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Spring News 

It doesn't get the attention that community radio station 90.7 WWOZ does, but another one of the New Orleans' music community's most valuable resources, radio station 91.5 WTUL, deserves your support when it kicks off its annual WTUL Marathon on Friday, March 1. If you haven't tuned in lately, WTUL's new transmitter has greatly improved its signal strength, allowing listeners the chance to hear music you simply won't hear anywhere else on the local radio dial. From indie-rock to techno to Americana to its kitschy Cheese show, WTUL is a model of the potential of a scrappy, progressive college radio station. From March 1 through March 3, three 'TUL DJs will pull 24-hour shifts -- broadcasting live from Pocket Park on the campus -- soliciting donations for the station. The pledge drive continues through March 10. A number of WTUL benefits are also on tap at local clubs, including a bill featuring Liquidrone, Morning 40 Federation, and the Charm City Brokers this Saturday, March 2, at the Howlin' Wolf. (Look for WTUL benefits at the Mermaid Lounge and the Hi-Ho Lounge the following week.) To make a pledge, call the WTUL office at 865-5887, or the studio line at 865-5885. ...

After two decades with Columbia Records, saxophonist Branford Marsalis has left the label and formed the independent label Marsalis Music. Marsalis Music will be distributed by Rounder Records, and its first album, Branford's Footsteps of our Fathers, is slated for release later this year. Footsteps should start the label off with a bang, as Marsalis pays tribute to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Noted jazz critic Bob Blumenthal is resigning from his post at The Boston Globe to handle the label's education and cultural outreach programs, which include Marsalis Jams, a series for college students.

BeauSoleil fiddler Michael Doucet can be heard in a unique context on Fiddlers 4 (Compass Records), a new CD featuring Doucet in a string quartet format with David Grisman Quintet veteran Darol Anger, cellist Rushad Eggleston, and revered traditional fiddler Bruce Molsky. A swinging New Orleans second-line arrangement of a medley of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and Barbara George's "I Know" is the tip of this quartet's inventiveness; other selections include Duke Ellington's "E. St. Louis Todalo" and Dr. Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free."...

On the CD reissue front, there's confusing but encouraging news from EMI Music, which is releasing a four-CD set, The Crescent City Soul series, on March 12. The title is strangely similar (perhaps intentionally) to the 1996 four-CD box set Crescent City Soul: The Sound of New Orleans 1947-1974, which has been out of print in recent years. The forthcoming release duplicates multiple tracks from the earlier set -- the previously unreleased-on-CD track of Ruth Durand's "I'm Wise" is the only rarity -- so aficionados have little incentive to own all four CDs.

On the plus side, the four albums will be sold individually, and two of them are long-overdue tributes to a pair of New Orleans music pioneers. The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew: 20 of His Milestone New Orleans Productions 1949-1960 spotlights the genius of bandleader/composer/arranger and Fats Domino collaborator Dave Bartholomew, while Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet: 20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions for Minit Records (1960-1962) contains the classics like Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-in-Law" and Aaron Neville's "Over You," which cemented Toussaint's stature as one of New Orleans' greatest songwriters and arrangers. ...

A belated farewell to legendary British folk, blues and Celtic guitarist Martin Simpson, who is leaving his French Quarter digs for California. After moving to the Crescent City in 1999, Simpson maintained a packed touring schedule between local gigs with New Orleans mainstays like the Radiators and Spencer Bohren, but unfortunately, Simpson's brand of acoustic guitar wizardry never garnered a substantial local audience. ...

In club news, Vic's Kangaroo Cafe has discontinued live music for the immediate future, citing increased taxes and permit fees and loss of parking spots to nearby hotel construction as the primary factors. Meanwhile across town, the former Dream Palace/Cafe Istanbul/Jack Maheu's Tin Roof Cafe location is off to a promising start under new ownership. Rechristened the Blue Nile, the Frenchmen Street nightclub has been booking a full calendar of local favorites such as idletime and Fredy Omar.

One Louisiana-related Bob Dylan postscript: the bad-ass behind the drum kit at Dylan's March 17 show at Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena was Dylan's newly hired drummer, Louisiana native George Recile. Recile's logged time with John Mooney, Loup Garou, and Buckwheat Zydeco, and was also in town last Sept. 29, playing with George Porter Jr. and Ivan and Cyril Neville at the Howlin' Wolf.

click to enlarge BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet (second from left) does some swinging moonlighting on Fiddlers 4, a new string quartet CD.
  • BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet (second from left) does some swinging moonlighting on Fiddlers 4, a new string quartet CD.
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