Interview with Josh Cohen & Ryan Scully of The Morning 40 Federation

Apologies for the long layoff...

This interview was done very late at night on Oct 24, 2014 at Alex Mcmurray's house.  

The Morning 40 Federation are a band that has great resonance with a certain swath of New Orleans locals who see in them the embodiment of a certain set of life experiences that very definitely were in fast effect at one time in New Orleans and in a long gone era of a certain way that Bywater used to look.  The reflections from that are still reverberating strongly and the mighty 40s continue on once in a while.  As we find out here, they are still writing.

Ryan Scully is a fascinating music writer that I've been trying to catch up with for an interview since the 90s.  Currently he is also fronting another interesting band, Scully and the Rough 7.

Josh Cohen is a saxophone player and writer for the 40s as well as being crafty in some other areas and, really quite philosophical.  

These folks have amazing insight into the old problem of the correspondence between life and music and of the folks I have interviewed, say some of the most unexpectedly profound things on the subject.

Alex Mcmurray is often involved in what sometimes becomes a quite multi-layered discussion.

Part 1

how the 40s met; starting to write songs; experience of New Orleans; relationship between origins and musical content; Irving Berlin; the Rough 7 and backup singers; The beginning of the Morning 40 Federation; the first 40s tour and delusions of grandeur;  the Attack Family; the concept behind the 40s; what was appealing to Scully about the band; I Aint Really Alright; subconscious access to material; dangers of becoming formulaic; Scully’s function; traditional music as a binding factor

Part 2

Listening to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly; earliest music appreciations; the way ideas move through the 40s; song rejection; mcmurray talks of songs with the 40s; mother-in-law; how the music makes people react; Ebola? (too soon?); lifestyle descriptions in the songs; Morning 40 style; Funkadelic; the olfactory sense; discovering Nirvana and liberation by record store; Josh and binaural beats; Scully’s other material outside the 40s; whether the band broke up because of problems between Scully and Josh; how members have come in and out of the band; financing of recordings; how the music has changed over the years; songs about age; prog rock math rock vs. minimal type etceteras; josh expresses himself.







Interview with Jeff Douville- guitarist with Egg Yolk Jubilee, film-maker, bar owner

Jeff Douville

Jeff Douville

Jeff Douville is an interesting and alive mind.  I went to talk with him using the Egg Yolk Jubilee as a jumping off point.  Egg Yolk showed up on my radar in the early 90's and they had a mad frantic style and were composed of some very expressive locals and, of course, featured Jeff playing electric guitar in a style not so commonly heard in the directions that they seemed to be headed.  Then I found out about his fascinating film work with Paul Grass.  He's also an owner of the Lost Love Lounge in the Marigny neighborhood in New Orleans.

He's very good at elucidating opinions and he is one of the folks I am interviewing that are really from New Orleans, not transplanted. There is an interesting long perspective about the city and the arts in it that seems to show up from that perspective.

The interview starts here...

Part 1

 Egg Yolk Jubilee; Lump, Mike Joseph, A.P. Gonzalez;  collaboration with Paul Grass and the punk rock approach to Dixieland, the heavy brass genre; familial lineage to new orleans jazz greats; Frank Federico; Al Beletto connection; Glenn Barbaro- his midi Calliope and other wild side projects; steve callandra; mike hogan; cycling through drummers and periods of turmoil; Lou Thevenot; the world Egg Yolk showed up in;  the increase in pop mentality in younger musicians;  irreverential approach to music and reactions- subversive attitudes in early jazz; Danny Barker's storytelling

Part 2

More on Danny Barker and his part in the resuscitation of brass band music; the "copy cat" phenomenon and striving for individualism; how he thought his way into his approach to guitar in egg yolk; performer/ audience relationship; proselytizing in music; the 10 foot semi circle of doom; difficulties of getting attention in the cell phone era; Dave Renson and Benny's Bar; losses in new Orleans R'n'B; playing with K-Doe, Howard Tate, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson; film background; how film school students are like basketball players; desire to be at the core of film projects; Paul Grass's film, Heavy Brass; the new film festival in town.

Part 3

More on the new film festival; sound in film compared to plain music; post production blues; big budget films; problems learning film in school; being a tactician in the film business; paths to directing; whether there is or can be a New Orleans film style; the New York film style; Belizaire the Cajun; frustrations with the magical realist take on a New Orleans film; impact of film on Jeff's music; culture of not listening to rules in New Orleans; why Jeff loves Spike Lee; expressive film camera shots; American Splendor; creative approach in music and reaching greater maturity in that; Lou Thevenot's style; proselytization of ideas in music; breaking the rules- the 180 rule; how conventions come about in film; French New Wave films; time for people to let go of film; digital vs. analog in music and film; if video had pre-dated film...;

Interview with trumpeter, bandleader and scholar, Brice Miller

  This interview will be of great interest for anyone with an interest in New Orleans musical traditions and culture. That doesn't cover all that is opened up here, however.  Much is also explored on the relation of the music to the history of the city and the many unfortunate changes of late.  it speaks a lot to musical meaning in general- something important to everyone- so worth every bit of attention.

Brice Miller 2.jpg

      Brice's picture of these things is heightened by the authority of his experiences as brass band leader, and by the fact that his Father came from the same tradition.  He grew up in the stories and transmissions of a previous generation of New Orleans musician and has an intimate experience of that life. He is old enough to chronicle some change himself.  He has traveled the world as a representative of this tradition with its cornucopia of beautiful, rhythmic music.

His interests and inquiry do not stop there... 

      Brice is also currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama for an interdisciplinary degree with an emphasis on New Orleans brass bands after Hurricane Katrina. He has a MA in Education Administration. There is much discussion of his focus in the interview also and this ends up speaking of the horrors of intentional community displacement and the results of that in New Orleans's ongoing identity and survival struggles.

       And then there is talk of the fascinating tales of Ecirb Müller:  revelations and perspective coming to light at a club near you.

