A far from definitive compilation of records that help define the city's famed sound
As Alive takes a look at the anticipated return of Creole restaurant Way Down Yonder, we're reminded that food is nearly as recognizable an expression of New Orleans culture as is its music.
Here are a few albums that define the New Orleans sound(s), and/or albums by the city's musical titans that help define American music.
Dejan's Olympia Brass Band, New Orleans Street Parade
While I learned the genre on recordings by the more modern-sounding Dirty Dozen and Rebirth brass bands, those led me to Olympia, an original article.
Sweet Emma Barrett and Her Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Barrett is a NO legend and this recording was done just before the formalization of the band as a standing ensemble at the French Quarter hall.
Professor Longhair, “Tipitina”
This is a single first recorded on 78 RPM, but it's an early period signature work from this Crescent City great who fused blues and ragtime with Caribbean and Latin influences and paved the way for...
Rock and Rollin' with Fats Domino
No one person “invented” rock 'n' roll, but Fats is as integral a figure as anyone.
Louis Armstrong, Louis and the Good Book
Satchmo bridged the historical jazz figures with modern masters like the Marsalis clan (more on them later). This excellent record reminds us of the importance of gospel music in jazz and the blues.
Wynton Marsalis, TheMajesty of the Blues
Of late he's known as much for concert halls and dissing hip-hop as he is for being a dazzling trumpeter and earnest historian. This record has some hits and misses but works as a musical/cultural/historical statement by an artist coming into his own.
Branford Marsalis, I Heard You Twice the First Time
He likely has more signature works, but this has always been my favorite.
Clifton Chenier, Bogalusa Boogie
A vital work from the King of Zydeco, the dance/party music that fused Creole culture and the blues.
The Balfa Brothers Play Traditional Cajun Music
Like zydeco, Cajun is actually rural music rather than from the city proper, but it remains a fundamental part of the musical richness of the region.
Allen Toussaint, Southern Nights
A standard-bearer for New Orleans R&B, Toussaint fused soul, funk and a little psychedelia, NO style.
The Neville Brothers, Fiyo on the Bayou
Another foundational NO musical family, the Nevilles formed their own band after older brothers Art and Cyril left the Meters, who helped birth funk.
Lil Wayne, Lights Out
Wayne would go on to make higher quality work, but you can still feel the New Orleans street in the raps on this record.
Trombone Shorty, Backatown
Straight outta Treme, Troy Andrews' earlier records are rawer, but here he becomes a bone-a-fide (get it?) star.