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Dr. Michael White – Tricentennial Rag

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#5 on Billboard Jazz Charts, #3 on Billboard Traditional Jazz Charts.

“This brilliant tribute to the Crescent City’s 300th anniversary — a solid collection of joyful, original romps and sorrowful, traditional dirges — is the latest of several great albums he’s put out, all of which bring hope, harmony, and substance to your soul.” – Tom Henry, The Toledo Blade

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#5 on Billboard Jazz Charts, and #3 on Billboard Traditional Jazz Charts!

Press for Tricentennial Rag

“This brilliant tribute to the Crescent City’s 300th anniversary — a solid collection of joyful, original romps and sorrowful, traditional dirges — is the latest of several great albums he’s put out, all of which bring hope, harmony, and substance to your soul.” – Tom Henry, The Toledo Blade

“Anniversary notwithstanding, this album is no history lesson. The 10 tracks that precede “Saints” are original compositions. They’re grounded in the elements that define a distinct and indigenous New Orleans style: complexity as drawn from the sum of simple and precise parts; a sense of cohesion that supersedes individual improvisations; and the use of particular instrumental sounds and a consistent rhythmic orientation to express a feeling unique to the city” – Larry Blumenfeld, The Wall Street Journal

“The ensembles are full of joy and sincere feeling, the solos are concise and colorful, and Dr. Michael White is heard throughout at the top of his game.” – Scott Yanow, The Syncopated Times

Tricentennial Rag is a welcome addition to his catalog. The tunes themselves are bound to become standards joining the old-time repertoire as the enduring genre grows into its second century.” – Jay Mazza, The Vinyl District

“White’s brilliant composing played by talented, in-the-know musicians combine to make Tricentennial Rag a history lesson and traditional jazz party all rolled into one.” – Geraldine Wyckoff, Louisiana Weekly

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Album Description

The tricentennial of New Orleans is the perfect time to reflect on the culturally rich city’s most important original artistic contribution: jazz. Acclaimed clarinetist Dr. Michael White sets out to do just that on his newest release, Tricentennial Rag. Few people stand as qualified as Dr. White for such a task with a decades-long career as a New Orleans-born musician and accolades including: Heritage Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts (the nation’s highest award in the traditional and folk arts), six-time winner of Offbeat Magazine’s “Clarinetist of the Year,” Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Humanist of the Year, The Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalists Association of America, and several TV appearances including performing the National Anthem at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, HBO’s Treme, and many song placements in the CW’s The Originals.

Tricentennial Rag features a “gumbo pot” of song ideas, all of which are originals save the famous “When The Saints Go Marching In,” that span in style from the earliest jazz with Jelly Roll Morton-inspired tunes such as “Mandeville Stomp” that has a ragtime feel spiced with Charleston and Latin rhythms, to “revival-style” up-tempo tunes like “I Saw Jesus Standing in the Water,” to songs like the title track “Tricentennial Rag” which stands in a category of its own as a “modern” 21st century rag by both engaging with and departing from traditional ragtime forms and using an infectious repeated four-bar main section as much influenced by pop music as by early jazz and rags. The eclectic sounds don’t stop there, and other themes include the lively brass band sound reminiscent of New Orleans Carnival parades and activities present on “On Mardi Gras Day,” a medium-tempo blues on “Blues on the Bayou,” and the joyous “flirt song” in the tradition of old pop love songs, “What I Wouldn’t Do To Be With You.”

Dr. Michael White continues to push forward in his mission to keep New Orleans jazz both traditional and fresh on Tricentennial Rag, a satisfying bookend to the first 300 years of New Orleans music, and a launching-point for the next era of both preservation and innovation in the music of the Crescent City.

Liner Notes

Credits

Produced by Mark Bingham and Dr. Michael White
Executive Producer: Mark Samuels

Recorded on March 21 and 23, 2018 at The Living Room Studio, New Orleans, LA.
Recorded by Mark Bingham and Chris George.
Mixed by Mark Bingham at Nina Highway Studio.
Mastered by Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound Studios.

Dedication / Thank You

This recording is dedicated to the memory of my aunt Natalie Forcia (1925-2014) and my nephew Christopher Brady (1983-2015).

Thanks to God the Creator for the gift of music and the “gumbo pot” of song ideas. Thanks also to everyone who worked on this project and made it possible. Special thanks to all of our fans and supporters.

Special thanks to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. We greatly appreciate their partnership and their support of the live music culture of New Orleans.

