Mountainside Mardi Gras in Denver, Colorado
This outfit didn't make it to the stage. They did, however, get to play four or five different times. Their role was to march into the audience during set changes on the main stage. They played the more traditional jazz NOLA became known for years ago: Louie Armstrong era, Dixieland era. Their first song was "When the Saints Go Marching In," but they weren't talking football. The band has a trumpet, two trombones, a sousaphone, a bass drum and a snare. With nothing to plug in, it's easy for them to take the act on the road, as they demonstrated by marching around the amphitheater's bleachers while followed by bead throwers, dancers and general revelers. Mardi Gras! The seats at Red Rocks rise from the stage at a steady 30 degree pitch. Toss in the mile high altitude, some warm sun and the need to fill a horn with air, and it became apparent that some of the more portly band members were challenged by the whole affair. But they swung on.
George Porter, Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners
Sightings of bassist Porter over the past couple years have always found him in the company of his power trioPorter, Batiste, Stoltz. That's a high-energy funk-rock band heavy on improvisation. Saturday, Porter was in a different context. He was joined by his PBS mate, Russell Batiste on drums, but he also had a much bigger band. John Gros, who had returned to the stage on organ, was joined by a pianist for a two keyboard band. A guitarist and a three-man horn section (trombone, trumpet, tenor sax) rounded out the band. Porter's set included a few laid-back tunes which were actually a good break from the otherwise nonstop funk. A couple songs had an R&B feellike something another NOLA musician and composer, Allan Toussaint might write. Any respite from the funk didn't last long though. A highlight of Porter's set was "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," a tune Robert Palmer recorded years before he hit it big with "Addicted to Love." "Sally" has one of those licks that's so infectious the entire amphitheater caught the bug instantly leading to widespread dancing. Another highlight of the Runnin' Pardners' set was a Porter original "I Get High" which is a PBS mainstay. It was fun to hear that one with a fully arranged horn section.
Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
I thought we'd heard some heavy-duty funk by this time, but Dumpstaphunk was the most relentless funk machine of the day. Everything in the amphitheater except the rocks themselves was shaking by the time these guys got a song or two into their set. And the band didn't let up for an hour. Hammer down. Part of that high-energy sound is explained by the presence of two bass players (Nick Daniels and Tony Hall) who, together, can lay down some serious grooves. The band obviously carries a significant NOLA pedigree with the Neville name. Ivan, keyboards and vocals, is Aaron Neville's son and the band's guitarist, Ian Neville is Art Neville's son. The quintet is completed by Raymond Weber on drums. Like PGF's "Stanky," Dumpstaphunk touched on another stereotypical funk topic with "Can You Smell It?" After all, everybody knows that funk, done right, emits a pungent, stanky aroma.
After Dumpstaphunk and its dearth of horns, the Dirty Dozen brought out the brass with two trumpets and a sousaphone (the second one of the day!) as well as a couple saxophones, a guitar and some drums (and occasionally, a DJ (in the same band as a sousaphone?)). That lineup was merely temporary with players from other bands coming and going on a regular basis. Big Sam joined the band for some trombone blowing and some dancing. At one point a total of eight horn players could be discerned (not counting the sousaphone). One of the highlights of the DDBB's set was their version of Little Feat's "Spanish Moon." The definitive Little Feat version is on the Waiting For Columbus album, which featured a horn sectionbut not eight horns. The version Saturday night took an already funky tune to new heights of funk intensity. The DDBB also paid tribute to the godfather by laying down some James Brown.
Dr. John and the Lower 911