June 27th was just one of many highlights of the 2010 Ottawa jazz festival (okay, every day of the 2010 fest was a highlight) and though a midset spitting rain tried to spoil the evening on this night Mother Nature didn’t have a chance. And not just because the star of the evening was the great John Scofield.
For not only was the legendary guitar player standing on stage playing at his very best (not that Scofield has to namedrop but if he wanted to he could drop names like Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus; dude has played with everybody), but he had put together a swampy-gospel blues/funk New Orleans-based band to record his latest album, a swampy-gospel blues/funk New Orleans-based recording called Piety Street, and he had brought that very same swampy-gospel blues/funk New Orleans-based band along with him for the tour. And you know how I like swampy-gospel blues/funk New Orleans-based music.
The band? None other than the astoundingly funky George Porter Jr. (of The Meters) on bass, backup vocals, and constant funky little head nods, the monstrous Jon Cleary (New Orleans staple and leader of his band: Absolute Monster Gentlemen) on lead vocals and keys, and the ever-solid Terrence Higgins (from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) on drums. In short, it was some of the upper echelon of New Orleans music royalty standing behind one of the most innovative and versatile guitarists in the jazz world, and they were cookin’.
Though Sco leaned into some fairly off-kilter angle-jazz inside his otherwise genre-pocket solos the overwhelming feel of the set was funkyblues, and the feeling was inescapable. Yes, even when the sky started to drizzle. One thing’s for sure: a little rain has never gotten in the way of good, swampy New Orleans music; the musicians are well used to the occasional downpour and the crowds somehow seem to dance mostly between the drops.
Nobody left, and the rain ultimately let up. When the final groove came to a close I found myself a little too soggy (due to rain or dance-sweat, I cannot say for sure) to try my luck with the aftershow so I made my way home, eager to return to the festival the following night when the headliner would be John Scofield’s other recent bandmates: Medeski, Martin & Wood.