Photos By Kyra Kverno
Any music lover has a bucket list. There are certain bands that you have to see. Musicians who have so deftly and completely defined the genre that it’s near impossible to claim knowledge of said genre without having experienced them as part of one’s lexicon. No one wants to be friends with the guy who has omitted the Meters from hislist. It’s a good bet, because they always play like it’s their last day on earth. When we refer to jazz, we are talking about Louis Armstrong. When referring to funk, we’re talking about the Meters. When referring to fusion, we are talking about Soulive. So it only makes sense, that when musicians from these bands decided to join forces, that more than a few people understood this powerful collaboration and lined up to witness it.
The Hall MP in Williamsburg hosted a sold out room for the Foundation of Funk quartet Saturday night, consisting of two of the original members, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. Rounding out the group were Neal Evans on keys and Eric Krasno on guitar, from the jazz jam band Soulive, and Lettuce. Saturday night was the last New York stop on their northeastern tour which closes this week just outside Philadelphia, after they began in New Orleans in April.
Psychedelic soul band, Pimps of Joytime, started the evening by establishing a groove so tight you’d need cooking spray to slide out of it. The first song started staunchly in the pocket with light airy harmonies floating over a decisive bass line with a latin tinge. They have been around for over a decade, which isn’t long when it comes to New Orleanian music–especially in comparison to the headliner–but their biggest attraction lies in their prolific originality. Without being derivative, the Pimps of Joytime, headed up by Brian J, took the listener through shades of Prince, with his use of effects and careful vocal arrangements, and then proceeded to make wonderful use of drummer John Staten’s considerable skill with the Famous Flames-ish stops and starts. James Brown would have probably never said it, but one could wager he would have been flattered at the way his influence showed throughout this band’s wonderfully tight set. Percussionist/vocalists Mayteana Morales and Kim Dawson held their own on a playful disco tinged LaBelle-esque tune, where they were wisely given ample room to improvise. It was New Age Nola at its best. Their latest release, Jukestone Paradise, released in late 2015, is a bit of a departure– modern and futuristic, thanks to David Bailis’ intelligent use of synths and samples, while never losing that afro-cuban foundation.
Speaking of foundations, if anyone needed a solid education in the origin of funk, class was in session! Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter Jr. were the professors, a fact of which everyone in attendance was blissfully aware. Watching Zigaboo play was basically as close as one could get to actually watching drums dance. Porter Jr.’s intricate bass lines were wonderfully balanced with Evans’ expressive organ, and the Krasno tone on guitar tied everything neatly together. All the hits were hit, “Hand Clap Song,” “Cissy Strut,” “Look-Ka Py Py,” and of course “Funkify Your Life.” The great treat of a treat-filled night was when a breakout blues singer by the name of Alecia Chakour popped up to carry the audience through a few Beatles tunes, the best of which was “Come Together.” Her velvety pipes pulled the audience out of whatever happy trance Zigaboo’s rhythms had them under, and snapped them to attention. Alecia, who in the past has toured with the Warren Haynes Band and Lettuce, is definitely one to watch.
At some point it becomes a little redundant to write about a band like this being “funky”; as they quite literally wrote the definition. It’s the Meters, it’s Soulive, it’s Lettuce, it’s music. As it should be, the night was a happy, joyful checkmark on any music lover’s bucket list.