Saturday, May 26, 2012

Papa Grows Funk Spreads Its Homegrown New Orleans Sound Across The Globe

Photo by Jerry Moran
Papa Grows Funk are one of the most prominent and successful funk bands to come out of New Orleans in quite some time. The funk quintet has been blowing up recently, with their international fan base steadily building. More and more people have been getting hip to Papa Grows Funk's authentic New Orleans-style brand of funk. The groove outfit's performance style is rooted in improvisation, recognizing the long-standing hot jazz tradition of some of New Orleans most celebrated sons, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. The band is led by Hammond B3 keyboardist and lead singer John "Papa" Gros and consists of Marc Pero (bass), June Yamagishi (guitar, backing vocals), Jason Mingledorff  (saxophones, backing vocals) and Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander on drums and backing vocals.

Papa Grows Funk are known for their completely improvised shows, which have no formal rehearsals or planned set lists. This unique approach to performing gives their shows the loose, spontaneous feel of an authentic jam session, rather than a perfunctory run-through of  songs. The band members allow their groove instincts to dictate what they play. They might change a song or a groove at the spur of the moment. It's all about how the groove moves them.

Gros formed Papa Grows Funk in 2000. The name of the band was a play on Gros' nickname Papa Gros. He would lead regular Monday night jam sessions at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. The musician would invite friends to sit in at impromptu jam sessions, and out of these sessions Papa Grows Funk was eventually born.

The band plays more than 100 shows a year. They have performed at some of the hottest venues and most renowned music festivals worldwide, bringing their homegrown New Orleans funk to places like France, New York City, Japan, Brazil, Chicago, Czech-Republic, Germany and more. The band recently played at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for their 12th consecutive year.

Papa Grows Funk dropped their fifth album, Needle in the Groove, on March 27 of this year. The album was co-produced by legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint and Tom Drummond of critically acclaimed alternative rock band Better Than Ezra. The album is the band's first collective project. On their previous albums, the tracks were written individually by the members. For this album, the songwriting process  was a much more collaborative effort, with all the members having input on each song. The nine-song collection has been getting some love on the radio.  It's currently at #28 on the RMR Jazz Report and climbing up the FMQB TripleA albums charts.

Papa Grows Funk is currently on tour, and the tour will run throughout the summer. For tour info, visit their website. Also, here's a bit of Papa Grows Funk-related info. Guitarist June Yamagishi appeared on an episode of the HBO series Treme. The name of the episode is "Christmas Blues."

"Do U Want It?" from Needle in the Groove

The band performs "Make It Right Now" at the New Orleans Jazz Fest on April 29, 2012

Download Needle in the Groove at Amazon

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