Porter, Batiste and Stoltz heats up Vail Village tonight
VAIL ” If George Porter Jr. has a favorite Funky Meters song, it might be “What you say” or “Lonesome and Unwanted People.”
But, Porter said, “I don’t think I have one that I don’t like.”
The all-star funk trio Porter, Batiste and Stoltz, three of the four Funky Meters, kicks off the sixth year of Street Beat with a journey of the mind, body and soul at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Vail Village.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty high-energy show,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s John Dakin. “These guys are kind of like the funk, jam masters. It’s a great way to keep the party rolling right on the heels of the World Cup.”
And it’s another excuse to drink in the street.
“I could do that all year,” said Kimmy Peterson of Vail, who has worked in the beer tent since Street Beat began. “It’s fun, it’s social. I see the same locals.”
With a strong lineup this year, the winter concert series will surely draw in the crowds.
“Street Beat is now developing a life of its own, similar to what Hot Summer Nights has done, where it’s every bit a social event as it is a musical event.”
Porter said people can expect a combination of funk and rock ‘n’ roll and some jammin’ to get heat generating among the masses.
“It has to go down on the record that I am not a snow person,” Porter said.
The trio, all native to warm New Orleans, just finished recording 10 original tracks in Porter’s home studio for the new Porter, Batiste and Stoltz CD that will be out by early next year. The band hasn’t decided on the title. It may be a self-titled album, Porter said.
Porter, Batiste and Stoltz originated after Funky Meters keyboardist Art Neville left the foursome to pursue other musical endeavors.
“We’d be playing as the Funky Meters and we’d go out on a limb and Neville would stop playing. “We realized there was a bunch of times we’d be playing as a trio anyway. We realized we were a power trio.”
Their natural gravitation toward improvisation makes the band’s shows an intense, unique experience.
“We got some serious spontaneity. Fans, they like to see things just come out of nowhere. And sometimes it just surprises us, and we look at each other and say ‘whoa, how did that happen?'”
The trio’s secret to locking in the grooves is one we all learned at an early age.
“We listen to each other,” Porter said. “Even though we’re out, we kind of all grab a corner and go for it. We tend to respond to statements that are being made by individuals in the jam world. We keep in touch, really. We pay a lot of attention to what each other do.”
Each musician brings something different to the table, creating an intense blend of supersonic funk.
Drummer David Russell Batiste, Jr., who started playing beats at the age of 4, took over Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste’s spot in the band in 1989.
“Russell has a unique ability to be wherever he wishes to be and when he wishes to be really really good, he is,” Porter said. “When he chooses to be really really bad, he is.
“You have to be a bad ass to do that kind of stuff, to have those moments where you can be unspeakable. Russell can do it.”
Not only is Batiste a drummer, he’s an arranger.
“He’s bad. He’s a very talented young man,” Porter said. “Like I said, when he chooses to be, he can be very brilliant.”
Brian Stoltz, who played with the Neville Brothers during the ’80s, joined the Meters in 1994 replacing Leo Nocentelli. After the change in personnel, the band added funky to its name.
“Brian is a really great lead guitar player,” Porter said. “He’s a hell of a rhythm guitar player as well.”
Porter admits of the trio, Stoltz is the most dedicated songwriter.
“He tends to sit home and think it out,” Porter said. “He takes writing very seriously. He might even walk around with a dictionary in his bag. He can come up with words right off the top of his head. It puts a smile on your face.”
Porter puts meaning into the word funk.
“I’m a good groove player. I can sit here and write grooves all day long,” he said.
Porter has been playing the bass for since he was 11 or 12. He picked up the guitar even earlier at age 8 and began studying classical guitar. His career was largely propelled by of all things, war.
“During the beginning of the Vietnam era, music suffered a lot,” Porter said. “I tried to enlist, I was still two years young. It was a need at that point. A lot of the electric bass players that were really well-known around the area got drafted, and I just kind of filled that seat.”
Porter says his most embarrassing moment of his career was getting thrown off the Rolling Stones’ stage.
“The original Meters were on tour with The Rolling Stones in Europe,” he said. “The Rolling Stones were always running off stage and would immediately get in their vehicles to leave. Bill Weiman left, and the band and Eric Clapton decided to go back on stage and there was no bassist. I got the high sign to pick up the bass. Then Bill comes running back on stage. It took Keith a week to calm down. At that point I could never walk out on the stage with the Rolling Stones again, whether they had a bassist or not. Bill thought that I had infringed on his territory. I don’t think that was ever talked about.”
Porter, who is inspired by classical music and Miles Davis, doesn’t turn on the radio or TV for music.
“I’m not impressed by any of it. One of the things of being a player are the ABCs of music. They have gotten broken down to their lowest common denominator, where a drum machine can dictate the pulse for every song, kind of like what happened in the disco era. It all sounds the same. Now the music that’s happening in the jam community ” that’s a totally different animal.”
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 619, or firstname.lastname@example.org.