When New Orleans Juice rolled in to Charleston on Saturday, January 19, it couldn’t have been more fitting; six guys bringing bayou fried funk to a “French Quarter” district architecturally and atmospherically comparable to their home. In the small, yet comfortable room known as Cumberland's, the band tore through a rollicking set of bumping originals and funk favorites that would have made a deaf man smile.

While this was the last night of their winter tour, the band exuded a freshness normally associated with the first week on the road, and while there were several line-up changes leading into this tour, the music flowed seamlessly and without hesitation.

With bassist Dave Jordan and harmonica player and percussionist Jamie Galloway sharing vocal duties, their set boasted a few songs off of their 2000 release Fortified, while concentrating on tunes from their as-yet-untitled new album. Also included were two new songs, both instrumentals, brought to the band by their new guitarist Sam Hotchkiss and their saxophonist Niko. To round out the set, Juice paid homage to their hometown with covers of Dr. John's “Back By the River,” The Neville Brothers' “Voodoo,” and Allen Toussaint's “Get Out of My lie Woman” among others.

The sound of New Orleans Juice is straight from the delta, down and dirty, and displays an in-the-pocket looseness that not only forms the vehicle for full-on funk, but gives way to intense jam segments that are focused and controlled. Grounded in the driving bass of Jordan and the syncopated drumming of Aron Lambert, the solid back beat allows the keyboards, saxophone, and guitar to soar to unworldly levels only to be brought back down into a rubber-band tight groove.

In their elastic jams, the band moves along like marbles in a latex bag, moving freely while tightly contained within a bouncing groove machine. Houston Riley’s keyboards squirm and slither while Niko’s blistering saxophone leads reflect the horn mastery and accents of New Orleans compatriot Ben Ellman of Galactic.

By the last few notes of the smoking show, the exhausted crowd of several hundred sweaty music lovers had felt the power of New Orleans Juice, and shaken their tail- feathers without hesitation or shame. The frayed crowd spilled out of the bar into the streets of downtown Charleston, the buildings reflecting the age and personality of those in the Garden District of New Orleans, feeling transplanted, if just for a little while, to a place where funk flows naturally, all night long.

Jamie Lee
JamBase | Charleston
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[Published on: 1/23/02]

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