Monday, June 30, 2014

Warren Prejean (1948-2013)

          Only a few months after playing at the DGA crawfish boil in March 2013, legendary zydeco musician Warren Prejean died on August 3, 2013 at the age of 64. Prejean, a retired truck driver, devoted much of his life to playing and promoting zydeco.

Warren Prejean on the rub board 
          Zydeco fused Cajun music with blues and R&B. Cajun music itself is a union of French, Irish, Celtic, German, Latin, and Appalachian styles. When mixed together, zydeco represents a truly American musical form. The word zydeco itself allegedly originates from a phrase spoken in the regional French, "leh-zy-dee-co sohn pah salay...") meaning roughly "the snap beans aren't salty". This phrase has been referred to as meaning "I'm so poor, I can't afford any salt meat for the beans." Zydeco music relies on a special instrument, known as a vest frottoir (or rub board). The frottoir is a percussion instrument, generally made out of pressed, corrugated stainless steel and is worn over the shoulders. A musician then drags a metal tool (or spoon or something similar) up and down the rub board to make music. Zydeco, like other native Louisiana traditions, takes the best parts of a myriad of cultures and creates something unique.

       Here is Prejean with his band at the 2012 meeting of the American Society of Trial Consultants in New Orleans. 

          In recent years, Prejean played with the Creole Zydeco Farmers. Based in Lafayette, Louisiana and founded in 1989, the band derived its name from its style of music and the agricultural history of Lafayette parish. All of the band’s members, including Warren Prejean, have familial ties to the region. Prejean provided vocals and played the accordion. Prejean performed with the band across Canada and the United States. The Creole Zydeco Farmers have also toured in Europe with performances in Greece, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Holland. They are also a regular performer at New Orleans Jazz Fest.

          RIP Warren Prejean. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Benny Turner and the Real Blues Featuring Sam Joyner

The blues might be the most important of all the musical styles that originated in America. The blues fused spirituals, call and response chants, and traditional ballads. This distinctly American musical style emerged from African-American communities in the Deep South following the legal abolition of slavery in 1865. The post-emancipation period allowed African-Americans to form communities, churches, and other voluntary associations free from white inference. These separate institutions allowed African-Americans to cultivate and expand upon their previous musical traditions. The blues arose from these newly independent African-American communities.

Benny and his band 
Over the ensuing decades, the blues would influence and help new musical forms like jazz, R&B, and rock and roll. While we may be able to easily explain the origins of the blues and its legacy, defining the blues proves much more elusive. Blues singer Alberta Hunter once tried to explain the blues this way, “Blues means what milk does to a baby. Blues is what the spirit is to the minister. We sing the blues because our hearts have been hurt, our souls have been disturbed.” British blues artist Alexis Kormer said of the blues, “I guess music, particularly the blues, is the only form of schizophrenia that has organised itself into being both legal and beneficial to society.”
Benny Turner plays the bass over his head 
For the first time, the DGA crawfish boil featured a blues band: Benny Turner and the Real Blues Featuring Sam Joyner. Benny Turner is a veteran of the New Orleans, Chicago, and Texas blues scenes. His connections to the history of the blues in America run deep. His brother was legendary blues artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Freddie King. Freddie King, along with B.B. and Albert King, were the three “Kings of the Blues guitar” in America. Benny Turner released his own CD honoring his brother’s contribution to American blues music. Over his career, Turner also collaborated or performed with blues legends like Mighty Joe Young, Memphis Slim, Gladys Knight, and Otis Clay. In New Orleans, he worked as the band leader for legendary blues singer Marva Wright. In recent years, Turner formed his own band, The Real Blues.
Benny Turner playing in the crowd 
Turner, a bass player, dazzled the crowd by playing while mingling and sitting amongst the appreciative crowd. Turner introduced the crowd at the crawfish boil to a legendary American musical form and it was pleasure to have him perform. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NOLA Summer Snowball Tour 2014: Chubba's

          Now that the temperatures in the Greater New Orleans area have settled into the 90s with nearly 100% humidity, it’s time for the return of that NOLA summer staple: the snowball. Before I get into my latest adventure with this culinary marvel, let’s recap some of the important features of the snowball.
The first snowballs of the summer!
          First off, never confuse a snowball with a snowcone. They are VASTLY different things. One is a godsend after a day out in the Louisiana sun. The other is a godless abomination. The difference lies in the ice. Snowballs are made with shaved ice; snowcones are made with chipped ice. Shaved ice absorbs the flavor of the syrup while melting slowly in your mouth. Trying to eat chipped ice sends cold chills down your spine.
Ieuan knows what a good snowball tastes like. 
          Second, there are 3 commandments to a good snowball. Stands that violate them do not deserve your patronage. The 1st commandment: no crunchy ice. As mentioned above, crunchy ice is what you find in a snowcone. The 2nd commandment: the syrup should cover all of the ice, infusing it with flavorful goodness. The 3rd commandment: the syrup must have a strong flavor. It should be thick and rich. You’re eating shaved ice and sugar; the stand shouldn’t try and hide that.  
Keep the Frack out of my water. 
          On Saturday, my family and I went to “Frackstock,” an anti-fracking event at the Covington, Louisiana trailhead. The state is currently considering allowing the environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracking in St. Tammany Parish. As a gift to the people who turned out for the rally, the Chubba’s Snowball truck handed out free snowballs. The stand moves around to different events, but has its home on Highway 190 outside of Covington.
Chubba's Stand 
          Due to the heat and not wanting to risk a bad snowball, we made safe selections. I ordered a Dreamsicle snowball. Liz had her usual, a Nectar snowball with condensed milk. Ieuan got a cherry one. Considering the fact that they were free, the snowballs were surprisingly good. And most importantly there were no violations of the 3 snowball commandments. Chubba’s shaved the ice well. It was soft, but with a satisfying crunch. The syrup, most likely from SnoWizard—the syrup supplier to most GNO snowball stands—had good flavor and generously covered the entire snowball. They melted at a good pace, not too fast so that the snowballs became soupy, but just quickly enough to enjoy nice syrupy sips.
James's face says it all. 

Considering we had spent the morning at the beach and then at Frackstock, Chubba’s Snowballs hit the spot. All in all, it was a good start to the summer snowball season.   

Monday, June 23, 2014

Davis Rogan

            A 5th generation resident of New Orleans, Davis Rogan grew up in the Carrolton neighborhood of New Orleans. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Since his return to the Crescent City, Davis has engaged in a diverse musical career. In the 1990s, Rogan worked as a DJ at WWOZ and began playing music professionally with Kermit Ruffins.  He served as the lead singer, band leader, and songwriter of All That, an eight piece funk brass, and hip hop group. All That produced three albums, Eponymous Debut, Whop Bam Boom, and a live album. Rogan also worked as a music teacher in the Orleans Parish Public Schools. 

The Man, the myth, Davis Rogan. 

After Hurricane Katrina, Rogan went to France as Artist in Residence at the Royal Abbaye de Fonteraud in the Loire Valley. There he began communicating with David Simon. Simon had created the HBO series The Wire and was scouting New Orleans for a potential new series. Simon had heard Davis’s solo album The Once and Future DJ and wanted to meet Rogan. As Simon brought Treme to series, he decided to create a character based on Davis’s own life. With some altercations along the way, Davis Rogan became Davis McAlary, played by Steve Zahn. Rogan worked on the writing staff for the first season of the show. Rogan also wrote all of the songs for the McAlary character. He also guest starred as a musician on the series. He has made numerous television appearances since Treme, including on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover and on Top Chef: New Orleans. In 2010, he released his second album, The Real Davis.

For the third year in a row, Davis Rogan at the DGA Crawfish Boil
          Davis has traveled around the United States performing his music. He can frequently be found performing at The Spotted Cat Music Club in New Orleans as well as at the Three Muses on Frenchman Street. He will be performing at the French Quarter Festival in April. Davis is a personal favorite of Doug and the rest of DGA. This was his third consecutive appearance at the Crawfish boil.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hot 8 Brass Band

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first brass bands in New Orleans fused the traditional European military marches with African-American traditions of music and dancing that emanated from Congo Square in the days of slavery. A new New Orleans tradition emerged out of that fusion, one that mixed these two styles and took root in the city’s neighborhoods. These bands played at local baseball games, funerals, weddings, and other community events. They represented their communities in larger city-wide events and served as leaders within their own neighborhoods.

The Hot 8 at the DGA Crawfish Boil

The Hot 8 Brass Band carry those traditions into the present while embodying the new direction of New Orleans Brass Bands. Bennie Pete, Jerome “Bay Bay” Jones, and Harry “Swamp Thang” Cook founded the Hot 8 Brass Band in 1995. Originating out of Alcee Fortier High School in Uptown New Orleans, the band began as street performers and marched in second lines. The band’s fame took off after their appearance in the Peabody and Emmy awarding winning Spike Lee documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. The documentary examined the failure of the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and celebrated the resiliency of the residents of New Orleans. Since their appearance in When the Levees Broke, the Hot 8 Brass Band has released three albums with Tru Thoughts, an independent record label from the United Kingdom; Rock with the Hot 8 Brass (2007), The Life and Times of the Hot 8 Brass Band (2012), and Tombstone (2013). Like their musical predecessors, the Hot 8 continue to blend older musical styles with new ones.

