Louis Prima - New Orleans
Basin Street, a notorious red-light district in the early 20th century, equals Congo Square and Marie Laveau in the pantheon of New Orleans legends. From 1897 until 1917, Basin Street and the surrounding Storyville District nurtured young musicians who provided the soundtrack tot he down-and-dirty life of vice that pervaded the district. The United States Navy, concerned about the pull of Storyville upon its young officers, finally succeeded in shutting the district down, but its influence lived on in the songs and stories of the downtown crowd that once gathered there.
Spencer Williams wrote the nostalgic “Basin Street Blues” in 1928, and countless artists have added their interpretations to its legacy. This track by Louis Prima, one of the classic versions of the song, lends a jovial swing to the memory of bawdier times. Prima, a New Orleans native of Italian descent, was one of America’s best-known showmen in the 1940s and 50s, performing regularly on The Ed Sullivan Show, in Las Vegas and on tour.
Putumayo celebrates Carnival and its alter ego, Mardi Gras, the annual street parties that light up city streets from Rio to New Orleans. The history of Carnival dates back to Greek and Roman festivals, and eventually evolved into one last chance to sing, dance, and drink before Lent, 40 days of personal reflection, abstinence and fasting until Easter. The word itself comes from Latin, “Carne Vale” or “farewell to the flesh.” Carnival music reflects the reckless abandon of the event as people rush into the streets with whatever instruments they can get their hands on and join together in a group celebration. In Brazil there is samba and axe, rowdy yet melodic styles that blend African and Portuguese elements into a unique and irresistible new sound. New Orleans has second line, brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians who roam the streets strutting their stuff. In Trinidad, the streets are filled with the ringing of steel drums, calypso and pounding soca.
To get you in the Carnival/Mardi Gras spirit, here’s Gypsy Second Line, a song by Michael White, from Putumayo’s New Orleans album.