Nonesuch Records has just released a CD, Our New Orleans, as a benefit album for the victims of Katrina. It's a collection of new recordings made specially for this album by many of the best and best known New Orleans musicians, including Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, the Preservation Hall Band, Beausoleil, Eddie Bo, with a special appearance by Randy Newman who, while he was not born in New Orleans, spent a lot of time there when he was growing up. All proceeds from the sales are being donated to Habitat for Humanity to help ease the single most desperate problem facing the city, housing. The parent company, Warner Bros. Records, is even pitching in and donating the production costs. This is all good, very good, and I encourage you to check out the Nonesuch Records website and consider buying it. You'll help out, and get some great music too.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has been around for thirty years, and have been pioneers in adding the most modern elements of jazz, R&B, and New Orleans street funk to the brass band style. They made the final break with the older tradition, which was still recognizably derived from military marching bands, and their performances are anything but regimented. They're all over the stage, in fact.
For years one of their most popular songs was an upbeat, uptempo, highly rhythmic song called "Feets don' fail me now." If that title and those lyrics hearken back to the days of blackface minstrelsy, that's deliberate, as it's part of the long tradition of pulling the teeth of racist bigotry by mocking its own conventions.
So it was with no little amount of surprise that I looked at the song list for Our New Orleans and found:
-- Dirty Dozen Brass Band: "My Feet Can't Fail Me Now"
Oh, puh-LEEEEZE, dears! "My Feet Can't Fail Me Now"????? How about a few choruses of "I Have It Badly and That Is Not Good," followed by a rousing version of "It Does Not Mean A Thing If It Does Not Have That Swing," hmmm?