Review: ‘Under the Volcano’ (2021), starring The Police, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Buffett, Nick Rhodes, Verdine White, Chris Kimsey and Giles Martin

May 31, 2021

by Carla Hay

George Martin at AIR Studios Montserrat in “Under the Volcano” (Photo by Martyn Goddard/Universal Pictures Content Group)

“Under the Volcano” (2021)

Directed by Gracie Otto

Culture Representation: In the documentary “Under the Volcano,” a predominantly white group of people (with some black people), who are connected in some way to the now-shuttered AIR Studios Montserrat, discuss this famous recording studio that operated in Montserrat from 1979 to 1989.

Culture Clash: People who recorded albums at AIR Studios Montserrat had various reactions to the laid-back, “isolated from the modern world” atmosphere of Montserrat.

Culture Audience: “Under the Volcano” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in hearing behind-the-scenes stories about the making of some the 1980s’ biggest pop albums at this very unique recording studio.

The Police recording their 1981 “Ghost in the Machine” album at AIR Studios Montserrat in “Under the Volcano.” Pictured from left to right: Stewart Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers. (Photo courtesy of A&M Records/Universal Music Group)

The nostalgic music documentary “Under the Volcano” takes viewers back to a bygone era of recording studios. It’s a comprehensive history of AIR Studios Montserrat, which operated from 1979 to 1989. The recording studio, which was in an isolated part of the Caribbean island Montserrat, hosted some of the biggest names in rock and pop music.

And the documentary is a wistful rememberance of how AIR Studios Montserrat started as a dream music nirvana for celebrated producer George Martin, who founded the studio that was tragically destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Martin died in 2016, at the age of 90, but his widow Jane Martin and their son Giles Martin are interviewed in “Under the Volcano.” The movie had its world premiere at the 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival.

Directed in a traditional and engaging manner by Gracie Otto, “Under the Volcano” uses the expected format of mixing archival footage with new interviews conducted for the documentary. The documentary has a lot more photographs than video footage showing what it was like to be at AIR Studios Montserrat. And that’s probably because before digital cameras existed, it was a lot more costly for artists to film behind-the-scenes footage. And it was a lot less common than it is now for artists to film themselves at work in the recording studio.

“Under the Volcano” has a very good representation of many of the famous artists who recorded albums at AIR Studios Montserrat. (AIR is an acronym for Associated Independent Recording.) Some of interviewees include all three former members of The Police; former Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher; Jimmy Buffett; Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes; former Ultravox frontman Midge Ure; Deep Purple members Tony Iommi and Roger Glover; Earth Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White; musician Ray Cooper; and America singer Gerry Buckley.

However, some of the biggest AIR Studios Montserrat alumni and their perspectives are noticeably absent from the movie—chiefly, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and the Rolling Stones. Viewers of “Under the Volcano” will have to settle for people talking about these superstars in the documentary, instead of hearing these legendary artists’ first-hand accounts of their experiences at AIR Studios Montserrat. For example, stories about John’s recording sessions at the studio are primarily told by two musicians from his band: drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone.

Not having these superstar artists in the documentary doesn’t lower the overall quality of the movie, but there are times when the documentary feels a little incomplete without these points of view. The “Under the Volcano” filmmakers undoubtedly made their best efforts to include these artists in the documentary. But, for whatever reasons, these legends weren’t available to be interviewed.

Fortunately, “Under the Volcano” included other important perspectives besides those of the recording artists. Several people who worked behind the scenes with the artists at AIR Studio Montserrat are also interviewed. They include music producers Chris Kimsey, Chris Thomas, Neil Dorfsman and Ian Little, as well as sound balance engineer Michael Paul Stavrou.

Some of the former longtime AIR Studios Montserrat employees are also interviewed, such as chief technical engineer/general manager Malcolm Atkin; managing director Yve Robinson; managing director Dave Harries; chef George “Tappy” Morgan; housekeeper Minetta Allen Francis; and studio managers Steve Jackson, Lloyd Oliver and Desmond Riley. And for the perspectives of people in the local Montserrat music industry, the documentary includes commentary from the late musician Justin “Hero” Cassell (who died in 2010) and radio DJ Rose Willock.

George Martin (who is best known for being the producer of the Beatles) came up with the idea to have a recording studio in a remote island location after he fell in love with Montserrat and wanted to do something radically different with his career. By 1979, he had been closely associated with famous London recording studios Abbey Road Studios (formerly known as EMI Recording Studios) and AIR Studios London, a recording facility that George Martin founded in 1965. And he wanted a change of scenery that was more laid-back than what professional musicians were used to experiencing at big-city recording studios.

