segunda-feira, maio 01, 2006
Fats Domino Sets an Example for New Orleans (by Jon Pareles for The New York Times)
Fats Domino starts his first album since 1993 by singing, "All over the country, people want to know/ whatever happened to Fats Domino." It continues, "I'm alive and kicking and I'm where I wanna be."
That's the way he still feels about New Orleans, although his house in the Lower Ninth Ward was severely damaged by the flooding after Hurricane Katrina. "As long as I'm in New Orleans, I'm not away from home," he said in a rare interview at the uptown club Tipitina's. He's living in a suburban-style housing development in Harvey, La., but he intends to rebuild his house and return to the Ninth Ward as soon as he can. Asked about the prospects for his city, the perpetually optimistic Mr. Domino said, "Everything's gonna be all right, I think."
"Alive and Kickin'," the title track of his new album, may remind listeners of the image of Mr. Domino being rescued by helicopter from his flooded house on Sept. 1. But like the rest of the album, which includes 11 songs Mr. Domino had never recorded, it was actually made in 2000. (The studio where it was recorded, Ultrasonic, is gone since the flood.) After the hurricane, he said, "everybody got interested in it."
The album is being released as a benefit for the Tipitina's Foundation, which has aided New Orleans musicians with everything from Internet service to new eyeglasses to more than $300,000 worth of new instruments. It is available from www.tipitinasfoundation.org.
"I think it's a pretty good song, and it fits what's happening now," Mr. Domino said of the title track. Mr. Domino, who is 78, lost three pianos and most of his other possessions in the flood; afterward, looters took most of the gold records he earned in the 1950's, when he was the second-best-selling singer after Elvis Presley. But when he was awaiting rescue, he said, "I wasn't too nervous." He added, "I had my little wine and a couple of beers with me; I'm all right."
The album mingles Mr. Domino's rolling New Orleans rhythm-and-blues piano and horns with touches of synthesizer or slide guitar. His genial croon can sound close to country music, a style he likes, he says, because "it tells a wonderful story, true stories."
Some of the new songs now sound prophetic for Mr. Domino and the people of his city, proclaiming "I'll Be All Right" or announcing, in "One Step at a Time," that "My baby's coming home today" and adding, "Please don't change your mind, it's been such a long time." In "Home USA," he sings, "I'm going home tomorrow/ Can't go on this way," continuing, "I'm headed for New Orleans, La."
There can be a painstaking process behind the straightforward songs, Mr. Domino said. "I have a hard time pleasing myself with my songs," he said. "I have to do them over and over until I think I got them right. I'm always finding fault, but the people seem to like them. I always figure I can do something different that I wouldn't have already. I may not be right, but I don't want to be too far wrong."
He has an electric keyboard by his bed, in case he wakes up with an idea. "You try to dig for it, you'll never find it sometimes," he said. "Sometimes you could do it in an hour, sometimes in three weeks, a month, sometimes it just comes to you like that. I get the spirit, and whatever happens, let that happen."
Mr. Domino hasn't performed since the hurricane, but he is to be one of the headliners at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which begins April 28. As far as he is concerned, New Orleans is still home. "I know I'm not leavin'," he said with a smile. "I ain't going nowhere."