Personnel

MICHAEL WHITE – clarinet on all songs
RICHARD ANDERSON – trombone on #4, 5 and 7
ALEXANDER R. BELHAJ – guitar on #6
DETROIT A. BROOKS – banjo on #1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9
MARK BROOKS – bass on #5, 6, 7 and 11
LEON “KID CHOCOLATE” BROWN – trumpet and vocal on #7
SHAYE COHN – cornet on #1, 3 and 8
DAVID L. HARRIS – trombone on #1, 3, 8 and 9
HERMAN LEBEAUX – drums on all songs except #6
KERRY G. LEWIS – bass on #1, 2, 8 and 9, sousaphone on #3
STEVE PISTORIUS – piano on all songs except #6
DIMITRI SMITH – sousaphone on #4
GREGORY STAFFORD – trumpet and vocal on #4, vocal on #5 and 11
SEVA VENET – banjo on #4 and 11

Liner Notes

The tricentennial of New Orleans is the perfect time to reflect on this culturally rich city’s most important original artistic contribution: jazz. Evolving from its late 19th century African American origins to inspire the spirit of a 1920s “Jazz Age” America before evolving into later styles and influencing popular music, jazz has had a unique meaning as the voice and spirit of its birthplace. At first it was a black folk form that was both an exciting new dance music and a bold example of democracy with its characteristic freedom of expression, improvised ensemble playing and emphasis on individuality within a collective. It became a community music that accompanied every type of function imaginable. Although the authentic New Orleans jazz style is rarely heard today, its musical principles and way of expressing life’s beauty and complexities remain timeless. As such this music is a valid source of artistic expression, dancing or just listening for enjoyment. The classic 1920s recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and King Oliver, as well as the exciting “revival” style of musicians like Bunk Johnson and George Lewis (first recorded in the 1940s) serve as inspiration for this collection of mostly new original songs (which also draws from a wide range of musical influences and personal experiences).

FRENCHMEN STREET STRUT named after Morton’s childhood street and the current “in” place for local music and nightlife – uses various up-tempo blues choruses highlighted by solos and improvised ensemble playing. BLUES ON THE BAYOU is a medium clarinet blues with a minor section inspired by images of and legendary occurrences on New Orleans’ still popular Bayou St. John. TRICENTENNIAL RAG both engages and departs from traditional ragtime forms and was conceived as a “modern” 21st century rag. Its infectious repeated four-bar main section was as much influenced by pop music as by early jazz and rags. ON MARDI GRAS DAY is based on lively brass band music and activities during a typical carnival. The words recall a day filled with parades, beads, doubloons, red beans and rice, and seeing the Mardi Gras Indians and the Zulu parade “until there’s no more sun on Mardi Gras Day.”

Influenced by the “revival style” of up-tempo hymns, I SAW JESUS STANDING IN THE WATER tells the story of someone grieving from loss saved from self-destruction by a vision of Jesus, who inspires a renewed sense of purpose and joy in living. The vocal and instruments build in an intense exchange that feels similar to songs at traditional black church services. LONELINESS is a trio song that begins with a loose, somber, reflective musical statement before concluding with an in-tempo theme that conveys a sense of strength and determination to move forward. WHAT I WOULDN’T DO TO BE WITH YOU is a joyous “flirt song” in the tradition of old pop love songs. Its catchy melody and vocal brags of the things a sly musician would do to get a beautiful young lady he spies from the bandstand. INSTIGATOR’S LAMENT begins with a medium-tempo minor section and moves into a Middle Eastern-flavored theme before resolving into a medium-tempo blues vehicle for solos and ensemble interplay. SASSY CREOLE WOMAN was inspired by the combination of grace and sauciness that characterize many traditional New Orleans creole women. The opening clarinet moan is a recollection of their judgmental stares followed by the usual “Laaawwd have mercy!”

MANDEVILLE STOMP is a Morton-inspired trio number named for the small city across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans where many early jazz musicians played. The song’s ragtime feel is spiced with Charleston and Latin rhythms. This re-cording’s only non-original theme, WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN, has been the most popular song identified with New Orleans and early jazz. We decided to give this traditional standard a different treatment – opening with a slow clarinet dirge statement (in the major key), followed by an original phrase to introduce the up-tempo section; then comes a rousing vocal and set of rhythm section solos, followed by a clarinet and drums engagement in a minor key / tom-tom duet before the song returns to the usual major mode to close out.

I hope that you enjoy our efforts to keep New Orleans jazz both traditional and fresh. God bless. All the best.

– Dr. Michael White

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