According to George’s son Giles Martin, “I think my father was tired of the confines of a very rigid company structure … And he wanted a place that was more artist-friendly. Abbey Road obviously created great music, but the fridge was locked at night. They [people working late at night at Abbey Road] had to break in to get milk for their cups of tea. Even the loo [Britlish slang for toilet] roll had [the name] Abbey Road on it, so you wouldn’t steal it. It was like a very proper English factory.”

It’s mentioned in the documentary that George Martin originally thought his dream recording studio in the Caribbean would be on a large boat. But he quickly scrapped that idea when he found out how noisy the boat engines would be and would thereby ruin the any audio recordings. He decided on a remote location in Montserrat that had an element of danger to it because the recording studo was situated right in the shadow of a volcano.

The idea was that the recording studio would also have its own living quarters—like a recording studio resort—so the people working on the albums didn’t have far to go to eat, sleep and party. Furthermore, Jane Martin says, “George was looking for something that wasn’t in the middle of London … And his plan was that there would be a lack of hangers-on. It would just be [the artists] and their families.”

Giles Martin says of his father George: “He was a mad visionary, in a lot of ways. I think he liked the idea of pushing boundaries. So, if you think about what he did with the Beatles in the ’60s, he pushed the boundaries in the recording studio.”

Here’s how some of the musicians who recorded at AIR Studios Montserrat describe the atmosphere:

Dire Straits leader Knopfler says, “Going to Montserrat was like going into a dream. It’s always different. Reality is always different from what you think it would be … It didn’t have the sophistication that you’d feel straight away if you went to Antigua … It was far more innocent, far more quiet.”

The Police frontman Sting comments, “I love the idea of wilderness on the edge of civilization. I think the volcano itself is a presiding spirit over the island. It definitely gives you the sense that you’re living on the edge of something seismic … There’s definitely a mystique about the island. “Ultravox founder Ure says, “You felt as though you were in a time warp. This little island had a heart that you could feel.”

Air Studios Montserrat’s former managing director Robinson says of Montserrat: “They used to call it the hidden gem of the Caribbean and the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. Montserrat was colonized by the Irish. And that’s why the island was so different, because it’s really a friendly place. It’s got a magic about it.”

Four years after AIR Studios Montserrat opened in 1979, Montserrat experienced another musical claim to fame when local musician Arrow had an international hit with the 1983 soca song “Hot Hot Hot,” which was later covered by several artists (including Buster Poindexter’s 1987 version) and has since become a staple song at wedding receptions and other parties. Although the most famous artists who recorded at AIR Studios Montserrat performed pop and rock music, many of the arists were influenced by soca and the laid-back atmosphere of the culture in Montserrat.

The Police recorded their 1981 album “Ghost in the Machine” and their 1983 best-selling blockbuster “Synchronicity” at AIR Studios Montserrat. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” the biggest hit single from “Ghost in the Machine,” has a Caribbean rhythm, and the song became the first Top 5 hit single in the U.S. for the Police. The music video for “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” was filmed entirely in Montserrat, including footage of the band in the AIR recording studio.

Dire Straits’ Knopfler says that the band’s biggest hit album, 1985’s “Brothers in Arms,” has two songs in particular that were directly influenced by the Montserrat vibe: “So Far Away” and “Walk of Life.” John Silcott, a local Montserrat technician who worked at AIR Studios Montserrat at the time, says he’s the Johnny who’s namechecked in “Walk of Life.” (Stay until the end credits of “Under the Volcano” for a cute moment of Silcott dancing to “Walk of Life.”) It’s also mentioned that “Brothers in Arms” (which includes Dire Straits’ biggest hit single “Money for Nothing”) was one of the first albums digitally recorded in its entirety, specifically for the CD format, which was new at the time.

“Under the Volcano” is geared for an audience that’s not too concerned about hearing a lot of technical recording studio jargon. Therefore, the documentary doesn’t have much talk about the studio equipment used at AIR Studios Montserrat. However, producer Neil Dorfsman comments, “Part of AIR’s fame was these three incredible-sounding Neve consoles—and they had one at AIR Montserrat.” According to a 2019 Globe and Mail article, this Neve console still works.

Other notable albums recorded partially or entirely at AIR Studios Montserrat include Elton John’s “Jump Up!” (1982); “Too Low for Zero” (1983) and “Breaking Hearts” (1984); Earth Wind & Fire’s “Faces” (1980); Duran Duran’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” (1983); and the Rolling Stones’ “Steel Wheels” (1989). Not surprisingly, many of the hit songs from some these albums are featured in “Under the Volcano,” such as John’s “I’m Still Standing” from “Two Low for Zero” and “Sad Songs Say So Much” from “Breaking Hearts,” as well as The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” from the “Synchronicity” album, the biggest hit song and album recorded at AIR Studios Montserrat.

The Police drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers remember that the recording of “Ghost in the Machine” and “Synchronicity” was at times uncomfortable because Copeland and lead singer Sting famously had personality clashes with each other. Copeland says that he had to record his drum parts for “Ghost in the Machine” in a separate room that was not close to the main recording studio, so that isolation felt strange to him and he never got used to it.

McCartney sought refuge at AIR Studios Montserrat a few weeks after the December 1980 murder of former Beatles member John Lennon. A grieving McCartney ended up recording parts of his 1982 album “Tug of War” album there, as well as parts of his 1983 album “Pipes of Peace.” McCartney and Wonder’s chart-topping 1982 duet “Ebony and Ivory” (which was on the “Tug of War” album) was also recorded at AIR Studios Montserrat.

The documentary includes a story of a raucously fun, impromptu jam session that Wonder played for some very lucky people at a local pub. Some audio of that performance is included in the documentary. The sound quality isn’t the greatest, but it’s easy to hear how electrifiying and special that atmosphere must have been.

It’s also mentioned that many other musicians (such as McCartney, Dire Straits and Buffett, to name a few) often did private jam sessions at Montserrat, where local people would sometimes be invited. As a longtime radio DJ in the Montserrat, Willock says that these famous musicians felt like they could let loose in this relatively remote area, because the locals weren’t as star-struck by famous musicians as much as the locals were star-struck by famous athletes.

Flamboyant piano man John is fondly remembered in the documentary as one of the most beloved artists at AIR Studios Montserrat because he treated the staff so well and liked to cheer people up. Former studio employee Riley calls John “very generous,” and says that it wasn’t unusual for John to pay for an “open bar for everyone.” Riley adds, “When guys are down, he brings them up.”

Of course, being a rock star in the 1980s was synonymous with heavy partying. The documentary doesn’t reveal any stories that are scandalous or salacious, although it’s hinted that the recording studio’s staff had to be accommodating to whatever party whims their studio’s clients wanted. And because this is a laudatory documentary about the recording studio, there are no #MeToo or gender discrimination stories about this very male-dominated environment.

Sure, the filmmakers could have asked the people who were interviewed for tabloid-like stories, but it’s highly unlikely that the people who were at the recording studio back then would do an on-camera “tell all” for a documentary. It’s something that people would more likely talk about for a book or feature article. Instead, the documentary has people raving about things like the delicious meals prepared for them by AIR recording studio chef Morgan, who says, “That was the best job I ever had in my entire life.”

The closest thing to an epic partying story that’s told in “Under the Volcano” is that John’s song “I’m Still Standing” was inspired by him being surrounded by other people in the recording studio who had passed out from too much partying. John looked around, laughed, and said the immortal words, “Well, I’m still standing.” His lyricist songwriting partner Bernie Taupin decided to use that line as a jump-off point to finish the song’s lyrics.

Earth, Wind & Fire’s White remembers how welcoming the local people were in Montserrat. He says that women dropped their fruit-cutting machetes and applauded when the band’s instrument cases showed up at the airport. “We hadn’t even gotten there yet! And it was beautiful.” He adds, “For us, the biggest thing was just the whole experience of going there.”

And speaking of weapons with blades being thrown, producer Kimsey laughs when he tells a story of how Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards didn’t take too kindly to music manager Peter Mensch (who was a consultant on the Rolling Stones’ “Steel Wheels” tour) suggesting how the band should do a musical arrangement of the song “Mixed Emotions.” In reaction to Mensch’s suggestion, Richards threw a knife at Mensch. Needless to say, the Rolling Stones didn’t take Mensch’s advice on how to write and record the song.

Buffett, who has made a career out of the “tropical party” lifestyle, remembers what it was like to for him and his fellow American band members to experience some culture shock at the pubs in Montserrat when they first started getting to know the area. “There was a bit of a colonial aspect of things that did not fare well with the American band,” Buffett comments.

Buffett says that one of the things that irritated him and his band was the Montserrat pub custom of ordering drinks, one at a time, by writing down an order on a paper. After being told by AIR Studios Montserrat manager Denny Bridges that it was just the way things were done, Buffett remembers saying in response, “Well, why don’t I just buy the whole fucking bar?”

Despite these inconveniences, Buffett says he has overall good memories of spending time in Montserrat, where he states, “I lived on my boat, off and on there, for 20 years.” Buffett recorded his 1979 album “Volcano” at AIR Studios Montserrat. The album’s title was inspired by the volcano located near the studio.

Buffett comments on recording in Montserrat: “It was a lovely working environment because you didn’t leave, I would say, the reign of creativity. You were constantly involved in the creation of the community, as opposed to being in Nashville. To me, there are two ways to go into the studio: You can go and look for perfection, or you can capture the magic.”