Part 1

- Dissertation subject; growing up in the brass band tradition; outside negative views of brass band traditions;  Paul Barbarin and Brice's father; Doc Paulin; Fairview Baptist Brass Band and Danny Barker; Pinstripe Brass Band beginnings from the Mahoganny Brass Band; the development of contemporary brass band style; Brice's early second line experiences that drew him in; commodification of indigenous cultures and resultant viewpoints about Brass Bands; Helen Regis; Masters in Education Administration; Decentralization of New Orleans schools; anger from Hurricane Katrina that even affected viewpoint on brass band music; world travel enabled by brass bands; ability for itinerancy; mentoring and its demise; loss of the Treme music community fabric due to the Hurricane; Tally's Corner, Chicago and the study of poverty; lack of ownership being the root of post-disaster divisions

Part 2

Mentorship in the brass band community; Milton Batiste; Eureka brass band; waning of the early brass band interest; resurgence in interest by inserting more contemporary sounds; Tuba Fats; Danny Barker; Second line; The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; participatory music; The Rebirth Brass Band; Role of marching bands in the development of brass bands; Junior Pinstripe brass band; brass band repertoire evolution; mentorship in the current generation; cultural history, heritage, racial history, and the legacies and stories carried in brass band music; working as Jazz Studies coordinator; the transfer of misinformation by outsider commentary on the music; TBC; drug dependency in the community; Ecirb Müller Jassum Band and why Brice has decided to use this form of communication now; storytelling; should Art be entertainment?; Louis Armstrong

Part 3

This comes after a very long pause in putting interviews up, but I'm glad to be posting the concluding parts of Brice's interview from the Summer of 2013. 

Brass bands in other parts of the United States; the "mythical" Congo Square; the role of formal musical education in the development early jazz artists- Buddy Bolden; brass bands around the world; jazz funerals, 2nd lines, benevolent societies and their roles in solidifying the place of people of color in the city- the taking of it; why brass bands in New Orleans have outlived the traditions in other cities; political needs for brass bands; more on cultural mentorship, cultural capital, social capital; the relation of brass band music to other musics in the city;  Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Nicholas Payton- their start associated with the brass band tradition; being able to speak collectively; Trombone Shorty; the difficulties of talking to music press and their false ideas of what audiences will find interesting; the maligning or ignoring of intellectual sides to musicians in the press; coming out of depression after Katrina; the way that Brice's identity was used and became a caricature after the storm;  going to the University of Alabama; telling the story of real New Orleans music, and the 200 year history of brass bands, honestly; the indignity of the reduction of all narratives of people of color to slavery; the influence of personal understanding of history on personal identity development; final comments- retelling your own stories.

Interview with Jimmy James of King James and the Special Men

       James is a fascinating musician with one of the greatest neighborhood regular gigs around: Mondays at BJ's.  That band plays great R'n'B music from all across the time span.  The band does not come off like a museum piece at all but does give the feeling that you are outside time in another blues world.  Get right to the interview here...

king james.jpg

       As Jimmy explains here the driver of that is a comfortability and fascination with all kinds of music since he was four years old.   And "all kinds of music" is really what it means- Chinese Opera to Muddy Waters, Kurdish music to Kiss.  He sees connections everywhere but really seeks to communicate with people and be in line with the sort of energy that will give them what they need on their night out.

    Jimmy plays saxophone, bass, piano, guitar, piano and has a natural feel on each.  How does this happen?  Check out this interview with a musician who is currently picking up pace in the local scene and, probably has a lot to say to it. 



      Part 1  -Origins; how he came to be in New Orleans; must have a guitar; KISS; Band of Gypsies, Tutti-Frutti (first record), and acquiring a 45 collection; getting into the blues; symphony work; simultaneous punk phase; getting to bass; Nervous Dwayne; Augie Jr blues band; Carl Le Blanc; Sun Ra; Sheik Rasheed; Kidd Jordan; The Photon band; life happens!; Jesse Mae Hemphill; coming to The Special Men; Junior Kimbrough; blues songwriting and knowledge of the terminologies and meanings


      Part 2  How the special men started; moving to Alabama; Jesse Mae Hemphill; difference in solo expression from group; fat possum; original material; John Rodley; Tuba Fats; Palmetto Bug Stompers; music development; the Rainbow Fanny Pack; Bruce Brackman; Robert Snow; choosing BJ's; quitting the piano; trance music; starting a new Mardi Gras Krewe; doom; meditation metal; heading to Lincoln Center; thoughts on change; Tim Green; moving forward with The Special Men; deal with Domino Records; recording at The Parlor; gig merchandising; is the hard copy worth anything?

     The interview, in line with the rest on this site, is informal but informative.  You will hear the sounds of BJ's day shift in the background as well as words from harmonica player Bobby Lewis. 

Interview with pianist, Tom McDermott

Tom Mcdermott is an interesting sort of player.  There is a humility about his approach and he doesn't display the rambunctiousness of many players in the New Orleans scene.  That really doesn't go for his piano directions.  Especially once he gets rolling.  He is always looking around for new places to go, it seems.  He has been through many explorations of local New Orleans musics and piano styles and, as the interview reveals, he came to New Orleans because of James Booker. 

Where things get interesting in Tom's music is in explorations and integration of other world musics that have had an influence or connection to New Orleans music.  He goes deep but he also stays close to the visceral ends of being a New Orleans player, but he always seems to have another angle- either in people with whom he collaborates or the influences he is endeavoring to integrate. He has some very interesting records in this light and they demonstrate what a lot of others' recordings don't--a developmental story.

Tom is also very much a composer and there are interesting features to that because sometimes he is delving into very formalised, traditional or classical, directions.  He eschews messing with certain aspects and so his way into composition is quite particular.  This interview gives some insight about being creative while being heavily in love with traditional elements.

The Interview 

Part 1- Tinnitus; working with Meschiya Lake; what makes a jazz player and why he feels he is not really a jazz player; interest in world music that relates to early jazz; 'Best of' record to be put out by Van Dyke Parks; Choro, Ragtime, Musette, and Tom's re-usage of the forms for improvisation; being from St. Louis and University experiences; forays into music journalism; the problems in rock journalism; Tom's music background; examples of his brother's musicality; being uncomfortable with pop music; affection for Brazilian pop music; Tom's process of composing in vernacular forms; Tom's harmonic language and process of deriving form.

