Ten Classic Jazz Albums from New Orleans

Louisiana has contributed immensely to the flavor of American music that we enjoy today. Its melting pot of influences comes from all over the world, including Africa, Cuba, the Creoles, Sicily, the Caribbean and more. And nothing says “New Orleans” better than traditional (sometimes called Dixieland) jazz, especially when a brass band is part of the fun. 

At Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance, we are proud to call The Pelican State home as we enjoy its distinctive culture—especially the vibrancy and spirit of Louisiana’s music. 

We’re sharing a varied list of New Orleans jazz albums below, some of which you may be new to you. We hope you enjoy checking them out! 

Birth of the Hot: The Classic ‘Red Peppers’ Sessions 1926-27

Jelly Roll Morton

New Orleans native “Jelly Roll Morton” (whose real name was Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe), was the first arranger of jazz, and was known for his talents as a ragtime and jazz bandleader, composer and pianist. Among the musicians who contributed to this album were Kid Ory (trombone), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Baby Dodds (drums), and George Mitchell (coronet). This highly-charged collection of 23 tunes includes written composition with improvised ensembles, solos and duets—often infused with sound effects and comic banter. 

Note: This album, in a modified form, was reissued by RCA in 1995, which gave it the current title, and deemed it to be “archetypal manifestations of the classic New Orleans ‘hot’ jazz style that Morton pioneered.” 

Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (1954)

Louis Armstrong

American musical legend Louis Armstrong pays tribute to another legend, W.C. Handy, as he offers his fans an entire album of Handy compositions. Handy, an Alabama native, called himself the “father of the blues,” and he was the first composer to publish music in the blues genre. Armstrong, a born-and-raised product of New Orleans, shares vocals with Velma Middleton on this melodic album backed up with the strong accompaniment of trumpet, trombone, clarinet and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. 

Southern Nights (1975)

Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint has been described as “a master of New Orleans Soul and R&B,” and as “one of America’s most successful songwriters.” His Southern Nights was one of three solo albums he released in the 1970s, and its uplifting, lyrical songs would go on to be covered by many popular artists, including Glen Campbell’s well-known version. A native of New Orleans, Toussaint was influential in the city’s music scene as a singer, arranger and record producer. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis’s score for the Netflix film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is all about authenticity, as it captures the recreation of an actual 1927 Chicago recording studio’s visit by Ma Rainey, a famous real-life blues singer at the time. Filled with “pulsing blues and soulful lyrics,” the music brings this real story to life. Marsalis is a native of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. 

New Standards (2020) 

Tim Laughlin

Dubbed “one of the finest clarinetists of the past 30 years,” Tim Laughlin’s New Standards album finds him performing nine original songs, as he is joined by trumpeter Duke Heitger, trombonist Charlie Halloran, pianists Kris Tokarski and Steve Pistorius, bassist Jim Singleton, drummer Hal Smith and guitarist Nahum Zdybel. A New Orleans native who has been working on his distinctive sound since he was 9 years old, Laughlin regularly plays in local clubs in his hometown. 

Oh, My Nola (2007) 

Harry Connick, Jr.

After some experimentation with other music genres—and a long time spent in front of TV and movie cameras— New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr. returns to a more Louisiana jazz state of mind with this album, much to his fans’ delight. You’ll hear plenty of acoustic guitar, tambourine, percussion, rhythm and blues and gospel sounds, and listeners are treated to some standards like “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Elijah Rock,” “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” and even “Hello, Dolly.”

Backatown (2010)

Trombone Shorty

Troy Andrews, or “Trombone Shorty,” is a jazz musician, singer, songwriter, producer, actor and philanthropist—but he is best known as a trombone and trumpet player in his hometown of New Orleans. His Backatown album (named for his own neighborhood) reached number three on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The record honors the culture and neighborhoods of the Crescent City. With the backing of his own band, this album has been called “an intoxicating brew of instrumental and vocal tracks.” And by the way, Andrews calls his musical mixture of funk, rock, R & B and hip-hop “supafunkrock.” 

A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (2007)

Terence Blanchard

The winner of at least six Grammy Awards (and at least 14 nominations), New Orleans native Terence Blanchard has had a prolific musical career as a jazz trumpeter, composer and music teacher. He has more than 40 movie and TV series scores to his credit, and has frequently worked on projects with Spike Lee. “A Tale of God’s Will” captured one of those Grammy Awards for Best Large Jazz Ensemble, which features his quintet with a 40-piece orchestra. 

Rebirth of New Orleans (2011)

Rebirth Brass Band

This New Orleans brass band was founded in 1983 by brothers Phillip “Tuba Phil” Frazier and Keith Frazier, along with Kermit Ruffins and other high school classmates. The Rebirth of New Orleans album won the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album, which has been described as aerobic, energetic and “a fast-paced, funked up horn party with a contagious beat that makes it difficult to sit still.” 

Happy Talk (2010)

Kermit Ruffins

Kermit Ruffins is a jazz trumpeter, singer, composer, vocalist and actor with a style that was greatly influenced by both Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan. A founder of the Rebirth Brass Band in 1983, he now leads the Barbeque Swingers, a traditional jazz quintet. His Happy Talk album captured Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album, which has been called “joyous” with “bright, bustling music, full of energy and joy, full of detail, and it is easy to imagine people dancing in the street to the rhythms—which are jazz with ragtime and swing in them.”

Louie and the Dukes of Dixieland (1960)

Dukes of Dixieland

(Yes, this is the eleventh album on our list of ten albums, but Louisiana music is just that good.)

The original Dukes of Dixieland band was formed in 1948 by brothers Frank Assunto on trumpet and Fred Assunto on trombo, with their father Papa Jac Assunto playing trombone and banjo. Through the years this New Orleans “Dixieland” style revival band featured the sounds of clarinet, drums, piano, tuba and string bass. In 1960 Louis Armstrong recorded what has been called “one of his greatest albums” with this band, complete with an interesting history, although many fans today may not be familiar with it. The recording includes tunes like “Bourbon Street Parade,” “Wolverine Blues,” “That’s a Plenty,” the jazz standard “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and more. A current band exists with the same name although the Assunto family denies granting them permission to do so. 

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