As has been customary in recent years, Basin Street Records leads the charge, with three new releases. Clarinetist Dr. Michael White's Jazz From the Soul of New Orleans mixes trad jazz standards, gospel, and Afro-Caribbean influences. Basin Street is also branching out from its jazz roots, with label debuts from two New Orleans piano professors: Henry Butler and Jon Cleary. Butler's The Game Has Just Begun builds on his recent blues releases for Black Top and Alligator, this time with a full band and some distinctive "new age" keyboard programming. Cleary's eponymous Basin Street debut, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, features cameos from Bonnie Raitt, who contributes slide guitar to a cover of the Meters' "Just Kissed My Baby"; Raitt has also covered two Cleary songs ("Monkey Business" and "Fools Game") on her forthcoming Silver Lining CD.
On the rock front, Ninth Ward sleaze rockers Morning 40 Federation step up with their sophomore effort, Trick Nasty. Jazz fans can look forward to two new releases from the Lakefront Digital label: Finger to the Universe, a trio record featuring guitarist Brian Seeger, saxophonist Ed Petersen, and drummer Jason Marsalis; and the debut album from Jesse Lewis Union is also on tap. After the departure of keyboardist David Torkanowsky, New Orleans contemporary jazz giant Astral Project makes its debut as a quartet with Big Shot, on its own AP Records label. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band rolls again with Medicated Magic (Mammoth Records), which features guest appearances from Dr. John, Widespread Panic, DJ Logic and pedal steel sensation Robert Randolph.
Tex-Mex/R&B favorites the Iguanas plan to drop a new live CD titled Real Live Iguanas, featuring some new material in addition to songs culled from the band's four previous albums. Slide guitarist John Mooney returns to the Blind Pig label with All I Want, while fellow guitarist John Fohl is independently releasing Time Ain't Waitin', which features guest shots by Spencer Bohren, Ernie Vincent, Brian "Breeze" Cayolle and Kufaru Mouton. Fohl also plays guitar on Funk Yard, the upcoming release from the Joe Krown Organ Combo on STR Digital Records. Funk Yard lives up to its title with greasy grooves courtesy of Krown, drummer Mike Barras, bassists Bob Sunda and Jim Markway, and saxophonist Brent Rose. Michael Skinkus contributes percussion on a number of tracks.
STR Digital's other Jazz Fest release, vocalist Kim Prevost's solo debut Talk to Me, looks to be one of the more intriguing projects of the season. The renowned jazz vocalist moves into an urban funk sound on the album, which features some heavyweight guest appearances by Nicholas Payton, Tony Dagradi and Bill Summers. Another esteemed female vocalist, Theresa Andersson, checks in No Regrets, her first full-length solo album since 1994's Vibes.
In zydeco, Mardi Gras Records has two new accordion- and rubboard-driven efforts -- Lil Nathan & the Zydeco Big Timers' Zydeco Ballin', and Rockin' Dopsie Jr.'s Rockin' Zydeco Party. (If you've been following the current lawsuit between Mardi Gras Records and Putumayo Records, note that neither new Mardi Gras CD features folk art on the cover.)
On the reissue front, Shanachie Records is releasing Break the Chain, Anders Osborne's 1994 breakthrough album originally issued locally on Rabadash Records. The biggest-ticket item in records stores and at the Fair Grounds record tent is the four-CD Fats Domino box set Walking to New Orleans, from Imperial/Capitol Records. This Domino box replaces the 1991 set They Call Me the Fat Man: The Legendary Imperial Recordings, which has been out of print for five years. Fans that own that initial set probably won't want to shell out again for the new box, but there are some differences. The tracklist has changed (17 songs have been changed and/or added) and the liner notes have been revised. The artwork, on the other hand, is a drastic step down; the faux-cartoon drawing of Domino on the cover makes Walking to New Orleans like a bargain bin item.
As impressive as the aforementioned list of CDs sounds, it's likely still just the first wave of forthcoming local CDs. If you're a Louisiana band or record label with a newly-minted CD that isn't included above and would like to be considered for coverage in Gambit Weekly's Jazz Fest coverage, please submit materials no later than Friday, April 5 to: Gambit Weekly, 3923 Bienville St., New Orleans, LA 70119.