If ever the ascription musical melting-pot applied to the sonic character of a city, New Orleans would stand as a prime example. The sheer diversity of the city’s music during the 50s and 60s meant that the blend of the Crescent City was always flavoursome and always distinctive. Issuing forth from a store-front recording facility, the beguiling big beat reached out to a global audience through such artists as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Huey Smith and Shirley & Lee. Many lesser-known but equally worthy acts achieved the same level of sass, Bobby Marchan, Paul Gayten, Lester Robertson and The Royal Kings to name but a few, although usually with just a couple of releases to show for their troubles. The focal point of the operation centred around a remarkable house-band that assembled day-after-day at Cosimo Matassa’s funky studio in the heart of the French Quarter. Date-wise the metronome began ticking towards the end of the ’40s, which was when the hip crowd first latched on to rhythm & blues. Rather than being restricted to a minority audience, the music’s freewheeling ambience ended up blowing off anyone and everyones’ cobwebs. New Orleans came out on top, because its talented musicians were able to put onto record the good time feel that was heard in the clubs. With Matassa passing away in the latter half of last year, now seems as good a time as any to reflect on and celebrate his achievements, those of the artists he recorded, and that of the city he so ably and faithfully represented. As well as featuring some of the finer fruits of his work, the purview extends to a host of other glories; those which have come to define the essence of New Orleans R&B. Compiled and annotated by record producer and music historian Stuart Colman, the city’s rich musical repertoire is encapsulated in 32 highly sought-after recordings.
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