Big Apple Unity Jam | 11.20.01 | BB King Blues Club & Grill | NYC
Words by Brian Getz | Photos by Dino Perrucci

On a brisk and clear New York night just before we traditionally feast on food and football, a different breed of warriors united the clans. Leo Nocentelli, Stanton Moore, hailing from the swampy confines of the Big Easy, Chris Wood and Bernie Worrell, holding it down for the positively rebuilding Big Apple, proceeded to wade through sonic assault after passionate bludgeoning with reckless abandon. In the name of unity, a group emerged that was spontaneously revelling in the groove generations ago, and slaying their own constantly reborn child. These guys first gave it a go back a few Mardi Gras ago in NOLA, and obviously it was a meal they needed to try again. Thanksgiving a few days early. Holla!

It always starts with the drummer. Guitar wonderkind Dave Diamond (Grippo Funk Band) once told me during a tense band practice years ago: "We are only as good our drummer." That being said, this night Stanton Moore laid an indestructable foundation for the bombastic energy to build on.

This was really Leo's band. The former Meters six stringer was the singer and general of this troupe. It became evident that he was running the show as they opened with the Meters' "Fire on the Bayou" and "Cissy Strut" complete with the stories behind the tunes. DO NOT BE FOOLED! These weren't your average Meters workouts. Nocentelli let us know right away that he was the taskmaster this evening. Wrestling feverishly with a Gibson hollow body, Leo took the lead of Chris Wood (MMW) and turned these classics into shredding rock songs. Yes, four on the floor rock and roll with sailing grimey guitar licks complemented by boogie-woogie pianos and Mooged out maddness by the twisted scientist Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic, Woo Warriors.)

The theme of the evening was obviously jam, so the crew just threw down slammin' decadent stomps one after another. Sure, it was self indulgent, but these guys have nothing to prove. Each one of them was just improvising fat, juicy slabs of beef for each other to feast on. The extreme looks of joy, concentration, humor and war told the tale, from the dark, sadistic Wood-led Sabbath flavor, to the Nawlinz' spiced "Bendin' ova' Backwards" which closed the set in cacophonous fashion. Leo's Hendrix tinged leads and Slayer-esque thrashes sent Stanton on a killing spree. It was just brutal in a most enjoyable way. A juggernaut fifty minute first set!

Leo claimed they were gonna break "a record" by jamming for eight hours in the second set.

After milling about for a forty minute intermission, about one hundred more people showed up, and the night took on a new energy. The music remained a relentless loving war ensemble, but the audience began to find its' groove. The gawking and fear was replaced with masochistic leisure. The dancing was feverish for the last eighty minutes of the gig. My man Robbie K pointed out that Leo changed out of his glistening silver collar-less button down into a black shirt, having sweated the former deep beneath the gates of hell. The band returned recharged (as if they needed any more juice!), and equipped with a DJ named Logic.

Right out of the gates "Hypin," led by Taskmaster Nocentelli, was a sizzling warm up to the evening's musical highlight, The Meters' "People Say!" Leo really floored it, again busting out into dripping sweat under the gleaming lights and belting out the lyrics with authority. Bugged out Bernie Worrell, who may damn well be Flavor Flav's pops, was just howling some tweaked out analog maddness that had Logic's normally collected head bobbing. Not to be outdone, Leo took over the song with some wailing axe wizardry that just set the joint ablaze. Logic was again humbled, (and somewhat silent) throughout this slaytanic battle.

Mike Gordon was introduced by Nocentelli as "a guy from Phish" and with him appeared "the guitar player from The Wailers." Leo just kept hypin' the faithful with lines like "Are you ready for some shit?!" The now-larger ensemble proceeded to drop a fast groove that Bernie and Cactus got to break down with Stanton on a syncopated electro-tip. After a typically obtuse Gordon bass solo, Leo smiled at the nice guy in a sorta "now I'm gonna kick your ass" way and proceeded to do just that, with yet another climatic six string exhibition laid at the altar of Jimi. Leo brought out a friend (who he didn't introduce other than to say "this kid, you ain't heard of him yet, but he's the shit") to blow some sizzling sax over the Gordon/Logic?/Leo duel. He emerged unscathed with a coke and a smile, lucky for him. After Gordon left the stage, the wildly excited Meters guitarist exclaimed "now that was some shit!"

Jen Durkin from Bernie's band the Woo Warriors came out and started cookin' with that super-positive energy and intensity that she brings to the table. She wasted no time and busted into "Red Hot Momma" providing a space fried bluesy jam with a building chemistry. Mr. Wood re-established his psychosis returning to bass duties on this funkadelic bomb.

The night drew from the Meters' start to finish, as they encored with yet another New Orleans staple. The night's warfare was a draw, both cities coming out victorious. Chris Wood displayed particular fury on his home turf NYC, showing in a new and unforetold context how demented and toxic his brain is in his free time. Leo Nocentelli took no prisoners and brought pain and love on many levels, setting up a clinic for those interested in guitar bludgeoning. Leo reeking of New Orleans grit and determination, really reestablished himself as a positive force to be reckoned with. Bernie Worrell just laid back in the cut, lacing tracks with twisted mothership melodies and starchild smoothness.

And then there was Stanton...

You have to love watching the guy cook up his patented gumbo stew, with tweaked facial expressions, trademark black glasses slidin' off his face as he rocks back and forth, joy eminating from his dripping sweat. Everytime I see him pound away with such tastefully powerful beats and funky breaks, I grin uncontrollably and spastically dance like a child on three bags of sourpatch kids. Tonight's performance only enhanced that sugar high, as it recalled the frenetic energy of two months earlier at B.B. King Blues Club with the orgy that is Garage A Trois.

Leo Nocentelli lead his special forces through the wreckage and into the promised land. A few days before Thanksgiving, we feasted mightily on the invigorating spirit, one nation under a groove, getting down just for the almighty funk of it.

Brian Getz
JamBase | Da Apple
Go See Live Music!

Thanks to Dino Perrucci for the photos!
Check out more of Dino's stuff at DinoPerrucci.com
[Published on: 11/28/01]

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