Enjoy a sampling of New Orleans music

Whether you're headed to one of New Orleans' music festivals this spring — or only wish you were — here are CDs by New Orleans and Louisiana artists, available now or soon to be released, well worth checking out.

Tab Benoit with Louisiana's LeRoux, Night Train to Nashville (Telarc) — Fifteen years and nearly as many albums since his 1992 recording debut, Houma, La., native Benoit continues offering a fine gumbo of Southern blues, swampy roots rock and Cajun influences, all served via his gruffly authoritative vocals and gifted slide-guitar work. Live at Nashville club Place On 2nd, he digs deep and plays it soulful on the chugging Too Sweet for Me and Delta charmer Stackolina, both featuring the tangy harmonica of the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson; the laidback Moon Comin' Over the Hill, with Americana star Jim Lauderdale; and Rendezvous with the Blues, New Orleans Ladies and Muddy Bottom Blues, all featuring former Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall.

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Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve, May 6) — On recordings by Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell, drumming dynamo Blade provides atmospherics and color as well as serving as chief rhythm maker. He shines again as both instrumentalist and composer on only the third recording in a decade from his Brian Blade Fellowship, with key support by pianist and second composer Jon Cowherd, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Nominally filed under jazz, the new disc offers a compelling blend of folk and pop melodies, fusion, noisy guitar rock, bop-inflected improvisations and sprawling, near-symphonic chord progressions.

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The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans (Time-Life) — The venerable Southern gospel group opens this stellar set with Free at Last, its call-and-response gusto bolstered by the light funk of a top-shelf New Orleans jazz trio, with David Torkanowsky (ex-Astral Project) on piano and B3. Co-founder Jimmy Carter leads the way on a passionate, full-throated version of Mahalia Jackson's If I Could Help Somebody, backed only by Allen Toussaint on piano. Jackson's How I Got Over is lifted by stirring four-part harmonies and rolling grooves. The Hot 8 Brass Band's chunky horns join in on Earl King's Make a Better World, a non-preachy call for New Orleans aid. Other gems include an inspired Down by the Riverside, backed by Toussaint and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; and a triumphant, closing I'll Fly Away, with the Hot 8.

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Henry Butler, PiaNOLA Live (Basin Street, April 29) — The blind pianist injects blues, jazz and New Orleans R&B into rootsy readings of Allen Toussaint's Mother-in-Law, Professor Longhair's Tipitina, Billy Preston's Will It Go Round in Circles, and 1920s chestnuts You Are My Sunshine and Old Man River. The frequently rousing, sometimes surprising set documents solo performances, some dating back more than 20 years.

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Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis, Love Songs, Ballads and Standards (Basin Street) — Mayfield too often is overshadowed by fellow Crescent City trumpeters Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton. Yet the younger musician continues recording his superb, inventive playing, and intriguing compositions and arrangements, as on this collaboration with his former teacher, pianist Ellis Marsalis. He offers pretty, affecting versions of jazz classics like 'Round Midnight, In a Sentimental Mood, and Come Rain or Come Shine, as well as pop staples like Yesterday, and Norah Jones' hit Don't Know Why. Mayfield wrenches much emotion from the ballads, with the inspired support of pianist Marsalis, a rhythm section and, sometimes, an understated Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Sidenote: Mayfield stored the original 2004 mixes of several tracks on his iPod, saving them from Hurricane Katrina.

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Stanton Moore Trio, Emphasis! (On Parenthesis) (Telarc) — Galactic's drummer and rhythm guru reconnects with Greyboy Allstars organist/keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard, both heard on Moore's III in 2006, for another set of blistering funk and deep grooves. Fast fusion lines, heavy-metal guitar lines, soul-jazz elements and electronic sound effects are added to the mix in just the right measure.

Philip Booth is a Tampa writer specializing in music and movies. He may be reached at jphilipbooth@gmail.com.

Enjoy a sampling of New Orleans music 04/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:53am]

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