Because tranquil Montserrat was not a big tourist attraction, visiting musicians often had to adjust to living without some of their usual creature comforts. Some musicians used it as an opportunity to spend more time outdoors for athletic activities. Sting has happy memories about being taught windsurfing by a local named Danny Sweeney, whom Sting calls “a very brilliant man … The people who taught me things are my heroes.”

Not all of the musicians were comfortable being in Montserrat for a long period of time. Duran Duran’s Rhodes admits he got bored with being on the island, in contrast to Duran Duran lead singer Simon LeBon, who loved spending time swimming and sailing in the ocean. Rhodes comments that after a while, he was ready to leave Montserrat when Duran Duran was recording part of the band’s album “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.”

The album’s first two singles (“Union of the Snake” and “New Moon on Monday”) were recorded at AIR Studios Montserrat. Rhodes believes that the band made the right decision to continue recording the album elsewhere that was better suited for the dance-oriented pop/rock music that Duran Duran was making at the time. “I’m not sure we were in the right head space to make the kind of record that might have been a little more chilled,” says Rhodes of recording in Montserrat. “We wanted to make something full of energy.”

Rhodes also says that Montserrat wasn’t ideal for anyone who missed the hustle and bustle of a big city. There were also safety issues of having a recording studio in a relatively isolated area. Rhodes comments, “It was really brave of them [to build the studio there], because if something went really wrong, the closest port of call was Miami.”

And there was always the possible threat of a volcano eruption, which did indeed happen in 1995, causing massive destruction to Montserrat, six years after AIR Studios closed down on the island because of Hurricane Hugo. Elton John drummer Olsson comments on his AIR Studios Montserrat experiences, “I remember thinking a few times: ‘What if the volcano goes off?'” Earth, Wind & Fire’s White quips: “I’m from Chicago. We don’t do volcanos.”

Today, AIR Studios Montserrat is a broken-down shell of its former self, and it’s off-limits to the public. The documentary includes footage of what the former recording studio looks like now: a series of run-down and empty rooms, with some parts of the building reduced to rubble. The damage caused by Hurricane Hugo and the volcano eruption were enough to make the location of AIR Studios Montserrat completely inhabitable, even if the structure was rebuilt.

Cooper says, “When the volcano went off, that was a pinnacle point of change—a point when nothing was ever going to be quite the same again in the way that we recorded, in the way, in the way that music was dealt with— those magical moments were going to be no longer.”

However, the music, memories and legacy of AIR Studios Montserrat live on in many ways. “Under the Volcano” is a solid tribute to this influential hub of creativity. And the movie will bring a lot of joy to anyone who’s a fan of rock and pop music from the 1980s.

UPDATE: Universal Pictures Content Group will release “Under the Volcano” on digital and VOD on August 17, 2021.

Review: ‘Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music,’ starring Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, the Neville Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Irma Thomas, Robert Plant and Keith Richards

May 15, 2020

by Carla Hay

Terence Blanchard (far right) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in “Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music” (Photo courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment)

“Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music”

Directed by Michael Murphy

Culture Representation: The documentary “Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music” interviews a racially diverse (African Americans and white people) group of people, including musicians, concert promoters, journalists and music historians.

Culture Clash: The impact of slavery and other forms of racism have shaped the music of New Orleans.

Culture Audience: “Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music” will appeal mostly to people with diverse musical tastes, as well as people who want to learn more about the cultural history of New Orleans.

Allen Toussaint in “Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music” (Photo courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Making a documentary about the entire history of music in New Orleans is a very ambitious project, especially if it’s edited into a feature-length film instead of being spread out into an episodic series. But writer/director/producer Michael Murphy has crafted a definitive chronicle of New Orleans music in a film with an impressive range that’s as entertaining as it is educational. Grammy-winning musician Terence Blanchard (one of the documentary’s executive producers) narrates this 104-minute film, which features a “who’s who” of people who are part of New Orleans music history or are connected to it in some way.

In addition to Blanchard, musicians interviewed in the documentary include Big Freedia, Germaine Bazzle, Jon Cleary, Harry Connick Jr., DJ Raj Smoove, Mannie Fresh, Steve Gadd, Leroy Jones, Dave Malone (of the Radiators), Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, PJ Morton, Aaron Neville, Art Neville, Charmaine Neville, Ivan Neville, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Herlin Riley, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts, Reggie Scanlon (of the Radiators), Sting, Bill Summers, Irma Thomas, Reggie Toussaint, Don Vappie, Walter Washington and Dr. Michael White.