Part 2- Coming to New Orleans for James Booker; the different rhythms in traditional jazz- tresillo, cinquillo; working with Lil Queenie, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; starting the New Orleans Night Crawlers; what's changed in New Orleans music over the years; loss of older players and lack of replacement; John Cleary; Dave McKenna, Dick Hymen; attempting music journalism; playing with Trolsen, Matt Perrine, Evan Christopher.

Interview with guitarist and composer, Tim Robertson

Tim is an interesting figure in the New Orleans music vista.  He plays Bourbon St.  He is a survivor of that commercial zone and knows how to do it (or has the personality for it) in a way that doesn't limit him and has driven him plain crazy.  Many have been driven in such a direction.

Many people ask questions about validities and viabilities involved in music on Bourbon St.  Tim, from first hand experience over lot of years, engages these questions:-

What is Bourbon St.?  How does that music zone operate differently and similarly to other parts of town?  What are it's musical features and modes of development?  Is there anything really good out there? 

There is much more, however, to Tim and to this interview.  Tim is an avid experimental/modern/"classical" composer and has moved himself through in-depth, mentored, study in that direction too.  For those who may wonder what the relevance of Bourbon St. and "classical" music is to New Orleans music and whether he can really talk about it, there is more. He also plays guitar with Neslort (if you don't know then be sure to go), Amanda Shaw, and two very interesting comico-satirical-serious groups that started quite a while ago and feature a very biting and immediate viewpoint voiced by Robertson: Dirty Mouth and Hot Karl.

Enjoy the interview- there is a lot given.

The interview was conducted, 5/1/12, at the orange couch in New Orleans.


Part 1- Tim Green; Bourbon St. audiences; real bands as opposed to collections of players; how much playing time does he spend on Bourbon St?; how's the money?; how the material is selected and arranged; Tim's most important features of a good drummer; Tim's background and why he's in New Orleans; Mark Diflorio; John Bagnato; a cerebral player; at Duke University and dropping sports for music; fascination with music theory; Haydn scores, symmetry and structure; revisiting music from childhood.

Part 2- David Bowie; how he started on guitar; the appeal of volume and speed; questions about Metal and the makeup of heaviness; Black Sabbath; Django's influence on Tony Island; King Thunder and the emergence of Hot Karl; Benji's Kosick unique approach; Captain Beefheart; Hot Karl's impact on Tim's approach; the subtleties of time in rock music; evolutionary psychology

Part 3- More on Hot Karl; satire at Checkpoint Charlie's on Monday nights; not taking himself seriously and coming up against the limits of musicians' sense of humor; Dirty Mouth; Chameleon theater and big band; Dave Stover; Dave Sobel; David James; starting point: "everybody fuck off"; the release of Dirty Mouth; Rob Wagner; ideas for the Morning 40 Federation; "Bourbon St. is all in your head"; studying composition privately and what lead to that; obsession with 12 tone music and serialism; finding the teacher; strictness about good notation practice and its advantages; ridiculing the trumpet; a Mike Darby aside

Part 4- Uses of composition training in Tim's everyday work; Tim's harmonic language; how he appropriates work from scores; getting in to Amanda Shaw's band; fitting into Bourbon St. schedule and Neslort schedule; fitting well with the idiosyncracies of Rick Trolsen's music; "I have my own ideas about rhythm!"; "I never count in my brain higher than 3!"; Das Rhinegold; things that are coming up-Dirty Mouth, Trio; arguing on stage; Alex Mcmurray in a mini cooper; interviewer-->interviewee switcheroo; looking for financial independence to continue working on music development

Interview with Dan Oestreicher, currently with Trombone Shorty but also, saxophonist at large

Dan Oestreicher first hit the radar for this writer when he presented himself at a Naked Orchestra show at the Mermaid lounge and made clear that he should be playing with the group.  He did that for the rest of that evening and for a long time afterward.  

He played with many of the most forward thinking New Orleans musicians and frequently he is there right when they are looking the most forward.  This includes the The Other Planets, The Magnetic Ear, 3 now 4, James Singleton, Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Roger Lewis's Baritone quintet (where Dan is playing Bass sax instead of his more heard, Bari sax,) The Naked Orchestra, The Jonathan Freilich group, his own group- The Diesel Combustion Orchestra, and more.  He is seen playing some tuba and really tends to go very deep when he is exploring anything, but especially music.  He also knows a good deal about saxophone lore and trade as well as the other end of the spectrum, analog synthesis.

As he is in Trombone Shorty's band, touring constantly, he is in a unique position to discuss the current meanings and associations in the idea of New Orleans music (if there is really such a thing at all) and improvisation. His perspectives are well informed and if nothing at all show a blazing mind for inquiry and a fearless and healthy statement of opinion.  He could go anywhere from here.  If you were into horse racing you might see him listed in the racing form as one to watch.  


...Look to the end for heated debate.


The Interview (5/2/12)

Part 1-What Dan is up to now; the Roger Lewis baritone sax quartet+ bass sax; Roger, Tony, tim green, calvin johnson, shannon powell; jazzfest as a showcase for acts that aren’t playing around very much; “the guardians of the vault”; playing with Trombone Shorty and the perception of New Orleans in the world; ponderings about why Trombone Shorty is the current poster child for New Orleans music; the limitations of the idea of New Orleans music; bandleader, Trombone Shorty; Dan’s other musical lives in the past; New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and peoples’ perception of that in relation to the New Orleans music categorization; more on the liberations and restraints of being identified as a New Orleans musician; jazz in academia; musical priorities; the position of precise execution in the New Orleans instrument player’s aesthetic; brass bands and depth of rehearsal- Hot 8 Brass Band; Soul Rebels Brass Band.

Part 2- How Dan ended up in the Naked Orchestra; militant attitude towards certain music for growth; growing out of the results of mistaken assumptions; limited paradigms in jazz education; freedoms and an agenda unveiled in New York; Tony Dagradi and further doors opening with James Singleton's band; discussion of ideas for another approach to music education; The Other Planets and the "confluence of the downwardly mobile"; what is going on with "trad" in New Orleans in in the current scene; Anthony Braxton's 3 types of people that have to exist in music; "trad" musicians as an insular, isolated community; why is trad being chosen as the form of expression?; local economics of "trad"; the "trad" scene dissolution and what is coming in to replace it; the look of the Frenchmen scene; how Dan markets himself; how Dan became interested in traditional jazz at all.

