Words & Images by: Aaron Lafont
Greyboy Allstars/The Legendary J.C.'s :: 02.01.08 :: Tipitina's :: New Orleans, LA
With the spirit of Mardi Gras in the air, a trio of bands led by the Greyboy Allstars rung in the season, kicking the weekend off with an all-night jam session that shook the hallowed halls of Tipitina's until 4 a.m.
Anyone who's been fortunate enough to catch one of the GBA's late night, Jazz Fest throwdowns would have known in advance that this evening promised a memorable experience, but when I saw that Back Door Slam was slated to open the show, I wasted no time gobbling up a set of tickets. Of course, I try not to miss Karl Denson in any capacity whenever he's in town, but I had been itching to see the Slam for over a year now, and needless to say, these three lads from the Isle of Man more than lived up to the buzz.
After celebrating in the streets with the Krewe of Muses, BDS' Davy Knowles, adorned in Mardi Gras beads, strapped up and ripped through an hour of dirty, hard-hitting blues. There was a little bit of Hendrix, a little bit of Cream and a whole lot ass kicking. And just like that, the power trio was gone, leaving everyone in the audience mesmerized and murmuring, "Yep, they're for real."
The Legendary J.C.'s were up next, tapping into the carnival vibe with their high energy blend of soul, rhythm and blues. Within minutes, it became evident why these guys have been popping up all across the festival circuit. They are the living incarnation of Otis Day and the Nights. Frontman Eugene Snowden's James Brown-like enthusiasm and dance steps convinced the crowd early on to pick up their jaws and start shaking their hips.
Minutes past midnight, and for the next four hours, the Greyboy Allstars sealed the evening with their blend of acid-jazz and boogaloo funk that perfectly captured the essence of the Mardi Gras Mambo. Robert Walter, a NOLA denizen for the last half decade, set the night on fire, burning up and down his keys while the crowd moved up and down to his melodies. New drummer, Aaron Redfield fit right into the mix driving the rhythm section alongside longtime bassist Chris Stillwell's rolling swells. The precise riffs and tight, twisting solos of guitarist Elgin Park kept the crowd bopping along to the evening's sharp twists and turns, while Denson's otherworldly sax chops and flute flurries guided the night's adventure, steering things with infectious charisma and stellar musicianship.
All in all, this Friday night more than lived up to expectations, even by New Orleans' standards, even in the midst of Mardi Gras. It was a night that fully captured the deep blues, visceral rhythms and intoxicating jazz that have made this city a musical treasure.
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