Other talking heads in the documentary include Quint Davis, CEO of Festival Productions Inc. New Orleans; Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe; Hogan Jazz Archive curator emeritus Bruce Raeburn; Black Top Records co-founder Hammond Scott; audio engineer Roberta Grace; Center for the Study of the American South associate director William Ferris; and journalists Arthel Neville (daughter of Art Neville) and Alan Light.

Interspersed through the documentary are live performances that are exclusive to the film, from artists such as Blanchard performing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band; a duet with Aaron and Ivan Neville; influential R&B diva Thomas; the Neville Brothers; the Radiators; and Dumpstaphunk.

The film took several years to make, since some of the interviews took place in 2004, according the film’s production notes. And some of the footage filmed for the documentary is of people who have since passed away, such as Art Neville and Dr. John, who both died in 2019.

The movie takes a mostly chronological look at the history of New Orleans music, starting with how the brutality of slavery led to African American slaves developing their own form of music that became the foundation of jazz and the blues, which later influenced the creation of rock and roll, soul/R&B, funk and hip-hop. At times, during the documentary, narrator Blanchard gives a tour to some of the historical sites of New Orleans music, such as the Dew Drop Inn, J&M Recording Studio and the Black Pearl neighborhood that’s known for giving rise to Mahalia Jackson. The Tremé neighborhood (also known as the Cradle of Jazz) is mentioned frequently in the film, since New Orleans is the city that gets the most credit for being the birthplace of jazz.

Several influential New Orleans musicians are given praise and credit for making New Orleans an outstanding music city. Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Prima, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Earl Palmer, singer Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, James Booker, the Neville Brothers, the Marsalis family and Earl King all get special mentions in the film.

In the beginning of the film, Blanchard visits St. Augustine Church, established in 1841 as the oldest African American Catholic parish in the United States. He points out how the outer pews were purchased/reserved for slaves by free people of color so that the slaves would not be shunned at the church services. “Growing up in the church, I have always believed you could never separate spirituality from creativity,” Blanchard says.

Sting (whose first band as a solo artist included Branford Marsalis and other musicians with a jazz background) comments: “New Orleans seems to have a complexity about it that other American cities lack, maybe because of the history built on the tragedy of human trafficking. Let’s be honest about that. But what was created out of that—jazz, the blues—is something that the whole human race should be grateful for. It’s not to be an apologist for that tragedy, but at the same time, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit is.”

Wynton Marsalis notes that when the slave owners allowed Africans to play drums in Congo Square during the years when slavery was legal, this artistic freedom had an enormous impact on the music culture in New Orleans: “The fact that a slave could be free on a Sunday afternoon for five hours [to play music] made [New Orleans] different from the United States of America. That expression of freedom still echoes.”

Preservation Hall director Jaffe, whose parents founded the world-famous venue, says that New Orleans multiculturalism of Europe (especially France and Spain), Africa and the Caribbean (especially Cuba) is reflected in the melting pot of musical styles that have thrived in New Orleans. The documentary includes a segment on how the drumming styles in New Orleans also affected the rhythms that distinguished New Orleans jazz (or Dixieland jazz) from jazz in other areas of the United States.

Jazz is the most famous type of music to come out of New Orleans, so it’s the music genre that gets most of the screen time in the first half of the documentary. The concept of an instrumental solo in jazz is largely credited to influential jazz musicians such as Armstrong and Morton. Connick says: “New Orleans jazz music will never die, because the feeling we get as performers who play it is the greatest drug in the world.”

The documentary also mentions New Orleans was one of the first big cities in the U.S. that established an opera house, due in large part to composer/pianist Gottschalk, one of the first American musicians to become a star in Europe in the mid-1800s. And the influence of Cuban music in New Orleans also gets its own segment in the documentary.

“Up From the Streets” also addresses how sexism affected female artists who were part of the early New Orleans music scene. Traditionally, women performers were usually allowed to only be singers or piano players. But slowly, the barriers started to open up during the Jazz Age, when bands started to accept women in other roles besides as a vocalist or pianist.

Singer/bass player Bazzle comments on the gender barrier faced by female musicians in New Orleans: “There was a line until we started doing it [crossing the line].” She adds there’s nothing about musical instruments that say only one gender can play those instruments, but there used to be a mentality that women couldn’t play certain instruments—a sexist belief that wasn’t unique to New Orleans but it affected the opportunities that women had in the New Orleans music scene’s earliest decades.

Branford Marsalis remembers how tough his parents, especially his late mother Dolores, used to be when it came to demanding excellence from her musical children. However, he says, “I appreciated having stern parents.” And he says that his parents would constantly remind the Marsalis children about how fortunate they were to benefit from the civil-rights movement and to not take it for granted.

