Christian McBride, George Porter Jr., Tony Hall, & More Groove Deep at 46th Jazz Fest

Big Easy Beats Move Forward at 46th Jazz Fest

Time moves slowly in New Orleans where grooves from 1975 are practically modern, but the sands of the hourglass shift everywhere eventually—even in the long laid back of the Big Easy. Evidence during the 46th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival included Nevilles Forever, a star-studded farewell tribute concert honoring the Neville Brothers that took place offsite at the stunning Saenger Theatre where Tony Hall played bass with the Brothers. Skeptical Fest veterans still expect reunion shows, but the gala surely indicated that the original Neville epoch is truly closing.

Uptown Rulers: George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste 

Onsite, the original Meters reunited for a set on the main (Acura) stage, but they weren’t headliners—they played before Lenny Kravitz, and heir apparent, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste brought their famously syncopated funk alive with plenty of vigor, fervor, and blessed imperfections on “(The World Is a Bit Under the Weather) Doodle-Oop” Porter thumbed out a phat solo on a Lakland during “Just Kissed My Baby.” But keyboardist/singer Art Neville’s advancing age and waning health have clearly caught up to him. He was capably backed up by Ivan Neville, and returned the favor by sitting in with Ivan’s main act, Dumpstaphunk. 

Tony Hall (right) and Nick Daniels (left) crunch guitarist Ian Neville in a bass sandwich.

Dumpsta didn’t miss a beat playing its first Jazz Fest with relatively new drummer Alvin Ford Jr. on a ridiculously rainy Saturday afternoon. Bassists Nick Daniels and Tony Hall conjured dual thunder playing a Tobias Classic 5 and a Peavey USA Millennium 5 respectively. They were particularly devastating on vocals and bass during the set closer, “Dancin’ to the Truth.”

Rick Barrio Dill digs deep with Vintage Trouble. 

New/old-school quartet Vintage Trouble erupted on the Gentilly stage with a set of searing rock & soul. Their dressed up and buttoned down groove was practically the antitheses of Meters funk—more like a heavy duty version of the James Brown style. Singer Ty Taylor was as dynamic and as vocally outstanding as a young Soul Brother No. 1, and the rhythm section of Rick Barrio Dill and beat master Richard Danielson locked the groove down as tight as Brown’s old bandmembers that were fearful of mistake-induced fines!

Speaking of Brown, Tony Hall actually fronted a solid JB tribute on the Congo Stage. The hardest-working man at Jazz Fest dropped his bass, donned a brilliant red jacket, sang his butt off, and did an admirable job as a frontman. 

Charlie Wooton (middle) shares a moment with Cyril Neville (right) and Tyrone Vaughan (left). 

The Royal Southern Brotherhood funked up the Blues Tent with a revamped lineup featuring Tyrone Vaughan (Jimmie’s son) and Bart Walker replacing original guitarists Devon Allman and Mike Zito. Bassist Charlie Wooton, drummer Yonrico Scott, and percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville led the Brotherhood on a journey that was less steeped in Southern Rock and more based in classic NOLA funk.

Sam Price (right) and Garland Paul of the Honey Island Swamp Band at GP Presents Frenchmen Guitar Friendzy. 

On the Wednesday between Jazz Fest weekends Guitar Player Presents put on the Frenchmen Guitar Friendzy where 5-string devotee Sam Price (Honey Island Swamp Band, Otra) demonstrated deft versatility backing guitar stars such as Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, and Eric McFadden.

Christian McBride cuts loose. 

Christian McBride was perhaps the most prominent jazz bassist on the bill. By the time we arrived to see his Big Band with special guest vocalists Dianne Reeves and Jeffrey Osborne, McBride’s upright was lying on the floor and he was raising the roof via a J-style Atelier Z 5-string. McBride closed the final day of festivities on the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent with a spirit and energy that will tide endlessly hungry Fest fans over until next year—fo’ sho’! BP

Photos by Kerri Leslie