Preview: listen the ultimate gumbo

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Indy Lifestyle Online
For much of this century, New Orleans has exerted a powerful hold on popular music. Jazz, of course, has its roots there, but the Crescent City has also given birth to various forms of what is loosely termed funk, not to mention its own brands of blues and R'n'B. Tomorrow night, that rich heritage is likely to be given a lively airing when Dr John, a sort of human jukebox of New Orleans' various musical idioms, headlines "The Ultimate Gumbo" festival at the Barbican.

But, as the appearance of the support act the New Orleans Night Crawlers demonstrates, the city is not a museum. On the recent Rounder album Funknicity, this young group combines Meters-style funkiness with the traditional upbeat brass sound to create a mix that is at once reverential and up to the minute.

Moreover, Rykodisc has just released an album Dew Drop Out on which a varied bunch of R'n'B and jazz players who have performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Fats Domino and the Neville Brothers have come together as the Yockamo All-Stars to - in the words of one local - "play those great old grooves that everybody grew up on and have a ball".

Yet, varied as the New Orleans tapestry is, the organisers of this event stress that the city's intoxicating rhythms are not the only thing going on in Louisiana. As anybody who has seen the film The Big Easy knows, this infamous party town is surrounded by swamps that have produced a peculiar blend of folk and blues known as cajun music and its Creole equivalent, zydeco.

Though many of the most famous practitioners of these infectious dance sounds - such as Nathan Abshire and Clifton Chenier - are dead, their music lives on. On Monday, Bois Sec Ardoin (left), still performing the accordion in the Creole style at the age of 83, tops the bill with a band playing tribute to the highly-influential Balfa Brothers, while the centre will also be screening films about the region's music and, of course, serving up some of that irresistible gumbo.

It may prove hard for the Barbican staff to come up with an entirely convincing conversion of their grand halls into a seedy Lafayette roadhouse, but with music like this, they should be able to produce something of the right sort of atmosphere.

Roger Trapp

Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2 (0171-638 8891)

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