Sunday, October 12, 2008

Porter Batiste Stoltz, featuring Page McConnell | Moodoo


Mix some New Orleans voodoo funk with a dash of Page McConnell, what do you get? A little something called Moodoo. Porter Batiste Stoltz are a trio extracted from the current Funky Meters, a post breakup amalgam of the remaining original Meters, the meatiest and grittiest of the heavyweight funk crews. Original bassist George Porter Jr. is joined by post-reunion members Russell Batiste on drums and Brian Stoltz on guitar while keyboardist Art Neville is absent. According to some reports, since this concert was held in Vermont, Page McConnell, the keyboardist from Phish, was attending this show anyway. The guys from PBS invited him onstage, and they jammed together for almost two sets, the highlights of which are included in this disc.

The Meters are the most important New Orleans funk outfit, and their particular style has inspired countless bands and genres. If you thought their sound was spare even with Neville on organ, dig how they sound with no keys on three of the album's nine tracks. In "Comin' At Ya," Porter and Stoltz harmonize on riffs and licks, but when Stoltz pulls away to solo Porter takes off in an opposite direction, hitting the chord changes while also creating new grooves and rhythms. Batiste holds down the fort while his band members take flight. As they say during some stage banter, Batiste is the "guardian of the groove." Amen to that.

After their touchstone cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Check Out Your Mind," the band rips into a medley that incorporates an original Meters track and two covers, one by Sly & the Family Stone and the other by Bob Dylan. In Stoltz's live album Up All Night, the medley begins with "Funky Miracle" and segues into "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." In this concert, they squeeze Sly's "Sing a Simple Song" in the middle. Though the first segue is seamless, the final one is a little awkward. When Stoltz begins to play the song's chords, McConnell drops out. You can hear him realize what song it is about 20 seconds later when he begins playing the song's piano part.

McConnell joins the band in "I Get High," a funkafied strut that begins with the immortal lyrics, "When I'm walking down the street/I love to walk behind you/it's so wonderful to see/that the Lord has been so kind to you." When Batiste is on the ride, McConnell steps up as Stoltz plays some descending chords and Porter fills the middle. Unexpectedly, Porter and McConnell drop out in the first part of Stoltz's solo. With no bass or keys, there is no bottom to the track, which gives the sensation that the band is precariously floating. Ah, but when the whole band jams as an ensemble.  Each member is riffing off the main melody, even Batiste who relies on the melody for his accents; so though the group may sound disjointed and skeletal, they are spectacularly tight and economical. Porter, the underrated bass king, knows exactly where to be at every single instant. Sometimes he's harmonizing with Stoltz, other times he's locked in tight with Batiste, and others he's on his own. Imagine many tetherballs attached to one pole, each tetherball is either McConnell, Stoltz, or Porter, and the pole is Batiste.

No comments: