Ask 20 people how to define the music of New Orleans and you’ll get 30 answers. It could be jazz, funk, soul, Cajun or Creole or gospel, Caribbean, African, Zydeco, rock or the chants and stirring rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians. New Orleans native, JENPET RECORDS recording artist MICHELLE JACQUES (and some very special friends) took these influences and a few more, all stirred into this stewpot of musical gumbo that is sweet, spicy, aromatic and definitely intoxicating. Any CHELLE! & Friends performance is like Mardi Gras itself an unforgettable experience.
CHELLE! and Friends, is made up of some of the most distinguished and accomplished musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area, featuring the driving voices of artistic director and founder MICHELLE JACQUES, RHONDA CRANE, JAY LAMONT and BRYAN DYER, DONNA VISCUSO on woodwinds, ERIC SWINDERMAN on guitar, SAM BEVAN on bass and BOB SCOTT on drums.
Michelle Jacques - Vocals, Percussion
Rhonda Crane - Vocals, Percussion
Bryan Dyer - Vocals, Percussion
Jay Lamont - Vocals, Percussion
Donna Viscuso - Woodwinds
Sam Bevan - Electric Bass, Stand up Bass
Eric Swinderman - Guitar
Bob Scott - Drums
Sweet Bread - 2007
Voodooville - 2010
Russ Jennings Productions
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"Chelle has put together a dream team of accomplished performers. This group completely rocks! They'..."Chelle has put together a dream team of accomplished performers. This group completely rocks! They've been a hit every time we've worked together."
KZYX fm (Philo, CA)
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"I intend to play your exquisitely moving version of Universal Soldier/God Bless America during my n..."I intend to play your exquisitely moving version of Universal Soldier/God Bless America during my next show… I'll just play your live recording, and feel like I'm pulling off a coup, scooping all the other broadcasters! That's a thrill I don't get to have too often."
Urban Music News
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“New Orleans is visiting us with the powerhouse group of CHELLE! and Friends! This is spiritual gosp...“New Orleans is visiting us with the powerhouse group of CHELLE! and Friends! This is spiritual gospel fused with Caribbean rhythms, Cajun mix of spicy vocals that will make you dance, sing, pay attention and certainly will give you chills and lift your spirit! This is one of my favorite performing groups in the Bay Area…”
Menlo Park Summer Concert Series
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Chelle & Friends provided a wonderful concert for the Menlo Park community. People of all ages – ch...Chelle & Friends provided a wonderful concert for the Menlo Park community. People of all ages – children and adults - thoroughly enjoy your amazing talent!
CHELLE! and Friends bring the spirit of Mardi Gras to the East Bay by Lee Hildebrand
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“We’re havin’ a great carnival here ‘cause the Giants are slammin’,” vocalist Michelle Jacques, lead...“We’re havin’ a great carnival here ‘cause the Giants are slammin’,” vocalist Michelle Jacques, leader of the band Celle! and Friends told the festive crowd at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco while introducing “Down at the Carnival Ball,” an original composition in the tradition of Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”
Before the free outdoor pre-Halloween concert was over, the septet had some five dozen costumed kids strutting in a procession, many waving handkerchiefs in the air second-line style, to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as parents either held their hands or snapped photos.
Jacques delivered an exquisite reading of the standard “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?,” backed only by bassist Sam Bevan, on the group’s second CD, “Voodooville,” released in 2010.
Born in New Orleans, she relocated to Oakland with her family when she was 5, but her memories of the city’s music never faded.
“Segregation was horrific in New Orleans at that time,” the singer recalls. “My mother really has no love lost because of that. She loves the culture, she love the people, but segregation was really, really horrific. Even I remember the segregation on the buses and stuff like that. That’s why we ended up here.
“My uncle traveled to California, and he told my family about the opportunities here. My mother first came out, and then everybody else started coming out. Katrina helped disperse the rest of the family.”
Although the repertoire includes gospel, folk, blues, and pop songs from around the country, New Orleans music in its many varieties – jazz, R&B, swamp pop, and Mardi Gras Indian music, among them – has been the group’s focus since its inception in early 2005.
Preserving those sounds became an even more urgent mission after Hurricane Katrina stuck the Crescent City later that year.
Jacques, Bryan Dyer, and Rhonda Crane – the septet’s frontline – had previously sung together in Street Sounds, an a cappella group formed in 1989 by Sweet Honey in the Rock founding member Louise Robinson to help promote Oakland’s now-defunct Festival at the Lake.
All three are currently conductors of the Oakland Youth Chorus (of which Dyer is an alumnus) and also teach music to children in a variety of other capacities. With Celle! and Friends, they performed 147 concerts this year alone for the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music (AIM) school program and in July gave a three-day workshop on New Orleans music for the Stern Grove Festival.
The three singers and their four supporting instrumentalists also do shows for adults, including one scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17, from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., at Floyd’s Pellom’s 57th Street Gallery, 5701 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
“Young people are swayed by rap and by other things,” Jacques says. “They don’t see the beauty in being able to play the traditional music.”
“We have to encourage it,” Dyer interjects.
“That’s why we do what we do,” Jacques adds. “We don’t want it lost.”
My darlin New Orleans
Hey pocky way
Wasted days and wasted nights
You'll lose a good thing
See ya later alligator
You can have my husband
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
I like it like that
Wang dang doodle
Herc Jolly John (Brother John)
John the revelator
Saints go marchin in
Little Liza Jane
Choo choo cha'boogie
Baa Baa Little Bo Peep
Don't Mess With My Toot Toot
Rip It Up
Come On Baby Let The Good Times Roll
Working In A Coal Mine