Neville Brothers: Mardi Gras Mambo Tour

cpas_neville_brothers_11Still deeply funky after all these years, the Neville Brothers are now traveling around the U.S. on their “Mardi Gras Mambo” tour, a double-bill with Dr. John’s band.

Here’s the link to my Nevilles story, as published in the St. Petersburg Times. I spoke with saxophonist Charles Neville.

And below is the story:

Quint Davis, longtime producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, often calls the Neville Brothers “the heart and soul of New Orleans.”

Keyboardist Art “Poppa Funk”, saxophonist Charles, singer Aaron and percussionist Cyril indeed are often treated as their hometown’s official musical ambassadors. They regularly bring their infectious mix of New Orleans R&B, funk, jazz and African and Caribbean sounds, and socially conscious messages to festivals and concert halls around the world.

But the Nevilles, playing the “Mardi Gras Mambo” tour on a double bill with Dr. John, represent just one variety of the Crescent City’s musical gumbo, Charles said. The concert trek comes to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on Saturday.

“People ask, ‘Is what you’re doing New Orleans music?’ ” he said by telephone last week. “Well, New Orleans music is not just us. Fats Domino is New Orleans music. Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) is New Orleans music, and Harry Connick, and the Marsalis family, and Dr. John. When you listen to the brass bands – that’s New Orleans music. New Orleans music covers a broad spectrum of styles and genres.”

The Nevilles, together and separately, have played New Orleans rhythms and melodies and harmonies for more than five decades, beginning in 1954 when oldest sibling Art put together the Hawketts. That band’s “Mardi Gras Mambo” became a huge hometown hit.

Later, Art formed monstrously funky quartet the Meters, which eventually included Cyril, and Aaron in 1966 scored a national hit with gorgeous soul ballad “Tell It Like It Is.” The Nevilles’ first notable appearance together on record was with Mardi Gras Indians, on the classic Wild Tchoupitoulas in 1976, and the next year they teamed for the debut Neville Brothers album. Their most recent label-affiliated CD, Walkin’ in the Shadow of Life, was released in 2004.

Which Neville Brothers albums are among the band’s best? Charles’ names Yellow Moon, the popular 1989 album helmed by revered producer Daniel Lanois, and Live on Planet Earth, released in 1994.

“Lanois was able to, in the studio, capture the spirit and the feeling of the music, and capture what we do and what we mean with the music,” he said. “What we do — the spirit of New Orleans is in our music. It’s the spirit involved in those rhythms. Those rhythms are the ones handed down (from) voodoo.”

The Nevilles play tonight in Charlotte, N.C., and the final stop on their current round of tour dates is May 3, their traditional second-Sunday set closing out Jazz Fest (the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival).

2-25 Charlotte, NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center More Info
2-26 Columbus, GA Rivercenter For the Performing More Info
2-28 Sarasota, FL Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall More Info
3-01 Tallahassee, FL The Moon More Info
3-02 Naples, FL Philharmonic Center For the Arts More Info
3-03 West Palm Beach, FL Kravis Center for the Performing Arts More Info
3-13 Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Hilton Theater More Info
3-14 Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Hilton Theater More Info
5-03 New Orleans, LA New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival M