Monday, March 1, 2010
Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras BB Kings Porter and Friends
It was the week of Mardi Gras in New York City and I had not really noticed until I was persuaded to go to the Fat Tuesday Jam at B.B. King’s Blues Club. Many of the best bands from New Orleans were in town for Nolafunk’s 4th Annual Mardi Gras Ball and there were various concerts going on around the city. The musicians in town included Eric Lindell, Rebirth Brass Band, The Meters, Trombone Shorty and The Neville Brothers.
The Fat Tuesday show at B.B. King’s featured a quartet of musicians put together especially for this night, each player in the mix a virtuoso in their own right. The Lineup featured George Porter Jr. on bass, Leo Nocentelli on Guitar, Henry Butler on Keys and Adam Deitch on Drums. These four musicians are each worthy of leading their own band and have long and storied histories in the jazz and funk community. Deitch has been the drummer for the John Scofield band and has also produced music by artists ranging from Justin Timberlake to Snoop Dogg. Porter and Nocentelli are members of The Meters; often reffed to as the pioneers of funk, they formed during the 1960’s musical renaissance. Henry Butler may not be as well known in rock music circles, but he is widely respected in the music world. Butler has been called “the pride of New Orleans” by Dr. John and is one of the most highly regarded New Orleans pianists.
B.B. King’s is in the middle of Time Square and often hosts bands with a counter culture bent to them. Blues music is blasted outside the venue and the crowd often spills into the street, bringing the positive energy into the chaotic area of Time Square. Once downstairs it’s best to enjoy the people around you because your cell phone won't get reception. The crowd at this show, like most other shows at the venue was very friendly and unpretentious. The kind of fans one would expect at a New Orleans show on Fat Tuesday.
Opening the show was a band called Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra, An 11 piece soul and "secular gospel" group. Hailing from the north east, they bring the New Orleans good time spirit. They played Queen's “Somebody to Love” with the help of the rising Broadway star Stephanie Umoh, who sat in with the band on vocals. The Love Revival Revolution Orchestra has a retro feel to them, evoking something of a funkier partridge family. The band is not merely a nostalgia act, it carry’s the wisdom of our modern times with the innocence of the 60's and 70’s. The songs are righteous in they’re lyrics, such as in “A Child Shall Lead” and the melodies fill your soul like a good church service should. Brother Joscephus plays acoustic guitar and sings with the power of a reverend, while his vast backup section has the time of their life singing and playing in the band.
George Porter came on stage with a tie-dye shirt and a big smile on his face. One of the more memorable jams included The Meters' tune “Africa,” where the lyrics were changed around for the Mardi Gras Celebration. The word Africa was changed to “New Orleans” and the verse “take me to the mother land” was changed to “take me to the Gumbo.”
The quartet played mostly Meters songs and about half way into the set, Eric Krasno of Soulive joined the group on stage. “Welcome to New Orleans” had Krasno climbing up and down the pentatonic scale as they lingered in D jamming. This song is a two chord jam, with a chorus that goes to the 5th making it a simple 1-4-5 progression. The song is anything but simple as the New Orleans style jazzes up any song structure with additional complexities in chords and syncopation.
The song “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” featured Leo Nocentelli soloing on guitar, playing a wide mix of chromatic, major and minor pentatonic scales, he was all over the fretboard and had a different style of playing than Krasno, though they both show similar influences in their playing.
The climax of the night came when the three guitar players, Krasno, Nocentelli and Porter, stood facing each other in a triangle and started trading solos, taking their improvisation’s to new heights. The first thing that came to mind was the original Allman Brothers Band, with Dicky Betts and Duane Allman trading licks note for note. Upon ending the show the band stepped off stage but was enticed to come back on by the enthusiastic crowd for one encore.
posted by one step ahead @ 9:45 PM