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Free shows by two New Orleans legends

9th July 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

“I’ve never really been healthy,” Lionel Ferbos, who turns 101 on July 17, 2012, ironically declares. The trumpeter and singer, who will celebrate the monumental event with a free performance at the World War II Museum on Sunday, July 15, explains that from the time he was 15 years old until he was 40 he suffered with asthma. After decades of treatments by doctors, he finally found relief from an Italian woman whose son owned a bar on the corner of North Claiborne Avenue and Dumaine Street. “She treated me with olive oil and garlic,” Ferbos says. “It cured it. It went away and never did come back.”

“They’ve been giving me these parties for four or five years now but I never know what’s happening because I never get involved – so it’s their worry,” Ferbos says of the upcoming event and his past birthday bashes. He’s performed at the museum several times and appreciates the room’s acoustics and large dance floor. Joining the trumpeter are clarinetist Brian O’Connell, saxophonist Otis Bazoon, trumpeter Jamie Wright, banjoist/guitarist Seva Venet and the veteran ace rhythm section of bassist Chuck Badie and drummer Ernie Elly.

“That’s the whole thing with a band, the rhythm section,” Ferbos notes. “They know what they’re doing. They’re not guessing.”

Ferbos, who began playing music at age 15, has enjoyed not only a long life but a happy one. “I never had many problems,” he says. “The main thing is that I’ve done so many different jobs during my life. I worked in stores on Canal Street, I worked across the river, I worked with my daddy a long time – he was a sheet metal worker – and I had my own sheet metal business. I had something to go by all the time.”

He quickly adds, “Oh, and I had a good wife too. She made everything real good.”

Lionel Ferbos holds the title of New Orleans’ oldest working musician and continues to play weekly at the Palm Court, which, incidentally, is closed for a summer vacation. Through his long career he’s performed with many of this city’s legends including saxophonist/bandleader Harold Dejan, saxophonist Captain Handy, pianist Walter Pichon as well as the W.P.A. Band and the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra. Children are welcome at the show when the wonderful Lionel Ferbos and the Louisiana Shakers take the stage from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

George Porter at the Point

Considering that bassist extraordinaire George Porter Jr. is touring with three bands this summer – his own Runnin’ Pardners, the 7 Walkers and the funky Meters, it’s remarkable that he fit in a date to play at the Wednesdays on the Point series. He and the Runnin’ Pardners with drummer Terrence Houston, guitarist Brint Ander­son, pianist Michael Lemmler and saxophonist Brian Graber cross the river to perform in Algiers Point on Wednesday, July 11. The free concert, which takes place in the area near the ferry landing, runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. He and the Pardners will also be performing at the Blue Nile on Saturday, July 14. Following these dates, Porter will be out of town for the rest of the summer.

On the road, and as he intends to do at these shows, Porter has been featuring music from his latest CD, Can’t Beat the Funk. It’s material that was recorded by the Meters but didn’t make it into their live repertoire. He’s resurrected these classics with his own arrangements.

“They’ve been well-received,” says the bassist says of playing them around the country. “These are songs that over the years people have been requesting the funky Meters to play or some ‘Meter’ band to play. I’m going to pull out some of the favorites at the Point – probably “Rigor Mortis,” “Ease Back” and the vocal ones like “Do the Dirt” and maybe “Stay Away.”

Porter says most of his out-of-town shows promote him as one of the Meters. “Away from home, it’s a curiosity thing for people who are coming out to see me for the first time,” Porter observes.

“That has not always played well with me,” he adds, referring to being regarded simply for his association with the Meters and not for his own, prolific career as a leader. “I don’t hold myself to the point to judge myself by what I did with the Meters. I’ve released four albums of my own material.” In the fall, his Meter connection will again be reinforced. In a band dubbed the Metermen the bassist will team up with former bandmates drummer Zigaboo Modeliste and guitarist Leon Nocentelli for a round of dates.

Though the Porter is making his debut at the Wednesdays on the Point series, he’s often played on the West Bank. The bassist held down a long-standing gig at the Old Point Bar with a trio that included drummer John Vidacovich and guitarist June Yamaguchi. Years ago, he remembers playing the now-defunct Old Man River club with the Meters.

Whoever Porter is with and wherever he might strap on that bass, it’s gonna be funky.

This article originally published in the July 9, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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