More of the Hot 8

They incorporate jazz, hip hop, and funk into their brass band roots, creating something wholly new. They share the brass band culture to the city, country, and even across the world. As importantly, they serve as leaders within the community. The Hot 8 Brass Band also have devoted themselves to social activism by participating in various community organizations and initiatives. They support Silence is Violence, an organization devoted to improving the safety of New Orleans and honoring the victims of violence. Silence is Violence also works to promote the musical heritage of New Orleans, believing that creativity through music runs counter to violence. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the band also participated in Save Our Brass, an attempt to educate young musicians on the jazz traditions of New Orleans and preserve the city’s cultural heritage. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Saints Off-Season In Review

          The NFL limits the amount of money teams can spend on players each season. Teams must then balance short and long term needs to succeed. Manage the cap correctly and you can win year after year (Hi New England Patriots!). Mismanage the cap and you have to cut valuable players and wallow in mediocrity (step on up Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys!). Teams have to decide the relative value of players compared to their salaries and production. This offseason, the New Orleans Saints have had to cut players whose cap value outweighed their on-field production. They have used their new cap room to prepare for another Super Bowl run.
          Since February, the Saints have released, traded, or let go six players who played in their Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts. These transactions all served to get the Saints under the 133 million dollar salary cap. From the Saints’ perspective, these players production no longer matched their salaries. Defensive end Will Smith counted 11.5 million dollars against the cap and missed last season with a knee injury. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma played one game last year. Defensive backs Roman Harper and Jabari Greer each saw their playing time dwindle due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Wide receiver Lance Moore lost snaps to rookie Kenny Stills. Running back Darren Sproles failed to replicate his pass catching prowess of past seasons. Additionally the Saints have younger and cheaper players at those positions. The Saints saved themselves approximately 24 million dollars against the cap by letting these players go.

New Saints safety Jairus Byrd

          Releasing these players allowed the Saints to improve their team for next season. They placed the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham and signed safety Jairus Byrd. By tagging Graham, the Saints locked him into a one year contract worth just over 7 million dollars for next season. The team remains stalemated with Graham over a long term contract, but they will enjoy his services for another year. On Tuesday, the Saints signed safety Jairus Byrd to a 6 year, 54 million dollar contract with 28 million dollars in guaranteed salary. Byrd will count only 3.5 million against this year’s cap, with cap figures of 10.3 and 9.7 million in 2015 and 2016. Byrd, a 3 time Pro Bowler, represents an upgrade over departed safeties Harper and Malcolm Jenkins. Both of these players significantly improve the Saints’ chances of winning next season.

Saints All-Pro Tight End Jimmy Graham

          The Saints, however, finances remain tight because of enormous salary of quarterback Drew Brees. For the next three seasons, Brees will count 18.4, 26.4, and 27.4 million dollars against the cap. Coupled with Byrd’s contract, the Saints have a significant portion of their cap tied into their top two players. In order to sign Graham to an extension, the Saints will need to restructure or renegotiate Brees’ contract. A contract for Graham would likely mirror Byrd’s deal—averaging about 9 million per year. But the team may need that money to fill the other 51 spots on the roster.
          So when looking at the Saints offseason, remember the salary cap rules all. 

And in the meantime enjoy Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his Ford Econoline van:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Recapping the 7th Annual DGA Crawfish Boil

On March 8, 2014, Douglas Green Associates held its 7th annual Crawfish boil. Over the next few weeks on the blog, we will be recapping the highlights of the boil. This coverage will include posts about the various bands. There will be pictures and hopefully video of the performers.

In case you were unclear  
For any blog readers who couldn’t make the event, let’s go over the key details. The boil was held this year at Winos and Tacos in Covington, Louisiana. Winos and Tacos is located just up the road from DGA headquarters on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The Sign Outside 
            For the first time ever, the boil featured three bands from the New Orleans area. They included Davis Rogan, Benny Turner and the Real Blues Featuring Sam Joyner, and the Hot 8 Brass Band. Over the next few weeks, we’ll have posts and pictures up about each band.

The Party Inside 
The participants of boil consumed almost 500 pounds of crawfish, 12 dozen cupcakes, and copious amounts of tacos. Local Abita beers flowed generously from the tap and Doug’s personal favorite AndyGator ran out quickly.

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from the boil and mark your calendars for March 14, 2015 for the 8th annual DGA Crawfish Boil.