The movie also notes that although New York City is the birthplace of rap/hip-hop, there’s a New Orleans hip-hop scene that really began to thrive in the 1990s with Master P, Birdman, Mystikal and Juvenile, and has continued in the 21st century with Lil Wayne, Big Freedia and the “bounce” craze. However, in its coverage of New Orleans music artists who are influential in the 21st century, the documentary makes one glaring omission, by failing to mention Frank Ocean.

As for people outside the U.S. who are influenced by New Orleans music, British musicians are among the most enthusiastic. Plant says that he and his former Led Zeppelin bandmates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were “obsessed with the music of New Orleans, so we always made it our business to ensure that when we were on tour, we came to New Orleans. It’s just about the quality of music that I could relate to and just how it really had such a profound effect.” In the documentary, Plant also cites Allen Toussaint as one of his favorite musicians, which is why Plant and Alison Krauss’ 2007 Grammy-winning duet album “Raising Sand” included a cover version of Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller.”

Rolling Stones guitarist Richards praises Earl Palmer (who worked with dozens of artists, including Little Richard and Sam Cooke) as a “real rock and roll drummer. A lot of drummers since then have been able to rock, but very few that have been able to put the roll in.” Richards also says of Ivan Neville (son of Aaron Neville), who’s worked with Richards on several of Richards’ solo projects: “I feel like his older brother or an uncle. I’ve seen him go through a lot of difficulties and pain and seen him come out of it.”

Aaron Neville says of the origins of the Neville Brothers as a musical act: “One thing our parents always wanted was to see all of us together. In New York, we got to go in the studio with the Meters. We didn’t rehearse anything. We already knew what their part was, and it just came out naturally. And we decided to do the Neville Brothers from then on.”

And, of course, one of New Orleans’ hallmarks is that it’s very common for big bands to perform in the middle of streets and have Second Line parades. Morton and Jaffe remembers that one of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was how the city of New Orleans was like a ghost town deprived of street music for a long period of time before the recovery from the hurricane.

Davis, whose Festival Productions produces the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (also known as Jazz Fest), talks about how JazzFest in 2006—the first Jazz fest after Hurricane Katrina—was an example of how music helped bring New Orleans heal from hurricane disaster. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music (which opened in 2011) was also founded as a result of helping New Orleans rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

However, some of the people interviewed, including Wynton Marsalis and Mannie Fresh, note that although music can bring people together in New Orleans, after a concert or performance ends, people often go back to living racially segregated lives in the city. Despite the city’s problems, New Orleans has a unique culture that’s been able to thrive largely because of the music. And as Blanchard says in the film, much of New Orleans’ strength comes from “the power of music, the power that it has to change hearts and minds … The most important thing is that it’s not over. This is not the end of the story.”

Eagle Rock Entertainment released “Up From the Street: New Orleans: The City of Jazz” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on May 15, 2020. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund, a statewide relief initiative supporting Louisiana musicians who have lost income amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Year’s Eve specials ringing in 2019 will feature Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Sting and more

December 27, 2018

by Carla Hay

Watching a New Year’s Eve special on TV is a tradition for millions of people around the world. After taking a break from a New Year’s Eve Special in 2017, NBC is back with its star-studded party in New York City’s Times Square. Here’s what is planned for the four biggest New Year’s TV specials in the United States:

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2019 

Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC)

Celebrating its 47th year, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (which is produced by Dick Clark Productions and airs in the U.S. on ABC) is still the most high-profile televised New Year’s Eve event. Mariah Carey headlined the show from New York City’s Times Square in 2018 and 2017. In 2018, another Grammy-winning diva—Christina Aguilera—is taking the headlining spot. Ryan Seacrest will once again host the show, which begins airing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, followed by 11:30 p.m. to 2:13 a.m. ET. Jenny McCarthy will provide on-site reporting. Other performers in Times Square include Bastille, Dan + Shay and New Kids on the Block. Airing just after midnight Eastern Time, Post Malone will perform from a stop on his current tour in Brooklyn, New York, marking the first television performance of the new year. Meanwhile, the special has partnered with YouTube Music for the first time this year for cross-promotional programming.

Ciara will once again host the Los Angeles segments of the show that will feature performances that were mostly previously recorded. Artists in the show’s Los Angeles segments will include Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, Bazzi, Kane Brown, Camila Cabello, The Chainsmokers, Ciara, Foster the People, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Shawn Mendes, Charlie Puth and Weezer, as well as collaborations from Brown featuring Alaina; Macklemore with Skylar Grey; and The Chainsmokers featuring Ballerini.

Meanwhile, actress Lucy Hale (former star of “Pretty Little Liars”) will host the show’s second annual Central Time Zone celebration from New Orleans. Florida Georgia Line and Maren Morris will perform from the Allstate Fan Fest, leading up to the midnight countdown and fleur-de-lis drop near Jackson Square.  “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2019” is produced by Dick Clark Productions with Seacrest, Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco serving as executive producers. Larry Klein is producer.