Part 3- Changes in the current New Orleans music scene that are caused by economic changes; rehearsals instead of pick-up bands; trad and revisiting Aurora Nealand's (see her interview) discussion of gender role solidification; heated debating over the preceding issues; music becoming populist and away from the seperatism of bebop- more heated debate!; "in 2012 to be poulist is to be subversive!"; the central features of the expression of the Trombone Shorty band; egalitarianism in New Orleans brass band music; what Dan is working on now; Chazfest and the continuance of post-katrina community survival mechanisms; the constant influx of creative people to the city; search and restore.

Conversation with Dave Capello- drums, poetry, analysis, excitement

Helen Gillet(Cello); Dave Capello(drums)I first met Dave Capello through Bill Milkowski.  I remember Bill shouting out somewhere on Frenchmen St in the early 90's that I really needed to play with Dave.  I'm glad that happened.  I loved playing with Dave from minute one.  It just made sense to me.  He didn't waste time, behind the drums, trying to prove anything so you could more quickly move toward the possibilities of developing something organic.  Before he came to New Orleans, he had been the drummer for the Bern Nix Trio through Theater for the New City.  I was fascinated with that too because I was (and still am) under the spell of Prime Time (Ornette Coleman's electric band.) I was fascinated to try to talk about that in those days but Dave was really more intrigued with the New Orleans scene around him.  

The earlier interview on this blog with saxophonist, Tim Green gives a rare look at the background behind the ideas and experiences that make up some of the forces in Tim's playing.  Here is another very rare piece and, like the interview with Tim, much can be learned about Dave's music and the worlds it comes out of without being familiar with his work.

Some of the best work I've heard him on lately is trombonist Jeff Albert's records.  Check those out at Jeff's site

In this conversation, Capello brings up a whole lot of his experiences from radical cultural scenes in New York and Kansas City.  Some have been scantily documented and Dave sheds some light on that, particularly the goings on in New York's lower East Side around free, conscious, creative music. 

Part 1- Bill Milkowski; the Kansas City jazz scene when Dave was growing up there; the influence of his Father and his jazz records; Bird at St. Nick's; Roy Haynes; how he came to the drums and his first teachers; learning timpani; "bar-b-q jazz"; wrestling with technique; getting into writing early on and the decision to not specialize; writing poetry and analysis and history; interest in drama; leaving Kansas City and why; going to Northwestern

Part 2- Leaving "Heavenston;" going back to Kansas City and landing his first regular gig at a colorful bar; playing jazz in KC; Pat Metheny; playing jazz and the features of Kansas City jazz styles as that time; swinging and schmaltzy as an aesthetic; going to Evergreen in Olympia, Washington; playing at the Rennaissance Fair in Eugene, OR with the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Rev Chumley etc.; Tommy and the Snakes and other experiences in country music; back to Kansas City and then being drawn to New York in the late 70's by friend at Parsons; the New York scene- at Hurrah's, James Chance, James White and the Blacks; No Wave; getting into the publishing business and then writing through that; going to Hunter; meeting Bern Nix and the Theater for the New City; Crystal Field; William Parker joins to make the Bern Nix trio; the aesthetics that were, how they came to be that way, and how they became so misunderstood; not wanting to be bourgeois in New York.

Part 3- Bill Milkowski; New York going broke and the effects on the New York art scene; cultural wars; the evolution of the Knitting Facory and incidental exploitation; Zane Massey; polarization along class, race, and sex lines; being chased out of New York by the rising rents, along with a lot of music venues; working at Simon & Schuster and stumbling into market analysis; ending up being a part of the problem and having to work out a way out of that; the change in jazz from originality to conformity; reactionary politics working its way into jazz; changing role of the artist in society; the hideous ways of denigrating the artist and various negative reassociations; problems with cliques in New York; coming to New Orleans and the comparative fluidity of the scene; being a New York exile.

Part 4- what happened when he got to New Orleans; falling into what he was trying to get away from; on the other hand...; punkfunk scene dying in New York and the reasons; getting into New Orleans and the beat and syncopation; hitting some hard times in New Orleans and leaving for a while- Ithaca; problems with the music press in New Orleans-suppressing innovation; insoucience; desire to push the limits; studying with Andrew Cyrille; more jazz pondering; the failure of imagination; bitter-sweet New Orleans; separating marketing from music; inspiring ideals embodied in jazz; where he is going now.



JEFF TREFFINGER- guitarist, architect, songwriter, club owner, recording engineer, record producer

Jeff Treffinger(left), Alex Mcmurray(right)Some people provide support.  Jeff Treffinger is that sort of person, whether as proprietor and music booker at the legendary Mermaid Lounge, or as record producer, or as musician in groups such as the Geraniums and Tribe Nunzio.  Perhaps he learned support from studies in architecture or, his interest in architecture came from a fundamentally supportive facet in his personality.  

There is a book by underground icon, Eugene Chadbourne, that so hits the nail on the head about certain pieces of real musical life in bars, that I won't even lend the book out.  It has acquired a cult status on my own personal bookshelf.  The title of the book is "I hate the man who runs this bar- The Survival Guide For Real Musicians" It's so correct in every way except that The Mermaid Lounge defied the pictures laid out in that book.  We loved the men who ran that bar and their contribution and Jeff was one of them.  There are many things that go on in the local music scene today that would not be, if it hadn't have been for the initial allowances of their mad "experiments" at the Mermaid. ("Courting" might be better word here than "allowance")  Jeff was one of the bar owners, but he did a great deal more around there too.

At any rate, in this near two hour interview with Jeff, he talks about his foregound and background activities that at different times have shaped the New Orleans music scene.  And this is not the only direction life has taken him.  Here Treffinger, founding member of Tribe Nunzio, describes how he came to be putting a band together in New Orleans at all and, what his purposes were in doing so...or at least his thinking at the time.  He tells stories about the accidental discoveries that led him to architecture and how that led him into certain nooks in New Orleans music.  He is frank about what he learned and how, and the interesting folks that he collaborates with or has dealt with over the years that have enabled his dealings to be loaded with a delightful, risky creativity.  


The Interview

Part 1- Early background in New Jersey; the impact of the Beatles; the guitar; starting in bands and dreams; realities on the Jersey shore; the influence and protection of the older, tougher, musicians he got around early on-discipline, rehearsal, the intellectual component; how Treffinger came to be in New Orleans in 1977 and the allure of the city; fateful snowstorm, achitect of the architect; 1978 to Tulane; meeting Dwight Davis, flautist/Tenor sax; panhandling in the French Quarter; moving away from rock to Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorius, etc; learning further interesting things about Dwight Davis.

Part 2- writing in the early 70's; influential teachers; chord progressions becoming important; what was noticeable about New Orleans music when Treffinger showed up; Astral Project, Tyler's, and James Singleton; the formation of Tribe Nunzio and Cafe Brasil; Nick Sanzenbach; getting The Beaux Arts Ball gig; what kind of songs were being played and its exciting features; the religion of Holden Miller; Jeff's comfort with not being the front man; what it was like getting gigs then; The Economy and meeting Brendan Gallagher, Pat Cronin; Ade Salgado (pre-Cafe Brasil); "Frenchmen St needs some fucking daylight;" Cafe Brasil starts selling booze.

Part 3- the fate of the Economy; more on Brendan Gallagher and his writing; the quick story of the rise and fall of Tribe nunzio, a little on Joe Cabral before The Iguanas; how The Mermaid Lounge started (Nov.1994); meeting 3 or 4 people that can make 10 or 12 bands; the sorts of forces that can create a Mermaid Lounge and why that model isn't around anymore; the Mermaid Lounge calendar- "low brow and high end"; how the Mermaid recording studio came about; Clint's ingenuity; about the ending of the Mermaid and the end of a number of clubs with a certain booking ethic; more on Pat Cronin.

Part 4- How The Geraniums formed; getting others to record their songs; meeting and working with Glen Styler; Alex Mcmurray in The Geraniums; what Jeff is currently up to- writing, upcoming records he's producing, the family album; the changes that Jeff sees in New Orleans since he showed up in the 70's; what happened to older people going to shows too?; succumbing to convention; changes in the art world.  

Interview with Composer/Performer, Anthony Cuccia of The Other Planets

Anthony Cuccia- Percussionist, keyboardist, composer, idea man for The Other Planets. Anthony uses music both for social consciousness and for exploration of its own various technologies.  He is always striving for a new way to assemble his ideas.  If you haven't, go check out his evolving band.  If you are real lucky you might catch him doing a solo show.  This interview took some interesting turns partially due to Anthony's willingness to discuss parts of his "process."

Part 1- Background and growing up in Lafayette; coming to the Bongos; interest in eclectic characters in music; seeking authenticity and individualised statement; studies with Hector Gallardo; big ideas; the influence of video games; what happened to Paul?; more on Hector and playing out on Frenchmen St; meeting Jimbo Walsh, getting turned on to Captain Beefheart, and putting the band together; transformation from "jazzy" band to rock band and the forces that caused the transformation; the impact of Zack Smith and Dan Oestreicher on The Other Planets; the rebirth of Dan Oestreicher; the departure of Oestreicher; influences on the lyrical content- politics and humor; insulting the audience; is the audience listening?

Part 2- Is the other planets avehicle for political views?; development into more of an emphasis on lyrics and vocals; more "pop" forms enter the picture; defining what had gone on previously; why the attempts at boundary pushing?; what is this idiom?; process of working on the vocals; content understanding within the band; more on whether the audience comprehend the material; nightmarish mis-adventures in accounting; upcoming recording possibilities; the solo shows; current directions in Cuccia's songwriting; literary interests; what is driving the change toward the positive and the spiritual; gullain-barre syndrome; music as therapeutic recovery system; sonic features of positive music; what Cuccia learned from James "Jimbo" Walsh; different ways that band members internalize the musical ideas; Rex Gregory, Tim McPhatter; the wind cries mary; planned people to collaborate with; what was learned from The Iguanas


Interview with saxophonist, Tim Green

Tim Green is one of the most interesting saxophonists that you can hear in New Orleans.  Occasionally he travels but most of his career has been within the city.  Over the years he has played with many of the greats that people associate most with the city- Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Irma Thomas, Cyrille Neville, Mem Shannon and many legendary others.  

His affection goes out most to original, creative, music projects.  He is interested in so much music and has brought himself to a place where he can insert very creative ideas in almost any context without breaing the balance or excitement.  He was a large figure in many explorational bands from, Gulfstream and the Stick Band in the 80's, to Michael Ray, Naked On The Floor, and James Singleton, Dennis Gonzalez, and others like Fred Wesley in the 90's.  

Tim has a very deep linguistic or conversationalist playing style that really has its best place on stages for live audiences.  Where the musical "moment" happens is where he strives to be and his best work is there.  For that reason, you won't find records under his name.  His genius and where it resides really emerge in this relaxed, and probably pretty rare, interview. 

Part 1- start in music; intense musical awareness starting at age 4; growing up in Connecticut; starting an "underground" radio station; meeting many greats; start on soprano saxophone; hearing and meeting established greats in new York and Boston-McCoy Tyner, Mingus, George Adams, Stan Getz, Blue Oyster Cult, Earth, Wind and Fire, Tower of Power; early interest in 'Ethnic' music and friendships with musicians in other communities around Bridgport; meeting Grover Washington Jr and advice given.

Part 2- Musicians' awareness of the importance of heir own work; when the decision to come to New Orleans was made; the pain associated with learning an instrument and the desire and drive to get past that; beginnings in playing music with others; desire for formal studies and starting at Berklee, 1978; problems with Berklee; meeting the 'passport' to New Orleans; serendipitous winning of trophy at the St. Patrick's Day parade in the French Quarter; deep lessons for a negligent saxophone teacher.

Part 3- what music was being played in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in the late 70's; picking up first work in New Orleans; pressure to take up tenor and playing with Irma Thomas; when his career direction started to emerge; Gulfstream, The Stick Band and work in other little groups; Kalaamu Ya Salaam suggests Tim to Ellis Marsalis; comparisons between past and present audiences and the acceptance of original music; car and piano restoration, the value of self-reliance.

Part 4- moving into playing with Naked On The Floor, James Singleton, Michael Ray and groups that were most compatible with the culmination of Tim's development; how you got gigs in the old days; difficulties in presenting creative music now; being on the same path as when his music life began; dalliances with the music business and conflict of ideas; playing with Anders Osborne and being able to convince him that a live recording was the way to go; sessions with Daniel Lanois; revisiting his line of development through YouTube.

