Soul Jazz Records’ latest excursion into the Crescent City vaults delves deep into the roots and history of the Voodoo world of New Orleans Funk.
Packed to the brim with serious break-heavy, heavyweight funk tunes from classic New Orleans artists including Eddie Bo, Betty Harris, Dave Bartholomew, Johnny Adams and Eldridge Holmes (with the ever-present Allen Toussaint and The Meters as always behind the scenes). There is also a host of rare cuts from a number of lesser-known second line New Orleans artists, whose fame rarely reached past the walls of the city, including Gus ‘The Groove’ Lewis, James K-Nine, Norma Jean, Bob French, Chuck Colbert, Zilla Mayes and Joe Haywood.
In the 1960s the syncopated beat of New Orleans Funk developed out of a gumbo mix of New Orleans local flavours – rhythm and blues, Mardi Gras Indians, the street percussion Second Line of the Jazz Funeral and Marching bands, Caribbean rhumba and mambo rhythms – all of which are in full effect. Even Zydeco, the rhythm and blues offspring of Louisiana Cajun music, had the funk as the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, shows us here.
New Orleans music and Voodoo both have their roots in the African-American free black and slave gatherings held at Congo Square from the 18th century onwards. Here Voodoo king Doctor John (the original one!) and Voodoo queen Marie Levaux held court over their followers, and here also could be heard the first sounds of New Orleans jazz music. Soul Jazz Records’ latest album describes how these two cultural forms are inextricably inter-related.
The album traces the path of funk from the very first glimpses of the style – Dave Bartholomew’s super-tight ‘The Monkey’ (recorded in 1957) and James Waynes’ junkie jailbird anthem ‘Junco Partner’ (1951, later covered by Dr John, Professor Longhair, James Booker, and The Clash) through to the 1970s heavyweight boogie funk of Chocolate Milk’s rare groove classic Action Speak Louder Than Words and The Baron’s ‘Making It Better’.
Also featured is a selection of hard-core classic funk productions from the legendary Eddie Bo (James K-Nine, David Robinson) and the genius of Allen Toussaint (Eldridge Holmes, Gus ‘The Groove’ Lewis, Lou Johnson). There also a number of super-rare independent New Orleans’ one-off 45 single funk productions from the likes of Chick Colbert and Bob French. And lastly, New Orleans Funk female vocalists are in full effect with tracks by Betty Harris (whose ‘Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul’ has just come out on Soul Jazz Records), Zilla Mayes and Norma Jean.