Review: One Month to Mardi Gras

Throughout the set, the new rhythm section of Loftlin & Glaspie made for a great viewing experience. Watching Chris on bass is one of those experiences where his energy and smile are just infectious as he bounces around the stage. And as she did last month when she sat in with Lettuce at the Soul II Soul Haiti Benefit, Nikki went from pounding the skins for some hard funk and rock to a beautiful light touch on the Wonder cover. The band were joined by Big Sam’s trumpet player Andrew Baham for a truly fun jazzy version of tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World where Chris went crazy bouncing around the stage. The set closed with a single encore featuring Big Sam, Baham & Maurice Brown (trumpet) on horns.

Whereas watching Chapter 2 is something for Jazzbos and those who truly enjoy watching top musicians play at a high level, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is a whole other thang. Sammie “Big Sam” Williams (trombone, vocals) led his crack band through an almost two hour set of funk, hip-hop, rock and jazz. During what I would call 12 “jams” rather than songs, the band played parts of hits ranging from The Meters’ Hey Pocky Way and John Boutte’s Treme Song to Blackstreet’s No Diggity and Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It. Somehow they also managed to cover or quote from Cee Lo’s Fuck You, Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, Otis’ Hard To Handle and P-Funk’s Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) along the way.

Sam & trumpet player/singer Andrew Baham had plenty of stage presence. Guitarist Takeshi Shimmura played crisp searing lead lines as well as percussive rhythm throughout. And the backline of drummer “Milk” Williams and bassist Eric Vogel kept things in check. The highlights of the set were a Crazy cover of the Gnarls Barkley hit which segued into Cee Lo’s latest smash during which Robert Randolph’s younger sister Lenesha strutted onto stage to take over on vocals (Hell, they even threw in a touch of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance to end it).

The group’s cover of the Treme theme song led to Sam inviting just about every beautiful woman (and a few men) from the audience up onto the stage to dance with them. Even Ivan Neville couldn’t help but jump up just to dance and cheer them on. And Sam is not shy when it comes to inviting others to join in. On the epic 20 minute 3rd jam, Jamie McLean strapped on his guitar & Christian Scott sat in on trumpet. Other guests included Louis Fouche (sax) and Maurice Brown who returned to the stage to play the trumpet and rap (Can I Kick It). By the time they came back onto the stage just before 2AM for an encore of When The Saints Come Marching In, the audience in attendance had gotten what they wanted: four solid hours of dancing and ecstasy.

Not everyone is lucky enough to get down to Louisiana and experience Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest. But on nights like these, New Yorkers can rejoice on why we live in the best city of them all when it comes to live music. Keep your gumbo & beignets, we’ve got our pizza and falafel (and Mamoun’s is right around the corner!)

Chapter 2 Setlist:

Big Sam’s set list [according to Sam’s memory]:

Krunked Up
Big Sam’s Blues/We gon do it
Bah Duey Duey
Hey Pockey Way
See Me Dance
Hard to Handle
King of the Party
Do Whatcha Wanna
Up in Here
Doing it to Death/Funky Good Time

Encore: Saints! (When the Saints go Marching In)

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