June 25, 2010

The Professor

Do you ever hear an artist’s music for the first time and instantly realize that said music is clearly going to be a thing for you going forward? I experienced one such moment this week, and I’m going to share it with you in hopes that it might be a thing for you too.

So, I’ve been watching the HBO series Treme. From the first preview I saw, I was pretty excited for this series—a show by the same writers as The Wire about musicians in New Orleans? Sounds like a pretty lethal combination, and it is. It is a show that moves slowly but rewards the viewer for his or her patience. I certainly recommend catching up on it if you have the chance.

Anyways, so it’s a show about music in New Orleans, and so there are tons of references to the classic New Orleans musicians, from Sidney Bechet to Dr. John. And then there’s Professor Longhair. In one scene, a character sits down to teach a piano lesson. It is the student’s first lesson, and so the teacher decides that she should learn “Tipitina,” perhaps Longhair’s most famous composition.

After seeing this, I was intrigued. I’d heard of Professor Longhair, but had never actually sought out his music. And so I did, acquiring the 2-disc compilation Tipitina. Good move, Ben. I’ve been listening to it ever since. The music is loose, the singing imprecise but impassioned, and the piano playing repetitive but deceptively rhythmic. And it’s fun. I guess that’s what stuck out to me most of all. Just like early rock n’ roll and classic soul music, Professor Longhair’s tunes are fun to listen to. And what a great name...

Check it out for yourself. Here are “Tipitina” and “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.” In the latter, I particularly enjoy the excitedly out-of-tune whistling. Enjoy.

Professor Longhair - Tipitina (YSI) (filesavr)
Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans (YSI) (filesavr)

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