Gooba Gooba Gooba Gooba, Goodbye: So Long to Huey Piano Smith, last of the New Orleans Professors, and (at long last) a 2023 Top 10.

The great New Orleans piano “professor” Huey Piano Smith–one the last living architects of rock and roll–passed on February 13. Between that date and his first recorded music in 1952 is almost the same span as the distance between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War II. Smith had not played in public for quite a long time, and his catalog is not too deep, but the best of what he did wax is timeless, spirit-liberating, deliriously anarchic rock and roll. Whenever Nicole and I have thrown house parties, regardless of the nature and tastes of the guests, we’ve always included his classic with the Clowns, “Don’t You Just Know It” (anyone who attended one particular party we threw will remember me swinging between two rooms by the door jamb yelling the P-Funk-prophesying “Gooba gooba gooba” refrain), and few documentaries have begun so sublimely as Les Blank’s Always for Pleasure: ships arriving at New Orleans docks to the sound of “Sea Cruise.” I watch that film every Mardi Gras (often forcing it on whatever class I’m teaching, along with King Cake), and the coming celebration will be no exception. I urge you, if you are not familiar with Smith’s music with the Clowns, a group that included at various times some great musicians you probably know, to stream the above album then hit Discogs (your best bet).

Also–and, looking back over my posts from the last few years, I realize I ALWAYS do this–I finally have a Top 10 list of excellent new albums for 2023, though it took me until mid-February to compile one. This portends nothing; I have no doubt my December list will sprawl. I need to cease whining. Here ’tis–kind of a motley crew, but they pack a punch:

  1. Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (Matador)
  2. Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  3. Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler Records)
  4. Parannoul: After the Magic (Poclanos/Top Shelf)
  5. Kelela: Raven (Warp)
  6. Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes Records)
  7. Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Hell to Pay (Black & Wyatt)
  8. Yonic South: Devo Challenge Cup (Wild Honey)
  9. Staples Jr. Singers: Tell Heaven (EP) (Luaka Bop) Note: the vinyl gets you more great minutes of testifying.
  10. Mat Muntz: Phantom Islands (Orenda)

I’m a day late for Valentine’s Day, which was sort of the occasion for its release (but also not really, since Dr. Mark Lomax’s compositions are always created with the listener’s spiritual sustenance in mind), but this 16-minute “single” by The Urban Art Ensemble, titled “Ho’oponopono,” is a true gift. The song title translates to the name of a traditional Hawaiian “practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.”

Here’s a peek at the trailer for a related production by Dr. Lomax and friends:

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