1) “King of the Zulus” - Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five
Here we have a classic New Orleans jazz tune. Louis Armstrong’s sultry trumpet and timeless voice are integral to the celebrations of February 9th. Seemingly the only jazz artist to not suffer a tragic death, Louis Armstrong continued playing hard into his late sixties. He was a great trumpet innovator and coined the term “scat” singing.
2) “St. James Infirmary Blues” - The White Stripes
Standing at just shy of two and a half minutes, this short song is of old English folk origins. It was written about a young soldier who, plagued by the horrors of war, spends his money on prostitutes. He later dies of venereal disease, lacking the funds for medical care. The White Stripes join a list of acclaimed musicians who before have recorded this tune, including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
3) “Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing” - The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Tom Waits
A lively rhythm section and persistent melody drive this modern recreation into the top five. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when Preservation Hall’s doors were closed due to damage, the band toured ceaselessly until they could return. In 2013, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band preformed alongside The Black Keys and Dr. John at the Grammy Awards.
4) “House of the Rising Sun” - The Animals
One of my favorite songs of all time, this work spawns from the psychedelic era. “House of the Rising Sun” sets the ideal atmosphere for New Orleans’ historic downtown areas such as Vine St. Eric Burdon’s croons become increasingly dramatic and unpredictable throughout the song, much like a Mardi Gras party.
5) “Goin’ Back to New Orleans” - Dr. John
Dr. John and his bandmates strive to keep boogie woogie and jazz fresh in modern times. No note is superfluous, but each is soulful. Growing up in New Orleans, this native exudes the spirit of Mardi Gras. “Basin Street Blues” and “All on a Mardi Gras Day” are two more Dr. John songs which make excellent additions to a playlist.