On August 16, The Hollywood Bowl will present New Orleans Night, featuring some of the Bayou’s greatest groovers. The bill features The Neville Brothers and The “Original Meters”, both groups considered true legends of New Orleans funk, soul and jazz by music critics and well-respected musicians. This evening of New Orleans music promises to be a night to be remembered: according to the Hollywood Bowl, Garden “District” Seats, Box Seats and Super Seats have already sold out.
The Hollywood Bowl performance has a special significance for the Original Meters since they have re-united after 25 years and conducting a tour, which has included opening up for the Rolling Stones on March 12 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Prior to this year, the group’s original lineup – founder, keyboardist, Art Neville, bass player, George Porter, guitarist, Leo Nocentelli, and drummer, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste – would only perform on the spot at The Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This year’s festival, whether it be voodoo, or just the fact that it’s their original stomping ground, resulted in stellar performances by the group.
During the late 60’s and 70’s this rhythm section was infamous since you would never know what would happen. They would always keep it lose and invite other artists – Stevie Wonder to name one musical luminary – to jam with them since they would regularly headline or close the festival.
The historic importance of these two groups during New Orleans’ Annual Jazz Festival is best summed up by John Swenson, who wrote in OffBeat Magazine that: “The final day of Jazz Fest is perennially closed by two bands, one at each end of the Fair Grounds infield. At one end is the Neville Brothers, a band whose historical interaction with the Meters runs together like the trunk and branches of a live oak tree.”
Thus, both of these groups have a deep musical history in New Orleans and beyond. The Neville Brothers, quite literally, have traveled hundreds of meters around the world, with the goal of putting
New Orleans funk and soul on the map. And, there is a connection point between the two groups since Neville founded the Meters in 1965.
Prior to forming the Meters, Neville, in the mid 1950s, had already played the clubs around the French Quarter. With The Meters, he now had a consistent unit to express his rhythmic and melodic ideas that integrated traditional parade music with what would become New Orleans traditional rhythm and blues. The group caught the attention of Allen Toussaint, one of the most powerful musicians and producers in New Orleans. The Meters then became the house band for Toussaint’s label Sansu Enterprises.
In addition to their notoriety performing live in New Orleans, the group did release several hits. Their recording history is well documented. As noted in Google’s Wikipedia, in 1969, the Meters released “Sophisticated Cissy” and “Cissy Strut”, both major R&B chart hits. They followed up with “Look-Ka Py Py” and “Chicken Strut” in 1970, which were also hits in 1970.
However, after a label change in 1972, the Meters had difficulty returning to the charts, though they played on many important records by Dr. John, Paul McCartney, King Biscuit Boy, Labelle and Robert Palmer. Unfortunately, due to some alleged internal turmoil and legal problems with Toussaint, The Original Meters called it quits in 1977.
At that point, Neville was determined to dedicate his time solely working with his brothers and the group has never looked back since. The group began by re-recording some of the hits that Neville had written with the Meters, such as “Fiyo On The Bayou,” and “Mardi Gras Mambo”. Since the late 1970s, they have recorded numerous albums and received several Grammys as well.
This reporter is confident, having seen both of these groups, that their performances at The Hollywood Bowl will be two of the most compelling of the summer.