Happy Talk with Luke Allen, songwriter/bandleader

Luke Allen is the leader of an interesting local New Orleans group, The Happy Talk Band.  He writes in a style unlike anyone else in town.  He has a generous, though un-imposing, personality and this comes through well in his songs.  In this conversation he explains a lot of where he came from and uncovers some connections between his life travels and New Orleans residency and how those things impact his songwriting.

The interview was conducted where he felt at home, Markey's Bar in the Bywater.  There is background noise from the conversationalists and jukebox but it provides a nice backdrop for Luke's lively conversation.


Part 1- Where he came from, Salinas, Santa Cruz; how he came to New Orleans and why;  how he started writing his own material; where the dark themed songs come from; playing music before Happy Talk; how The Happy Talk Band formed; how the band name came about.

Part 2- Playing with Bailey and relationship with The Morning 40 Federation; gaining a following and seeing people in the audience starting to know his songs; Checkpoint Charlie's, Hi-Ho Lounge, Matador, Circle Bar, Kelly Keller; how he chose the kind of music to go behind his songs; the stylistic influences on his sound; his difficulties with recording and playing live; the band's recording history; working with Mike West; interest in other types of writing and the impact on his songwriting; his writing process; audience response to The Happy Talk Band; desired future directions in music; being a bartender and his views of the profession; his views on New Orleans and changes over the years; what he's liked in music in New Orleans and what he's liked about the city.

Hart Mcnee, flautist/ bari saxist/ artist interviewed by film-maker Henry Griffin

Hart Mcnee was a very interesting local musical figure.  He died a couple of years ago but while alive he left quite a mark on all of us, friends, family or musical comrades.  He was from Chicago originally but he had moved at a fairly young age to San Francisco. Initially he was staying with his friend, the iconic guitarist Mike Bloomfield (an early hero of this site's author.)  Hart played all over the San Francisco blues scene primarily on baritone sax but especially known was his stint with Boz Scaggs.  He was also with Albert Collins, Otis Rush who he recorded with and others.  He had come from Chicago and knew many key bluesmen.  He was even driving Magic Sam home for a while.  His prime instrument for his own expression was flute and he will be remembered by all of us New Orleans friends as hugging that singularly marked bass flute.  

Hart was a close friend and I wish that I had gotten to interview him but this may be even better.  Here another really close friend, the film-maker, actor, and screenwriter Henry Griffin got a really vibrant interview with Hart not long before he died.  This interview was conducted May 8, 2006.

I'll never forget hearing his flute sound coming out of Cafe Istanbul on Frenchmen St early in the 90's.  A lot filtering through the doorways that particular summer was unremarkable but here was this very vocal, very driven, bluesy but un-cliched, large flute sound drifting onto the streets.  I could feel instantly that his phrases were bold and exploratory but immediately honest at the most human level and, peeking in the door, I just hoped that I would get a chance to play with this guy.  I was lucky and we fell in big from interest in blues and the same sorts of jazz musicians.  I was real amazed to find that he knew Bloomfield and others and I think he thought it was cool that anyone knew about that stuff.  over the years I got to play with him in many of my own projects and many others.  What fun! And I was proud of the fact that he liked my guitar playing because he openly detested most guitarists work.

Hart was a good deal older than a lot of us playing with him at that time and there was a lot about our wilder drives and things that we weren't aware of that he helped us to understand.  His honesty about where he was at and where he had been at helped clarify a lot of things.  At the same time, he wasn't what would be called mellow.  His drives and personality were loaded with obsession, vibrancy, unquestioning compulsive pushes towards everything that he may have found that he had an urge for.  But mainly, he had a drive for beauty and I think it made his death a lot simpler than it could have been.

All of this and much more comes out in this honest but humor filled interview.  I'll leave it in one part. If you are interested in life, hang in until the end...

Hart Mcnee interview

- almost buying a gun twice; adventures in the army after attempting to dodge the draft, his sharpshooting abilities compared to Lee Harvey Oswald and the resulting suspicions; working with missiles and phobias entering into the picture; beginnings in music; getting a radio and being appalled by what the music of the day seemed to be; suddenly becoming aware of blues on the left hand side of the dial and wanting to be those artists; starting on tenor sax; how he got to be a professional musician; advice on how to get better in music; drugs and coming away from heroin addiction and drinking; cancer diagnosis and what's involved; whether phobias pass after being diagnosed with terminal disease; how he chose songs for his recordings; interest in Orixa songs, voodoo and involvements in ceremonies; the impact on his playing; the question of the healing power of music; his views of what happens after death; belief in the soul and the soul as a verb; what he would have done if he could've done it all over again; what would be the heaven of Hart's dreams.


Special thanks to Kate Mcnee and Henry Griffin for permission to post this one.

Follow up Interview with Piety St. Studios founder/engineer/producer/musician/composer, Mark Bingham

  Here is a second, concluding interview with a big contributor the current face of New Orleans music.  Mark is a good talker and pretty free with colorful stories about artists and the machine that keeps them "out there." This talk has quite a different flavor from the first interview.

Part 1- Initial move to New Orleans; meeting and doing work with WWOZ; acquiring studio gear for New Orleans; first studio recordings:John Cleary, Bunchy, Mike Ward, Amadee Castanell, John Mooney; how the Boiler Room came about; cheap acquisition of 2.25 inch tape machines; differences in recording spaces; who was recorded at the Boiler Room; Lump and Ben Ellman; Delfeayo Marsalis; Glenn Patscha, Johnny Vidacovich; What changed since the days of the Boiler Room; the other studios in New Orleans in the 90's; angry studio customers and mistaken blame; the kinds of work Mark has to do in the studio; why the Boiler Room folded.

Part 2- How Piety St Studios started; paradox of a successful studio starting in 2001;...still using analog; how the studio gained wide renown; Cash Money; Vida Blue; changes in musical styles since the Boiler Room- collage/mashup/jazz; Kidd Jordan; about offending people with music; Lukas Ligeti; bringing the spirit world in; John Swenson's book; transcending style; unspoken, secret language amongst musicians; changes in new orleans culture; the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's problems with artist relations; the changes on Frenchmen St; the Williamsburg-ing of The Bywater; deep wishes; the rise of the cool St. Claude music scene- Allways Lounge; what he's currently interested in locally and what's going through the studio now; looking for a happy ending to the way things are in relation to recording now.

