I do so love a good, authentic funk band, and nothing gets my booty shaking faster than the sound of a sloppy New Orleans drumbeat and a Hammond B3 organ. Friday, April 13th will be a lucky day for me and other funk fans as NOLA-based Papa Grows Funk climb the stairs to take the stage at George Street Grocery.
This five-piece ensemble, led by John "Papa" Gros (former member of George Porter Jr.'s band and co-leader of MuleBone) also includes sax man Jason Mingledorff (who has played with funk brethren Galactic), drummer Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, June Yamagishi on guitar and Marc Pero on bass guitar. A bit of trivia about Alexander: He has played with fellow NOLA keyboardist Jon Cleary, who is honestly one of the best piano men I have ever witnessed, and played with Bonnie Raitt on her last tour. Even with the countless professional musicians coming out of New Orleans, the five members of Papa Grows Funk are definitely near the top of the list.
The band's latest release, "Mr. Patterson's Hat," dropped March 27, so get ready for some fresh new songs. Papa Grows Funk's sound is a little bit James Brown, a good chunk of Sly and the Family Stone, and a spot of classic Mardi Gras shuffle for good measure. The feel-good sound and silly names of the songs on "Mr. Patterson's Hat" are deceptive, as some songs have a somber message of post-Katrina issues. "Tootie Montana," for example, is a song about police violence and crime problems in the city. A New Orleans funk album could never be all doom and gloom, though, and Papa Grows Funk's latest effort also demonstrates plenty of reasons to celebrate the rebuilding and renewal that is going on in the city today.
Papa Grows Funk encourages taping, and there are guidelines on the band's Web site for anyone who wishes to tape the show. Set lists are only available after the show, however, because this band is truly unpredictable and notorious for never following a set list.