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Blu Lu Barker - Live at the New Orleans Jazz Festival - Featuring Danny Barker & His Jazz Hounds (REVIEW - Gambit Weekly)

"We're gonna get down to the blues business," announces bandleader Danny Barker as he introduces his wife, vocalist Blue Lu, to the crowd at the Economy Hall Tent at the 1989 Jazz Fest. Danny plays a few notes on his banjo, Blue Lu sings "The Georgia Grind," and listeners are immediately transported back to the couple's last performance at the fest, during a time when this husband-and-wife team reigned as king and queen in the Fair Grounds' traditional jazz tent. Blue Lu sings five of the 10 songs included on the album in an almost spoken-word style that's far from the girlish voice heard on her Decca hits like "Don't You Feel My Leg" recorded some 50 years earlier. When the disc was recorded, time and illness had taken their physical toll, although they hadn't diminished Blue Lu's sense of musical style and flair. She still sings her somewhat risqué lyrics with a grin in her voice. And, gauging from the wild response from the crowd, you can almost see Blue Lu dancing and cutting up on stage while singing songs like her own "Bring the Greenbacks When You Call."

The first half of Live at the New Orleans Jazz Festival is all Blue Lu. Danny plays banjo and leads a band that includes trumpeter Gregg Stafford, pianist Walter Lewis, trombonist Frank Naundorf, clarinetist David Grillier, bassist Edmond Boucher and drummer Shannon Powell. On the second part of the disc, Danny takes over center stage, singing favorites like his humorous "Save the Bones for Henry Jones," much to the delight of the audience. It's great to hear his dry sense of humor, and he builds every song around his impeccable rhythmic sense. Launching from this foundation, the band stretches out on the disc's final two cuts, "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Second Line" - both written by Danny's uncle, the late Paul Barbarian.

Fans of Danny and Blu Lu Barker certainly will want to add this album to their collection. It's one more serving of music and fun from this much-missed and beloved couple.

--- G.W.


Originally published in Gambit Weekly, Volume 19, Number 29 (July 21st, 1998)


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