Monday, October 19, 2009
Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Case of the Missing Neville
The Neville Brothers, still reigning as New Orleans' first family of funk, sounded great last night at the 30th annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday.
The band's funk, rock and old-school New Orleans R&B rhythms, by way of the Meters, were driven hard by longtime Nevilles drummer Mean Willie Green. And those ingredients again mixed impressively with Aaron's vocals, from tenor to fluttering falsetto; jazz textures, courtesy of Charles, on alto and tenor sax; and blues B-3 action provided by Art, AKA "Papa Funk."
The set list was familiar, but appealing just the same, and included performances of "Yellow "Moon," "Fiyo on the Bayou," "Fever," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Africa," "Besame Mucho" (instrumental, led by Charles), "Don't Know Much," "A Change is Gonna Come," "Tell It Like It Is," and the traditional "Amazing Grace"/"One Love" closer.
Odd thing, though: Cyril Neville, the percussionist who has always provided a bit of an "edge" to the band, in terms of its New Orleans/Caribbean/African grooves and its political stances, was missing in action. He typically sings lead on several tunes, and provides vocals that are integral to those sweet and gritty Nevilles harmonies.
Even more strange, there was no mention of Cyril's absence, as if the Jazz Holiday crowd wouldn't know or care that he wasn't there.
And then this info, courtesy of a contributor to the chat board at the Jazz Fest site: Cyril apparently skipped his Nevilles gig -- undoubtedly, his "bread and butter" work -- to play two others in New Orleans: The Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival at Lafayette Square Park, and a benefit for ailing blues and gospel singer Marva Wright, at the Rock 'n Bowl.
Things that make you go hmmmmm.
(I'll post Nevilles pix here soon, as well as some notes about the performances by the Marcus Roberts Trio and Brian Bromberg. Thanks to the Jazz Holiday media folks for enabling me and my son to catch ringside views of three strong sets).