Christmas season ad in 2007, it rescued the song from obscurity. “Here Come the Girls” served Boots well, and the commercial obscured the fact that the song has said its piece by 1:30 with two more minutes to kill. Toussaint dresses up the verse with a little flute for a second run-through, and K-Doe’s adds some growls and shouts to the choruses on the way out, but the song has lost its juice before it gets to the end.
Trombone Shorty’s cover of the song is the first release from his upcoming album Parking Lot Symphony, due out April 28 (before he plays Jazz Fest Sunday May 7), and that made me uneasy. Part of the aesthetic of a good cover is tied to musical archaeology. If someone did your digging for you seven years ago, the impact is muted. Fortunately, Shorty is Shorty, and the musicality of the cover is subtly dazzling. He confidently rearranges Toussaint’s composition for his band, giving Dan Oestreicher’s baritone sax greater prominence, which adds dimension to the signature fanfare-like horn line. Shorty also cleans out the thicket of guitar scrub in the verse of the original to better allow the energy to surge and recede. Mid-song when K-Doe has said all he has to say, Shorty opts for a solo over a related horn pattern of his own invention that grooves until you can’t wait for the return of the chorus.
The track doesn’t give away much about Parking Lot Symphony, but it is a solid reminder of how smart and how nervy Shorty can be.
I often complain about musicians who lack ideas or focus. Boyfriend is not one of those musicians. Since she toured with Big Freedia late in 2015, she has collaborated with Freedia on a couple of projects while honing ideas for herself. She’ll release a new EP on March 26, two days before she plays Jazz Fest for the first time on Sunday, April 30, and she has released a first track from it, “Fun Sh*t.” For the occasion, Boyfriend sing/shouts “I ain’t got time for that fun shit,” and nothing about her delivery suggests that there’s a hint of poor me in the song. She adopts a boss posture, and if anything, she’s throwing shade when she tells the friends she’s singing to, “You can miss me at brunch” because seriously—who’s got time for brunch in 2017?
She does have time for The B-52s’ Cindy Wilson, whose guest spot on the song is generously tasteful, supporting Boyfriend without a hint of tin roof rusted. Producer Pablo Dylan (grandson of Bob, who has also produced A$AP Rocky, D.R.A.M., Erykah Badu) gives Boyfriend her most distinctive, song-oriented beats yet, and they along with her sing/speak suggest that she may have found a musical space to occupy that is as singular as her conceptual one.
Recently, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band played a preview party for its upcoming album, So It Is (due out April 21) and the first takeaway was that it wasn’t your parents (or grandparents’) Preservation Hall band. That has likely been the response of purists since Ben Jaffe took over as creative director of Preservation Hall in 1993, but the band has gone through some lineup changes and now features Walter Harris, Kyle Roussel and Branden Lewis instead of Joe Lastie, Rickie Monie and Mark Brand. In perf ormance, the band sounded more contemporary than ever, but the emphasis remained on ensemble work.
“Santiago,” the first taste of So It Is, splits a different difference—between the music of New Orleans and Cuba, which the band members visited shortly after tourism reopened in 2015. Producer Dave Sitek makes the band sound fierce, with squalls of horns jumping in and out over a churning street beat, but the signature riff and piano display the song’s Cuban roots.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays Jazz Fest Sunday, May 7.