A second interview with composer, Dr. James P. Walsh

This interview continues where Walsh's last interview left off.  See below for other introductory information. Here Jimbo goes deeply into the later experiences that formed his ideas and paints some prtraits of some rather large musical figures that he has been around over the years.

Part 1- Starting Columbia and the tough undergraduate music program there at that time; loving the challenge of it; the shock of studies with Edward Lippman; Jacques Louis Monod; the influence of Paul Henry Lang on the faculty of the time and "preservation of standards"; Richard Taruskin; what the program entailed; problems with "band."

Part 2- Who is Jacques-Louis Monod?; Anti-semitism at Julliard?; Fixed "Do", moveable clefs and the advantages in score reading; music in the middle-ages, iso-rhythmic motets, and music where intellect was valued; rejection of comparative literature; how musical pieces are true compared to fiction which is false; truth and falsity in music; fake and real in Treme- depicting yourself; encounter with Pat Carpenter and form and analysis; organic unity, grund gestalt, and how the composer "thinks" the piece; Pat Carpenter's background; what the importance of Schoenberg was at Columbia, "The Musical Idea"; the growth of music history in the 20th century; Vienna in the early 20th century and delusional philosophies; the rise of St. Cecilia societies.

Part 3- Influence of music pedagogy on music practice; music architecture manuals; historical roadblocks caused by building permanent monuments to yourself; more on Pat Carpenter; How Schoenberg's music was disseminated despite unpopularity; the problem with style designators; organic unity as the way artists think; Pat Carpenter directing Walsh to Monod; changes in music atmosphere at Columbia through electronic music; The Malibu Dolphins and being back in the New York punk scene; Willie Bobo Shaw; Wayne Kramer; authentic standpoint; the Guild of Composers and real first exposure to Monod's music.

Part 4- Mario Davidovsky; Importance of performance of compositions to Walsh, Monod, Schoenberg; Art and money and religion; music for your 'tribe' and academic music; power of suggestion over the listeners appreciation of aesthetic experience; societal viewpoints on institutionally taught composers as opposed to self-taught; prize winning fugues from the Paris Conservatory; the fragmented schools of academic music; are Coherence Creating Scenarios a fiction?; hair-brained, crackpot, music theories; interest in why people don't like music; how Walsh became involved with Jacques-Louis Monod's singular text on (Schoenberg's ) music; perfect summary of the end of Western civilization; realizing the deep beauty behind Monod's analytical tome and the invented language to describe what was happening in the music- hypothetical octave, partitioning of the tritone and much, much more; evolution in music and why Monod believed that the musical idea as he understood it was such a development; generation of music from central idea; difference between music that is complex and music that is complicated; pre-compositional material; Jacques and "pro-compositional" material.

Part 5- What to do with all this information and experiences from training and Columbia experience- COMPOSE!; Ricard Strauss; derivation of  hyper regions from hyper-tonality and movements of the tone row; Pat Carpenter's observations on those discoveries, new problems and the re-insertion of feeling and emotion; conflicts of aims that arose at Columbia- Musicology or Composition; Walsh's approach to teaching composition and how that differs from Columbia; helping to realize students' wildest creative fantasies; difficulties that arise in teaching composition; what is the current language in music?; musical sleepwalkers and other types of musicians; reflections on Viennese music culture and comparisons with New Orleans music culture; how Walsh is working now; interest in techno and DJ's and what that suggests.

A conversation on the current New Orleans music scene between Mark Bingham, Helen Gillet, Michael Dominici, and Jonathan Freilich

WWOZ radio DJ, Michael Dominici had the idea to take some of what has been happening in these interviews and take it onto WWOZ during his radio show.  There were time constraints that didn't allow us, with our summer schedules, to do this live so we pre-recorded it on May 28th, 2011. Mark Bingham allowed us to do the interview at Piety St. Studios so we sat down for about an hour and discussed a few things pertaining to recording, time perception, thinking of music for now, anachronistic music, and observations on a few other musicians around the scene including Quintron, Ratty Scurvics, Clint Maedgen and others.  Other things were touched on too. The conversation ranges from light and humorous to a tinkering with quasi-meta-musico-profundums.

This will probably be quite edited for WWOZ radio broadcast so here is an opportunity to hear it in its entirety.  

Michael Dominici is a DJ, a very aware listener and New Orleans lover and culture observer.  Cellist,Helen Gillet has been an active professional musician around New Orleans for many years now. Mark Bingham is a renowned record producer, composer, engineer, song writer etc.  

Helen and Mark have both been individually interviewed for this series at an earlier time. Both are available from this site on the interviews page.

Without further ado, here is the conversation...

Jeff Albert interview parts 3-5

Here is the rest of the interview with Jeff Albert, trombonist, music student, Open Ears curator, composer.

Part 3- The Albert-Ankrum project; The Naked Orchestra; Davis Rogan and Peter and the Wolf; meeting other creative players on the new orleans music scene; the impact of playing with Michael Ray and diversity of style; the differences between the academic perspective and music in "the real world;" more on Chicago music and relationship with Jeb Bishop; the performance venue vacuum that allowed for the Open Ears series to start; whether anything has happened as a result of Open Ears- (here he really delves into the series); what is necessary to make a creative music venue successful.

Part 4- Electronic music and current Ph.D work at LSU; influence of electronic music on his acoustic/ trombone improvisations; music concrete; stockhausen; childrens' perceptions of electronic and creative music; subject of dissertation; programming a computer to improvise; how Jeff listens to music and how that has changed over time.

Part 5- Communication with audiences; the different subjects involved in his writing; experience playing with drummer, Hamid Drake; playing with drummer, Marcello Bennetti; thoughts on European improvisational styles.