Fox’s New Year’s Eve With Steve Harvey: Live From Times Square

Steve Harvey (Photo by Brian Bowen Smith/Fox)

After televising its New Year’s Eve show (hosted by Pitbull) in Miami from 2014 to 2016, Fox changed locations and hosts in 2017, with the show now taking place at New York City’s Times Square with comedian/talk-show host Steve Harvey and former E! News personality Maria Menounous. This year, Harvey and Menounous return to co-host the show, which airs on Fox from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET live; CT/MT/PT tape-delayed. Performers will include Sting, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, Florence + the Machine, Jason Aldean, Juanes and Why Don’t We. Additionally, the special will include celebrity cameo appearances by comedians Ken Jeong and Kenan Thompson, as well as “Fox NFL Sunday” commentators Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson. “Fox’s New Year’s Eve With Steve Harvey: Live From Times Square” is produced by IMG Original Content and Done + Dusted. Guy Carrington, Katy Mullan, Mike Antinoro, Dave Chamberlin and Orly Anderson serve as executive producers; and Eddie Delbridge serves as co-executive producer. IMG also produces Harvey’s self-titled talk show, as well as the Miss Universe Pageant and “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” which have been hosted by Harvey over the past several years.

[December 30, 2018 UPDATE: Dierks Bentley has been added to the lineup performing in Times Square.]

NBC’s New Year’s Eve

Carson Daly, Chrissy Teigen, Leslie Jones, Keith Urban
(Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal)

Stars from NBC’s “The Voice” are all over “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” special, which begins airing at 10 p.m. ET from New York City’s Times Square. Not only is “The Voice” host Carson Daly hosting the New Year’s Eve show (with Chrissy Teigen and assistance from Leslie Jones), but “The Voice” coaches Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and John Legend are also performing on the special. Other performers include Jennifer Lopez, Bebe Rexha, Diana Ross and Andy Grammer.  Keith Urban and  Brett Young will perform at Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville. “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt will also appear on stage before the iconic ball drop. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” will be televised from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, followed by the New Year’s countdown segment 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve” is executive produced by Daly, Teigen and John Irwin through NBCUniversal Television Studio and Irwin Entertainment. It is co-executive produced by Casey Spira.

New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper (Photo courtesy of CNN)

For the second year in a row, longtime friends Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will co-host CNN’s New Year’s Eve celebration, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. CNN’s 11th annual New Year’s Eve Show, which is telecast live from New York City’s Times Square has a more star-studded lineup this year than in previous years. Gwen Stefani is scheduled to perform from her Las Vegas residency, while Keith Urban (who also appears on NBC’s New Year’s Eve Special), Dave Chappelle, Patti LaBelle and Jack Black also round out the show’s celebrity lineup.  New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will also spotlight Broadway musicals such as “The Band’s Visit,” “Wicked,” “Tootsie” and “Come From Away.” CNN’s New Year’s Eve Show begins at 8 p.m. ET, and will end at approximately 1:05 p.m. ET. CNN anchors Don Lemon and Brooke Baldwin will host a countdown from New Orleans at 12:30 a.m. ET. In 2017, Cohen replaced Kathy Griffin, who was notoriously fired from the show in May of that year for publicly posting a photo of herself holding up a fake bloody head of President Donald Trump. Griffin and Cooper had co-hosted CNN’s New Year’s Eve Show since 2007, but the Cooper/Cohen duo brought in the show’s highest ratings so far. Cooper and Cohen have an established rapport, since they have done numerous speaking engagements together.

Fox’s New Year’s Eve: Steve Harvey returns as host to ring in 2019; Sting, Robin Thicke, Florence + the Machine, Jason Aldean among musical performers

December 5, 2018

Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey (Photo by Brian Bowen Smith/Fox)

The following is a press release from Fox:

Emmy® Award-winning personality, producer and talk show host Steve Harvey returns this holiday season to host FOX’S NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH STEVE HARVEY: LIVE FROM TIMES SQUARE, once again alongside Emmy® Award-winning journalist and TV personality Maria Menounos. The second annual live broadcast special, airing from the heart of New York City’s famed Times Square, airs Monday, Dec. 31 (8:00-10:00 PM and 11:00 PM-12:30 AM ET LIVE CT/MT/PT tape-delayed), on FOX.

Harvey will count down to 2019 with an unmatched, star-studded three-and-a-half-hour primetime celebration, featuring an electrifying musical performance by 16-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Sting. The live event also will feature performances by hit artists Robin Thicke, Florence + the Machine, Jason Aldean, Juanes and Why Don’t We. Additionally, the special will include celebrity cameo appearances by THE MASKED SINGER’s Ken Jeong, comedian Kenan Thompson and FOX NFL SUNDAY commentators Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson. Additional performers and celebrity guests to be announced.

[December 20, 2018 UPDATE: Snoop Dogg has been added to the lineup of performers.]

Last year, Harvey led an incredible countdown to the New Year, which included performances by music legends Neil Diamond and Celine Dion, hit artists Maroon 5, Macklemore with Skylar Grey, Backstreet Boys, Flo Rida and many more. Harvey also officiated a surprise live wedding for Menounos. The special marked an all-time high for a FOX New Year’s special, averaging 8.5 million total viewers.

FOX’S NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH STEVE HARVEY: LIVE FROM TIMES SQUARE is produced by IMG Original Content and Done + Dusted. Guy Carrington, Katy Mullan, Mike Antinoro, Dave Chamberlin and Orly Anderson serve as executive producers; and Eddie Delbridge serves as co-executive producer. Recent IMG productions that air on FOX include the annual MISS UNIVERSE® contests, currently hosted by Steve Harvey. IMG also produces Harvey’s daytime talk show, “Steve.” “Like” Steve Harvey at facebook.com/SteveHarvey and follow him on Twitter @IAmSteveHarvey or Instagram @IAmSteveHarveyTV.

About Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey is a TV personality, talk show host, actor and comedian who currently hosts several popular TV shows: Emmy® Award-winning daytime talk show “Steve”; breakout hit “Little Big Shots”; game show “Family Feud,” which has achieved the highest ratings in the franchise’s history since Harvey began to host; and “Celebrity Family Feud.” He also hosts the top-rated, nationally syndicated radio show “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.” Additionally, he hosts the MISS UNIVERSE® contests, which have aired on FOX since 2015.

Harvey began his career doing stand-up comedy in the mid-1980s. His success as a comedian eventually led to a long stint as host of “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” as well as various acting, hosting, writing and producing roles. His entertainment credits include the extremely popular “Kings of Comedy” and “Think Like a Man.” In addition, Harvey is a New York Times No. 1 best-selling author and motivational speaker. Harvey’s business imprint, Steve Harvey Global, also successfully produces broadcast television projects, events/festivals and digital content.  Harvey’s philanthropic efforts, which include mentoring camps for boys and girls, are achieved through the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation. For more about Harvey, visit www.steveharvey.com.

About Maria Menounos

An Emmy® Award-winning journalist, TV personality, motivational speaker, New York Times best-selling author, host of the Noovie cinema pre-show and Founder/CEO of the AfterBuzz TV Networks, Maria Menounos has gained numerous achievements throughout her career in the news and entertainment industry. One of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, Menounos holds the distinct honor of having conducted the only sit-down interview with the entire Obama family –

an interview ABC News heralded as a deciding factor in President Obama’s historic victory. Currently, Menounos hosts the Noovie cinema pre-show seen daily in 70% of America’s movie theaters. As one of the only female CEOs in the world of tech, Menounos heads the AfterBuzz TV digital broadcast network which produces over 150 hours of weekly programming for over 120 countries worldwide. Menounos’ AfterBuzz TV mentorship program has helped launch hundreds of Hollywood careers, including Eboni K. Williams, WWE superstars Sonia Deville and Cathy Kelly and “Entertainment Tonight’s” Courtney Tezano, Deidre Behart and Jason Carter.

About Sting

Composer, singer-songwriter, actor, author and activist Sting has sold close to 100 million albums from his combined work with The Police and as one of the world’s most distinctive solo artists. Throughout his illustrious career, he has received 16 Grammy Awards, two Brits, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, four Academy Award nominations, a Tony Award nomination, Billboard Magazine’s Century Award and the MusiCares 2004 Person of the Year Award. He also is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he has been awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, The American Music Award of Merit and The Polar Music Prize. His film and stage work include appearances in more than 15 films, an executive producer credit on the critically acclaimed “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” and a starring role in “The Threepenny Opera” on Broadway in 1989. His most recent theater project is the Tony-nominated musical “The Last Ship,” for which he wrote both the music and lyrics, inspired by his memories of the shipbuilding community in northeast England where he was born and raised. In February and March 2019, he will star in the Toronto-based production of the show. Next summer, Sting will tour Europe with a rollicking, dynamic show, performing the most beloved and classic songs he’s written throughout his prolific career. Sting’s support for human rights organizations includes Amnesty International, Live Aid and The Rainforest Fund, which he co-founded with his wife, Trudie Styler in 1989.

About IMG

IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media, operating in more than 30 countries. The company manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in sports training and league development, as well as marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. IMG is part of the Endeavor network.

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