Monday, February 16, 2015: Today is President’s Day, but it’s also the day before Mardi Gras. Instead of presidential biographers, we decided to go with New Orleans music and we begin with Bob’s interview backstage at the 2010 Jazz Fest with Dr. John. Then we spend some time with a musical import to New Orleans. Jon Cleary was born and raised in a musical family in a sleepy English town, but thanks to a traveling uncle he was introduced at an early age to the music and culture of New Orleans. Now Cleary has been living there for most of his life, made the switch from guitar to piano and possesses an amazing grasp of the secret ingredients of the city’s music. Cleary shares the recipe with Bob on one of the four pianos in his home studio in the Bywater neighborhood.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015: Today is Mardi Gras, the day that residents of New Orleans party the day away - the feast before the famine - the good times ahead of the self-sacrifice of Lent. Since we can’t take you to a parade or feed you King Cake, we’ll do the next best thing and replay our visit to Preservation Hall. It’s located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter and was founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Ben Jaffe has assumed his late father’s role as director of Preservation Hall. Jaffe shows Bob around the Hall and discusses the state of post-Katrina New Orleans, the history of the band and of Preservation Hall itself, which dates to the 1750s.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015: Bob talks with Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison. They discuss her most famous work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, a story about slavery set in 1855 Cincinnati. As well as her politics, career and her 2008 prequel to Beloved – a book titled A Mercy, which takes place in Virginia around 1690. Morrison said she wrote the book because she was “wondering was what it must have felt like to be a slave before racism.” Today is Morrison’s 84th birthday.
Thursday, February 19, 2015: During Mardi Gras week, we continue our celebration of Black History Month with two legends of New Orleans music – first with pianist, composer, arranger, and producer Allen Toussaint. He began in the studio, writing dozens of hit songs and performing as a session player. Over five decades in the music business, he’s built a reputation as an eager collaborator, working with everyone from Irma Thomas to Elvis Costello to Trombone Shorty. Toussaint says that in the years after Hurricane Katrina, he’s toured and played live more than ever before. He talks with Bob about his early days in the business and the future of music in New Orleans. Then, we travel to the home of Irma Thomas, known as “The Soul Queen of New Orleans,” to learn all about her life and music. There were some struggles along the way but Thomas tells us about winning her first Grammy award in 2007 for her album After the Rain.
Friday, February 20, 2015: More New Orleans music and black history as we conclude Mardi Gras week. We begin today with Roger Lewis, a founding member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Lewis talks with Bob about his band’s progression from revolutionary upstarts more than thirty years ago to becoming established — though still inventive — old masters. Lewis spoke with Bob in the green room of the famous club Tipitina’s, in Uptown New Orleans. Then, we take the ferry across the river to Algiers and sit down with drummer Stanton Moore for a New Orleans music lesson. He’s the drummer for local funk band Galactic, leads his own jazz trio and plays with lots of other bands and musicians around town. Finally, Bob grabs a table at a cafe on Frenchman Street with Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty to discuss his young career and the music from his album Backatown.