Jukebox: Nevilles connection obvious in Dumpstaphunk

Years ago, when the Neville Brothers were just starting out as a band and I was just starting to und
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Years ago, when the Neville Brothers were just starting out as a band and I was just starting to understand and really love New Orleans music, keyboardist Art Neville explained the Neville Brothers’ “secret groove.” He told me, “It’s what I don’t play.”

Fast forward to this Saturday, when Art’s nephew Ivan Neville brings his own very Nevilles-related band Dumpstaphunk to Revolution Hall (425 River St., Troy). In the New Orleans music magazine Offbeat, Ivan explained his band’s approach: “You gotta listen and know when not to play.” That’s some pretty intense listening.

The other four notable New Orleans funk masters in Dumpstaphunk can play enough notes for a dozen players, so they don’t leave much space for Ivan to play, or lots of opportunities for him to not play.

Nonetheless, he plays plenty.

Ivan is the he-plays-everything-but-mostly-keyboards son of singer Aaron Neville, and Dumpstaphunk also includes Ivan’s guitarist cousin Ian, son of Nevilles keyboardist Art Neville.

Dumpstaphunk has two bassists who’ve both played with the Neville Brothers over the years: Tony Hall and Nick Daniels. And, no, it’s not redundant, even considering that Ivan Neville is a fine bassist, too: He played both bass and keyboards on Rolling Stones albums.

Drummer Raymond Weber may be the least famous name in Dumpstaphunk, though he played Ray Charles’ drummer in “Ray” (2004); and he played Albany’s Palace Theatre with Trey Anastasio’s big band, on Nov. 18, 2005.

Backstage at the Palace was a nervous place that night: Weber had just joined Trey’s band that very day. But he learned Anastasio’s complicated tunes in a big hurry, and he and bassist Tony Markellis really brought the funk.

In addition to playing with the Neville Brothers off and on since his teens, Ivan Neville has played with the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards’ band the X-pensive Winos, Robbie Robertson, Galactic, the Spin Doctors (taking over when Chris Barron lost his voice), RatDog, Gov’t Mule and too many others to mention.

But we have to mention Bonnie Raitt, in whose road band he played for a few years and who said of him: “Ivan Neville is the funkiest collection of human gumbo ever assembled on the planet.” The same description might well apply to Dumpstaphunk.

Doors open at 8 p.m., and Nautilus opens. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 on Saturday. Phone 274-0553 or visit www.revolutionhall.com.

Batiste on Wilson’s team

The two Neville cousins of Dumpstaphunk aren’t the only dynastic New Orleans musical masters playing here this weekend: The prodigious pianist Jonathan Batiste plays with jazz singer Cassandra Wilson on Sunday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany).

Batiste started as percussionist in the Batiste Brothers Band at age 8 and switched to piano at 11. When I caught him with his trio at Jazz Fest in New Orleans last year, Batiste looked about 15, but he had the full range of New Orleans piano power at his fingertips — the pulsating funk syncopation, the muscular but dancey swing, the galloping chordal runs and cyclic melodies.

He was actually 21 then, but he looked way younger, and he played way older.

He’s a fascinating choice for Cassandra Wilson’s band, which has always been powered by guitars, under the leadership of guitarist — who else? — Marvin Sewell. Besides Batiste and Sewell, Wilson’s band on Sunday will feature bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Lekan Babalola.

Sunday’s concert was postponed from Feb. 8 — Grammy Awards show night — so Wilson could attend, and win for Best Jazz Vocal Performance with her latest album “Loverly.” As usual, this marked a departure for the creatively restless Wilson.

Her “Thunderbird” album (2006) may be her most Mississippi-sounding album ever (she’s from Jackson originally, but lives now in Manhattan and Woodstock), masterfully crafted with producer T Bone Burnett — is that guy on a roll, or what?

On 2008’s “Loverly,” she pages through what Tony Bennett calls The Great American Songbook. (Wilson doesn’t write much, evidently and justifiably confident that she can make anybody else’s tunes her own and saving the writing impulse for such challenges as setting words to Miles Davis tunes on her stellar straight-ahead album “Traveling Miles.”)

On “Loverly,” she tackles vintage numbers with remarkably idiosyncratic results. She doesn’t exactly beg “Lover Come Back to Me”; it’s more like an invitation, one option among others.

She exotic-dances through Duke’s “Caravan” — you can almost hear the silk sliding over her skin to the floor, and there’s even more libido in “Till There Was You” and “The Very Thought of You.”

She goes deeper than the big, buttery sound of her voice into various hues of blues: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” “Dust My Broom” and “St. James Infirmary.”

All that is lovely, even loverly, and she’s likely to sing some of it on Sunday at The Egg. But there’s another departure on the way: Next month she releases “Closer to You: The Pop Side.” But even the pop side of Cassandra Wilson will probably surprise.

Show time for Cassandra Wilson is 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $34.50, and tickets for the Feb. 8 show will be honored on Sunday. Phone 518 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.

Spring Shaw

Folksinger Christopher Shaw is so revered for Mountain Snow & Mistletoe, the holiday show he and music-and-life partner Bridget Ball unwrap like a gift every year, that it’s easy to forget he makes music year-round.

On Saturday, he plays at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) with new songs from an album due this spring.

Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $15, $12 for Caffe members. For more information, phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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