Words by Gabriela Kerson :: Images by Dan Savage
PBS & Kimock :: 02.24.06 :: Mexicali Blues Cafe :: Teaneck, NJ
Porter & Batiste :: 02.24
Friday night in Jersey was a bad scene. It was low-down dirty, dark and funky. It was bad like Michael Jackson in the eighties. New Orleans had sent some of their own back east to spread the joy of Mardi Gras. Combined, they have over 90 years of experience playing funk music. These are professionals. Please do not try this at home as you will get hurt. George Porter Jr. (Meters, Funky Meters), Russell Batiste Jr. (Funky Meters), and Brian Stoltz (Funky Meters) took over Mexicali Blues Cafe in Teaneck, New Jersey. They were joined by one of the few men who could have held his own, Steve Kimock (Zero, KVHW, etc).
Kimock & Porter :: 02.24
Travel delays caused by the late February weather meant PBS hit the stage later then planned. They didn't have time for a sound check, line check, set list, or more then a handshake with Kimock, but it was barely noticeable. Triangulating outwards from Batiste on the drums, Stoltz and Porter played hot and heavy on the opening number, "All I Wanna Do Is Get Funky Tonight." Kimock, seated on a stool slightly out of their orbit, used a glass slide to hit the notes on his electric guitar. His melody wove out and around the three-part vocal and instrumental harmony PBS created with a calm, practiced ease.
By the middle of the third song, "Let The Good Times Roll," it sounded like Kimock had been jamming with the boys their entire musical career. At one point, Batiste started listing off bands: Batiste Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Champion Jack Dupree, Maceo Parker, Earl King, The Neville Brothers, The Meters. It's an impressive list on its own, until Batiste ups the ante. Not only has some part of the trio played with all these greats, they've been fired from all these gigs. Sometimes being great just ain't easy.
Kimock, Stoltz * Porter :: 02.24
It is a rare thing to see four musicians who would be perfectly comfortable playing a solo show but are even better together. Russell Batiste Jr. has been playing drums since the age of four, when he climbed up behind his father's drum kit and refused to move. His timing and presence are what make him a great drummer. He knows when to hold and he knows when to fold, ending long funkadelic sessions with a decisive whack on the cymbals.
George Porter Jr. has the laid-back good humor of all great bass players. He's steady, dependable, and original. Willing to keep the line or to show his own razzle-dazzle, Porter bridged the space between Kimock and Stoltz all night, showing Kimock fingering when he seemed lost and facing off with Stoltz when he needed to be reigned back in.
Kimock & Stoltz :: 02.24
Stoltz is a force. With white hair, huge sparkling blue eyes, and a huge grin, he knows the game well. Trading off vocals, wailing on the guitar, and mugging for the numerous cameras, he drew the crowd in and then refused to let them go. Throughout the night, Stoltz shared the front-man position with everyone else on stage, but he was just lending it. When he got tired of a line of music, he gently pulled it into his space and changed the direction.
Porter & Stoltz :: 02.24
Steve Kimock's sweet energy stayed pretty self-contained for the first few songs. With his eyes closed and while taking deep breaths, he processed what he was hearing and responded instantly. As the evening progressed, his eyes opened and he stood up and gave Stoltz a run for his money, his folky feel accentuating the tightness of the grooves. Batiste started off the final song of the first set, "Before You Blame Me," whistling the melody into his mic and pointing a drumstick at Kimock. Sitting straight up on his stool, his pick in his mouth and his slide back on his finger, Kimock put his effects into effect. He was like a judge on a pedestal. As Kimock brought his strings higher-and-higher, Stoltz and Porter reached a frenzied level of their own. Facing off, they ripped funky lines to counteract the incredibly poignant improvisational ramblings of Kimock. Batiste decided when it was over, whistling a final chorus.
Russell Batiste Jr. :: 02.24
After a short break, the power four began with a tribute to Earl King, which was started by Batiste, led by Stoltz, and embroidered by Kimock and Porter. The highlight of the second set came towards the end when they played "Aiko Aiko." With such a basic understanding of the song, all four musicians were able to showcase their talents. At one point, Batiste shouted "Take it to the bridge!" They each set off in a different direction, creating an awful dissonance, but within seconds they adjusted and hit the same page. This proof of their ability not to just play but to instantly problem solve was shown again when Porter broke a string on his bass. He continued to pluck, even as his tech changed the string.
The final three songs sped by - no break, no prisoners taken. The excitement built, and the crowd drew even closer. Kimock, Porter, and Stoltz battled it out, and again Batiste decided when they were done with the kind of timing you can only get from years of experience.
The wild beautiful energy of New Orleans was in the house. For the first time since Katrina, I had been able to enjoy the music without guilt or sorrow. New Orleans has been through trouble before and probably will be again, but the music will keep on keeping on. Through this adversity, to quote PBS, "We keep it funky, we feel the noise, we separate the men from the boys." As the night ended, I was thankful they had agreed to share this last evening before Mardi Gras with us poor folks stuck on the East Coast.
JamBase | NYC
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