Welcome to part 2 of my series on New Orleans music! Today I'm focusing on the New Orleans funk sound. This music shares the same roots as NOLA jazz and Dixieland. The following few groups are just some the stand out to me personally and in no way is this a definative list. There are so many groups from the NOLA funk scene that listing the all, or as many as possible, would take up several blogs!
I'm starting with one of the flashiest performers all around. Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, started as a guitarist in the 50's, but moved to piano after his left ring finger got shot in an altercation. In the early 60's, he moved to Los Angeles working on sessions for Sonny & Cher and Canned Heat.
Starting in the late 60's Dr. John started playing music that combined New Orleans-style rhythm & blues and psychedelic rock and elaborate stage shows that resembled voodoo ceremonies. In the late 60's and early 70's, Dr. John broke though with albums like "Gris-Gris," "Gumbo" and "In the Right Place." His best known tunes from the time are probably "Iko-Iko" and "Right Place, Wrong Time." Both songs clearly showcase the unique mix that occurs in New Orleans.
Here's a clip of "Iko-Iko" from the 1995 Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland:
Dr. Johns' most well known song, "Right Place, Wrong Time" comes from the album of the same name. The backing band here is The Meters, also from NOLA (more on them is a minute):
The significance of the "Right Place, Wrong Time" album is the introduction to one of NOLA funks' funkiest groups, The Meters. Dr. John hired the Meters to back him up in the studio and Allen Toussaint to produce and arrange horns.
The core of the Meters are Art Neville (Keys/Vocals), Leo Nocentelli (Guitar/Vocals) George Porter Jr. (Bass/Vocals) Joe "Zigaboo" Modeliste (Drums) and Cyril Neville (Percussion/Vocals.) The Meters are often mentioned in the same breath as James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly And the Family Stone as progenitors of funk music. Their tunes "Cissy Strut" and "Look-Ka Py Py" and considered by many to be funk classics.
"Look-Ka Py Py"
This blog would be incomplete if left as is, so I'm giving mention to a few others that really define the sound of New Orleans:
Dirty Dozen Brass Band: