Meters founder George Porter, Jr. returns with his Runnin’ Pardners

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:: George Porter, Jr. ::

:: Cervante’s Other Side :: January 20 and 21 ::

By Brian Turk

In the mid-1960s, New Orleans musicians blended R&B, soul and jazz into a new form of music. These pioneers wanted to create something that was more danceable, rhythmic and syncopated; so they started encouraging each other to “put the stank on it!” and to “make it funky.” Those words birthed a new style that was rooted in getting down and funkin’ it up — music built on thrusting grooves, powerful drum lines and sweaty bass licks. As a member of The Meters, George Porter, Jr. was one of the early pioneers of funk, and he is still a mainstay in the scene over 40 years later.

“We didn’t know that’s what it was. Bands and musicians hardly have any input on the labels that get stuck on our foreheads, you know?” Porter said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We were just playing and trying not to be everything we hear. That may have changed during the later years, trying to compete with the other vocal groups out there. The first three or four records, even all the way up through Rejuvenation, it was pretty much just a strong effort on being syncopated and Leo [Nocentelli] and myself playing the same licks and stuff like that. It wasn’t a concentrated effort to say we were going to design something different. We would go in the room and just play off of each other and the guy would push a button, and the tape would run.”

The Meters self-titled debut was released in 1969 and they officially disbanded in 1977. There have been Meters reunions, but The Funky Meters are the regular torch carriers when it comes to performing the original Meters material.

These days, Porter is touring with his group The Runnin’ Pardner’s, who keep the funk but also help jamband fans get lost at festivals. The Denver music scene has been a longtime supporter of whatever Porter does. The funk legend has had longstanding relationships with jam friendly venues like the now unassociated Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom and Quixote’s True Blue; and he also feels he gets Colorado love because, “We enjoy ourselves when we are on stage, you know, people see that. I think people enjoy seeing a band enjoy themselves. It’s not all business, you know? We don’t act like no clowns, but we have fun. I know a lot of other New Orleans bands, like Dumpstaphunk, Papa Grows Funk, Bonnerama and a few of the brass bands play up there all the time. I think Denver has always had a really good feeling for the New Orleans thing.”

George Porter, Jr. and The Runnin’ Pardners released Can’t Beat the Funk in October, 2011, on which they revisited 16 songs from the original Meters catalogue. “It felt great! The original list had 24 Meters songs that had never been performed live by the band. That was the heart and soul of choosing these songs, because a bunch of them were being requested by people, you know. Sometime after the last reunion, I think it was around 2005, is when I decided I was going to do these songs,” Porter said. “In 2000, when we did the reunion out in California, I presented all 24 of those songs to the band. Actually, we did play one of them at that show; it was ‘Whatcha Say.’ After that, it was never touched again.”

Although they are songs from the past, Porter and company completely tore them down and built them into new work, this time adding in a hint of jazz fusion, explained Porter. “Just thought it would feel good to let players stretch out a little, ya know,” he said.

While Porter has been involved with recording and touring bands of his own, he has also lent his fat bass tone to recordings by Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, David Byrne, Patti LaBelle, Robbie Robertson, Tori Amos, Taj Mahal and Ryan Montbleu. He has also played live with Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Warren Haynes, John Scofield and Steve Kimock, among others.

No matter who shares the stage or studio with this man, his legendary bass playing shines through. Porter lives and breathes New Orleans funk and is always on the move. At 62 years old, he is working as hard as ever and his calendar keeps him touring with over 100 dates a year. “I don’t know if I am ready to sit still,” Porter said. “I would love to be able to spend more time in the studio because I love it. I like the creative part, getting stuff out of my head. We all gotta be out there workin’, though!”

 

:: George Porter, Jr. ::
:: Cervante’s Other Side :: January 20 and 21 ::

 

Recommended if you Like:

• The Meters

• Dumpstaphunk

• Papa Grows Funk

 

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