by Cesca Janece Waterfield
In a song co-written by Louis Armstrong, and Hoagy Carmichael, Billie Holiday asked, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”
Well, Richmond, on Nov. 19, New Orleans will be a short drive away, when American icon Allen Toussaint, trumpet whiz kid Nicholas Payton and the all-star Joe Krown Trio bring a night of jazz to the American Theatre in Hampton.
Joe Krown has lived in New Orleans for nearly 20 years since he moved to the Crescent City from upstate New York. Since then, he’s built a strong fan base in his adopted hometown in addition to playing several months out of the year. Joe talked to Urban Views Weekly on the road from Charlotte, NC. In his own words:
New Orleans Nights: Allen is a mega songwriter. When he gave me his material, it was almost like a greatest hits record because there were so many hits for so many people. He’s such an incredible songwriter and has written such incredible hits. He is to New Orleans what Willie Dixon is to Chicago Blues. I’m a little intimidated because he really is that legendary stature of a songwriter, not to even mention his piano playing. And Nicholas is one of the young lions who came out of New Orleans the past couple years. His stuff is definitely much more modern sounding, yet he can play anything. [New Orleans Nights] is just a really nice cross section of New Orleans music.
His Trio: There’s Walter “Wolfman” Washington who is a legendary New Orleans performer. He was in the house band at the Dew Drop in the 60s. He was in Lee Dorsey’s band. Then in the 70s he started touring and he’s been touring with his band the Roadmasters for over 30 years. He’s very big in Europe. He’s got a track record that’s a mile long and rightfully so. He’s a phenomenal singer and guitar player. My relationship with him playing-wise, it’s almost like we’re psychic when we play. The drummer is Russell Batiste Jr. He’s become the drummer of the rock stars. He definitely has a solo career. But as a drummer, he’s definitely recognized as being one of the front-runners who’ve come out of New Orleans. All three of us together, it’s definitely very funky, bluesy and soulful. Walter is very Southern soul. It’s a classic organ trio where there is no bass player. I do all the bass from the organ.
Life on the Road: I’m not 25 anymore. [laughs] I spent a lot of time with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown for 15 years. I’ve been doing things on my own for many years now. This year we’ve got about 75 to 100 dates on the road. That’s pretty formidable. I don’t like to tour too much because at home in New Orleans, I have a pretty active local scene going on there at several different places in town.
Hurricane Katrina: My house is about five blocks from the river. We did not lose property due to flooding. We had hurricane damage, but it wasn’t that catastrophic. There were no schools. There was no mail, no garbage pickup, no water, no gas. The city was dead. We stayed in Baton Rouge until services came back on across the board. No one had power so we were doing gigs with generators. They had to turn the TV off so that we could plug the band in. But it was actually incredibly well-attended because if there was anything going on, people were just so hungry to be around each other that they were all out.
How You Can Help the Recovery: There are a couple of things you can do. You can focus in on the music community specifically, or you can focus in on the city. Blight is definitely an issue. There are so many houses that either need to be gutted or demolished. A lot of college students come during their Spring Break to work on cleanup. Not as much as five years ago, but they’re still doing things around the city.
If you want to direct something to the music community, there are two groups. The New Orleans Musician’s Clinic is trying to help with health care. But they do a whole lot more than that. They are definitely involved with trying to provide work. For a while there they ran out of funds. Right now, there’s not really a lot of resources. They’re trying to keep it to health care issues. The other is Sweet Home New Orleans. They are still trying to help people who’ve lost income because they lost work. They’re both good charitable places to donate money to and they will help people with it. Personally, I am trying to leave it for people who really need it. Obviously I’m on the road with Russell, Walter, Allen and Nicholas, so things can’t be all that bad [for myself]. But there are a lot of people who really are struggling very hard with work. www.neworleansmusiciansclinic.org
A CENTURY OF THEATRE HISTORY
The American Theatre was built in 1908 to screen movies and host vaudeville shows.In following years, it became the Lee Adult Theatre and then the New American Theatre. The Hampton Arts Foundation purchased the building in 1997 and began renovation totaling nearly $3 million. Taking its original name, the American Theatre re-opened in June 2000. It has no outstanding debt, thanks to a strong capital campaign. Owned by the Hampton Arts Foundation and operated by the City of Hampton through its Arts Commission, the Theatre hosts international performers year-round. 125 E. Mellen St., Hampton (757) 722-2787
A ONE-MAN AMERICAN SONGBOOK
Allen Toussaint’s songs are among the most performed of any American songwriter. Some titles by Toussaint and the artists who’ve covered them:
“Working In the Coal Mine”: Lee Dorsey, Harry Connick, Jr., Devo, Blue Swede, Pure Prairie League, The Judds, Galactic, Chris Bowers & Barry Carl
“Southern Nights”: Glen Campbell
“Going Down”: Bo Diddley
“What is Success”: Bonnie Raitt
“Yes We Can Can”: The Pointer Sisters
“You See Me”: The Band
“On Your Way Down”: Little Feat, Widespread Panic, Trombone Shorty
“Get Out Of My Life Woman”: the Doors, Iron Butterfly, Jerry Garcia Band, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Derek Trucks Band, Nils Landgren & Joe Sample
“Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley”: Phish, Robert Palmer, Tishamingo
“Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”: Maria Muldaur, Three Dog Night, BJ Thomas, Frankie Miller