Jazzfest Day Three: Old-school zydeco (coming to MD soon)
Chenier, who comes to Marylandâ€™s Common Ground on the Hill Festival July 14, is touchy about the â€śold-schoolâ€ť tag, because heâ€™s actually one of the more innovative zydeco bandleaders around these days. Unlike most of his competition, he writes actual songs with verse-chorus-bridge structures and strong melodies that he then fleshes out with his two-handed piano accordion playing and a band that includes a tenor saxophone and congas.
But that’s not the style in South Louisianaâ€™s dancehalls now; the dancers prefer hip-hop-flavored grooves and chants with one-handed button accordion riffs. Donâ€™t get me wrong; some of those bands are really exciting, but many of them grow tedious after four songs because theyâ€™ve only got one trick.
Chenier is the son of the most famous figure in zydeco history, Clifton Chenier, and he played several of his dadâ€™s songs Sunday with convincing authority. But he also showed off his own songwriting, incorporating New Orleans R&B and swamp-pop into his fatherâ€™s style.
The result was a show that never grew tiresome, because he could deliver not only the high-powered two-step dance numbers like â€śBow-Legged Woman,â€ť but also 6/8 R&B ballads like â€śRichest Man,â€ť 12-bar blues like â€śBaby, Please Donâ€™t Goâ€ť and 4/4 rock’n'roll like â€śRosemary.â€ť A tall man in a black porkpie hat, gold-cross earrings and purple pants, Chenier manhandled his huge black accordion with the red bellows to pump up old-school songs like â€śZydeco Boogalooâ€ť with both boogie and hooks.