Had dinner with a friend the other night and we got around to talking about George Porter who in my opinion is one of the funkiest bass players alive. I’ve had a love affair with his playing for a long time, not to say I haven’t enjoyed watching him play too. My friend was in New Orleans recently working on a music project where George Porter was the bass player. I have to admit I was extremely jealous. It’s been some time since I’ve seen him perform, and I’ve never been in a recording session with him.
I proceeded to tell my friend that I own everything the Meter’s ever recorded (Porter is the bass player), have seen him perform live multiple times both as a part of The Meter’s, doing his own thing, and also several times with Leo Nocentelli who use to be the guitarist for The Meters and sometimes plays with them again now. I’ve screamed and yelled and danced and wiggled my way around many a Meter’s show. I’ve seen them in large crowds and in small clubs and have been to shows where they played for 3 hours straight and Art Neville had to be practically dragged off the stage to quit playing. They were amazing, digging their music at least as much as their audience if not more. I was lucky to be at a reunion concert at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 89,’ and to live in SF when Bill Graham managed The Neville Brothers, so The Meter’s (by then reformed with Russell Batiste on drums instead of Modeliste) tended to be in SF frequently and played fairly often around town, and those who were in the know reaped the rewards.
If you’ve never met The Meter’s, it’s time you did. The original Meter’s formed in 1965 with Art Neville as its front man playing keyboards and singing. The band also included as mentioned guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter, and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste. They became the house band for Allen Toussaint and his record label, and in 1975 Cyril Neville joined the band on percussion and vocals. They released some major R&B hits, but it wasn’t until the mid-seventies that they became better known in more musician circles and to a greater fan base. Performing at a party for Paul and Linda McCartney The Meter’s caught the eye of Mick Jagger and were soon asked to open for The Stone’s on their next American and European tour.
Seeped in New Orleans culture their music combines funk, soul, and dance grooves in a “jam band” style that is distinctly unique to The Meter’s. Having a great influence on the New Orleans music scene for decades, the group seems to have had a greater influence and more popularity after the fact. Disbanding in 1979 and then regrouping in the late 80’s to the present, both with and without Nocentelli and Batiste and Modeliste at times, they are a signature of a certain New Orleans sound and have been copied, sampled, and honored by many young players and bands from hip hop to soul to alternative rock and pop. Adding Neville Brothers guitarist Brian Stoltz to the lineup as guitarist in 94’ when Nocentelli left the band, the group started to go by the name The Funky Meters. It gets a little confusing as to who is playing with who at times as it keeps on changing, so when playing with the original members they call themselves The “Original Meters,” and when playing with some of the replacement players, “The Funky Meters.” In either configuration you will get a great funky energetic sound full of soulful playing and stellar Neville vocals. In 2007 guitarist Stoltz left the “Funky Meters” to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Art’s son, Ian.
To hear a version of The Meter’s playing their song “Just Kissed My Baby,” either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.
To learn more about The “Original” Meters or The “Funky” Meters go to their official sites, which are listed below.