By Andy J. Gordon
Los Angeles was ground central for an invasion of talented New Orleans musicians during the middle weekend of January 2010. On consecutive nights, two of the city’s best music venues, the Roxy Theatre (www.theroxyonsunset.com/) and the Mint (www.themintla.com/), hosted some of the greatest brass band, funk, and rock legends to come out of the Crescent City in the last 40 years. Friday night’s crowd at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard was pumped up for Rebirth Brass Band (www.myspace.com/rebirthbrassband) and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk (www.dumpstaphunk.com/). On Saturday, an industry-heavy crowd witnessed an all-star jam at the Mint led by Leo Nocentelli (www.nocentelli.com/) of the legendary Meters, and Stanton Moore (www.stantonmoore.com/) of Galactic.
On Friday night I arrived to see a long line of revelers on the Sunset Strip waiting to get into the Roxy. Once inside, the party was rolling as the Rebirth Brass Band brought their horn-heavy music to a boogeying audience. People dressed in costumes, Mardi Gras beads, and typical Hollywood-hipster black crowded the open space. The VIP area was jam-packed with Tulane University alumni who were reliving their college years in New Orleans. Craig Klein, one of the trombonists from Bonerama, sat in for much of the set. Rebirth really knows how to rile up a crowd with infectious tunes and enthusiastic call outs to the audience. Both the band and fans worked up a sweat, and the break at the end of set was a much needed time to chill.
After a while, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk hit the stage. Neville is the son of Aaron Neville, and nephew to the first generation of musicians that make up the Neville Brothers. He is a multi-instrumentalist, and singer who spends most of his time at the Hammond B3 organ laying down funky tracks. His band’s unusually heavy sound comes from a double-bass attack delivered by Tony Hall and Nick Daniels. Hall also plays a mean lead guitar, which he showcased during the first song of the set. Ian Neville, Ivan’s cousin (and Art Neville’s son), plays guitar. Ian developed his chops with the Neville Brothers, and more recently has performed with the Funky Meters. Raymond Weber keeps the beat on drums. The band ran through a variety of songs, from their standards to classic covers. Standouts included “Put It In Da Dumpsta,” “My Freedom,” Parliament’s “Unfunky UFO,” and a James Brown tribute. Tony Hall sang lead on the JB tunes “Soul Power” and “Super Bad.” The show ended at the 2 a.m. curfew, but it was obvious that these New Orleans musicians would have gone all night if given the chance.
The next night at the Mint was a special one-off jam session. Many prominent musicians and industry pros were in the L.A. area for the NAMM (International Music Products Association) convention taking place in Orange County. The Kevin O’Day band opened the show. O’Day recently relocated to Los Angeles from New Orleans, where he built a reputation as a talented and versatile drummer. His new band has been doing a residency at the Mint, and for this gig, Kirk Joseph sat in on sousaphone. Joseph is one of the founding members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and his work on sousaphone is widely regarded as innovative and brilliant. O’Day was a member of Joseph’s most recent group, Kirk Joseph’s Backyard Groove. The band played some funky tunes and the knowledgeable crowd went wild over their excellent improvisations.
Next up came Leo Nocentelli and Stanton Moore, two legends of the New Orleans music scene, who were joined on stage by Bill “Buddha” Dickens, who plays a seven-string bass. Dickens has worked most recently with Stevie Wonder, but has a long resume of outstanding bass work. Nocentelli, an amazing guitarist, together with the outstanding talents of Moore and Dickens, formed an incredible jam super group. Each musician took solos as they played a series of funk standards. Additional musicians sat in during the set. Ron Girard stepped in for Dickens during “Fire on the Bayou,” and Ronny Ciago (from Black Sabbath and Ricki Lee Jones’ band) sat in for Moore during “Cissy Strut.” After a short break, O’Day and Ron Girard joined Nocentelli for “Funky Miracle.” Moore and Dickens came back to close the show with “Hey Pocky Way.” The house manager had to kick the band off the stage to avoid a fine for breaking the 2 a.m. curfew. An energized crowd cheered the band and booed the manager as they exited the Mint. Two nights of back-to-back New Orleans musical brilliance left this reviewer dazed and amazed. Los Angeles needs more live music like this!
Photos courtesy of Wagatail, Andy J. Gordon, Brigitte Bard