TVD Recommends:
Cha Dooky Doo, The Music of Art Neville
at Tipitina’s, 11/15

The terms “living legend” and “icon” get bandied around so much as to render them nearly impotent, but the genuine article lives among us. Saturday night (11/15) at Tipitina’s a group of local musicians will be joined by the man himself in an unprecedented review of his sixty-plus years setting the standard for popular music.

Art Neville first burst into the public consciousness as a teenager when his iconoclastic vocal stylings turned a little-heard country and western tune, “Mardi Gras Mambo,” into a hit. The song, released in 1954, became a perennial favorite and defines Mardi Gras music in New Orleans.

Neville’s career had just begun. Since those heady first days, the keyboardist and vocalist has claimed many other accolades. As the founding member of the Meters, he helped define a new genre of music—funk. As the eldest of the Neville Brothers he brought that style to the world.

While many of his songs became world-renowned, numerous others were regional hits and slipped out of the public imagination, relegated to appearances on oldies radio.

According to Aron Lambert, the drummer and producer behind the show, it’s past time to give the man his due especially considering he is approaching 77 years of age (December 17) and his live performances have been severely curtailed.

The band behind the project, which been rehearsing for three months, features Lambert on drums, Dave Jordan on bass, Brian Stoltz and Chris Mulé on guitars, and Marc Adams on keys. The three-piece Zing Zing horns feature Tom Fitzpatrick on tenor saxophone, Ian Smith on trumpet, and Rick Trolsen on trombone. All those names should be familiar to fans of local music.

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Of note to connoisseurs of funk minutia—Jordan is a founding member of the seminal second-generation New Orleans funk band, Juice. But his career has taken him in another direction and as an acclaimed roots-rock singer/ songwriter, he has mostly put down his bass in favor of the acoustic guitar.

Over the course of the rehearsal period, Neville became increasingly involved in the project. To the utter delight of all of the musicians involved, he will perform as much of the set as his energy allows.

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And what a set it is going to be. The band has prepared 28 songs from Neville’s voluminous back catalog including four songs, which according the star of the show, have never been played since the day they were recorded. Whittling down the list to about twenty tunes has been a task akin to that of Solomon.

Lambert insists that the performance is about Neville, so don’t expect any other special guests. But no one involved has ruled out the possibility of other performances. Just imagine given the depth of Neville’s career who could be on that bill?

The Tremé Brass Band opens the show.

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REHEARSAL PHOTOS: KATE GEGENHEIMER

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