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A cornucopia of music is on tap…

31st October 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Bobby Rush
Porcupine Meat

(Rounder Records)

Not many musicians other than those from Louisiana would title an album Porcupine Meat. “We talk another kind of talk,” vocalist, harmonica player, guitarist and native son Bobby Rush once explained. “We talk about chickens, donkeys, monkeys and alligators — anything thing that moves on the ground.” Actually despite its down home title and lyrics, the tune boasts a much more urban feel, a New Orleans feel, that’s made complete by the album’s music director Vasti Jackson on guitar with David Torkanowsky manning a Fender Rhodes (other times he’s on a B-3 or Wurlitzer) with an ace local horn section and the killer rhythm match of bassist/vocalist Cornell Williams and drummer Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander. These guys and other essential New Orleans musicians – sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, saxophonists Roger Lewis and Khari Allen Lee and more turn up throughout the disc with Charles “Chucky C” Elam III a regular on background vocals.

On Rush’s debut on the Rounder label, the three-time Grammy winner and recipient of multiple blues awards, stylistically takes the listener to spots he’s traveled during his remarkable six-decade career. Born in Homer, Louisiana his first stop in 1953 was Chicago. Shades of the Windy City turn up on the disc’s opening number, the hilarious “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around.” Here, in typical Rush form, he warns his woman that no men visitors are welcome around his home when she’s alone. After listing such potential suspicious pursuers as the the milkman, mailman, yardman and even the preacher, Rush gruffly sings, “Don’t want no firemen hanging around. If my house catch on fire, let the sucker burn down.” All of this funk ‘n fun is punctuated by Rush’s well-timed harmonica interjections.bobby-rush-103116

In the 1980s, Rush moved a bit closer to his birthplace of Louisiana, settling down in Jackson, Mississippi. In its simplicity, “Snake in the Grass,” one of only three tunes on the disc that wasn’t written solely by Rush, speaks of the Mississippi Delta approach to the blues. Rush was in on the composing end in this collaboration with producer Scott Billington and Johnette Downing, who is best know for music and books for children.

Rush returns to New Orleans, a city of great influence to him for “Funk O’De Funk,” a tune that lives up to its moniker especially with Joseph’s sousaphone defining the bottom. It’s urban to be sure with a bit of a Rush rap thrown into the mix. Sounds of the city also prevail on “Standing on Shaky Ground” a pure, top-notch, soul blues groove.

Nationally acclaimed guitarists Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin and Keb Mo’, whose slide kicks on the swingin’ “Nighttime Gardener” jump in for some of the action as guests on the album.

Hey, and who wouldn’t? Porcupine Meat is the base of one tasty stew with Rush as the ingredient that brings it all together. Add great musicians, spicy lyrics, the backbone of rhythm and it’s one delicious dish from the first to last juicy bite.

Esperanza Spalding at the Orpheum



Esperanza Spalding stands as a remarkable musician who most audiences initially got to know standing next to an upright bass playing jazz music. Soon people learned that she was a multi-instrumentalist who moved easily to the electric bass, was talented on cello and possessed a wonderfully expressive voice. The winner of four Grammy awards will arrive at the Orpheum Theater on Thursday, November 3rd with a new look (to many audiences), new sound and a new direction as she stars in her theatrical production, Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily’s D+ Evolution. It is, naturally, musically based with Spalding, who’s real middle name is Emily, exploring her more pop-oriented alter ego dwelling in a type of fantasy world. Emily, who wears glasses, boasts a more studious appearance than the more sophisticated Esperanza. Apparently both identities live within the soul and spirit of Spalding, an extremely experimental and inquisitive 32-year-old Portland, Oregon native. Spalding, who has played with the great jazz musicians like saxophonist Wayne Shorter, travels the path of many creative artists by changing and exploring different avenues. Whatever her route, her jazz roots and dedication to exquisite musicianship remain her truth. Showtime at the Orpheum Theater is 8 p.m.

Very Last Chance to Dance

Sadly, for its fans, the Jazz in the Park concert series held in the evenings at Armstrong Park winds up this Thursday, November 3, 2016. It will go out with a bang, however with the always smiling drummer Shannon Powell taking the bandstand at 5 p.m. with, as always, a solid band with keyboardist Kyle Roussel, bassist Chris Severin and special guest trumpeter Derrick “Kabuki” Shezbie. Next up at 6 p.m. is the hard-hitting accordionist Dwayne Dopsie, the son of the late, great Alton “Rockin’ Dopsie” Rubin, leading his appropriately dubbed Zydeco Hellraisers. Entrance to Jazz in the Park is free and kid-friendly. Remember it’s your last chance to dance at the event until next spring.

This article originally published in the October 31, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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