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Blue Lu Barker: Live At The New Orleans Jazz Festival featuring The Legendary Danny Barker & His Jazz Hounds (REVIEW - Real Blues)

(Orleans) OR 2111

I had been worrying that we'd hear no more from Carlo Ditta's truly important Orleans label, the one label that consistently over the last decade has given fans of New Orleans music the best that city has to offer from both the famous and the obscure. After a period of almost two years hiatus, Ditta comes back with a bang presenting this historic and memorable concert and Coco Robicheaux's new CD as well.

Blue Lu and Danny Barker were a team in love and in music for 63 years when these recordings were made at the 1989 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, their very last performance together at the Festival. Two very remarkable people who both had remarkable careers unparalleled in American music. They embodied the spirit of New Orleans and if the City of New Orleans has any conscience it'll erect two giant statues of Danny and Blue Lu in the middle of the French Quarter. Four years ago Offbeat Magazine did a cover story on the life of Danny Barker which is mandatory reading as is his autobiography written while he was still a young man of 76 in 1986. Ditto for the exceptional liner notes accompanying this CD, written by Jason Berry. Berry has provided a concise document as to historical significance of the Barker's careers and encourages the reader to explore even more on their own.

The CD itself captures the spirit of New Orleans, the Festival itself (1989), and presents the Barkers in fine form although Blue Lu was, at the time, recuperating from throat surgery and a tracheotomy which reduced her singing to a raspy shadow of its former self. But even so, Lu will deliver so much feeling and soul in her renditions that even hardcore purists and collectors who own her original 78 recordings will be moved to tears (or a wide grin). This is royalty in every regal sense and that Orleans Records managed to capture it is our blessing.

Danny was one of the greatest jazz and blues guitarists in American music history and he's in fine form here as is the all-star New Orleans band of Walter Lewis (piano), Shannon Powell (drums), Edmond Foucher (standup bass), Frank Naundorf (trombone), David Grillier (clarinet) and Greg Stafford (trumpet). Lu sings the first five tunes, including the obligatory "Don't You Feel My Legs," while Danny tackles the remaining five, including a satirical "St. James Infirmary" that's an absolute gem.

This is truly an astounding performance, overflowing with stellar musicianship and historical significance, but most of all, it'll get you right in the heart as you realize that you are really listening to a life-long love affair in all its glory. A mandatory purchase for all who cherish the music of New Orleans and the roots of all American music. 6 big bottles for a Hall of Fame recording in every sense imaginable. Thanks to Orleans Records for putting it out.

---Andy Grigg

 

This article was originally posted in Real Blues No. 14 [August/September '98]

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