Interview with Jeff Albert, Trombonist and curator of the Open Ears Series. Parts 1&2

Jeff Albert is more than a musician.  Like a few others interviewed here he has contributed to the New Orleans music scene through the Tuesday Open Ears series at the Blue Nile.  The series allows an open forum for a wide variety of musical performance.  It is a rare night where one can witness any sort of musical exploration. Through improving the breadth of what is presented he has contributed to  the formation  of musical groups and associations of musicians that otherwise would not have a place to develop their playing and ideas.  It also brings in adventurous groups from outside New Orleans.  Jeff has developed his own expression and his self- understanding steadily over the years.  He has learned a great deal from his own associations with musicians and gigs and he shares a lot about those experiences here.  There is also interesting information about the trombone and electronic music.


Part 1- How the open ears series came about, what it is, whether it is still doing what he wants, what it's relationship is to the reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina; influences of Chicago improvising musicians and how he formed alliances with those musicians; improvisation itself, what the relation is to jazz; tradition and lineage in improvisational music; early biographical information -growing up in Lafayette; starting trombone in band class and the pros and cons of that level of music education.

Part 2- musical aspirations as a starting trombone student; becoming conscious of jazz music; decision to be a musician and go to Loyola University over University of North Texas; J.J. Johnson; Clint Maedgen, Coltrane Live in Japan; studies with Dick Erb; early rewarding professional gig experience in horn sections; Pedro Cruz and latin music scene experiences; the feeling of being a professional musician and enjoyment of the lifestyle; urge for self-expression bubbling to the surface; comfort with computers and meeting John Worthington, the computer guru; becoming aware of the greater relative power of emotional playing; UNO for a masters degree and improving composition; learning strengths and limitations.


More on Jeff and the Open Ears Music Series can be found at

Conversation with saxophonist Rex Gregory

Rex Gregory is an extremely talented, but also very disciplined, instrumentalist.  He plays with a wide variety of people around town in a number of styles, many of them not fixed genres.  Part of this comes from a great talent for getting with the "conversational" style that emerges when groups of players get together to improvise.  Basically, he's quick!  He's also young (27.)  He plays flute, all the saxes, and clarinet and last year he released his first album as a leader, An End To Oblivion.  He is very comfortable dealing with ideas both "intellectual" and  in music. He enthusiastically tackles areas where he has no understanding and he is quite well read as a result.  If you check his blog at you can see he writes confidently too whether you are in agreement with his opinions or not.  I felt this was an entertaining interview because Rex is comfortable with shooting off opinions.  His website is at  The last section of this interview got into some very interesting areas that show a lot of the inner symbolic possibilities that are available in the basic elements of music.

This is the most conversational interview to date.

This conversation happened outdoors so there is some wind noise. On the other hand it seems comfortable and you get the sounds of the Marigny on a pleasant late spring day.


Part 1- Rex talks about getting back to jazz and what he means by jazz, jazz competitions and whether there is a place for competition in music, Beethoven and Viennese classical music.

Part 2- how Rex started on saxophone, background in Texas and music in his family, university selection,  what was serendipitous about University of New Orleans instead of New York, herd mentality in New York, tribalism, influence of the previous generation of jazz musicians from Texas, Robert Glasper, Claudia Quintet, studies with Ed Petersen, studies with Brice Winston

Parts 3 and 4 have very interesting philosophical information in them.  Rex describes more closely, especially in part 4, the relationship between his ideas and the way they actually shape his compositions.

Part 3- The word "Jazz", Duke Ellington, genres, blending in, the state of modern jazz in New Orleans, his record An End to Oblivion, influence of All the rest is noise by Alex Ross, 20th century nihilism(?), why we are in a retrospective age and the retrospective mind frame, the impact of mass communication.  

Part 4- Rex really gets down to business here;  what he means, what his process was in his writing for the album, and what the connection is between his thoughts and the actual construction of the pieces of music.  A very interesting section occurs here where he breaks down the meaning of a number of gestures in one of his pieces of music.  He also discusses whether and how he is communicating his ideas with audiences and where he is going now.  Rex revealed something generously here and despite the depth, this segment has a nice blend of seriousness with humor. 

Interview with Aurora Nealand

Aurora Nealand is all over the current New Orleans local scene.  She seemed to emerge out of nowhere.   Some of her appeal is  that she has a humble nature, coupled with a fiery attack when she plays, and a real fearlessness about sitting in and getting involved.  She plays solo performances with a gas mask and an accordion. You'll see her playing soprano sax and clarinet exchanges with herself at Pres. Hall with The Royal Roses (see earlier post on front page.) You'll see her playing duos with pianist/composer Tom Mcdermott.  These are just a few of the interesting things she gets up to.  I have seen her under deeper cover than that, and been amazed at how easily she blends in or stands out.  She reveals a lot here about where she is coming from and where she wants to go.  She also talks a lot about the various communities and social scenes that currently surround some parts of the local scene.


Part 1- Rory Danger & The Danger Dangers, what Aurora understands about the phase she's in,  escape from the feeling of need for approval, engagement in the traditional jazz scene, exposure to Wendell Brunious and Leroy Jones, Preservation Hall, search for ways to use study of traditional or older musics for personal expression.  

Part 2- beginnings in music, studying electronic composition at Oberlin, early biography, The Jazz Vipers, the challenges of the mentality fostered in students in jazz education, early experiences of the music scene in New Orleans, graduate school in Austin for composition, interdisciplinary/ collaborative/experimental performance, at The Jacques Lecoq school, early experiences sitting in with new Orleans bands, Ben Schenck and Panorama Brass Band, Vavavoom, the appeal of the accordion, theatricality in her music, issues of communicating with the audience in the current "trad" scene, what is the appeal of "retro?", sexual dynamics in the vintage/retro scene, relationship of fashion to the gigs, formation and communities around music and comfort.

Part 3- What interests her about the groups she is currently working with, Michael Watson, challenges of getting bookings, chazfest and Rory Danger & The Danger Dangers, playing with Spencer Bohren, the hype man, the invention of the Rory Danger persona, Rockabilly and its image, more on sexual role restriction.

Part 4- working with Why are we building such a big ship? and what she loves about Walt's writing, authenticity, current songwriting and composition,  where she is headed, teaching and teaching and busking tours in Europe, qualitites and qualifications in her teaching, graphic scores, Morton Subotnick, music concrete, Shostakovich, Britney Spears, Pop music and peoples taste, original music and frustration with the classical scene.