While most listeners probably associate Maria Muldaur with her 1974 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis," longtime fans know she's well versed in a wide variety of roots music genres. She makes a rare jazz club appearance at Snug Harbor Saturday to release her new CD Steady Love. The album is especially notable for the pervasive presence of pure, down-home New Orleans funk, making it a real standout of an already remarkable career.
"I always make it a point to record with some of the best New Orleans musicians on the scene," Muldaur says. "Whenever I hire a keyboard player for my road band, I make it a prerequisite they can play New Orleans-style ... As far as the new CD goes, I wanted to record something that would sound more like my live shows, so I was looking for something loose and raw and funky, a real organic sound, and everybody involved just rose to the occasion."
Muldaur is touring with her road-tested Red Hot Bluesiana band (which includes UNO alum Chris Adkins on electric guitar), and fans can expect to hear music from Steady Love during an evening of soul-stirring blues, R&B and classic gospel delivered in what Muldaur describes as her new "swamp funk" sound.
Muldaur has been an avid proponent of sorts of American roots music and has embraced an wide range of genres, from old-time country and acoustic blues to sultry jazz, Sunday morning gospel, and groundbreaking contemporary roots rock.
"I've really been in love with New Orleans music and that distinctive New Orleans sound for as long as I can remember," she says. "When I was a kid and my mom made me take piano lessons, for instance, (and) instead of playing what I was supposed to, I'd always drift off into Fats Domino land, trying to work out those beautiful piano trills of his I heard on the radio."
The interest in New Orleans sounds became a solid part of her long musical career.
"It really got serious in the '70s when I met Dr. John just as I was beginning to make a series of solo albums for Warner Brothers," she says. "He came and played on a bunch of tracks, brought in some great New Orleans musicians, like drummer Earl Palmer and pianist James Booker, who wasn't very well known then. And (he) suggested some great New Orleans material, like Allen Toussaint's 'Brickyard Blues' and Blue Lu Barker's 'Feel My Leg,' which became a big hit."
Muldaur and Dr. John also toured together frequently.
"We toured together a lot in the '80s, just the two of us, both singing and Mac playing piano, with a rhythm section that was his left hand and me playing tambourine, but between the two of us, we could really get into some kick-ass grooves. After that I was addicted."
"Now, I'm really excited to be returning to what you might call 'the scene of the crime,' and getting a chance to perform all that great material live."
Maria Muldaur Steady Love CD release
8 p.m. & 10 p.m. Saturday
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, 626 Frenchmen St., 949-0696; www.snugjazz.com