The New Orleans Suspects are a an unsung, multi-talented, all-star band playing fantastic NOLA-style funk. This was definitely my favorite City Winery show to-date as they brought the raucus, ruckus that they’re known for from the opening licks of Swampthang to the rousing finale of Big Chief.
The City Winery venue is a great venue to see a show and get up front and personal with the artists. It’s a kind of dinner theater atmosphere where you can get some nice grub coupled with wine made on premises, but it’s a traditional seated venue which is not the usual Suspects way. The setlist (left) was great because it mixed some of their older tunes like Swampthang (a personal favorite), traditional NOLA tunes like Hey Pokey Way (The Meters), Tipitina (Professor Longhair), and Such a Night (Dr. John), and four cuts of their recently released CD Kaleidoscoped (Preview Kaleidoscoped here).
A NOLA Suspects show is a non-stop, New Orleans dance party, and for the last 1/3 of the show, the audience did just that. The band stays true to the tunes that they select and they are all accessible and recognizable. Yet, each member of the band is renowned in their own way and are given a chance to shine on numerous solos. Jeff Watkins, one of the baddest sax players on the planet played for years with James Brown and was Joss Stone’s bandleader. I always groove on his solos which are a roller coaster rise of wailing and honking but frequently and punctuated with thrilling altissimo blasts.
Jake Eckert, was with Dirty Dozen Brass Band for years and can strum or slide with equal dexterity and clearly has a great interation with new addition Charlie Wooton on bass. Charlie brings some deep funk to the Suspects and meshes perfectly. CR Gruver was classically trained on keys but definitely stylistically echoes Dr. John and Professor Longhair. Last and definitely not least is Mean Willie Green, who spent 30 years drumming with the Neville Brothers. Willie brings that authentic second line feel to the group and as he once pointed out to me after a show, is truly ambidextrous on drums which propels the band continuously marching forward. If you ever wonder what Mardi Gras is like or are curious about New Orleans music but can’t get down there, check out The New Orleans Suspects live and get hip to that jive!