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The New Orleans Party Asylum give Santa Claus a taste of swinging Dixieland jazz

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The New Orleans Party Asylum have unveiled their own brand of lunacy on Yuletide Aphrodisiac, a collection of Christmas covers made over in the style of Dixieland jazz. Featuring vocalist/pianist Dave Kosmyna, clarinetist/saxophonist Ray Heitger, drummer Tad Dickerson, and bassist Riley Kloos, the New Orleans Party Asylum formed in 2009 but its roster of top-shelf jazz musicians have been together for 15 years in different incarnations.

But who exactly are the New Orleans Party Asylum? And why have a skeleton on the cover of a Christmas CD? Kosmyna and Dickerson sat down to answer those questions.

Q: How did the group get together? Where and when?

A: On Halloween 2009, Riley and I celebrated our birthdays (one day apart), and I told Riley of my concept to create a group with a smoky/bluesy feel with an absolutely irresistible beat, but playing tunes in the New Orleans style that people know—so old and new. Everything is up for grabs as long as it swings and is compatible with the blues. Opera, rock & roll, Broadway, waltzes, marches, anything that fits. Riley and Tad came over to my house (the party asylum) last December to work on the sound of the beat. We spent many, many hours over the next few months listening, drinking, and playing until things started to reach our goal. We also spent a great deal of time entertaining repertiore suggestions from Riley; he is NOPA's link to pop culture. Once the “sound" of the rhythm was where we wanted, I invited Ray Heitger to join us. It all clicked (as I knew it would, since I've been playing with Ray for years) and we just went with it. It is very comfortable to play the way NOPA does because everyone is on the same page, musically speaking. Ray served as my mentor for this music, and when I worked with Riley and Tad I insisted they subscribe to the same principles. When people comment that they really like the sound of the band, it is because our concept is not an accident. We had a very clear sound picture in mind when we conceived of and formed the rhythm section, and in jazz, the sound of the rhythm section is everything. Another philosophy is that people should be able to dance to this music. The tempo motto for NOPA is “shades of medium." We want people to experience the robust joys of life by listening and moving to NOPA. Life may not be perfect, but it is good. And that's what we want people to hear when we play.

Q: Who came up with the album cover?

A: Riley was inspired by the poster from the film The Graduate. We decided that Nopie needed a Yuletide Aphrodisiac elixer in hand, and we took the pictures in the library of my house. The identity of the “Leg Chick" (as Tad calls her) remains confidential [Laughter].

Q: How did the band get its name?

A: The band name ("New Orleans Party Asylum" or “NOPA" as the fans chant) was a collaboration between Dave Kosmyna and Melanie Dickerson. We had several working names to describe what we do. “New Orleans" and “Party" were part of Dave's concept and it really fit quite well as a description.It was Melanie's observation that collectively Dave, Ray, Riley, and Tad are an “Asylum" of sorts creating musical merriment and mayhem wherever they play. A NOPA set will go from a Jelly Roll Morton tune to a Green Day hit and some will say that that is nothing short of being delightfully crazy. Of course Dave's house where the band rehearses is now known simply as the “Party Asylum."

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