TVD Premiere: Cha Wa, Funk ‘N’ Feathers

Mardi Gras Indian music continues to evolve in New Orleans. On Friday, April 1, the latest album of the classic sounds of the streets of New Orleans hits record stores. But TVD has it here first! The album Funk ‘N’ Feathers from Cha Wa features Spy Boy “Honey” Bannister of the Creole Wild West and Spy Boy J’Wan Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles on lead vocals and tambourines. Ben Ellman—the saxophonist of Galactic and a rising star in the world of music production—was behind the board for its recording.

Drummer Joe Gelini, who leads the band with Bannister, is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and has immersed himself in the music of the black Indians of New Orleans since the first time he saw them on Fat Tuesday. He said, “We have so much respect for the elders who came before us; because of this respect, we wanted to make this record the right way. This meant (only) going into the studio after developing  our own interpretation of the music.” His partner in the percussion section is famed Indian drummer, Norwood “Geechie” Johnson.

Geechie has been part of the Mardi Gras Indian world for decades. He played with Bo Dollis’ legendary stage band, the Wild Magnolias, for many years and was a parading member of the tribe. Guitarist John Fohl, late of Dr. John’s band, and pianist Yoshitaka “Z2” Tsuji of Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers are featured on the album.

Special guests include Davell Crawford, who takes an amazing vocal turn on his grandfather “Sugar Boy” Crawford’s classic “Jock-a-Mo,” and Colin Lake contributes lap steel guitar and vocals on another classic, “Li’l Liza Jane.” Producer Ellman joins in the fun playing alto sax on “Injuns, Here They Come.”

Ellman’s production adds much to the proceedings as he has for albums by Trombone Shorty, his own band and the Revivalists. Gelini said, “It’s like having that heavy Indian sound with modern recording and modern production and using it all together. It’s classic and contemporary at the same time.”

The band will celebrate the new release with a show Friday night, April 1, at the Blue Nile.

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